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EDUCATION DEPARTMENT CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

EFFECTIVE LEADERS IN THE JESUIT TRADITION

DESCRIPTION OF THE CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

The Education Department has summarized its conceptual framework with the following theme:

"Effective Leaders in the Jesuit Tradition"  

Creighton University, as a Jesuit institution, promotes excellence and the pursuit of truth.  There is an intent to educate the whole person and to promote justice.  In addition, Creighton describes it's purposes as contributing to the betterment of society and providing ethical perspectives for dealing with issues in an increasingly complex world.  It is the unit's belief that these ideals direct the development of leadership as a means of advocating for and changing communities.  Teachers, as leaders first in their classrooms, must be advocates and change agents.  Achievement of this endeavor depends upon the acquisition of appropriate knowledge, skills, dispositions, and charisms, reflective decision-making, service to diverse local and global communities.  Effective, authentic assessment activities ensure that these are achieved. 

The unit's conceptual framework, first conceived in 1995, articulates the professional education curriculum, design, delivery, and assessment that occurs at Creighton University.  The unit?s review and revision of the conceptual framework has continued since that time.  In 2000, the unit?s members renewed efforts to integrate charisms, technology, and authentic assessment practices across all programs. 

The philosophy underlying the conceptual framework is constructivist, for unit members believe that the learning process is dynamic, rather than passive.  Each learner must actively be engaged and build or "construct" meaning based on prior knowledge, skills, and dispositions.  Following a constructivist philosophy, unit members share the view that education should be designed to create a sense of self-awareness, since self-awareness is the first step toward becoming a reflective practitioner.  This reflective process places the candidate in a position of observing, reflecting, and making critical, reflective decisions (Eby, 1997) in order to solve problems.  This would then imply that training programs, in order to be appropriately designed, must be developmental in nature and sequenced in a manner that will allow candidates to acquire knowledge, skills, dispositions (Morrison, 2000) and charisms.  In addition, these experiences should be fostered through campus classroom and P-12 experiences.  True to this premise, the unit has had partnerships with several metropolitan schools since 1997:  Sacred Heart Grade School, St. Cecilia?s Grade School, All Saints Grade School, Lothrop Academy, Jackson Academy, and South High School.  

Constructivism also offers an alternative to a behaviorist?s approach to student learning.  The philosophy recognizes the social setting of classrooms and schools where a student's thoughts, actions, and construction of knowledge is influenced by other learners and social activity of the setting.  Students become actively engaged in the learning process and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills within their learning community - the classroom.  Of course, this means that teacher education candidates must be observant and resourceful in utilizing the community developed in the classroom.

Essential to effective leaders are knowledge and skills in pedagogy, diversity, and technology.  Working from a framework that emphasizes reflective decision making, candidates learn pedagogical strategies and best practices in the methods classes of respective programs.  The unit's commitment to prepare candidates to serve diverse local and global communities began with the recognition that the population is changing and candidates often do not resemble the students in their classrooms (Sadker & Sadker, 2003; Ryan & Cooper, 2000; Morrison, 2000).  This has culminated in the belief that an understanding of multicultural education and its importance to national unity should be advocated (Banks & Banks, 2000; Gollnick & Chinn, 1986).  True to this belief is the endeavor that field experiences should provide opportunities for candidates to work with diverse students (ethnic, socioeconomic, religious, etc.) in diverse settings (urban, suburban, public, and private).

With rapid changes in technology for teaching, learning, and general cultural survival, it is vital that candidates have knowledge and skills for its use as well as valuing the place of technology in schooling and society.  Candidates should understand technology?s impact on student learning; its use as a cognitive or communication tool, as a means of facilitating instruction, and as a way of assisting special needs students (Morrison, 2000).  The role of the teacher is that of a facilitator and guide.  Several issues that concern the unit, although not different from society in general, are suitable infrastructure, rising maintenance costs, technology education of supervising on-site teachers, and equity.

Although difficult to delineate into discrete components, the conceptual framework is comprised of three interconnected circles: Knowledge, Skills, Dispositions, and Charisms; Reflective Decision Making; and Service to Diverse Local and Global Communities.  Assessment lies at the center of the model to indicate the unit's commitment to ongoing evaluation of candidate growth, student learning, and program effectiveness.     

Knowledge, Skills, Dispositions, Charisms

The programs within the Education Department are based upon constructivist philosophy in which effective leaders "construct" learning and understanding from previous knowledge, skills, dispositions, charisms and experiences.  These effective leaders acquire knowledge and skills in content and pedagogy (including professional orientation) while facilitating learning for all students.  This accomplishment illustrates their attainment of professional dispositions and Ignatian charisms: cura personalis, magis, men and women for and with others, and contemplation in action.  Cura personalis refers to personal care of the whole individual - caring relationships.  Magis means "the more" - striving toward excellence.  Men and women for and with others specifies service - building community and all-inclusive classrooms.  Contemplation in action indicates a faith-based process of reflection and prayerful moral and ethical decision-making that moves one to action.  Teacher education candidates complete this process developmentally by participating first in foundational courses, then methods courses integrated with technology, and finally, application and specialization courses.   

