COE Philosophy

Philosophy describes the theory underlying or regarding a sphere of activity or thought; the beliefs, concepts and attitudes of an individual or group.

Just as association is fundamental to the mission of the University, the unifying thematic principle serving as the foundation of the College of Education’s mission is also one of association, expressed in an ethic of community, with a specific focus on Developing Learning Communities. This unifying principle was initially based on the work of Jalongo (1991) and has since grown to incorporate the research of other educational researchers and leaders (Foster, 2004; Furman, 2003; Furman & Starratt, 2002).

Community is the foundation for the College of Education because we believe the only way to achieve our visions of schooling is to commit to work together on important problems, even with those who are different from us; to commit to communicate and engage in dialogue; to commit to share our stories and respect the views and values of others; in other words, to commit to the processes associated with democratic community in schools (Furman & Starratt, 2002). What we value in schooling cannot be achieved without this commitment to community. The achievement of excellence in schools depends on the development of a community of practitioners who encourage virtuous activity in each other (Foster, 2004). This commitment to the processes of community needs to be internalized by all educators—and that is what an ethic is, the internalization of values and commitment (Furman, 2003).

This commitment to Developing Learning Communities applies to the work of faculty as well as to the future work of the candidates. Adopting this metaphor of community to describe schools has profound implications. Included among these are a re-structuring of classroom organization, a redefinition of the role of administration and a review of the relationship between stakeholders. The following questions, suggested by Sergiovanni (1994), guide both faculty and candidates in developing this communal orientation to schooling:

  As we seek to build community in all three of its forms (kinship, place and mind), we might ask: What can be done to increase the sense of kinship, neighborliness and collegiality among the faculty? How can we become more of a professional community where we care about each other and help each other to be and to learn, and to lead more productive work lives? What kinds of relationships need to be cultivated with parents that will enable them to be included in our emerging community? How can we help each other? (p.7).

In keeping with our emphasis on community, the envisioned future at the College of Education is one where faculty members work together across program lines. This may be manifested in faculty members teaching courses in departments other than their own, collaborative work on in-service activities and a growing body of co-authored scholarly work produced by faculty members.

Perhaps the most important aspect of community is that candidates develop a sense of community and care with the faculty, as well as with their peers, and engage in various collaborative learning opportunities with faculty and peers. Candidates learn that all students are their responsibility regardless of race, class, ethnicity, ability, gender and sexual orientation and approach the futures of their students with a concern for equity and social justice. Technology is integrated throughout the educational experience and is viewed as a critical tool for preparing all candidates for their future work. Candidates understand the current reality of schools in which they will work as well as the future they want to create for all students and families. Faculty and candidates learn and experience the value of diverse perspectives, ongoing reflection, inquiry and critique. They continue to challenge their own thinking, as well as the thinking and practice of their colleagues.