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"The students in this study are the 1998 graduating class from the Master’s
in New Professional Studies for teachers located within the Institute for
Educational Transformation (IET), renamed Initiatives in Educational
Transformation in 1998. IET was started in 1990 as a part of George Mason
University’s Graduate School of Education.
For the faculty and staff of IET, transformation introduces changes into
the system. It is about new systems new products, new experiences, new
approaches and new roles. Transformation is not about reform; it is about
seeing the world and its possibilities differently. This orientation toward
transformation led IET to an articulation of its task.
IET’s central task is to find ways in a local context to break up 19th
century gridlock within which public education is trapped and
· To re-examine every structural and substantive assumption about
· To create fluid and responsive structures adapted to fast-changing
· To foster a partnership with a creative dynamic across schools and
universities with community and business participation,
· To redefine who teaches and who learns, how and when, and
· To use state of the art technology as the engine for developing new
learning environments. (· 1990, IET Proposal)
The focus of IET seeks to transform education operationally. This broad
approach has been implemented in various ways over the past ten years and
created bridges between schools, the university, and industry. For the
purpose of establishing a context for my dissertation, I am only focusing
on the Master’s program within IET. Using the reflective practitioner
(Schon, 1984) as a basis for professionalism, the founders of the Master’s
program believe teachers who complete the program will be technologically
skilled, working in teams, with a commitment towards continuous improvement
through the intellectual and moral studies of their schools.
The Master’s degree is a new program dedicated to a base in moral, rather
than empirical thought. It focuses on professionalism and inquiry. It
emphasizes philosophy over psychology, partnership with schools over
individual expertise, and moral thought as a process for thinking about
teaching. The program has among its courses six that are required in moral
professionalism, epistemology, culture and language, technology qualitative
research methods and a workplace based research project.
The program is based on seven features:
Individual teachers are not recruited. The program selects teams from
schools. This method builds support and collaboration within the school
breaking down the isolation that teachers often feel within the school.
Half of the formal structure of the degree is committed to school-based
work. Teachers are recognized for their expertise as professionals.
University faculty serve as coaches assisting the teachers in the research
of their teaching. Faculty meet with students in the schools as well as
maintain interaction over email. Teachers report that their role as
teacher-researcher changes their approach to pedagogy. The teachers become
The semester-credit-hour structure was abandoned in terms of the character
of the student’s learning experience. While there are 10 courses and 30
credits to the Master’s program, this does not reflect the schedule. The
program uses “short-fat” and “long-thin” courses that are offered over a
two year period of time. Students meet four days a semester and two weeks
for three summers in a summer institute. Everyone in a class or group
starts and ends at the same time.
A teaching partnership is created between academic faculty and the
teachers. One faculty position is used to hire an exemplary practitioner
with a teaching and research background for four years. The summer
institutes have a teaching team of four practitioners and two or more
The program has a focus on new pedagogy. For example, one developed and
used frequently with the early groups, dubbed the “Pasca pedagogy,” divides
a day into four blocks: presentation, analysis, strolling critique, and
collaborative argument. In the presentation, the instructor describes
information to a cohort (25 students) or to a plenary of all cohorts. The
students take notes, listen, reflect and raise questions. The group then
breaks into five cohorts (with six or seven teams integrated by school
division and grade-level work) to explore the content of the presentation.
Students connect ideas from the presentation to their own personal and
professional experiences. They clarify content, understanding, and
elaborate, expand and extend the content. Additional questions are also
identified. After lunch, the “strolling critique” occurs in school teams.
It offers students the opportunity to walk around and talk together to
further explore concepts, ideas and questions, express opinions and
feelings, discover dilemmas and problems, identify additional questions,
and write in journals. Collaborative argument occurs in either the cohort
or plenary session to probe aspects of the day’s work. It is based on
Richard McKeon’s ideas on “the architecture of learning” applied to a
puralist framework. Students explore perspectives, evaluate concepts and
ideas, suggest changes and build theory, develop a dialogic framework to
probe issues from the day's work and describe emerging plans of action.
The faculty are searching for a new assessment that offers an alternative
to traditional grading. The assessment is based on “targets of quality”
that is described in a matrix of five areas and three levels of
understanding. Teachers are invited to assess their own work based on this
matrix. The basic motivation is for continuous improvement based on ideas
promoted in the Total Quality movement.
Technology has become an ever-present aspect in our private and
professional lives. The near ubiquitous Internet, offers new options for
information, research and connection. For the Master’s Program it provides
teachers with a way to connect with one another across space and time
eroding some of the isolation and barriers of the K-12 teacher. Preparing
teachers to use technology empowers them to teach and create in new ways.
The WCC provided a way to connect teachers who were geographically distant.
It gave them a space to continue class discussions and explore ideas
outside the traditional classroom.
How can the faculty implement technology to support the program’s moral
framework and its seven features? How can WCC be used to mirror the “Pasca
pedagogy”? How can WCC reinforce the creation of teachers as reflective
practitioners? Does the use of a WCC in the program undermine some of the
ideals envisioned by the founders of the program? "
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