Nat Hansuvadha, Ph.D
California State University, Long Beach
Three months ago I described the beginning of our team’s journey towards collaboration within our College of Education to transform cultural practices of “separateness” between departments and faculty. To briefly review, Joan, Deborah, and I (a.k.a. the Monarch team in our college) identified three objectives to begin achieving this system-wide collaboration:
1. Conduct a curriculum map analysis of the Multiple
Subject (elementary general education) Credential
Program to identify opportunities and gaps where
attention to diverse learners was addressed.
2. Complete a video analysis of Multiple Subject student
teachers to determine the skills and knowledge that our
teacher candidates are able to translate into practice and
which ones are in need of improvement.
3. Co-plan and modify the teaching and assessment
practices (e.g. assignment expectations, course readings
and topics) of two distinct credential courses to “cross-
pollinate” topics of diversity
The following description is how we implemented our plan and addressed specific challenges and opportunities to accomplish each objective:
Objective 1: Joan spearheaded the curriculum map analysis. She read through each standard course outline in the multiple subject credential program, in which she was already teaching, and created a matrix to note where attention to diverse learners (e.g. English Language Learners (ELLs), at-risk, special needs) was addressed in course readings, assignments, and/or activities. Joan discovered that attention to ELLs was very prominent across courses, which may be explained by the fact that most teacher education faculty have prior K-12 teaching expertise with ELLs as well as current research regarding ELLs. However, specific content knowledge of students with special needs and skills to work with students with disabilities was disproportionately low in the multiple subject credential program.
Objective 2: With cooperation from ten general education K-6 teacher candidates, we randomly collected one student teaching video from each candidate. Then, Joan, Deborah, and I met together to preview one video and establish inter-rater reliability of themes before analyzing the remaining videos on our own. When we met three weeks later to exchange the results of the video analysis, we found common themes and reached similar conclusions. One was the realization that we were observing pre-service teachers who were in the beginning stages of student teaching and we needed to adjust our expectations to be more realistic of what student teachers could do given their inexperience. A second realization from the video analysis was that there was no sense that general education student teachers were effectively meeting the needs of students with disabilities in their classrooms or that differentiation was intentionally implmented. For example, all lessons were taught in one large group and academic and behavioral expectations were consistent across all students. Finally, since there were no obvious signs of students with special needs, we could not draw any valid conclusions about whether student teachers were effectively prepared to teach diverse learners in a general education setting.
Objective 3: Our goal to co-plan and co-teach across courses was not met. Scheduling issues and insufficient time to significantly revise our signature course assignments prevented this goal from being actualized. However, in early March the Teacher Education department chair organized a series of dialogues with the teaching faculty of the clinical teacher preparation program, Urban Teaching Experiences & Academics in a Clinical Home, (UTEACH) to explore the vision to prepare elementary teacher candidates to become dually certified in general and special education. From the very first conversation, the department chair invited and sought input from special education faculty regarding the feasibility and timeline for implementation of this vision. As a special education faculty member, I was excited to not only be included in critical conversations with teacher education faculty for the first time in five years, but also that the possibility of transforming our current credential programs was very tangible. As a result of these brainstorming sessions, the clinical teaching faculty decided to pilot co-taught methods courses between general and special education faculty in fall 2011. Consequently, Deborah and I will finally be co-teaching together!
At the same time these conversations ensued, our college dean initiated a faculty professional development workshop series in April and May to address gaps revealed in exit surveys of our teacher candidates who felt unprepared to work with ELLs and students with disabilities. To ensure buy-in from faculty across departments (Teacher Education, Single Subject, Liberal Studies, and Advanced Studies in Education & Counseling), the four department chairs negotiated and consulted with one another to create workshop objectives and agenda topics they believed their department faculty needed to know and could impart upon their teacher candidates to teach ELLs and students with disabilities. Special education faculty who had expertise in Response-to-Intervention and collaboration facilitated three workshops. Survey results indicated that faculty satisfaction and strengths of the workshop were mostly positive. Moreover, faculty left the workshops with tangible products- revised course syllabi, which reflected knowledge of differentiation, IEPs, roles of special education professionals, and RTI.
Stay tuned and check back in a couple months for the final installment!