Leading by Example
When sitting in an education class it does not take long for the words "feedback", "modeling", and "lead by example" to be heard. In the Education Department, using feedback to inform instruction is something professors routinely model in their own courses. Every spring semester, elementary education majors enrolled in the methods block complete 18 hours, including two hours of a methods and learning differences practicum and culminating in a three-week practicum in a local elementary school. Feedback is a key component that instructors use for the improvement of their courses, and they intentionally create time and space during and beyond class sessions to gather feedback from students. As senior McKenna Fitzharris ('18) describes, "Professors actively listened to us when we gave feedback and made changes based on our comments."
Dialogue between students and their instructors is ongoing, but during 2017 spring methods, it was evident that more data was needed, hence students were formally surveyed at the end of the semester. Instructors met during finals week and discussed the results. Numerous improvements were proposed and the most notable change was the creation of a unique first week of methods classes. This "boot camp" brought the entire cohort together in January for a general methods session each morning and a content-specific methods course afterwards. This promoted unity, congeniality, and a foundational core of shared knowledge. Based on the comments of methods instructors this spring, "the overall quality of the lesson and unit plans has improved." according to Dr. Paul Egeland, Education Department Chair, and this seems to be linked to the strong foundation of the first week of "boot camp".
Another change based on the student survey was increased coordination among the instructors. This relates to the due dates of significant projects and the coordination of content. As these students spend the remainder of the spring semester in local elementary schools, they are exhibiting the growth mindset modeled by their education course instructors. This mindset encourages striving for continuous professional and personal improvement and shapes how future educators are prepared through the Wheaton Teacher Education Program to enter the profession after graduation. – Moriah Sankey '18
Wheaton Education Students Present Research at State Conference
A number of students have been working with Prof. Sara Vroom Fick on a project to evaluate K-12 classroom resources to determine if they are culturally and linguistically responsive. They researched criteria for evaluating these print resources and also developed and tested an original rubric/tool for evaluation. On Dec. 7, Bekah Dahm, Emily Heidick, and Anna James joined Prof. Vroom Fick in presenting their work at the Annual Illinois Research Center Bilingual Conference. Their presentation was well received by other experienced teachers and bilingual experts.
Mentoring Opportunities for Education Students
Due to the funding initiatives of Wheaton College, a mentoring line was added to the Education Department almost ten years ago. This resulted in the hiring of Dr. Jon Eckert and additional support for other department faculty in mentoring undergraduate students. Since that time, scores of education majors have worked closely with department faculty on a wide range of projects.
Currently, all eight department faculty are or will be working on different projects with small groups of students. Prof Vroom Fick has been meeting with students interested in the influence of language on education and have been analyzing classroom literature using culturally and linguistically responsive criteria. They presented their findings at the Illinois Resource Center Fall Conference. As the newest faculty member in the Education Department, Dr. Boehm is developing two mentoring tracks. One will support special education practitioners with their skill development, while the other will focus on special education research.
Dr. Kim's mentoring group consists of undergraduates heading toward Wheaton's MAT program. By his modeling and their research, they are growing as teacher/scholars and will be better prepared to conduct their own action research while student teaching. Dr. Jonas organizes a peer mentoring group each year to support the thinking and writing skills of the students who enroll in Educ 135, School and Society.
Dr. Eckert and Dr. Egeland also have ongoing mentoring projects. Dr. Eckert recruits interested freshman and sophomores and some continuing juniors who engage in the communication and support of recent graduates of the WheTEP programs. They assist with the annual education department alumni survey and update the WheTEACH website with that data as well as information about each state's teacher requirements. Dr. Egeland focuses on juniors and seniors preparing for student teaching abroad, exploring cross cultural challenges and the survey responses of past international student teachers.
After student teaching, Dr. Lederhouse's group of seniors will explore how to more effectively teach struggling math students. From Jo Boaler's research on mathematical mindsets, participants will rethink their instructional practices with those in their student teaching contexts who struggled in math. And Dr. Morrison and those she mentors will lean into the work of John Hattie on making visible learning for literacy.
Wheaton students are fortunate to have these opportunities to work closely with faculty on projects of mutual interest. These mentoring interactions allow for further professional and personal growth for all participants.