Teacher Education program sees positive steps, gains new classroom
Posted: April 18th, 2014
TEACHING THROUGH ART – Lake Superior State University teachers-in-training practice art methods that will help their future students learn about other cultures. This class is meeting in the School of Education's new learning environment room that integrates laptops and tablet devices into learning activities, instructional strategies, and learner presentations. LSSU's teacher education program has seen a year of positive steps with a move to new, improved facilities and the awarding of national accreditation from the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Pictured above are, from left, April Yates, Alexandra Liedke, Amanda Boynton, Janelle Nagy, Adriana Iliescu, Beth Browe, and Casey Johnson. (LSSU/Tasha Cook)
A print-resolution photo that runs with this caption can be found by clicking here.
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. -- Lake Superior State University’s teacher education program has seen a year of positive steps with a move to new, improved facilities and the awarding of national accreditation from the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
The national accreditation is through 2018 and was achieved as evidence from program assessments was gathered, verified through audits, and evaluated for consistency and sufficiency. It backs the LSSU program’s contention that the curriculum is producing competent, caring, qualified teachers.
The news on accreditation comes on the heels of the teacher education program receiving a rating of ‘Satisfactory’ on the annual Educator Preparation Institution Performance Score Report that was presented to the State Board of Education in August 2013. The LSSU pass rate on the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification subject tests for the programs that are currently available for new students was 94 percent, which was the second highest pass rate of among the 33 educator preparation institutions in the state.
“While the Michigan Department of Education focuses only on the candidates whose test scores are eligible to count for the institution, a look at all candidates’ subject test results for the 2012-2013 test year provides a positive picture as well,” said LSSU Provost Morrie Walworth. “For all programs, suspended and active, LSSU has a pass rate of 81 percent for the just-completed test year, above the MDE threshold of 80 percent. Of particular note, English has recorded a commendable 100 percent pass rate, as has secondary integrated science and elementary mathematics.”
This is great news for students currently in the program as well as alumni who are in the field, said Donna Fiebelkorn, assistant dean of the LSSU School of Education.
“Seventy percent of our spring 2013 graduates who were certified as teachers and looking for full time teaching jobs started last fall in their own classrooms,” she said. “Of those, only two left Ontario or Michigan.
“Our program prepares students to teach anywhere, but they thrive in small schools and rural schools,” she said. “We have many students coming from small communities who want to go back to teach in small communities. That continues to differentiate us from other institutions.”
Fiebelkorn said teachers in small schools must be flexible. If they go to a small school to teach science, many of them will be the only science teacher, covering biology, chemistry, geology and more, not just one subject.
“A lot of teachers don’t want to do that, preferring, perhaps, to be a biology teacher, but our students embrace that kind of role,” Fiebelkorn said.
Fiebelkorn noted that, in addition to the national accreditation, the improvements have had an impact on the program’s standing with the Michigan Department of Education, allowing LSSU to proceed with an application to reinstate some education programs that had been discontinued, including secondary English, which will most likely be reinstated in fall 2015 along with, possibly, biology.
“We’re able to bring back some more options, and that’s good for our students and good for the communities that we serve,” Fiebelkorn said.
Another option on the horizon for students is an early childhood education endorsement for elementary educators, which may be added as soon as this fall. This would allow current students to add the certification with a concentration in early childhood education, and it would allow current teachers to add the endorsement, also.
The Michigan Dept. of Education recently visited the LSSU program and LSSU is expecting a positive report from the visit later this year.
All of these good things are happening in some new digs for the School of Education, including a 21st century classroom that gets students used to teaching in a new learning environment.
Located within the school’s offices in the Center for Applied Science, the new classroom features an interactive whiteboard with a high-definition projector that is completely interactive with a lecturer's handwriting and gestures, and which can post or retrieve everything from notes to interactive presentations from the Internet as needed. The room's furniture and dividers accommodate any group or application, and a Bring Your Own Device wireless architecture integrates laptops and tablet devices into learning activities, instructional strategies, and learner presentations. The classroom will provide LSSU students with the opportunity to explore integrating new technologies to enhance learning, and it is being used now for biology and nursing classes.
“At LSSU we talk about ‘redefining the classroom,’ and this is not just with the experiential education outside the classroom. The physical environment of the classroom has to change, too,” Fiebelkorn said.
The new facility offers flexible seating and equipment on wheels. There is no front of the room.
“We’re moving the teacher from being the ‘sage on stage’ to the ‘guide on the side.’ Students don’t want to sit in the same chairs for entire class periods and this allows them to move through the classroom,” Fiebelkorn said. “And this is not just a classroom for K-12 education. Industry uses this kind of environment, with flexible seating and the ability to move people into groups.
“It helps the learning environment in many ways. Students can’t collaborate in rows. This helps them communicate and it helps in critical thinking and research. People learn best when they are in a comfortable, safe environment, not when they are put in chairs that no one likes and we talk at them. We needed a different environment to provide this experience.”
Find out more about the LSSU teacher education program and the new 21st century learning environment here.