The five principles of our conceptual framework are: learning, inquiry, collaboration and school improvement, connections, and reflective practice. They are manifested in our daily operations, practices, course structure and initiatives. As mandated by Regulation 347/02, the process and structure of Laurier's teacher education program reflect current research related to assisting new teachers in achieving the goals captured in our mission statement and to continually improving student learning. At Laurier, the conceptual framework permeates our courses and field experiences, our partnerships with schools and school boards, and our relationships with each other within the Faculty; in this sense, it is a living piece of our culture. Teacher Candidates are introduced to the framework from the beginning as evidenced in our BEd handbook, website, and evaluation forms. Several intertwined principles form the basis of the conceptual framework. The following text briefly explains how these principles are lived out in our programming.
It is not unique for a teacher education program to be founded on principles of learning. At Laurier, we conceptualize learning in terms of ongoing, continuous, and reflective practice applied to our own practices and those of our Laurier Partner Schools and Teacher Candidates. Laurier's Faculty of Education focuses on helping Teacher Candidates learn instructional and assessment strategies that reflect current research knowledge on the learning process. In particular, the Professional Development School model emphasizes teaching that is based on research literature, systematically collected evidence and reflection, and an understanding of individual student’s' strengths and needs.
Inquiry is a distinguishable feature of the Laurier teacher education model because of its role in the systemic investigation and reflection for continuous improvement of teaching practice. Each Teacher Candidate is required to complete at least one Collaborative Inquiry-Based Research Project within their school. These projects are developed to identify a question or problem related to student learning or teaching practice and then develop a plan to address the question or problem. Collecting data related to the topic, reflecting on the results, and implementing new practices are components of the inquiry process. Continually improving one’s teaching practice through systematic investigation and reflection is embedded in all aspects of our approach to teacher education.
Current research on teacher education consistently emphasizes the importance of situated learning and support for teacher education candidates in becoming integrated into the school community (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Putnam & Borko, 2002). As with our focus on reciprocal collaboration and continuous learning, our program has been structured to bridge university and Laurier Partner School sites by making connections between what happens in the teacher education classroom and what happens in elementary school settings, with the ultimate goal of improving student learning. Teacher Candidates work with school staff to promote student achievement and provide learning opportunities for children and youth thus, contributing to student learning, engagement and well-being.
Learners deepen their understanding and helps them integrate and use more of what they have learned when they can connect ideas and concepts and relate them to a bigger picture. Laurier's teacher education program has intentionally sought ways for Teacher Candidates to create meaningful connections as they develop their concept of what it means to be an effective teacher. Teacher Candidates need to make connections across content areas and contexts, and between what they are learning in university courses and their school-based experiences.
Learning, collaboration, connections, and inquiry converge in reflective practice. Throughout their coursework, field experiences, and practicum placements, Teacher Candidates are encouraged to engage in written and oral reflection. Associate Teachers and faculty members alike consistently ask Teacher Candidates to think about their teaching, connect theory to practice, and, of course, focus on the learning of their students in order to achieve Ministry of Education goals for Ontario children and youth and Laurier goals for Teacher Candidates. Developing the habit of reflective practice as a Teacher Candidate encourages the same propensity for self-examination as a practicing teacher.