The Professional Education Unit’s Conceptual Framework is the underlying foundation for its teacher education and educational leadership programs and is organized around the theme, “The Transforming Practitioner,” at both the initial and advanced levels of study.
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“The Transforming Practitioner,” a living link in the educational process, is an educator who is changing internally through understanding, practicing, and reflecting such that, individually and collaboratively, he or she implements for all learners appropriate and significant life-changing experiences that effectively provide for the needs of the individual, actively engage students in the learning process, and promote life-long learning. (The term “Transforming Practitioner” is used throughout this document when referring to issues, theory, principles, characteristics, etc. that are common across all programs. When reference is made specifically to the educational leadership program, the term “Transformational Leader” is used.)
The Conceptual Framework
Within the context of a distinctive Baptist heritage, the Quality Enhancement Plan of Mercer University (“The Engaged University: Learning Together”), and the knowledgeable blending of theory and practice, the Professional Education Unit has chosen To Know, To Do, and To Be as organizing principles of the Conceptual Framework that under girds its teacher education and educational leadership programs at Mercer University.
The Conceptual Framework principles, To Know, To Do, and To Be, prepare the candidate to adapt to and meet the needs of a current and changing society while highlighting the Baptist tradition of promoting mediation, settlement, compromise, and understanding in the classroom, in the school system, and in the community. Preparing the candidate to be a Transforming Practitioner is vital to successful educational practice in increasingly diverse settings. Blending theory with field experiences helps to actualize this preparation both for teachers and educational leaders.
Teachers and educational leaders who are Transforming Practitioners must embrace the processes of understanding, practicing, and reflecting, which are indeed vital components of transformation. Each of these three processes is important and meaningful in itself, but the three are also interconnected in very real ways. Understanding informs practice. The wisdom developed through practice increases and modifies understanding and, ideally, leads to rich and meaningful reflection. Reflection causes teachers and educational leaders to enhance their levels of understanding and to make substantive as well as subtle changes in their practice. These processes of understanding, practicing, and reflecting are themes that are infused in and richly woven throughout the principles of the Conceptual Framework: To Know, To Do, and To Be. Moreover, The Transforming Practitioner demonstrates the following three characteristics in classrooms and other school settings: engagement of students in learning, the ability to work with a diversity of students in meaningful and respectful ways, and the ability to be involved in effective collaboration with students, other educators, parents, and the community.
History of Development of the Conceptual Framework
The “To Know,” “To Do,” and “To Be” principles were first embraced by the Professional Education Unit faculty in 1996. During fall 1999, the faculty critically examined the Conceptual Framework, refining the meanings of “To Know,” “To Do,” and “To Be” and condensing the descriptors of each principle several times until there was agreement on three descriptors for each of the principles. Further discussion led to a more encompassing theme, “Preparing the 21st Century Teacher,” that incorporated the reflection and decision-making abilities necessary for successful mediation in a culturally diverse world and provided a knowledge base and a set of field experiences that would enable an educator to adapt effectively to a changing and technologically advanced society, to new and innovative teaching pedagogy and resources, and to the continuing diverse needs of children. Faculty members approved the new theme and revised Conceptual Framework in late fall 1999.
In March 2000, the unit reviewed the theme of the Conceptual Framework again with input from an outside consultant. Critical attention was given to the global dimensions of the theme, “Preparing the 21st Century Teacher” – a theme that created difficulties in defining what it meant in general, what it meant in terms of the Mercer graduate, and what outcomes could be delineated succinctly. Reflecting again on the visions and missions of Mercer University and the Professional Education Unit, faculty members re-examined the Baptist heritage of the institution, the Paideia ideal, and the principles of Jesse Mercer, the founder of the University. Combining their understanding and knowledge with the realities of what unit faculty members believe and with the strengths and characteristics of Mercer University graduates, faculty members moved toward a more specific Conceptual Framework that would describe the uniqueness of educators prepared at Mercer University. Rich reflection and discussion led to the theme, “The Transforming Practitioner.” Review then was made of the outcomes of the Conceptual Framework. Having further condensed the outcomes in fall 1999, the faculty revisited a prior list of more specifically written and demonstrable outcomes. The faculty discussed and approved the theme and the outcomes at its faculty meeting in March 2000. The faculty revised the framework in 2005 to make more explicit the professional dispositions it values. Following the faculty’s articulation of a set of seven dispositions and the piloting of a dispositions assessment, the faculty approved the addition of an eighth disposition in spring 2006, based on the recommendation of an ad hoc committee that studied the data, the assessment process, and recent literature on the topic.
As the Conceptual Framework is a living document, it is often revisited and richly discussed by unit faculty members and students, faculty members from various departments across the University, and members of the Site-Based Councils on Professional Education. Research on transformative educators has expanded in breadth and depth during the past five years, and the Professional Education Unit has thoughtfully integrated more current research into the Conceptual Framework’s knowledge base.
Visual Model of the Conceptual Framework
The Transforming Practitioner
Above is the visual model that the Professional Education Unit has adopted to depict the major facets of the Conceptual Framework. The black and orange colors of the model reflect the heritage of Mercer University and Tift College of Education. The model is framed and supported by an outer black circle containing the words “Understanding,” “Practicing,” and “Reflecting.” Teachers and educational leaders who are Transforming Practitioners must embrace the processes of understanding, practicing, and reflecting as vital components of transformation. The black circle serves to illustrate the infinite and interconnected nature of these crucial processes.
The three principles of the Conceptual Framework -- To Know, To Do, and To Be -- serve to define the vertices of the orange triangle. The triangle, known to be the strongest polygon and thus frequently employed in the construction of bridges and buildings, was chosen to depict three important characteristics of classrooms and other school settings—“Engagement,” “Diversity,” and “Collaboration.” The Transforming Practitioner must appreciate, honor, and nurture these characteristics by demonstrating engagement of students in learning, the ability to work with a diversity of students, and the ability to be involved in effective collaboration with students, other educators, parents, and the community. In order for a triangle to remain strong, all three sides must remain strong. In a similar fashion, in order for a Transforming Practitioner to remain strong, he or she must continually become stronger in the areas of engagement, diversity, and collaboration. Doing so will not only cause Transforming Practitioners to become more effective educators, but it will also enable them to effect transformation in their students.
In the center of the visual model, so as to depict the theme and the “heart” of the Conceptual Framework, is the word “Transforming.” Written in a circular fashion to indicate a sense of infinity, “transforming” is viewed as a continuous and lifelong process; indeed, transformations often lead to other transformations. Tift College of Education faculty members expect that candidates completing initial and advanced programs in teacher education, as well as programs in educational leadership, will seek to transform — to grow, to change, to develop, to enrich themselves —throughout their careers and lives, while also continually making humanistic and concerted efforts to effect transformation within P-12 students.