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Conceptual Framework Description

SMSU Teacher Education

Communities of Practice Investigating Learning and Teaching
Marshall, Minnesota 56258

The Vision:

The SMSU Professional Education Unit is a community of learners dedicated to the continuous development of quality practice, personal and professional growth, and leadership.

The Mission:

The mission of Professional Education at SMSU is to create communities of practice where each learner is an active participant in the development of learning, teaching, and leadership processes by engagement in inquiry, critical reflection, and study of educational theory, research, and practice in pursuit of excellence.

The Conceptual Framework Described (9-6-02; Updated 8-11-03)

The Professional Education Unit at Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) is the undergraduate and graduate faculty in the Education Department and the Dean of Business, Education, Professional and Graduate Studies, responsible for teacher licensure programs. Undergraduate and graduate teacher (licensure) candidates demonstrate the Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice and the standards of the SMSU framework Communities of Practice Investigating Learning and Teaching. The nonlicensure graduate teacher candidates demonstrate the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and the standards of the SMSU conceptual framework Communities of Practice Investigating Learning and Teaching. The framework illustrates a relationship between learning and teaching in the context of participation in communities and the world.

Communities of Practice

Communities are social units where people live and work together in a variety of ways and in a variety of places. In communities people participate in communication, negotiation, ownership, values definition, and socio-cultural interactions. Communities of practice are developed to provide opportunities for educators to experience authentic, caring relationships. Participation in purposeful, inquiring, inclusive communities is critical for effective learning. (Banks, J.A. and McGee Banks, C.A., 2003; Boyer, 1995; DuFour & Eaker, 1998; Jalongo, Jalongo, & Elam, 1991; Peck, 1987; Palloff, R.M. & Pratt, K. 1999; Senge, Kleiner, Cambron-McCabe, Smith, Lucas, & Dutton, 2000; Sergiovanni, 1994; Shapiro & Levine, 1999; Wald & Castleberry, 2000; Wenger, 1998).

Community members are constantly involved with collaborative projects. Over time the collaborative learning results in practices that reflect these efforts and social relationships. Practice is a process of experiencing the world and negotiating or constructing meaning out of participation. Wenger (1998, p.5) defines “practice” as a “way of talking about the shared historical and social resources, frameworks, and perspectives that sustain mutual engagement in action.” Learners and teachers reflect upon their practices, make decisions as they implement instruction, and interact with peers. Professionals prepare in their field through reflection, both “in” and “on” practice (Schon, 1990). As a result they form understandings of instruction by generating theories about their practice; also described as “growth through practice” (Dantonio, 2001; Lieberman & Miller, 1999). Members of Communities of Practice struggle with a full range of experiences, such as successes and failures, chaos and order, harmony and conflict (Senge, et al., 2000; Wheatley, 2001). Engagement is a process driven by values, doing and learning. It informs community members about their developing talents that are productive in learning to teach. Practice and community come together when people are engaged in actions and relationships that give meaning to all types of experiences.

Investigating Learning and Teaching

Learning and teaching are linked. While learning takes place without teaching, effective teaching results in intended learning. Interaction depends upon providing resources and opportunities to create a context for meaningful participation and practice with a focus on learning.

Constructivism, a theory about knowledge and learning, emerges as a foundation for understanding the teaching and learning process (Brooks & Brooks, 1993; Dewey, 1997, 1938; Girod, 2002; von Glasserfield, 1996). Investigating is the study of conditions necessary for learning and teaching (Dewey, 1997, 1916). Teachers provide learning environments where learners search for meaning, appreciate uncertainty, and inquire responsibly. Mutually learners and teachers support socio-cultural interactions, cooperative learning, and interdisciplinary curricula.

Communities of Practice are formed to engage learners as co-owners of investigation into learning and teaching. Community members practice reflection, self-study, assessment, collaboration, and action research. From investigation into relationships between learning and teaching, students and instructors develop a perspective that meaning and relevance are important factors in the education process. Candidates, as well as faculty, create opportunities to understand relationships between learning and teaching.

