McKay School's Teacher Education Department Undergoes Restructuring

Winn EganRestructuring an organization as large and complex as the Department of Teacher Education will require months of planning, organizing, meeting, reasoning, and collaborating. However, Winn Egan, the department chair, is looking forward to making effective and meaningful changes that he says will improve the quality of teachers.

“We are particularly excited about having this renewal clearly centered on the Moral Dimensions of Teaching,” Egan stated. “We have worked out ways to define what they mean to the department and how we can construe them as meaningful outcomes.” One of the tools that Egan and his colleagues have created is an “outcomes grid,” which displays the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) standards for the preparation of teachers crossed with the moral dimensions.

The reorganization is being overseen by a group of faculty members assembled as a program renewal committee. “This body acts as a kind of legislature,” Egan noted, describing how they represent other members of the department in their efforts in the organizing, synthesizing, and evaluating processes. “The [representative] process has been remarkably effective.”

Egan said that the following key questions have been asked in the restructuring process: What should entry-level teachers know? What skills should they have? He explained that the program has unique challenges, since students at BYU dedicate extra time to religious courses. “We want to use our students’ limited time expeditiously,” Egan commented.

According to Egan, one of the greatest challenges in education today is the rapidly changing demographic of student bodies. One in four preschool students is an English Language Learner (ELL). Egan hopes to prepare the new Department of Teacher Education for the challenge. “We have a program, Teaching English Language Learners (TELL; http://education.byu.edu/esl/), that prepares people at the minor level so when they finish they are allowed by the state to teach ELL students,” he explained. The reorganization will emphasize working with students and families who are diverse in some fashion.

The fundamental goal of public schools is to contribute to a strong democratic citizenry, Egan related. “We are really interested in helping the minority voice be heard.” Egan is adamant about emphasizing democratic character. “Our disposition will be to put the private interests behind the public, or that familiar notion of ‘one from many,’” he explained. “The school is the only place outside the home where we learn those things.”

Egan described the committee’s close examination of other effective organizations: “We have been very precise in examining research on what defines quality programs in the country.” He described a thorough “beating of the bushes,” examining the quality of curriculums, exploring ways to better assess students, defining the nature of field experiences, determining ways to help students self-assess, planning ways to improve the program systematically, and discerning kinds of data to collect to measure success.

“Our ultimate objective is that when our graduates teach, children will learn, grow, and achieve,” Egan said. “We want them to grow socially and [spiritually]. We want to give them the opportunity to realize their full potential.” The hope is for a program that is student friendly, outcome driven, and fully supported by faculty members’ collective research and instructional strengths.

The department will submit a proposal to the college curriculum committee and to the university this fall; administrators plan to start phasing in the new program in 2010.

3 August 2009