I. Overview and Conceptual Framework
I.1 Summarize the institution's mission, historical context, and unique characteristics (e.g., land grant, HBCU or religious).
The University of Texas at Brownsville is a Hispanic Serving Institution that has been a member of The University of Texas System since 1991. UTB serves more than 12,000 students at its campus located in Brownsville, Texas. UTB now receives nearly $6 million in research funding each year, has more than 150 undergraduate programs (certificates and associate’s and bachelor’s degrees) and twenty-three graduate programs, including a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction. UTB ranks number two nationally in the number of mathematics degrees awarded to Hispanic students, ranks twentieth nationally in the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to Hispanics students, and ranks fiftieth nationally in the number of master’s degrees awarded to Hispanics.
Located on the lower Texas-Mexico border opposite Matamoros, Mexico, UTB students, staff and faculty have access to the social, cultural and intellectual richness that a transnational area provides. Hispanics comprise 93 percent of the student body and approximately 90 percent receive some form of financial aid. According to U.S. Census figures, Cameron County, with Brownsville as county seat, is documented as among the poorest counties in the United States. The county has a median family income of $30,950 compared to $50,049 for the state. Approximately, 34 percent count residents live below the poverty level to 16 percent of Texas residents. As a result of this dynamic, students are made aware not only of the opportunities but also—through theory, practice and experiences working with children and adults representing a host of ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds—of the complex and profound educational challenges of urban and rural border settings.
UTB's mission is to draw upon the intersection of cultures and languages at the southern border and Gulf Coast of the United States to develop knowledgeable citizens and emerging leaders engaged in the civic lives of their communities. Our mission embraces teaching excellence, active inquiry, lifelong learning, rigorous scholarship and research in service to the common good. Our institution promotes the interdisciplinary search for new knowledge that advances social and physical well-being and economic development through commercialization while honoring the creative and environmental heritage of its region.
UTB is committed to excellence. It is dedicated to stewardship, service, openness, accessibility, efficiency and citizenship. UTB is committed to students, participatory governance, liberal education, the expansion of the application of knowledge, human dignity, the convening of cultures and respect for the environment.
I.2 Summarize the professional education unit at your institution, its mission, and its relationship to other units at the institution that are involved in the preparation of professional educators.
The College of Education (CoE) is the primary unit responsible for the preparation of teachers and other educational professionals at UTB. We have a long history of preparing professional personnel to meet the diverse educational needs of the Lower Rio Grande Valley and South Texas. The CoE is one of the university’s nine academic colleges and schools, which are comprised of a diverse and international faculty. The college is composed of an administrative unit (Office of the Dean), one research center and four academic departments: Teaching, Learning and Innovation (TLI); Language, Literacy and Intercultural Studies (LLIS); Health and Human Performance (HPP); and Educational, Psychology and Leadership Studies (EPLS).
The CoE vision and mission revolve around preparing highly skilled professionals to excel in an intercultural world. The CoE’s motto, “Teaching, Learning and Scholarly Inquiry for an Intercultural World,” reciprocally affirms the CoE’s responsiveness to teaching, research and service. Our vision has evolved from collaborative partnerships among academic colleges and schools and between the CoE and its P-12 colleagues. CoE programs that prepare teachers and other educational professionals are central to the university's mission, which is to help students at all levels develop the skills of critical thinking, quantitative analysis and effective communication. The CoE, with its openness and respect for others, is committed to excellence, collaboration and the creation of partnerships. We are dedicated to designing new and creative avenues to support students, staff and faculty. We value collegiality, professionalism, service and ethical behavior (CoE, 2011). Our unit aims to build strong theoretical foundations in every student in order to produce teachers capable of understanding the complexities of diverse societies, so that they might have a positive impact not only on student learning but also on the emergent educational, community and professional contexts and structures within which learning occurs (Dewey, 1938a, p. 35).
I.3 Summarize programs offered at initial and advanced preparation levels (including off-campus, distance learning, and alternate route programs), status of state approval, national recognition, and if applicable, findings of other national accreditation associations related to the preparation of education professionals.
Working in cross-disciplinary partnerships with other colleges and schools throughout the institution, our teacher preparation unit (CoE) offers nineteen undergraduate programs which lead to teacher certification. Of these programs, four are nationally accredited by NASM and thirteen are recognized with conditions (RWC) by their Specialized Professional Organizations (SPAs). All nineteen of these programs are resubmitting (where applicable) for full recognition. We also offer one post-baccalaureate degree option. Initial programs provide a rigorous, relevant, evidence-based curriculum designed to prepare candidates for professional practice and pedagogical leadership in one or more teaching domains.
Our advanced programs prepare practitioners to excel in increased levels of professional and pedagogical leadership, and prepare emerging scholars to contribute in more nuanced and innovative ways to their respective academic, research and professional communities. Our teacher preparation unit offers fifteen active specializations at the master’s level. The Community Counseling and School Counseling programs are nationally accredited by CACREP. Three of our advanced programs are nationally recognized by their SPAs. The Master of Educational Technology Program is nationally recognized by AECT. The Master of Education-Educational Leadership, District Level Leadership Program and the Master of Education-Educational Leadership, Building Level Leadership Program are nationally recognized by ELCC. Our three master-level specializations in special education are recognized with conditions by CEC. The master's bilingual education program and master’s C&I program (representing six categories of specialization) do not have SPA standards. These programs have undergone extensive program review and results are included as part of this IR report demonstrating these programs' continuous improvement.
