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Overview & Conceptual Framework

I.1 What are the institution's historical context and unique characteristics (e.g., HBCU or religious)?

Historical Context

James Madison University was established in 1908 as the State Normal and Industrial School for Women with the sole purpose of preparing teachers. Throughout its 104-year history, despite several name changes, it has never lost sight of those beginnings. Teacher preparation continues to be at the core of the mission of the institution as affirmed by President Rose in 2000.

James Madison University has had only five presidents in its over 100 years of existence. Each of the five men shared outstanding leadership abilities and each also possessed the rare capacity to anticipate future needs of the institution and to act decisively to meet those needs before they became critical. Dr. Linwood Rose, the fifth president of the university, announced in January 2011 that he would be stepping down from his position June 2012. It is anticipated that by the date of our on-site NCATE visit, the new president will be named.

Today, JMU boasts an enrollment of over 22,000 students in 109 degree programs at the undergraduate, master's, educational specialist, and doctoral levels. Our campus occupies 712 acres with 11 buildings and an operating budget of over $418 million. It continues to rank among the top colleges in national polls, is consistently selected as one of the nation's top values for a college education, and has one of the highest rankings of alumni serving as Peace Corps volunteers. It prepares more teachers than any other traditional teacher preparation program in the Commonwealth of Virginia, keeping in touch with its historical foundations.

I.2 What is the institution's mission?

We are a community committed to preparing students to be educated and enlightened citizens who lead productive and meaningful lives.
- JMU mission statement

The mission statement of James Madison University provides the context for the professional education unit. At the heart of JMU, its very foundation is the preparation of teachers. For a century, JMU has led the way in training teachers who have gone on to work their unending magic in classrooms across the country and the world. It just makes sense that a dedication to teaching is shared throughout JMU's faculty and benefits students in all majors.

I.3 What is the professional education unit at your institution, what is its relationship to other units at the institution that are involved in the preparation of professional educators, and what are the significant changes since the last NCATE review?

The College of Education is central in the work of preparing teachers and other school professionals at JMU and has evolved as an academic college over the past several years, undergoing a significant reorganization under the leadership of the new dean, Dr. Phillip Wishon, in 2005. Today, the College serves as the home to five academic departments, four of which are actively engaged in the preparation of teachers and other school professionals and central to the professional education unit at James Madison.

Today, JMU is home to over 34 licensing programs and or endorsements for teachers and other school professionals which have been aligned with both national and Virginia's Department of Education program standards. While the College of Education houses the majority of the teacher education programs, the Professional Education Unit is comprised of all programs across the university designed to lead to licensure or advanced study in education. In addition to the College of Education, this includes the colleges of Art and Letters, Integrated Science and Technology, Math and Science, and Visual and Performing Arts; the School of Strategic Leadership Studies; and University Studies.

The mission of the James Madison University professional education unit is to prepare caring, knowledgeable, skilled, and reflective educators who believe that all students can learn and succeed as reflected in our professional education coursework. Our candidates and faculty are committed to lifelong learning and aspire to meet educational needs in a changing, pluralistic, and democratic society. The personal and professional development of candidates is accomplished by emphasizing excellence and continuous innovation in quality undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs.

The Professional Education Coordinating Council (PECC) is the official governing body within the university responsible for the preparation of teachers and other school personnel. The membership of the PECC includes the coordinators or representatives of all initial licensure and advanced study programs in education, both those accredited through NCATE and also by other national accreditation associations, a representative from the IDLS major, and the directors of the Education Support Center and the Educational Technology and Media Center. The dean of the College of Education serves ex officio as head of the Professional Education Unit. The associate dean for academic programs serves as the chair of PECC.

I.4 Summarize basic tenets of the conceptual framework, institutional standards and candidate proficiencies related to expected knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions as well as significant changes made to the conceptual framework since the last NCATE review?

We view our work as a "Commitment to Cultivating Change" which has become the brand of our conceptual framework. The four major components - commitment, community, creativity, and content - support our work and are reflected in coursework and evaluations. Our alignments with national professional and state standards ensure that we are providing for our candidates the best possible professional preparation.

Conceptual Framework propositions are reflected in the following competencies of our program completers:

  • Certain personal qualities and dispositions reflective of a professional educator.
  • Deep understanding of the content to be taught and ways to effectively teach the content.
  • An understanding of the impact of research on learning and development and how culture influences development.
  • An understanding of how students differ in approaches to learning and creating instructional opportunities for diverse learners.
  • Skill in effective planning for learning.
  • Skill in a wide variety of instructional strategies and technologies.
  • Skill at creating positive, effective learning environments.
  • The use of effective verbal, non-verbal, and media techniques that foster inquiry, collaboration, and positive interactions.
  • Skill in a variety of effective assessment techniques.
  • The ability to reflect on practice, adjust teaching methods and techniques, and seek professional growth.
  • Skill in developing positive relationships with parents, colleagues, and families.

Being an educator today requires us to strive for creative ways of thinking of doing our work. Innovation in teaching, new ways of applying technology, and keeping abreast of the literature on best practices are critical if we are to keep ahead in our profession. We are not alone in our work. We serve and are served by, a much larger community. Therefore, we must be in tune with the needs of our partners in education and work together to create communities of learning.

Our conceptual framework is a dynamic entity. A thorough examination of our beliefs and how they are realized was undertaken through an inclusive process involving faculty, candidates, and school personnel in extensive conversations and debate. While the basic premises have not changed, the conceptual framework we live today better reflects best practices and research in preparing teachers and school professionals for today and tomorrow's schools.

The unit's goal is to support candidate mastery learning and demonstration of the expected knowledge, skills and dispositions of the programs. Programs have used a variety of dispositional measures to assess candidate's ability to work well with others and create supportive learning environments. In spring 2011, the unit adopted a new disposition rubric that will be used across all programs. This will be piloted during fall 2011 with the intention of refining and developing the unit-wide plan for full implementation fall 2012.