Conceptual Framework of the School of Education
Our overarching theme as a School of Education is "Educator as Advocate," a distillation of our vision, mission, beliefs, goals, central philosophy and five related tenets. This theme emphasizes a central philosophy of social justice, the related tenets of diversity, achievement, compassion, knowledge, and service and a constructivist instructional approach to help define who we are and what we are about as faculty, staff and candidates in the school. The theme, philosophy and tenets also provide a context for: (1) the work that we do in collaboration with the Fisher community, P-12 schools and broader community; (2) our collective efforts to provide high-quality faculty, programs, services and experiences that prepare candidates to work effectively with all students; and (3) continuous improvement in programs, practice, scholarship and service.
Social Justice Philosophy
Social Justice is our central philosophy, deeply rooted in the Catholic tradition in which we were originally founded, and served as the central focus of the life of our patron, St. John Fisher. Consistent with this tradition, we seek to provide our candidates, faculty and staff with insights of a more "just" world in which people treat one another civilly, humanitarianly, and honorably. To accomplish this noble purpose, our candidates must know how to: (1) provide learners through equitable access, knowledge about themselves and the world in which they live; and (2) engage in caring and effective pedagogical practices that support the acquisition of new knowledge and skills. The philosophy of social justice is characterized by five interlocking tenets:
Good teaching begins with an understanding about the lives of our students. This guides us to plan learner-centered, inclusive instruction. The implementation of inclusive education requires that the teacher and educational leader seek to be informed by the multiple cultures and values represented by the students, families, and communities they serve. We believe in the innate curiosity and potential of all children and strive to engage this curiosity in experiences that are culturally relevant. When an educator becomes an advocate, he or she must be self-efficacious, helping all children learn regardless of differences among groups of people and individuals based on age, ethnicity, gender, geographical area, language, race, socio-economic status, physical and mental abilities, sexual orientation, spiritual practice, and other human differences. To accomplish this purpose, we prepare educators who are knowledgeable about and willing to challenge societal inequities that are unjust both within and outside of the classroom and school context.
By placing high priority on promoting achievement to advance social justice, the educator as advocate accepts the responsibility to provide the conditions, opportunities and resources to promote individual growth so that all students can and will learn. Effective teaching begins with the prior knowledge of the learner upon which the skillful teacher builds so that the content being taught is transformed into new understandings. We prepare educators who can create classroom environments that effectively engage students in learning new content by inviting students to achieve and inspiring them to attain the critical skills and perspectives necessary to participate in a democratic society. Achievement-oriented teachers and leaders are adept at designing experiences that guide students to practice new competencies in real-world applications.
Father Hugh J. Haffey, CSB, the first president of Fisher, identified the single most enduring feature that distinguished Fisher was its high priority on compassionate practice: compassion on the part of administrators and teachers towards the students; compassion on the part of the students for each other. We manifest compassionate practice in working with the entire school community—students, families, and neighborhoods. To practice compassionate teaching, the educator as advocate must accept the challenge to recognize inequity and intolerance and to work to become an agent for positive change in the lives of students and their families.
Our faculty model the exchange of knowledge through dialogue between the teacher and the learner, between the text and the reader, and among those who form a community of learners. Curriculum and instructional practice exemplify a constructivist approach where the acquisition of knowledge is a socially constructed and developmental process during which learners derive meaning through intellectual and personal interactions, and have an opportunity to apply what they have learned in real world contexts (Bransford, J, Brown, A., & Cocking, R., 1999). Our faculty teach by example, modeling research-based practices of pedagogy. These require the teacher to be skilled in assisting student learners to acquire new knowledge by building on prior knowledge and experience; identifying and building on strengths; and applying new knowledge in meaningful contexts.
Our commitment to community service is aligned with Fisher's mission to prepare individuals for lives of intellectual, professional, and civic integrity, in which diversity and service to others are valued and practiced. We work to instill within our candidates, faculty, and staff the importance of professional preparation as a vehicle to improve the quality of life for others through service. Within a learning community, the educator as advocate is committed to a lifelong search for truth, the dignity of every individual, and service to others as a necessary expression of our humanity.