Monday, April 2, 2012

Creating Lifelong Learners

One of the great aspects of my job and one I highly appreciate is that I get to be part of the process of our Accreditation team.  Yes, you heard that correctly, our Accreditation Team (which we call SWAT) is a group that was formed under much duress during an Accreditation year and has grown into what I feel is the heart of our College of Education (but I'm biased). Our group with many others are constantly looking at how we can improve our college and our programs.  We have had several years of re-visioning our programs at the State and University Level, but one thing we keep coming back to is do our students have the "Dispositions" to be teachers. Now, dispositions could be wide open for interpretation, but our Lead & Serve Conceptual Framework, specifically the SERVE section focus on the dispositions we want to see in our students and future teachers. Although all of them are important, three of them are central to my post today; Scholarly, Reflective, & Experienced in practical applications of knowledge.  You see I want our students to know they don't know everything, to constantly be looking to improve themselves and their teaching practices, and to take the time to reflect on what they do know and their process of acquiring knowledge.  Now you may say - that is what a teacher preparation program is for! But we can tell them this is important when they graduate, but sometimes you just need to experience it for yourself.

So how do you get your Pre-Service Teachers to think of going to Professional Development opportunities once they graduate? How do we get them to be self-directed in their learning? How doe we encourage Life Long Learning? You create PD modules, workshops, sessions for them to attend BEFORE they graduate.  Give them an opportunity to take charge of what, when and how they want to learn.

So we have started offering PD sessions to our undergraduate students.  We are not tying them to grades or to classes - we are tying them to licensure. So just like you have to have so many CEUs once you are a teacher, now you need to have so many PD Units to get a teaching license.  We have started offering sessions and want to see them grow as well as have students find their own opportunities for learning. I've held sessions this semester and last Fall, attendance was low, but we had an amazing time. It was the perfect combination of students that wanted to learn and subject matter that could be customized to their needs.  I have high hopes for next Fall!

So what do you think? Will it work? What do we have to be careful of?

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