At the doctoral level, our unit offers an Ed.D in C&I with specializations in the areas of Bilingual Studies, Educational Leadership, Educational Technology, and Higher Education Teaching. Program review results for the doctoral program are provided in the IR report. Please see Exhibit I.5.d. for a complete list of initial and advanced programs for the preparation of teachers and other professionals to work in P-12 settings along with the findings of other national accreditation associations related to the preparation of education professionals and SPA recognition status.
I.4 Summarize the basic tenets of the conceptual framework, institutional standards, and candidate proficiencies related to expected knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions.
Our multilayered conceptual framework revolves around the CoE’s mission to prepare highly skilled professionals to assume roles and positions in teaching, leadership, counseling, research and other educational professions. Please see Exhibit I.5.c for the conceptual framework graphic.
Our framework is made up of interrelated, nested circles. Intersecting the framework’s center are our four guiding principles: pedagogical leadership, inquiry, interculturalism and interrelatedness, around which the unit develops policies and practices.
Forming the outer perimeter of our framework are arrows labeled “professionalism,” “knowledge in practice,” “reflection,” “diversity” and “collaboration.” These arrows represent the CoE’s categories of standards related to knowledge, skills and dispositions that are addressed and assessed across programs, and which operate in dynamic reciprocity with our four guiding principles. As candidates matriculate through programs, they are expected to demonstrate key proficiencies and dispositions associated with these standards. These key proficiencies are expressed as CoE categories of standards and were developed by CoE faculty in alignment with
our guiding principles as well as with state and national standards.
Our guiding principles articulate our educational aims. These principles also represent a set of dispositions that frame the “habits of mind” (Katz, 1993) from which unit administrators, faculty, students and graduates draw in order to understand complex educational contexts and processes, and which we embody as ethical decision makers dedicated to helping all students learn and become active participants in a democracy.
Aligned with national and state standards, our unit works diligently to prepare future teachers and other professionals with content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, general pedagogical knowledge and knowledge of learners and their contexts. Toward that end, we expect all students and faculty in each of our programs to demonstrate pedagogical leadership as a guiding principle of their professional practice and as a disposition by:
- Knowing their content and using appropriate pedagogy to provide all students with the opportunity to learn.
- Experimenting with pedagogical techniques and critically evaluating the results of their experimentation.
- Transforming their own practice through continuous reflection and ongoing professional development, and sharing this learning with others in the educational community.
- Advocating for all learners.
Inquiry as an inclusive, dynamic process drives our curricular, pedagogical and scholarly endeavors. Inquiry is also a “habit of mind,” or disposition (Heidegger, 1977). Toward that end, we expect all students and faculty in each of our programs to demonstrate inquiry as a guiding principle of their professional practice and as habit of mind by:
- Actively inquiring into educational dilemmas and problems to seek resolution that benefit students.
- Thinking critically about educational issues.
- Continuously reflecting on and refining practice to meet the changing needs of learners.
- Engaging in innovative scholarship that advances the field and related disciplines.
The notion of interculturalism, nested as it is within discourses of multicultural education, anti-racist education, human rights education, conflict resolution and multilingual education, helps give shape to our commitment to diversity as an educational practice that moves beyond passive Coexistence toward an emergent, sustainable way of living together in an interconnected, global environment. Toward that end, we expect all students and faculty in each of our programs to demonstrate interculturalism as a guiding principle of their professional practice and as a disposition by:
- Demonstrating sensitivity toward, and appreciation of, individual and cultural differences and having a holistic understanding of the richness of diverse communities.
- Understanding the importance of global connections, including biliteracy and multilingualism as tools for intercultural teaching, learning and communication.
- Focusing on culturally and socially diverse contexts and the opportunities and challenges diversity presents.
Much educational research regarding best practices of teacher education suggests that teaching and teacher education cannot be effectively undertaken in isolation. Instead, teacher education and teaching must be understood as a historical, social, cultural and community-oriented enterprise that is collaborative by its very nature. Core required courses, program-specific courses and scaffolded field experiences provide multiple opportunities for teacher candidates and other educational professionals to apply their knowledge skills and dispositions in collaboration with diverse communities of practice. Likewise, unit faculty are engaged in a kaleidoscope of collaborative activity aimed at cultivating the capacity for professional and pedagogical leadership in our local districts (and region and beyond) through expanding technological innovations that allow us to collaborate across state, national and transnational contexts. We expect all students and faculty in each of our programs to demonstrate interrelatedness as a guiding principle of their professional practice and as a disposition by:
- Collaborating with other professional educators, families and communities.
- Becoming actively involved in professional and scholarly organizations and networks.
- Understanding the importance of engaging in partnerships with schools and communities.
- Engaging in interdisciplinary/cross-disciplinary activities that ensure breadth and depth of perspective and knowledge.
- Applying ethical, social behavior and professional ethical standards.
We view technology as a key curricular component that allows faculty and future teachers unparalleled opportunities for collaboration and innovation that can be used to foster student learning and boost student achievement. We expect all students and faculty in each of our programs to use technology in their professional practice and as a disposition by:
- Modeling, supporting, promoting and using technology to facilitate productive technological experiences that advance student learning, creativity and innovation both face to face and virtually.
- thinking critically about issues related to technology and implications for teaching, learning and equity.
- Engaging in professional growth and development opportunities related to instructional technology as well as broader issues of technology and education