Conceptual Framework


Theme: Empathic Facilitators of Learning

The College of Education at Central State University is committed to the preparation of teachers who are effective in serving as empathic facilitators of learning for diverse students. They understand the value of education, and appreciate the diligence required to develop the competences they need to become teachers who can function effectively as empathic facilitators of learning. We believe that a teacher who vicariously experiences students in their situations would be in a vantage position to more sensitively and successfully facilitate learning.

The programs within the teacher education unit are undergirded and oriented by a Conceptual Framework. The theme of the Conceptual Framework is “Empathic Facilitators of Learning”. The theme is infused in the programs within the unit. Pre-service teachers are systematically oriented to deeply appreciate the foundational importance of empathy in teaching. Empathy enables them to appreciate that the impact of psychological, cultural, social, and economic factors on students and their readiness for learning is not merely academic. They understand, in more realistic or existential terms, the influence of these factors on students as individuals, and as a collective. Empathy is vicarious experiencing that moves one to take action. Empathic facilitators of learning do not merely cognitively identify with or affectively relate to students, they actively care –– to the extent that they take professionally necessary or appropriate action. Candidates are guided to develop a level of empathy or action-oriented compassion that inclines them to go beyond tokenistic sympathy for students to taking appropriate action necessary for addressing a situation. The teacher preparation community at Central State University believes, for instance, that the stubborn challenge of “closing the achievement gap” requires teachers who have developed a level of empathy or actionable compassion that can move them to take constructive actions designed to result in meaningful learning gains for students. Within the College of Education, empathy is emphasized in order to obviate the preparation of teachers who are academically competent, but may be insouciant or even self-absorbed, egoistic, or alexithymic.

However, for teachers to be effective in facilitating learning for diverse learners, they need more than empathy. Hence, the Conceptual Framework of the College of Education has five Elements that serve as programmatic pillars in our teacher education: Knowledge, Pedagogical Skills, Dispositions, Diversity and Critical Reflection. Guided by the Conceptual Framework, programs are designed to prepare candidates to be effective in serving as empathic facilitators of learning for diverse students.

 

Elements of the Conceptual Framework

Knowledge

Each program within the teacher education unit is designed to provide learning experiences that enable candidates to develop the knowledge they need to be effective as empathic facilitators of learning. Candidates are guided to develop knowledge through four main areas of learning experiences: liberal arts, content studies, foundations of education, and pedagogical content knowledge. The broad suite of courses in liberal arts enables candidates to develop competences in reading, writing, speaking, mathematics, natural sciences, social and behavioral sciences, health and physical wellness.  

The liberal arts component of each program affords candidates opportunity to develop critical thinking skills and broaden their social and cultural perspectives. It also provides opportunities in which candidates learn about issues in environment, economy, technology, multiculturalism, globalization, and social responsibility. Each program provides opportunities for students to develop a strong content knowledge of the subject for which they seek licensure. Candidates systematically participate in learning experiences that enable them to enhance their knowledge of the theories, principles, and methods of inquiry associated with the subject area. Also, candidates are provided opportunities to broaden and deepen their knowledge about the foundations of education. They learn about the history and philosophy of education, and about the goals and structure of schooling, as well as the principles and research that provide insights about the nature of learners and learning. Through the learning experiences in foundations of education, candidates develop a useful gestalt of education, as well as working knowledge that helps to prepare them for service as empathic facilitators of learning. In addition, each program within the unit provides opportunities for candidates to develop pedagogical content knowledge – the knowledge that informs and guides planning and implementation of instruction, and assessment of learning. Candidates develop capabilities for identifying the learning needs of students, for assessing their own abilities to meet the needs, and for coordinating resources necessary for addressing the needs.

Pedagogical Skills

Programs within the teacher education unit are designed to provide structured and systematic opportunities through which candidates develop a rich repertoire of teaching skills. The programs provide varied learning experiences that enable candidates to develop strategies for diagnostic and responsive teaching. Candidates learn strategies for simultaneously situating teaching in local and global contexts. Cognizant of the reality that technology is ubiquitous, and an integral part of culture, programs are designed to expose candidates to emerging technological tools for teaching and learning. The programs provide opportunities for candidates to develop capability for integrating technology creatively and competently in instruction. Each program emphasizes assessment and evidence-based decision-making in teaching, as a hallmark of empathic facilitation of learning.

Dispositions

The teacher education unit regards dispositions as a fundamental professional ethic for empathic facilitators of learning. Programs in the unit provide opportunities for candidates to develop dispositions they need to function as empathic facilitators of learning. Candidates learn to work with students and colleagues in a fair and equitable manner. They are encouraged to develop a habit of mind that inclines them to believe that they can make a positive difference in the lives of students, as well as in their communities. They develop appreciation for the principle of meliorism – that communities and society generally can be improved through human effort. Consistent with the melioristic principle, candidates subscribe to the belief that all students can learn, and they demonstrate the self-efficacy needed to put the belief in practice. Programs in the unit provide learning experiences that enable candidates to develop ethical and legal consciousness, and demonstrate a commitment to the tenets of professionalism. They develop an orientation for lifelong learning and continual improvement, and learn to carry themselves with decorum in their interactions with students and colleagues.

Diversity

Programs in the unit provide a variety of learning experiences designed to prepare candidates to be effective in working with diverse students. Student diversity manifests in a number of ways, for instance, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, culture, age, gender, aptitude, interest, learning style. Opportunities are provided for candidates to develop a healthy sensitivity and responsiveness to diversity. They learn strategies for designing and implementing culturally responsive and developmentally appropriate learning experiences for students. Programs within the unit take full advantage of the geographically strategic location of our university to provide field and clinical experiences that prepare candidates to be effective in working with students from rural, suburban, and urban milieux.

Critical Reflection

The teacher preparation community at Central State University conceptualizes critical reflection as the process by which empathic facilitators of learning identify the assumptions on which their professional actions or behaviors are based; question the historical and cultural bases of the assumptions; consider the appropriateness or quality of the assumptions; and develop alternate lines of action that may be more effective or more fair. The overarching purpose of critical reflection is deepening of personal or institutional learning, and improvement. We believe that the ability to meaningfully engage in critical reflection is necessary for effective work as empathic facilitator of learning. Programs in the unit provide opportunities for candidates to develop critical reflection capabilities. Candidates develop the habit of situating and evaluating professional practices in historical, cultural, and organizational contexts. They learn to examine personal, ethical, and political dimensions of teaching with a view to exploring possibilities for improving practice. The Central State teacher preparation community believes that critical reflection enhances the deliberateness, thoughtfulness, and quality of professional decisions or actions.