Associate Professor Kymberly Drawdy, Department of Teaching and Learning, was recently elected to serve as a councilor on the Social Sciences Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR).
Founded in 1978, CUR is a national organization of individual and institutional members representing over 900 colleges and universities created to support and promote high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research and scholarship. CUR Councilors are elected to three-year terms and attend yearly business meetings. Each Councilor serves on a committee to network with other individuals in their discipline and to help shape the future of CUR and undergraduate research.
Drawdy has been spearheading undergraduate research with COE colleagues Associate Professor Meca Williams-Johnson and Clinical Instructor Kathleen Tootle, by embedding action research in the special education teacher education program. Six SPED students last year looked at school improvement plans in the partner schools where they were assigned and matched the curriculum they were teaching to those curriculum goals in the school improvement plan for specific students. The students were accepted to present their research at two regional and one national conference. “Being able to conduct and use research is so important for teacher development and for preservice teachers’ impact on P-12 learning, Drawdy said. Tootle is also in the Department of Teaching and Learning. Williams-Johnson is in the Department of Curriculum, Foundations and Reading.
“I am glad to be a part of a national organization that promotes undergraduate research,” said Drawdy.
Also elected to serve as a councilor on the Social Science Division of the Council was Assistant Professor Laurie Gould, who works in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences’ Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology.
“I was absolutely thrilled to be elected to the governing council for CUR,” said Gould. “Under the leadership of Karin Scarpinato (associate dean in the College of Science and Mathematics), Georgia Southern University’s CUR has done a phenomenal job of promoting undergraduate research on campus. It is both a privilege and an honor to represent Georgia Southern at the national level,” she added.
Two College of Education graduate students were recently elected to leadership positions in the National Black Graduate Student Association (NBGSA). John Nwosu, who is in the master’s in counselor education program, was elected president. Jessica James, a higher education administration master’s student, was elected treasurer.
NBGSA is a non-profit, student-run organization that works to increase the number of minority students in higher education. The group raises awareness on campuses and within communities, and serves as a support group and platform for students “to excel socially and academically.”
“Joining NBGSA was one of the best experiences of my life,” said James. “I have been able to network with people all over the country and represent Georgia Southern and the College of Education. But most importantly, I was able to see people who look like me excelling in what they do,” she added.
For more information on NBGSA, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or go to NBGSA.org.
“As a College of Education our responsibility in preparing future educators is to continually assess our students’ content understanding and teaching effectiveness before they leave us,” said Thomas R. Koballa, Jr. Ph.D., Dean and Professor of Georgia Southern University’s College of Education. “We do this not just in response to outside reports but as a part of the ongoing assessment we perform of our effectiveness as teacher educators,” he said. The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) just released its annual report, “NCTQ Teacher Prep Review.” Findings from the report, the group’s second, suggest that the nation’s teacher training programs are making progress in the “quality of teachers they produce,” the report said. NCTQ is a Washington, D.C.-based research and policy group that, according to its website, “was founded in 2000 to provide an alternative national voice to existing teacher organizations and to build the case for a comprehensive reform agenda that would challenge the current structure and regulation of the profession.”
The College of Education recently earned continuing accreditation from the the rigorous National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GPSC).The College of Education met all standards for all programs, and reviewers were particularly impressed with the field experiences and clinical practice programs where students spend more than 1,000 hours in the classroom teaching, receiving feedback and refining their skills before earning their degrees. COE is already preparing for its next accreditation under a new umbrella organization called the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) whose standards are even more rigorous.
NCTQ has been criticized for its research methodology and data gathering used for the annual report, as well as its focus on course syllabi and text books rather than on how well teacher candidates are performing in the K-12 classroom.
K-12 education in general, and teacher preparation programs in particular, are increasingly under scrutiny, Koballa said. But there’s no easy fix. “We live in a time when there is great variability in terms of the students coming to public schools and in how teachers respond to them. The focus should be about flexibility and acting proactively,” Koballa said. A statewide data base is being developed matching where teachers received their degrees and the kinds of students they’re teaching. “That kind of information will be very important to us,” Koballa added.
But Koballa also said that while the NCTQ report provides an incomplete picture of teacher preparation programs — and ultimately how well candidates perform in the classroom — it does give colleges of education an opportunity to look at where improvements can be made. “It’s one of many data points colleges need to consider,” he said. “We may need to look at ways to better document our program practices.”
An integral part of COE’s teacher preparation programs stress the use of achievement data to develop and implement meaningful learning experiences for their K-12 students. “We stress the use of learning outcomes with our teacher candidates. Our goal – and that of our teacher candidates – is to increase learning for all students,” Koballa added.
