Nat Hansuvadha, Ph.D
California State University, Long Beach
When the Monarch Center announced that it would sponsor a seminar specific to collaboration in higher education, I thought this opportunity was exactly what my college of education needed to address the historical gap and tension between special and general education teachers in P-12 schools as well as in university settings. Not uncommon to other teacher education programs was the fact that our special education and teacher education program faculty resided in different departments with their own discourse, values, and methods of best practices for “diverse” learners.
This separateness was also evidenced in the fact that my Monarch teammates and I did not have the history or comfort of us all knowing one another prior to the collaboration seminar. I learned that my first team member, Joan, is a full professor in Literacy and has over 30 years of experience in education. She has taught all grades in elementary school and has worked in higher education for almost 15 years. Similar to Joan, my second team member, Deborah, has been a teacher and teacher educator for over 30 years and also teaches courses in the Multiple Subject Credential Program (MSCP) that prepares elementary general education teachers. Deborah is also a mom of a young woman who is Deaf. As for me, I’m the neophyte in this team mix. I’m a probationary tenure-track assistant professor in special education. I taught young students with learning disabilities prior to working at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). Like our teacher graduates, who work in predominantly public and culturally and linguistically diverse schools in southern California, CSULB is a very diverse and urban public four-year university with approximately 37,000 students.
During the three-day seminar, my team not only learned what a collaborative process entailed, but we also learned how change (e.g. systems and people) could be achieved through collaboration. In effect, Joan, Deborah, and I paralleled a real sense of teamwork together as we questioned and listened to one another about our historical and professional barriers and built mutual respect and understanding of one another. Over the course of the seminar, we finalized a shared action plan to begin changing the culture of dissonance in our college of education.
In identifying our team’s goals at the Monarch workshop, Joan, Deborah, and I unanimously agreed that we wanted our teacher candidates to be better prepared to communicate and collaborate with one another to serve all students (e.g. English Language Learners, students with special needs, culturally and linguistically diverse students). We also realized that in order to do so, our faculty and distinct departments within our college had to first work more collaboratively together. Hence, our team wrote an action plan with the overall goal to improve collaboration between Education Specialist and Multiple Subject credential faculty in both higher education and P-16 settings. The three objectives to achieve this major goal are the following:
1. Conduct a curriculum map of both Multiple Subject and Education Specialist courses to identify student learning outcomes (SLO) and assignments that prepare teacher candidates to work with diverse learners. Then, comparing SLO’s across credential programs, faculty will discuss next steps to address any gaps in our credential course- and fieldwork.
2. Complete a video analysis of student teachers in the MSCP to capture specific classroom interactions between teacher candidates and elementary grade students in the areas of curriculum, instruction, behavior, and inclusion. These videos will also serve as another lens to determine the skills and knowledge that our teacher candidates are able to translate into practice and which ones are not.
3. Modify teaching practices (e.g. assignment expectations, course readings, and instructional delivery) of two specific credential courses, taught by Multiple Subject and Education Specialist faculty, which have similar course assignments and objectives. The rationale is for instructors to exchange ideas of how to effectively teach diverse learners from different perspectives and positions.
To accomplish each objective, our team first identified necessary resources and initial tasks. For example, our first task was to seek the approval and support of our college dean and department chairs. A second task was to schedule benchmark activities, deadlines, and future meeting dates. A third (implicit) task was continuing to strengthen our sense of teamwork once we returned to our familiar and active routines while committing to our action plan. The next report will document how we began implementing our plan and how we addressed specific challenges and opportunities to accomplish each objective.
Thank you for sharing in our journey…