Message from the Dean - October 2012

Developmental Competence


As we strive to become premier, we must make sure that we are preparing our pre-professionals with the competencies they need in order to educate, serve, and lead.  Previously, I explained what I meant when I referred to cultural and linguistic competency.  This month I will describe what I call developmental competency.


I must confess that as I write this, my examples are solely classroom based; therefore, focusing only on teacher preparation.  I hope you find connections with this term developmental competency in the health, strength and conditioning, athletic training, and leisure services fields as you think about what those pre-professionals will need to provide differentiated services and supports for the variability of the clients they will serve.  For instance, I know that when I was working out with Jed Smith and Nick Davis in the MILO program, they were masters of differentiation, I was taught the same techniques, but shown many alternatives to adjust to my weight, height, age, and athletic abilities based on my strength, endurance, and flexibility.


With the onset and implementation of Response to Intervention (RTI), classroom teachers need a myriad of skill sets.  They will need to be able to diagnose learning concerns, prescribe interventions, monitor changes, and assess progress.  The purpose of RTI is to assure that students are making adequate progress in the regular classroom without being referred to special education services.  Calling in a specialist is the last result and not the first response when a learner is struggling.  Our pre-professionals must recognize the academic variability of their learners and understand that each learner may respond differently to an instructional practice; therefore, having a repertoire of strategies and interventions are necessary to be an effective teacher in an academically diverse learning environment.


We must prepare our pre-professionals with competences to work with all learners regardless of their academic developmental level by developing the specific array of support services for individual learners.  I call these competencies developmental because learners are on a continuum of development as they progress toward skill, content, and concept mastery with each having his or her own pace, nuance, and variability.


Pre-professionals must know the following skills sets in order to be adroit in this dynamic teaching and learning environment.  They must understand backwards design in order to create lessons with the results in mine as they craft their lessons, they must be able to plot the course towards mastery of the objective for each individual learner.  The pre-professionals must understand assessment and evaluation practices in order to determine individual academic abilities and provide supports and interventions based on the individual needs.  They must be aware of differentiated instruction and various techniques that will enable learners to understand the same concept, but through alternative routes towards understanding the concept.  Within these differentiated practices, the pre-professional may have to modify assignments in order to accommodate for individual differences.  They must be able to instruct and support all exceptional learners regardless of their special needs.  A pre-professional who has developmental competencies must understand how to co-teach and co-plan with others in order to provide the necessary services for their learners.  They welcome inclusion because they know that the more instructors in the room, then the more access their learners will have to individualized support.


A literacy practice such as guided reading is an excellent example of the usage of developmental competency.  In this practice, pre-professionals will group students according to reading level affinity.  They would provide running records to determine their reading skills level and determine their learning gaps.  They will be able to provide strategies or interventions for their learners that are specifically aligned with their learning gaps.  At the time, they are working with this guided reading group, they must have structured rituals and routines in place for the other learners in the classroom; therefore, their differentiation skills come into play.  Some learners may be working with another colleague who is providing inclusive services while other learners may be reading at their independent reading level books from leveled classroom library.  Pre-professionals who exit our program with expertise to conduct such an orchestrated classroom is indeed developmentally competent.


As I wrote this piece, I thought more about the term developmental competency and I wondered if a better term is inclusive competency.  This term was brought to my attention by Chris Curran.  She met with me and asked me to tell her what I meant by developmental competency.  I told her that developmental competency was the set of practices that a professional possesses that enable him or her to instruct in an inclusive classroom environment.  My thoughts now is that inclusive competency may be the broadest term and we can eventually say we are preparing pre-professionals who are inclusively competent when they can with confidence apply their cultural, linguistic, developmental, and technological competencies in diverse learning environments.