The Conceptual Framework of our teacher preparation program at Lewis-Clark State College is "to prepare caring professionals who teach for understanding in communities of learning." The Conceptual Framework communicates the unit's shared mission and explains how curriculum, instruction, technology, assessment, and evaluation are related. It provides a theoretical construct for the program's conceptual meanings and generalizations, the policies and procedures, and actual activities and processes that systematically relate to how the physical, natural, social, and human realities of the unit are aligned into a coherent whole.
Our Conceptual Framework is further defined by describing each component of the framework statement:
The term "caring" emphasizes our commitment to preparing teachers who recognize the importance of relationships in the teaching-learning process and who are committed to creating inclusive, safe, and supportive learning environments for all students. The caring teacher values and appreciates diversity and respects students' varied talents and abilities, and uses an understanding of individual and group motivation techniques to encourage positive interaction, active engagement, and self-motivation.
The term "professional" emphasizes our commitment to preparing teachers who are knowledgeable, dedicated to the profession, and reflective in their practice. Knowledgeable teachers are content area experts who understand the interaction of subject matter and effective teaching strategies in helping students learn. Dedicated teachers understand that teaching and learning extend beyond the classroom, that professional growth is critical, and that it is an ongoing process. In addition, they recognize the value of reflection in the teaching-learning process.
The phrase "teaching for understanding" emphasizes in-depth learning, generative topics, understanding goals, performances of understanding, and ongoing assessment. Learners are able to demonstrate that they know more than rote-level material. Learning facts is an important aspect of understanding, but learning facts is not sufficient. Students must be able to connect information in meaningful ways and be flexible in applying their knowledge to a variety of situations and settings. In addition to a good repertoire of knowledge, they must have well-developed skills and an understanding of the meaning, significance, and use of what they have studied. Teachers use a variety of instructional strategies to encourage students' development of critical thinking, problem solving, and performance skills. These teachers foster active inquiry, collaboration, and supportive interaction in the classroom.
Finally, the phrase "communities of learning" addresses our belief in the importance of establishing community, both in the classroom and beyond the classroom, and of maintaining professional partnerships and collaborations. Learning communities include all those with an interest in the education of children, adolescents, and adults -- our teacher candidates, our faculty, our on-site teacher educators (cooperating teachers), administrative and support personnel, parents, and laypersons. We believe that continual interaction and shared responsibility between and among members of the learning community are essential in the preparation of highly qualified teachers. We especially value the involvement of on-site teacher educators who provide opportunities for our teacher candidates to apply their formal pedagogical knowledge and skills in actual classroom settings. On-site teacher educators are also involved in providing our teacher candidates with new knowledge through on-campus presentations in their particular areas of expertise.