Curriculum Development in Teacher Education: Process and Politics of the Redesign of an Undergraduate Middle-Grades Program

Published: 
Sep. 01, 2013

Source: Action in Teacher Education, Volume 35, Issue 4, p. 301–313, 2013.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In Fall 2010, the middle-grades program was struggling with decreasing enrollment and many teacher candidate complaints.
A new program coordinator was hired and charged with the task of evaluating and improving the program.

The goal of this article is to describe the process that was used to redesign the middle-grades program in a state university.
The article describes the guiding framework that led the process, the data collected, how that data was used to make decisions about learning experiences, the politics of the curriculum change, and the process that will be used to evaluate the program changes.

Guiding Framework
The guiding framework that provides that coherent vision for the middle-grades program and that guided this redesign process involved four critical components:
1. the Association of Middle Level Educators teacher preparation standards provide the standards that need to be met in the program.
2. The teacher candidates would understand and be prepared to enact the philosophy that is known as the “middle school concept.”
3. the state professional standards commission provides rules and content standards that govern teacher preparation programs in the state,
Finally, the College of Education at the university has a conceptual framework that guides all of the teacher preparation programs in the unit.

The new program coordinator, who led the redesign effort, was proactive in seeking input from all of the key stakeholders.
These stakeholders included college administrators, personnel in partner schools, faculty within the teacher education department, faculty in arts and sciences, and teacher candidates.

Method
Data were collected from both partner schools and teacher candidates.
The program coordinator consulted with the partner schools in order to consider the needs of P-12 schools.
Two methods of seeking input from the partner schools were administering the Building Coordinator and Master Teacher Survey and conducting a focus group with eight of the 11 building coordinators.

The coordinator examined five primary sources of data, which collected from the students:
State teacher certification exam scores from the previous 4 years.
Student teaching evaluations by university supervisors and master teachers
Exit surveys given to teacher candidates as they graduate
E-Portfolio and Impacting Student Learning Scores
A focus group was conducted with a group of student teachers and their master teachers at the end of the Fall 2010 semester.

Redesigning the Program

The program must demonstrate that the candidates meet middle-grades teacher preparation standards that are established by the state professional standards commission.
It was now time to make decisions about courses, program requirements, and field experiences.

The data revealed that five areas in particular should undergo changes in terms of time spent on the topic: classroom management, assessment, differentiation, interdisciplinary instruction, and technology.
As a result of these changes, five new, general courses were created.

Furthermore, teacher candidates are required to take a methods course in each of their two concentration areas as well as 9 credit hours of upper-level content in each concentration.
The research also has found that a characteristic of strong teacher education programs is integrated field experiences and coursework.
In addition, the data indicated a need for training in specific technologies,ץ
Therefore, the coordinator also looked at the manner in which technology instruction occurred in the program.

Finally, the requirements for student teaching did not change in the program revision and are consistent with the student teaching requirements for all of the initial certification programs in the College of Education.
Each teacher candidate spends a semester in a classroom under the direction of a trained master teacher.
 

Conclusion

The author concludes that the evaluation of the new program reveals that middle-grades program meets all of the standards mandated by the governing organizations while also responding to the needs of current middle schools.
In completing this program, graduates will be well prepared to advocate for the middle-school concept, while teaching in middle schools that are focused on standardized testing.

Updated: Sep. 08, 2014
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