Conceptual Framework

The conceptual framework of the College of Education is grounded in the Catholic and Vincentian tradition upheld by the founding fathers of Niagara University. Niagara University educates its students and enriches their lives through programs in the liberal arts and through career preparation, informed by the Catholic and Vincentian traditions.

Mission of the College of Education

It is the mission of the College of Education to prepare leaders in educational and clinical professions, who demonstrate the knowledge, skills and dispositions needed to serve others and who further the values and practices of their respective professions in a global society. We seek to inspire our candidates in the Vincentian tradition; and to foster core professional dispositions of professional commitment and responsibility (fairness), professional relationships (includes belief that all children can learn), and critical thinking and reflective practice.

As a faculty, we are committed to developing programs with courses, clinical experiences and assessments based on three complimentary dimensions: constructivism, evidence-based and reflective practice. The knowledge base underpinning these dimensions includes current research, theory and practice in the profession, as well as ongoing scholarship by members of the faculty of education. The dimensions are represented through the visual of a garden.  

Conceptual Framework

The conceptual framework for the program embraces three dimensions: student-centering through constructivist practice, evidence-based and reflective practice. 

  1. Student-Centering Through Constructivist Practice
    This orientation is based on the belief that knowledge is created and developed by learners and is influenced by experiences, values and multiple identifies (e.g., race, class, culture, gender, nationality, exceptionality and language of individuals.) Grounded in Dewey’s progressive educational philosophy, predicated on the learning theories of Piaget and Vygotsky, and furthered through the research of such modern leaders as Darling-Hammond (2001), Shulman (2005), Gardner (2006), Perkins (2009), and Danielson (2007). This perspective drives us to place the prior knowledge and experiences of students at the core of our institutional practice and facilitate their development through meaningful exploration. Constructivist practice invites candidates to be active participants in their own development and to view knowledge - in theory and in practice - as fluid social constructions that are made and re-made through reflective interactions with social, cultural and natural phenomena. (Dansforth & Smith, 2005; Foote, Vermette, & Battaglia, 2001; Ladson-Billings, 2009; Marlowe & Page, 1998; Vermette, 2009).
  2. Evidence-Based Practice
    Throughout our programs, we emphasize that professionals are most effective when they integrate the best available research with pedagogical and clinical practice.  Practitioners, therefore, in their design and implementation of effective programming, should draw from the extant research base and implement their own filed based evaluations of program appropriateness and efficacy.  This data-based decision-making integrates the fullest range of evidence that should be considered in order to promote and enhance effective outcomes within a profession or discipline.  With this individualized framework of growth, there are multiple paths to effective practice and we encourage educators, leaders, and counselors to continuously examine and implement a wide range of evidence-based best practices.
  3. Reflective Practice
    Self-assessment, peer-assessment and critical examination of the efficacy of one's own practice are essential dispositions for all professionals (Feimann-Nemser, 1990). We believe that reflective practice can be taught in the context of courses that view students as knowledge producers in search of meaning (Palmer, 1983). Pedagogy that poses problems rather than transmits content encourages reflective thinking and doing (Miller, 1993). Reflection and metacognition enhances our own professional practice, as well as encouraging these practices among those in our fields. (Eby, Herrell, & Hicks, 2002; Egan, 2007; Henderson, 1996; Zemelman, Daniels, & Hyde, 1998). We also believe that interaction with current and future practitioners both extends and promotes such reflection.

Faculty members in the college seek to extend and promote these dimensions through modeling related pedagogical practices and instilling in our candidates a desire to promote such practices in their professional lives. As indicated on the Conceptual Framework:  Alignment to Assessment System, these dimensions are assessed for candidates and faculty in terms of curriculum, instruction and teaching, field and  clinical experiences, modeling effective practice in teaching and research and though follow-up surveys.

Goals to Implement our Mission and Theoretical Dimensions

Extending from the mission of the university and the College of Education’s theoretical dimension described above, the goals of the College of Education provide direction for the unit, its faculty, programs and candidates. The five overarching goals of the College of Education include the unit’s commitment to diversity, strong partnerships with the educational community, the preparation of teachers, counselors and leaders who help all children learn, the review and development of programs that meet high national standards, the integration of technology, and the extension of faculty contributions and are as follows:

  1. The College of Education will demonstrate its commitment to a diverse, inclusive, multicultural and international society through its personnel, candidates, curriculum and clinical experiences.
  2. The professional development for faculty, staff and administrators within the College of Education will be comprehensive and embedded with the aim of continuously promoting the quality of programs and extending the current contributions of the faculty and professional staff.
  3. All programs within the College of Education will be based upon high standards consistent with our own values and those of accreditation and review bodies; and will be consistently assessed and developed to meet the needs of the counseling and education communities.
  4. Candidates and graduates of the College of Education’s programs will demonstrate the professional knowledge, skills and dispositions, as defined by our conceptual framework, to enhance student learning and contribute to their professions and the community.
  5. The College of Education, in accordance with the mission of the university, will expand service and clinically rich authentic field experiences through the continued documentation and cultivation of strategic partnerships in order to address the needs of the broader community.

