MACTE - Michigan
Monday, December 10, 2018

Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson's 2014 EDTalk

Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, professor and Dean of the College of Education and Human Services at Central Michigan University, discussed recent revisions to the teacher education program at CMU. Designated the 2023 Educational Task Force in 2013, a combined effort including faculty from the College of Education and Human Services and from the professional education unit recommended and facilitated major additions to and cuts from the program to increase its viability while reducing the time and cost for students.

In the early phase, the task force started with research: investigating national standards and best practices, and consulting fellow exemplary TEPs. They also charted changes in demographics, technology and immersion experiences in an attempt predict the resources and needs of students 10 years from now.

But as all writers know, the most significant element to revision is eliminating that which is unnecessary. Having defined the reduction of student debt as another goal, the task force scrutinized the 185-215 credit hour undergraduate experience for CMU’s teacher education program, which took 4.5-7.5 years of schooling to complete.

“Our task force wanted to realign the curriculum so the student experience was much more consolidated and developmental while maintaining all of our elements of quality and rigor,” Pehrsson said.

While there was some worry about maintaining tuition revenue by having students in the program for less time, the task force found that the program would make up any deficit by attracting a higher volume of students to the program by cutting the required time, making it financially and pragmatically competitive. The task force sought advice from CMU institutional research and budget experts to understand parameters for successfully cutting program costs for students.

According to Pehrsson, the taskforce identified the tension between teaching content and pedagogy as a particular hangup. The task force’s answer to this problem, she said, was twofold: increasing content expert supervision and was to combine some content and methods courses.

“They must be content experts, but they must also be pedagogical experts who know how to deliver the content, and that’s the critical piece in need of bolstering,” Pehrsson said.

The aforementioned streamlining also entailed eliminating redundancy of content between methods courses taught in isolation. The faculty recommended combining the 12 units worth of classes into a single comprehensive class. Professors are currently designing the class as a team-taught experience.  

In the process of slimming the TEP experience, the task force identified a rather salient issue Dr. Pehrsson hopes other TEPs can learn from.

“I think one of the biggest revelations we had was that every time the state would add a new requirement, we simply added a new course or a new program without trimming what was no longer relevant,” said Betty Kirby, Senior Associate Dean of the College of Education and Human Services at Central Michigan University. “I think that was a big ‘aha’ for the faculty.”

The task force also focused on integrating more multicultural and technology education into the program.

While still in preliminary stages in regards to the former, the task force identified a need to amp up their pedagogical sensitivity, affording more attention to diversifying pedagogy to match diverse students.

As for the technology component, the task force found that many students were experiencing online classes and learning effectively. However, taskforce members want students to also be able to teach effectively within the same digital framework. Teacher education students must be able to use technology and move seamlessly from low to high teach based on their assessments of the learning of their students. CMU piloted a project for online clinical experience during which participating students worked with online educators in K-12 schools as teacher assistants or success coaches working directly with students.

“The pilot was a real eye opener,” said Betty Kirby. “We will continue that clinical experience this year, and our hope will be to embed that experience in a specific course in our program so all our students get that experience, because we see this as a major trend.”

Excited to incorporate these new measures for CMU students, Kirby and Pehrsson emphasize to any schools of education contemplating similar overhauls the importance of communication. In order to secure the necessary buy in and support from involved parties, such changes require as much transparency as possible.

In addition to overhauling clinical experiences and secondary programs, the task force, to date, has implemented a new BS in Education Elementary program, tightened up the sequences in special Education and some of the related specialty areas. A Multicultural Training Team is in full swing putting forth recommendations and training options.