Guiding Principles

coachingThese principles describe our approach to teacher learning and are intended to help the program achieve its vision and fulfill its mission. These represent many of the program’s core beliefs about structures and processes that support high quality learning experiences for Residents, for Mentors, and ultimately, for students. Our intention is to apply these principles when designing and facilitating learning experiences, and to use them as a benchmark to hold ourselves accountable to the program vision and mission.

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Theory and practice are tightly woven together.

Residents engage in rigorous theoretical study and simultaneously engage in experiential learning in the classroom with real students and with real dilemmas of practice. In this model, theory and practice feed off one another. Residents and Mentors learn to understand the cyclical nature of applying theory to practice: How does knowing the theory deepen understanding of the practical applications, AND how does knowing the realities of classroom life and children help the theory become more relevant and meaningful?

Reflection, both individual and social, fosters teachers’ ongoing learning and growth.

Developing the disposition and habits of a reflective practitioner allows teachers to continually add to their understanding and learning over time. Teaching is embraced as a public practice rather than an isolated activity conducted behind closed doors. Classroom artifacts representing student and teacher work and dilemmas of practice are examined and discussed collaboratively in inquiry groups. Residents and Mentors take time to observe and learn from each other’s practice and engage regularly in written and oral reflection on their own growth and learning.

Small, collaborative communities create a powerful and safe place for learning over time.

Participants move through the first year of the program as a cohort, take most of their classes together, engage in collaborative learning experiences such as Professional Learning Communities and field experiences in the community, and support and challenge each other’s learning and assumptions throughout the whole program. The small size of the cohort group fosters the creation of strong relationships and of individualized, personalized attention to learning. Mentors also engage in collaborative, reflective learning together while assisting the learning of Residents. Residents and Mentors working on the same school-based teaching teams also have additional opportunities to work and grow in learning communities.

Participants’ learning experiences are based on the same vision of powerful pedagogy with which they are expected to teach their own students.

In order to reshape and transform traditional views of teaching and learning, Residents and Mentors experience learning in the same research-based, interactive ways that they are expected to teach. Residents experience learning as part of the teaching residency/gradual-release-of-responsibility model. As part of every course, participants have opportunities to explicitly reflect on the question, “How can you apply what you are discovering about yourself as a learner to your own teaching?”Instructors “practice what they preach” and are also publicly meta-cognitive with the participants about their own processes of planning, instruction, assessment, etc., to provide additional models of teaching.

Instruction, curriculum, and assessment are driven by principles of integration, responsive teaching, meaningfulness, and authenticity.

Coursework attempts to seek a balance between going in-depth with certain topics but also taking advantage of natural opportunities for integration (for example, classroom management and theories of motivation might be explored jointly).Syllabi set the objectives and structures for courses; however, when Residents or Mentors need additional support or time on certain topics or teachable moments arise, instructors engage in responsive teaching and address the needs of their students.

Assignments and assessments in all licensure courses allow participants to engage in meaningful projects and “assessment events” and create useful products that help develop the skills and dispositions of competent, inquiring teachers.

Residents develop a portfolio throughout Year 1. The Teacher Work Sample [TWS] Portfolio is a collection of exemplars of the “real work” of a teacher, including video clips and related classroom artifacts. The TWS addresses the question, what should a teacher know and be able to do? and demonstrates the synthesis of a Resident’s thinking, planning, instruction, assessment, and reflection on teaching and learning. It attempts to address all aspects of the life of a teacher with an emphasis on deep knowledge of students and the interconnectedness of curriculum design, instruction, and assessment in order to foster student learning.

Teachers need to make every effort to meet the individual needs of diverse students.

To fully adapt and differentiate instruction, curriculum, and classroom management to serve the needs of all students in the classroom, teachers must have the ability to detect, analyze, and strategize ways to alter their teaching practice to better meet the needs of diverse students—e.g., those with special learning needs (including identified gifted students), those achieving below grade level, English language learners, high poverty students, struggling readers/ writers. Differentiation of instruction will be an ongoing topic of discussion in all courses and will be focused on explicitly in course on meeting the special needs of students.

All teachers are researchers and need to know how to use data in multiple ways.

Teachers, as professionals, must be able to use the analytical tools of educational research in order to make sense of, critique, and apply results of published research as well as to conduct inquiry into one’s own practice. Throughout the program, in virtually all courses, Residents will develop the dispositions of researchers and explore the role that research, inquiry, and reflection play in shaping understanding of teaching practice. Residents will explore the many possibilities for what “counts” as data, and how data can be used effectively and richly to inform instructional decision-making.

Pedagogy and curriculum need to be culturally relevant and responsive.

The most effective teachers of diverse students engage in culturally relevant pedagogy. The program’s course of study will work to develop teachers’ awareness and skills in the following three areas of culturally relevant pedagogy (please see the following source for more details Ladson-Billings, G. (2001). Crossing over to Canaan: The journey of new teachers in diverse classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.):

Academic achievement: The teacher…

  • presumes that all students can learn.
  • clearly delineates what achievement means in the context of his or her classroom.
  • knows the content, the learner, and how to teach the content to the learner.
  • supports a critical consciousness toward the curriculum.
  • encourages academic achievement as a complex conception not amenable to a single, static measurement.

Cultural competence: The teacher…

  • understands culture and its role in education.
  • takes responsibility for learning about students’ culture and community.
  • uses student culture as a basis for learning.
  • promotes a flexible use of students’ local and global culture.

Sociopolitical consciousness: The teacher…

  • knows the larger sociopolitical context of the school-community-nation-world.
  • has an investment in the public good.
  • plans and implements academic experiences that connect students to the larger social context.
  • believes that students’ success has consequences for his or her own quality of life.
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