The COE has been piloting a new state mandated teacher evaluation called edTPA, which all students must pass in addition to the GACE exam to be certified in Georgia to teach. It is a portfolio-based assessment capstone completed during student teaching that requires a teacher candidate to demonstrate their teaching effectiveness and ability to positively impact student learning through submission of teaching materials, video clips of their teaching, teaching reflections and assessments of student learning. COE graduates have a high GACE passing rate and are consistently sought by school systems throughout the state.
Beginning fall 2013, some COE teacher preparation methods courses will be taught on-site in area public schools. “This gives our students a better opportunity to link pedagogy with real classroom experience,” Koballa said. “It’s a teaching model that closely follows that of medical schools where teaching and learning take place on-site,” he added. “It strengthens our relationship with local schools and gives our students even more time in K-12 classrooms with seasoned educators.” COE has also launched an undergraduate research project that will give students an opportunity to do research tied to individual school improvement plans and help schools make informed decisions on changes.
Not only are COE graduates sought by superintendents and principals throughout the state, graduates have also been recognized by the state for their outstanding teaching and achievements. The Georgia Teacher of the Year for 2014 for example, a COE graduate, has just five years of teaching experience, yet her level of achievement in the classroom and dedication inside and outside the school environment clearly demonstrates she is an outstanding educator, Koballa said.“We need to keep in mind that a teacher education program is only the beginning in the making of a successful teacher,” Koballa said. Teachers are life-long learners and are continually updating and expanding their knowledge and skills. “In the business world, we don’t expect a recent graduate to perform at the same level as a 10 year veteran of a company,” he continued, “and the same is true for educators,” he added. “We’re continually looking at how we can improve student preparedness and better serve their needs once they’ve graduated,” he said.
COE credits much of its success in preparing future educators to its strong and lasting relationship with the 36 partner schools and 40 additional clinical sites hosting educator candidates . “These institutions are committed to improving their communities and elevating learning for everyone on so many different levels,” Koballa added. “It’s truly a collaboration,” he added, not just between the College of Education and community, but between the entire university and the community as well. It benefits everyone,” he added.
Current and future college students interested in a career in education, and parents of students in K-12 schools, should see the report for what it is, Koballa added. “It’s a narrow snapshot of a very limited part of what we do,” he said. “We’re proud of our programs and our teacher candidates, but we never rest on our laurels. Continuous improvement and assessment is imperative regardless of which report is currently in the news,” he said.
A summit taking place this week in Savannah, Georgia, will bring together national experts in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) with Georgia Southern University faculty to look at interdisciplinary STEM education research and the impact on schools and communities. The summit is hosted by Georgia Southern’s Institute for Interdisciplinary STEM Education (i2STEMe) and the Office of Research Services and Sponsored Programs.
“We’re looking at pressing research questions in STEM education,” said Robert Mayes, Ph.D., professor in the College of Education and director of the STEM institute. “We know that our schools, from kindergarten through college, need a profound change in how and what students learn related to STEM topics,” Mayes added. According to Mayes, the first step is research. “We can’t ask educators to stop what they’re doing to teach more STEM subjects. We have to know how best to present these topics through an interdisciplinary approach,” he added.
While the overarching theme of the summit is interdisciplinary STEM education research and the impact on communities and schools, specific topics to be addressed are rural STEM education, 21st century reasoning modalities, practice-based education applicable to STEM and place-based and problem-based learning. “Once we’ve established research foci, participants will be able to create research collaboratives that will ultimately give us the data we need to make informed decisions regarding interdisciplinary STEM education,” Mayes said.
The summit will take place May 28-30, in Savannah. It grew out of an international symposium on quantitative reasoning in math and science education held in 2012, also hosted by the STEM institute. College of Education faculty members are involved in the activities of the Institute, and some will be participating in this week’s summit. Faculty involvement highlights the importance of STEM education in the preparation of new teachers and the continuing professional learning of all P-12 teachers
As an example of interdisciplinary teaching and learning at the college level, the institute is offering an orientation class for incoming freshmen called Zombie STEM (Solutions to Epidemic Meltdown) that will investigate real world epidemic threats and solutions. The course is co-taught by faculty from six disciplines.
College of Education alumna Dr. Julie Raschen was named as Georgia’s 2014 National Distinguished Principal earlier this month. She is principal of Brooks Elementary School in Newnan, Georgia.
Raschen is a 1992 graduate with a B.S.Ed. in Early Childhood Education.
The award is made through the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the U.S. Department of Education.
Raschen was chosen by GAESP as the distinguished principal out of more than 1,300 elementary school principals throughout the state. In November, she will travel to Washington, D.C., where she will meet with the 49 principals recognized as distinguished principals.