Initial preparation programs within the unit have identified and aligned dispositions associated with INTASC standards.  Advanced preparation programs have reviewed their respective professional standards and those identified by the state and institution for inclusion within their programs.  All preparation programs within the Education Department have adopted four "charisms" as foundational to the set of dispositions identified within our conceptual framework. 

Charisms, drawn from Ignatian core values, are defined as special gifts of the Holy Spirit, or God-given graces, which characterize a person or group and are used to contribute to the common good and glorify God in the Church and world.  There are several ways to envision charisms.  They can be viewed as faith-based core values; individual or group gifts freely given by God to be used for the good of others, not for personal good; found in the Church and the secular world; and used as a means to glorify God.  The charisms adopted by the Education Department are based on an Ignatian vision and Jesuit Educational Tradition.  The charisms selected for inclusion within the curriculum and educational experiences are: Cura Personalis, Magis, Men and Women for and with Others, and Contemplation in Action.  

CURA PERSONALIS refers to personal concern for the individual.  Education takes place within the context of caring relationships - relationships between students and teachers, teachers and parents, families and professional school communities.  Students are instilled with an "Ethic of Care" which promotes human dignity, individual differences, and personal relationships.  Personal concern for the individual can be related to the desire to educate the whole person - intellectually, socially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually/ethically/morally.  In the public school setting, this may be referred to as character education (for which the state of Nebraska has just adopted curricular guidelines) or in the Catholic or private school setting as spiritual formation.  In addition, education of the whole person focuses on finding God or the sacred in all things.  As St. Irenaeus stated, "The glory of God is the human person fully alive." 

MAGIS is the term that St. Ignatius and the Jesuit Order uses for seeking "the more" or the greater good.  Magis can be demonstrated in many ways: striving toward excellence, developing high expectations and standards, fulfilling one's potential by developing gifts and talents, focusing on continuous school improvement and professional development.  The purpose behind this striving would be to serve God and do all things - Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam - for the "greater glory of God."

MEN AND WOMEN FOR AND WITH OTHERS offers a means by which one can share his/her gifts for the benefits of others.  It promotes the building of inclusive classroom and school communities where equality, equity, human rights and responsibilities, and human dignity are fostered.  Men and women for and with others also leads to service-learning activities and the promotion of social justice within education and society.    

CONTEMPLATION IN ACTION promotes reflection and ethical decision making.  It fosters the process of examining one's life - personal and professional - and advocates mindfulness as opposed to mindlessness.  Discernment - a faith-based process of decision making that is prayerful and includes the moral and ethical dimension - leads to an action orientation advocated by the Creighton University Education Department in building Effective Leaders in the Jesuit Tradition.

Reflective Decision Making

The reflective decision-making process of the effective leader is initially developed through strengthening of critical thinking and problem solving skills.  Effective leaders realize that this is a dynamic, continual process that draws upon research and practical application within the educational setting.  Of value to this process are the identification, diagnosis, and interpretation of P-12 student strengths, weaknesses, and educational needs.  The effective leader utilizes reflective decision making to evaluate his/her own teaching, actions and consequences, and develops his/her own plan for improvement. 

Service to Diverse Local and Global Communities

The effective leader in the Jesuit tradition demonstrates a commitment to service.  It is within field experiences that these effective leaders are exposed to classroom settings in which they come to appreciate diversity and inclusion.  The programs within the unit strongly encourage and make accommodations for these opportunities, so that teacher education candidates recognize the plurality of society, interact within that pluralistic society, and become nurturing, effective leaders within those settings.

Teacher education candidates are exposed to workshops and seminars on issues of diversity.  The unit's participation in the Nebraska Partnership for Quality Teacher Education Grant (NPQTE) provided opportunities for candidates to review materials that demonstrated inclusion and brought candidates together with diverse students in service-learning activities.  These experiences combined with the many opportunities for service on campus and within the unit prepare candidates to become "Leaders in the Jesuit Tradition."

 

REFERENCES

Banks, J.A., & Banks, C.A.M. (Eds.). (1997). Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives (3rd ed.).  Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Eby, J.W. (1997). Reflective planning, teaching, and evaluation for the elementary school (2nd ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill.

Gollnick, D.M., & Chinn, P.C. (1986). Multicultural education in a pluralistic society (2nd ed.).  Columbus, OH: Merrill.

Morrison, G.S. (2000). Teaching in America (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Ryan, K., & Cooper, J.M. (2000). Those who can, teach (9th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Sadker, M.P., & Sadker, D.M. (2003). Teachers, schools, and society (6th ed.).   Boston: McGraw-Hill.