Enhancing Educator Efficacy through Reflective Decision-Making
The Visual Symbol
The visual symbol for the Conceptual Framework is a window depicting the eight attributes within the construct of educator efficacy and reflective decision-making. The window is also a visual representation of how the Conceptual Framework provides an overarching structure for the unit. The graphic synthesizes the university mission, the PEU mission, and the unified vision for all PEU programs and members.
The unit’s Conceptual Framework reflects the university’s historical mission of preparing professional educators. Its goal is to cultivate in candidates a commitment to the personal, social, and intellectual growth of school-age students. This is accomplished through courses of study in initial and advanced programs designed to develop and enhance candidates’ professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions.
The Conceptual Framework for the Professional Education Unit (PEU) acts as a directional guide and basis for decision-making regarding delivery and assessment of unit programs, faculty research, and unit service. Faculty members involved in the preparation of professional educators, as well as professional education candidates, public school representatives, and members of the community share a vision for the PEU at the University of Central Arkansas. This vision is one of enhancing educator efficacy through reflective decision-making.
Educators demonstrate efficacy when they reflect on elements of their practice—examining strengths and weaknesses, successes and struggles to inform their practice so that it is improved in the future to help all students learn (Bandura, 1997; Zimmerman, 2002). It is the belief in one’s ability to positively impact the learning of all learners, including those with diverse needs. Efficacy deteriorates to the degree educators attribute student failure to external factors, such as the students’ background, culture, parents/guardians, socioeconomic status, and the like. Research indicates that struggling or otherwise disadvantaged learners are less likely to encounter educators with high efficacy (Goddard, Hoy, & Woolfolk Hoy, 2000; Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2001; Tucker et.al., 2005). The desire to enrich the educational experiences of these traditionally marginalized students compelled the placement of efficacy at the core of our conceptual framework.
Efficacy is a disposition that is only possible with supporting knowledge and skills; and it also encompasses awareness that throughout one’s professional life, additional knowledge and skills will need to be developed (Shaughnessy, 2004). This lifetime commitment to continued development is inherent in the essence of reflective decision-making. Sustained emphasis on reflective decision-making throughout one’s professional career enhances one’s capacity to positively impact student learning. The commitment and belief in one’s ability to make this positive impact illustrates educator efficacy; and it is this that all programs in the PEU seek to develop in their candidates, particularly with regard to struggling and traditionally marginalized learners.
Enhancing educator efficacy through reflective decision-makingis the focusing agent for the unit and is manifested through eight attributes. These attributes represent our view of the ideal educator.
Content Knowledge—Educators demonstrate knowledge of the central concepts and modes of inquiry in their disciplines. They use this knowledge to support effective practice so that all students may achieve.
Problem Solving—Educators implement reflective and systematic problem solving strategies based upon empirical science. They actively seek solutions that benefit all constituencies and create a fertile learning environment for all students.
Student Achievement— Educators plan, design, and deliver instruction and other services in a manner that engages and respects students, enhances academic and social-emotional outcomes, and fosters positive interactions. They employ alternative multiple pedagogical approaches to ensure that all students learn.
Assessment— Educators align assessments with the curriculum and instruction and provide a variety of ways for students to express knowledge, skills, and/or abilities. They use assessment data to determine what students know and can do, as well as where students need additional support to meet learning outcomes.
Diversity— Educators are open-minded to the possibility and validity of different values, beliefs, cultural/ethnic norms, and learning preferences. They are committed to the notion that all students can learn; therefore, they acknowledge and accommodate diversity, infuse multiple perspectives into their practice, and strategically plan to meet the needs of diverse student populations.
Technology— Educators integrate technology responsibly as a tool to enhance the learning environment for all students. They use technology to engage students in instruction, to gather and analyze data to foster student success, to extend the technological literacy of students, and to more effectively communicate with constituencies.
Professionalism— Educators seek continual professional growth, advocate and model ethical standards, and serve as effective ambassadors of the profession. They act to preserve the standards and integrity of their profession, and willingly accept responsibility for the learning of all students.
Collaboration— Educators promote and utilize a collaborative approach to professional responsibilities and activities. They forge partnerships with others in order to assist in effective decision-making and provide the richest environment for the learning and development of all students.
In a synthesized and targeted way, efficacy provides a rationale for the conceptual framework—for both classroom teachers and other school professionals. In the realm of reflective decision-making, efficacy is the reason why we reflect—it represents our ownership of the learning environment and achievement of all learners. The degree to which PEU candidates demonstrate efficacy directly correlates to their attainment of the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to positively impact the learning of all learners.