Unit Preparation of Candidates

Plymouth State University strives to create an environment that values and supports diversity, equity, and inclusiveness in our community. We are dedicated to providing learning experiences and fostering the constructive discussion of a range of opinions in order to promote enhanced understanding and respect for all people. Plymouth State prepares students to participate respectfully and responsibly in a pluralistic society. The President’s Commission on Diversity, along with groups such as the International Students Association, the Multicultural Students Association, Woman’s Services and Gender Resources, the Task Force on Homophobia, Plymouth Academic and Support Services, and Human Resources- work to help ensure the quality of life and education for all students, faculty, and staff.

Our teacher education programs seek to enhance candidates’ awareness of and sensitivity to cultural differences, develop their abilities to build relationships with each learner and adapt instruction for individual students’ needs, and provide candidates with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to confront biases and promote social justice and positive change in their classrooms, schools, and communities.

A diversity plan was developed and implemented using the NCATE standards as a guide prior to the last visit. The Council of Teacher Education (CTE) Diversity Plan has five major goals: (1) the unit will clearly articulate the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that candidates are expected to develop relevant to diversity and develop ways of assessing these proficiencies (this is the currently used Diversity Framework utilized by the entire campus); (2) the unit will revise and expand curriculum and relevant field experiences with the explicit goal of integrating the knowledge, skills and dispositions related to diversity identified in Goal 1; (3) the unit will make significant experience with and knowledge of diverse populations a priority in hiring new faculty. The unit will continue efforts to seek faculty of diverse backgrounds; (4) the unit will expand existing opportunities and design new experiences for candidates to interact with students, peers, and professionals of diverse backgrounds; and (5) the unit will work with the Admissions Office to recruit candidates from diverse backgrounds and populations.

In order to accomplish these goals, candidates and faculty have worked with the following concepts: (1) multicultural education; (2) culture; (3) linguistic diversity; (4) dynamics of power and privilege; and (5) student achievement.

Overall, the CTE has endorsed an integrated approach to preparing candidates to teach diverse learners, wherein knowledge, skills and dispositions related to diversity are infused throughout the program as well as receiving special emphasis in particular courses.  All initial candidates are required to take at least one course with a focus on inclusive education and the principles of teaching students with exceptionalities. Additionally, when the General Education curriculum was revised a DIVERSITY component was included as a requirement for all PSU undergraduate students. Most graduate program candidates complete a core of classes that includes ED5000: Social Behaviors in Diverse Society and ED5010: Philosophy, Ethics and Education; however, other classes with a diversity focus may be substituted depending upon the program contract. A full description of the courses within the curriculum that meet the diversity proficiencies is located in the Exhibits.

The unit defines diversity as differences among groups of people and individuals based on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, language, exceptionalities, religion, sexual orientation, and geographic region in which they live. This is a broader definition of diversity than most candidates come to use with, and one of their first challenges is to see diversity as multidimensional and omnipresent.

In each teacher certification program, curriculum and field experiences are designed to help candidates understand the importance of diversity in teaching and learning. The introductory courses acquaint candidates with diversity in contemporary society and social institutions. In upper level required courses in each program, candidates reflect on how their own background and experiences have influenced their thinking and how others may interpret experience differently. These courses highlight the ways in which discriminatory practices can have harmful effects on groups and individuals. Each program requires candidates to take at least one course with a focus on inclusive education and the principles of teaching students with exceptionalities.

In their methods courses, candidates learn about how to create a classroom climate that includes all students and values diversity. They discuss the importance of learning about their students, the student’s families, and the wider community, and begin to develop some strategies for attaining this knowledge. They also learn to develop and teach lessons that incorporate diversity and that can be adapted to meet the needs of individual learners. Candidates are required to identify the accommodations they will make in their lessons for diverse learners.

Field experiences, which occur in a variety of settings, are designed to reinforce the goals of the Diversity Framework and Conceptual Framework. Through their field experiences in school classrooms, candidates become aware of different teaching and learning styles and how these are shaped by cultural and family influences. Candidates also participate in field experiences in non school settings, such as after school programs, residential programs, child care centers, recreational programs, and homeless shelters. Through these experiences they come to see the critical importance of promoting learning by creating environments where children and youth feel safe and well cared for, and where adults express genuine interest in students as individuals.

In the student teaching/internship experience, cooperating teachers and university supervisors assess candidates’ ability to teach diverse students and students with exceptionalities and help all students learn. Cooperating teachers and university supervisors provide candidates with verbal and written feedback on this dimension of their performance throughout the field experience, each time the candidate is observed. The student teaching/internship in teaching evaluation form includes an explicit item relative to diversity as well as an alignment with the conceptual framework. This data has been analyzed and reviewed overall as a unit as well as by program and level. Candidates also complete the Educational Benchmark Inventory that assesses their ability to work with diverse learners. This data is included as an exhibit.

Faculty bring a wealth of knowledge and experience of working with students with diverse cultural backgrounds and students with exceptionalities. They have worked in schools rich in cultural and linguistic diversity. In the Peace Corps, in various regions in the U.S. and countries outside the U.S., and in inclusive programs or programs for children with exceptionalities. Unit faculty are active in on campus groups that focus on diversity issues including the President’s Commission on Diversity, the Task Force Against Homophobia, and the President’s Commission on the Status of Women.

The faculty at PSU is diverse in a number of ways – gender, sexual orientation, geographic region or country of origin, religion, political perspective. We hope that by continuing to promote a climate that is open to diversity we will attract individuals who will add new dimensions and perspectives to our faculty.