The Seven Core Values

To accomplish the mission of the Southwest Minnesota State University Teacher Education Program, Communities of Practice Investigating Learning and Teaching include the core values of (1) inquiry, (2) human diversity, (3) socio-cultural interactions, (4) learning environments, (5) belief, value, and knowledge structures, (6) democracy, and (7) leadership. Inquiry involves the use of research and reflective processes for learning. Affirming human diversity helps to support inclusive Communities of Practice. Socio-cultural interaction requires understanding and applying cultural and social learning theories in context. Belief, value, and knowledge structures mean that learners organize their beliefs, values, and knowledge and construct meaning to guide practice. Positive learning environments nurture and enhance learning. The word “environments” is plural to suggest that learning occurs in any environment, not only in schools. Democracy practices the principles of equitable and respectful treatment and encourages caring citizenship. Leadership is participatory learning opportunities and processes; responsibilities are shared by community members. A leader is anyone who facilitates them.

The Model

The conceptual framework is illustrated by a modified Yin Yang model. This model illustrates balance among forces that reflect natural parts of the dynamic learning process in Communities of Practice Investigating Learning and Teaching. In the colored model, tan suggests the diversity of communities. The green reflects growth through practice. The light blue represents the continual movement of the professional education process.

Concluding Statement

Learning to teach is about making connections between how perceptions and behaviors in instructional performance affect students, the curriculum, and the learning environment. It is with a holistic understanding that educators take responsibility (action) to deepen awareness of the importance of investigations into learning and teaching through Communities of Practice.

References: Communities of Practice Investigating Learning and Teaching

Banks, J.A. and McGee Banks, C.A. (2003). Multicultural education: ISMSUes and perspectives(4th ed.). NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Boyer, E. L. (1995). The basic school: A community for learning. Princeton, NJ : Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Brooks, J. G., & Brooks, M.G. (1993). In search of understanding: The case for constructivist classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Dantonio, M. (2001). Collegial coaching: Inquiry into the teaching self (2nd ed.). Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa.

Dewey, J. (1997). Democracy and education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. Riverside, NJ: Simon & Schustser. (Original work published 1916)

Dewey, J. (1997). Experience and education. Riverside, NJ: Simon & Schuster. (Original work published 1938).

DuFour, R., & Eaker, R. (1998). Professional learning communities at work: Best practices for enhancing student achievement. Bloomington, IN: National Education Service.

Girod, G. R. (2002). Connecting teaching and learning: A handbook for teacher educators on teacher work sample methodology. Washington, DC: AACTE.

Jalongo, M. R., Jalongo, M., & Elam, S. M. (1991). Creating learning communities: The role of the teacher in the 21st century. Bloomington, IN: National Educational Service.

Lieberman, A., & Miller, L. (1999). Teachers--transforming their world and their work. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Palloff, R.M. & Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in cyberspace: Effective strategies for the online classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Peck, M. S. (1987). The different drum: Community-making and peace. New York: A Touchstone Book.

Schon, D. A. ( 1990). Educating the reflective practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Senge, P. M., Kleiner, A., Cambron-McCabe, N. H., Smith, B., Lucas, T., & Dutton, J. (2000). Schools that learn: A fifth discipline fieldbook for educators, parents, and everyone who cares about education. New York: Doubleday.

Sergiovanni, T. J., (1994). Building community in schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Shapiro, N. S., & Levine, J. H. (1999). Creating learning communities: A practical guide to winning support, organizing for change, and implementing programs. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Von Glasserfield, E. (1996). Introduction: Aspects of constructivism curriculum theory, perspectives, and practice. Columbia: Teachers College Press.

Wald, P. J., & Castleberry, M. S. (Eds.). (2000). Educators as learners: Creating a professional learning community in your school. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Wheatley, M. (2001). Leadership and the new science: Discovering order in a chaotic world revised Williston, VT: Berrett-Koehler.

2-20-02; Updated 6-5-03

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