B. 1. Narrative. Standard 1: Candidate Knowledge, Skills, and Professional Dispositions
National recognition by Specialty Professional Associations (SPA) provides strong evidence of the quality of our candidates’ content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge and skills, and professional dispositions related to professional standards. Convincing candidate outcome data that document adequate performance on professional standards from six to eight assessments are used to determine national recognition. The Unit has made consistent progress in receiving full national recognition for its initial and advanced programs. Of 27 SPA-eligible programs, 23 are fully nationally recognized; the rest are actively seeking full recognition. The recognized programs enroll 86% of the initial candidates and 63% of the advanced candidates in the unit.
All programs in the Unit develop assessment plans for monitoring candidate performance and program quality on standards at designated transition points across initial and advanced programs. All programs require field experiences (see field experience matrices for initial and advanced programs) where candidates connect theory with authentic practice. Program reports for the non-SPA initial and non-SPA advanced programs developed for this review are modeled after a typical SPA report: they include an overview, program standards, program faculty, and 5-8 assessment rubrics and analyzed data. The data summarized in the program reports demonstrate that an overwhelming majority of candidates develop strong content and pedagogical knowledge, commitment to diversity, and positive professional dispositions.
State authorization. All Unit programs were reauthorized by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) in October 2008 providing further evidence that candidates are meeting state standards. We were pleased with the review team’s recognition of the Unit’s excellence.
Content knowledge for teacher candidates and other school personnel
Evidence of candidates’ knowledge of content is documented by strong candidate pass rates on state and national examinations (tests). Teacher candidates in some programs have the choice to take either the Praxis Examinations or the Colorado PLACE examination for licensure; in other programs only the PLACE is allowed. Per policy, candidates must take the required examination prior to student teaching; Colorado law does not allow the Unit to recommend anyone for licensure without passing.
Overall PLACE and Praxis II pass rates for completers as reported in Title II Reports
An analysis of data collected on entry into the initial programs and the data on admission to advanced programs provides additional evidence of our candidates’ strong content knowledge. The myth that teacher candidates are less academically prepared is simply not applicable to UNC. The Teacher Education vs. Non-Teacher Education Report on Academic Factors provides evidence that teacher candidates have higher ACT and SAT scores at admission and earn higher GPAs in the same content classes as their non-teacher education classmates. In advanced programs, all candidates are required to have at least a 3.0 GPA in the last 60 credits of university work from an accredited institution, or earn a passing score within the 900-1000 combined score level on the Graduate Record Exams (GRE). In fact, admitted advanced candidates in the unit have higher GPAs than all admitted graduate students in the institution.
Professional and Pedagogical Knowledge and Skills for Teacher Candidates and Other School Personnel
Analysis of work sample evaluations and student teaching performance evaluations (SPA and non-SPA reports) demonstrate solid performance at the “proficient” or “advanced” levels on institution, state, and national standards related to the ability to plan instruction, to teach, impact student learning, and demonstration of professional dispositions including the belief that all students can learn (see program reports). Candidates unable to earn at least proficient on a final evaluation rubric are counseled out of the programs.
Follow-up studies of graduates and employers feedback data are considered within the Unit as an evidentiary base of candidates’ strong professional and pedagogical knowledge and skills. Results from surveys and focus groups conducted with our graduates provide valuable feedback and insight into candidates’ evaluation of their learning and the quality of our programs.
The results of the UNC Alumni Survey from 2008-2009 Academic year illustrate the following:
- 83% of the undergraduate teachers graduates agreed that “UNC enhanced their ability to get and keep their job” and their “UNC instructional program met their educational goals.”
- 86% of the graduate teacher graduates agreed “UNC enhanced their ability to get and keep their job” and
- 83% agreed their “UNC instructional program met their educational goals.”
- 77% of the undergraduate graduates had “positions related to their graduation major” and
- 88% of the graduate graduates had positions related to their graduation major.”
These findings suggest the strong development of candidate knowledge, skills, and dispositions promoted by our programs are allowing our graduates to be successful in their education careers.