Continuous Improvement

Implementation of new General Education (Fall 2005)
1.  Implemented in Fall 2005 the purpose of General Education was redefined as: “To live and learn in a multicultural, multimedia, multidimensional world, students need certain skills. These are the competencies expected of an educated person, the skills needed for lifelong learning. In this General Education program, these skills are developed in meaningful contexts. They are introduced in the First-Year Experience courses, built upon and strengthened in all subsequent components of the program and in the major.”

2.  All PSU students must take a minimum of one Diversity course to fulfill the Diversity component of the general education program. Diversity has been defined as:  “Becoming educated involves developing awareness of, sensitivity to, and appreciation for viewpoints other than those to which we have been acculturated. Through such development comes increased respect for those different from oneself. Students take a three-credit Diversity (D) course (either within the major or not) designed to broaden and deepen awareness and appreciation of differences and commonalities of sub-cultural groups in American society defined by differences in race, ethnicity, ability, social class, religion, politics, gender, or sexual orientation. Diversity courses do this by exposing students to the life stories and the voices of members of different groups and by exploring issues of equity, opportunity, and justice.”

3.  The programs must be re-apply to the general education committee every 4 years in order to maintain the general education distinction. A part of the reexamination process includes a show of evidence that the intended outcomes of the program are clearly communicated to students. take. These assessments, required for the sunset re-approval process, ask students to rate the extent to which each of the general education goals were addressed and achieved. The resulting data become important considerations in
the decisions of the General Education Committee.  In a general way, the Office of Undergraduate Studies oversees the evaluation
process that has been in force since its inception. However, Undergraduate Studies has special jurisdiction over the third and final assessment element involving acquisition of direct evidence. The university began using the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) test along with a writing assessment tool designed by our own faculty writing assessment expert. The choice of the CLA coincides with our participation in the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA).

1.  The unit has discussed at length methods to assess dispositions. Based on the requirements of NCATE and the NH Department of Education Teaching Standards we measure fairness and belief that all students can learn. These items are included on the student teaching evaluation form which was piloted and implemented in 2007. Data has been aggregated and disaggregated by unit, level, and program regarding all items.

2.  Programs have implemented Disposition tools including Art Education, Physical Education, Health Education, Music Education, and Social Studies. This data is analyzed at the program level.

3.  The Areas for Concern/Targets for Growth (ACT for Growth) process was piloted and implemented after the last NCATE visit and is designed to emphasize the ACT for Growth Attitude and Behavior Indicators characteristics of early childhood and childhood studies professionals and to encourage candidates to develop and demonstrate these attitudes and behaviors. ACT for Growth also establishes a process for identifying and assisting candidates in changing attitudes and behaviors that are causes for concern. ACT for Growth Attitude and Behavior Indicators include: receptive to new ideas and diverse perspectives; exhibits a kind, patient, and caring manner towards others; displays equitable treatment of others; interacts sensitively and appropriately in relation to cultural and community norms; demonstrates respect for diverse cultures; and learners from various backgrounds. A full description of the Act for Growth may be found in optional exhibits on the unit web page.

Field Experiences with Diverse Students in P-12 Schools
In an effort to ensure that candidates have diverse experiences within the P-12 Schools, field experience sites and student teaching sites are tracked within our Banner Gate System. Program coordinators maintain records of placements for the early field experiences and are responsible for these placements. The Childhood Studies (K-8) program shares the placements for Cluster I and Cluster II (methods field experiences) with the Office of Teacher Certification (OTC). The Early Childhood Studies (K-3) have worked with the OTC to develop a PDS articulation with Newfound schools. This year, candidates in the methods courses are working within this articulation. The program faculty are working directly with these students and school faculty to ensure that candidates are working with diverse students.

Recruiting and Hiring New Unit Faculty with Experience and Knowledge of Diverse Populations:
1.  The Diversity Plan as well as the policies of the University calls for continued efforts to seek faculty of diverse backgrounds. This is consistent with Plymouth State University’s strategic plan and with the University of NH’s Affirmative Action Plan. We remain committed to this goal. The cooperating teachers in which candidates participate in field experiences and student teaching reflect the gender rations prevailing nationally and in the state among elementary and high school teachers. School faculty also reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the education profession and the state of New Hampshire. The university is located in a rural location in a state that is 95% white. Despite our best intentions, providing opportunities for candidates to work with university or school faculty of color remains a difficult goal but one in which we will continue to work on.

2.  With the help of Human Resources, the CTE has identified publications geared toward women and minority candidates and has advertised in these publications. The unit has also distributed postings through the National Association of Multicultural Education in an effort to attract candidates with a strong background in teaching diverse learners.

3.  In an effort to improve the search process, HR and the provost have changed the criteria for department search committees and up to two members of the committee are from outside the department. The Provost works closely with Human Resources to select these committee members. In situations where teacher preparation faculty are being recruited, unit faculty often serve on these searches.

Experiences Working with Diverse Candidates
Based on our Conceptual Framework for Teacher Education collaboration is one of the core values. In keeping with the conceptual framework, professional education courses offer candidates many opportunities to work with their peers, and candidates are encouraged to engage in collaborative activities. While opportunities for collaboration abound, it is more difficult for candidates to interact with peers from diverse ethnic and racial groups. These groups are under represented in the student body and in the professional education programs.

The CTE’s Diversity plan includes the goal of expanding existing opportunities and designing new experiences for candidates to interact with students of diverse backgrounds so that they may gain skills and experiences to support their development as culturally responsive teachers. This is likely to be a long term goal. As we review data which is a significant improvement, the Unit will develop yearly goals and work to address these goals. We continue to seek diverse placements and have had a large number of candidates complete their student teaching in cities south of Concord. There are slightly higher percentages of ethnic diversity in this region of the state.