Candidate Proficiencies

The conceptual framework provides the context for developing and assessing candidate proficiencies based on professional, state and institutional standards. The program statements and assessment models illustrate the manner in which candidate and program assessment and evaluation on these standards will be performed. The program statements and knowledge bases, delineated below, guide the curriculum and assessment strategies within each program.

Educational Leadership Program

The educational leadership programs in the College of Education are founded on a commitment to developing practitioners who, in the Vincentian tradition, foster human learning, development, spiritual well-being, and emotional stability in their respective 
institutions. Graduates of these programs are expected to demonstrate indicators of the professional dispositions in the core areas of professional commitment and responsibility, professional relationships, and critical thinking and reflective practice. Additionally, we expect candidates within these programs to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and dispositions recognized by the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC).

Counseling and School Psychology Programs

The counselor preparation programs and the school psychology program in the College of Education are founded on a commitment to developing practitioners and leaders in the field who, in the Vincentian tradition, individually and systemically foster human growth and development, and spiritual and emotional wellbeing within a culturally diverse context.  Graduates of these programs are expected to demonstrate indicators of professional dispositions in the core areas of professional commitment and responsibility, professional relationships, and critical thinking and reflective practice. Additionally, candidates are expected to demonstrate the knowledge, skills, dispositions, and ethical standards as set forth by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) for counseling and those of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) for school psychology.

Teacher Education Programs

The teacher preparation programs in the College of Education are founded on a commitment to developing instructional leaders who, in the Vincentian tradition, individually and systemically foster human learning, development, spiritual well-being and emotional stability in each of the students they encounter. Graduates of these programs are expected to demonstrate indicators of professional dispositions in the core areas of professional commitment and responsibility, professional relationships and critical thinking and reflective practice.

Candidates in all teacher education programs must demonstrate competency in each of the standards associated with the nationally recognized associations aligned with the areas of certification they seek. As aligned with the overall principals of the standards of the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC standards) and of the standards of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), these professional standards include:

Certification AreaNational Association
Birth to Grade 2 National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
Grades 1-6 Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI)

Science Grades 5-12 (biology or chemistry)
National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)
Social Studies Grades 5-12 National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
English Grades 5-12 National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
Foreign Language Grades 5-12 American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)
Mathematics Grades 5-12 National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
TESOL Birth – Grade 12 Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
Special Education Grades 1-6 or 7-12 Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)
Reading Specialist Birth – Grade 6 or Grades 5-12 International Reading Association (IRA)

Commitment to Diversity

The conceptual framework reflects the college’s commitment to preparing candidates to support learning for all students and provides a conceptual understanding of how knowledge, dispositions and skills related to diversity are integrated across the curriculum, instruction, field experience, clinical practice, assessment and evaluation.

Framed within the mission of the university and the overarching commitment to serving those most in need (Vincentian mission), the first goal of the College of Education states that “the commitment of the college to a diverse, inclusive, multicultural and international society will be demonstrated through its personnel, candidates, curriculum and clinical experiences.” Indicators of performance are measured and reported/discussed annually.

In 2005, faculty in the College of Education adopted the Framework for Standards and Assessment of Diversity to set forth the knowledge base and indicators of candidate performance related to diversity as informed by culturally relevant pedagogy (Irvine & Armento, 2001).  Assessment measures were delineated for each program area based on the indicators of culturally relevant pedagogy that align with national standards for the program. Data are collected and analyzed to determine the strength of candidate performance related to teaching/learning with P-12 students from diverse backgrounds.

Commitment to Technology

The conceptual framework reflects the college’s commitment to preparing candidates who are able to use educational technology to help all students learn. It also provides a conceptual understanding of how knowledge, skills and dispositions related to educational and information technology are integrated throughout the curriculum, instruction, field experience, clinical practice, assessment and evaluation.

The commitment to technology is noted across the goals of the college – from facilities (state-of-the-art technology in the Academic Complex and teaching studio) to professional development priorities related to instructional technology for faculty. Candidates are expected to demonstrate the application of technology as noted in program standards, using the ISTE standards to inform their application and assessment of instructional technology.

Assessment System

The conceptual framework serves as the foundation for the College of Education’s assessment system. The assessment system is a carefully designed system for collecting, maintaining, analyzing, reporting and using meaningful information that is readily available for the purpose of planned decision making continuous improvement. The assessment system is aligned with the conceptual framework of the college, includes data related to multiple points of assessment, reflects the involvement of the professional community, and ensures the integration of assessment information and data with other university assessments. Specific steps are taken to establish fairness, accuracy and consistency in these assessment procedures and unit operations.

In keeping with the conceptual framework, each program area has identified 6 – 8 assessments that provide multiple indicators of candidate performance on each of the approved program standards (standards are aligned with the national professional standards for each program). All programs have clear transition points (admission, entry to clinical practice, exit from clinical practice, completion of program, and follow-up) that serve as a roadmap for success for candidates and an accountability framework for the unit. 

Data is analyzed by faculty annually to improve the operation of the Unit, its programs and the performance of its graduates. The assessment system focuses on the use of data for continuous improvement with an organizational structure and annual timelines for the promulgation of data, discussion of performance, and consideration of appropriate changes or revisions.