Analysis of Spring 2009 Partner School Focus Groups that were conducted in nine school districts with elementary and secondary principals and teachers, including UNC graduates, provided evidence by the top three themes that our teacher candidates are well prepared within the areas of “work ethic and professionalism,” “dispositions,” and “preparedness.” The top three themes for growth were in the areas of “classroom management,” “assessment and data,” and “teaching experience in general.” The UNC teacher graduates recommended more preparation in “communicating with parents” and “classroom management.”
A 1st and 2nd Year Teacher Survey and Focus Groups were conducted in 2006 and 2007. The purpose of the survey was to study the elementary program at the Center for Urban Education (CUE) in Denver and to compare the results of the responses with the on-campus elementary and post baccalaureate elementary programs. The results revealed that graduates from the Center for Urban Education program indicated that their perception about their preparation to teach was significantly higher than on-campus graduates. The findings from the performance measures caused the directors and coordinators to examine the on-campus programs by forming a 15-member task force to evaluate and revise the on-campus programs as discussed in the last part of Standard 2.
Employer feedback from stakeholders external to the university provided important insight about our preparation programs. These individuals have opportunities to evaluate our candidates anonymously with a lens focused on the application of pedagogical content knowledge in practice. Principals are surveyed annually, cooperating teachers are surveyed every semester, and employer interviewers are surveyed annually at Teacher Employment Days, one of the largest teacher employment fairs in the nation. Survey results consistently document that our candidates receive high scores, particularly in the area of professional dispositions when survey responders are asked to rank UNC candidates in comparison to candidates from other institutions. Over the last four years, employer interviewers were asked if the candidates interviewed were competitive with other applicants for a position in their district, 91-98% answered “Yes.” Response rates on these surveys were between 21%-35%, which is within the acceptable range for survey research
Results from Principal Surveys conducted during the past two years document the following strengths of UNC initial teacher candidates: demonstrates a caring disposition and maintains rapport with learners, chooses effective instruction to achieve goals in mathematics, exhibits a professional demeanor, and engages learners in a meaningful ways with content. In contrast, areas for continued growth include: the ability to modify instructional plans based on assessment, the use various forms of assessment to measure student progress, and the use of research-based practices to inform professional decisions. Similar to the results of the cooperating teacher surveys, there were no overall mean ratings below 2.0 (meets expectations) on a 3-point scale.
Cooperating teachers working with teacher candidates in the initial programs are one of the most significant sources of information about the quality of our candidates because of the amount of time they spend evaluating and mentoring our student teachers; even though they do not officially “employ” our candidates. Surveys conducted at the end of each semester for the last three years indicate no overall mean ratings below 2.0 (meets expectations) on a 3-point scale. Strengths include demonstrating a caring disposition and maintaining rapport with students, exhibiting a professional demeanor, and demonstrating sensitivity in working with diverse individuals. Areas for continued growth include demonstrating ability to teach writing and use strategies for teaching English language learners. In a one year’s cooperating teacher survey (29% response rate) 36% of 252 cooperating teachers responded that UNC teacher candidates were “better prepared” than candidates from other teacher preparation programs, 56% responded candidates were “prepared the same,” and 8% responded candidates were “less prepared.”
Professional dispositions for all candidates
We consider professional dispositions a critical component of an effective educator. Candidates are introduced to professional dispositions early in their programs so they can learn to self-evaluate and set goals for growth in areas of need. Candidates are evaluated on their dispositions by cooperating teachers and university supervisors during field and clinical experiences. Similar to the professional knowledge and skills, a disposition score below “proficient” makes a candidate ineligible to complete the program.
We have created several original instruments that identify, define, operationalize, and assess professional dispositions. The Unit’s three methods for assessing candidates’ performance of dispositions are:
- dispositional elements embedded into candidates’ performance-based field and clinical experience rubrics;
- dispositional elements evaluated by external stakeholders including cooperating teachers, university supervisors, principals, and employer interview surveys; and
- specific rubrics for evaluating dispositions.
Overall, evaluation across these disposition instruments document that our candidates’ professional dispositions are one of their greatest strengths. Our candidates tend to be enthusiastic, responsible, believe all children can learn, and demonstrate an eagerness to improve.