The following are the responses from the program director, chair, and dean for the Planning and Review Committee’s (PRC) consultant report for the B.S. in Early Childhood Education program.
Response from the Chair
The quality of instructional staff is irregular as noted by students’ responses. Some problems involve very negative interactions that students have had with individual faculty and instructional academic staff. Other problems involve the instability of the staffing as well as the overuse of part-time staffing which also needs to be addressed. Students perceive inconsistency in many courses from section to section and semester to semester, causing them to question whether they are learning the “right stuff.” Working with the dean and program director, efforts must be made to stabilize the staffing with more full-time and (hopefully) faculty positions. If part-time and staff positions must be used, a plan to ensure consistent, quality instruction needs to be developed.
Instability of ECE staffing has been a serious problem. Unfortunately, we had two failed ECE faculty searches this year. We had an extremely small pool of applicants and lost two applicants during the process. We will initiate a new search for two faculty early fall semester and will rewrite the job description to be more inclusive. We are also pursuing a possible future faculty exchange with the Menomonie School District (MSD) to allow one of their very experienced elementary teachers a one-year reassignment to teach in the ECE program in exchange for an early childhood certified graduate student teaching for MSD. We are reassigning a person who worked primarily in the clinical placement office this year to teach courses for ECE on a 75% basis this next year. We will also have one full-time adjunct supervisor supervising student teachers this next year, so there will be very little supervision done by other adjunct. This will allow closer coordination with the teaching faculty and staff. Only adjunct teaching staff with positive student evaluations this past year will be rehired for 2004-05. The faculty meet on a weekly basis to align individual courses with the program curriculum and with the new PI 34 standards. The chair will hold focus group sessions with ECE students both fall and spring semester this next year to obtain additional feedback regarding quality of instruction and the transition to the new program plan. While student course evaluations have been mostly positive this past year, this type of forum may encourage more feedback from students.
Response from the Dean
The problem of the Child and Family Study Center needs attention. Six courses use it for observation and practical experiences. With 500 students in the program, growing community child care needs, and modern standards for such facilities, the Center is increasingly inadequate. Further efforts to replace the CFSC needs to be made.
A new director of the Child and Family Study Center is being hired as of July 1, 2004. There will also be a new staffing pattern beginning Semester 1, 2004. The staffing pattern is designed to better capitalize on the theory and practice in coursework being integrated in the CFSC (laboratory school).
Plans for replacing/remodeling the CFSC exist as part of a University plan to convert the Home Economics building into a Lifespan Center. However, this is several years into the future. In the meantime, dollars have been obtained from Lab Modernization funds to do some minor projects. The School of Education (SOE) is planning to work with the Stout Foundation on a campaign with the possibility of raising funds for a new facility.
The significant increases in program enrollments have not been accompanied by increases in program staffing. Some difficulties will be manifest if staffing isn’t increased if enrollments are to continue at the current level. Working with the chair and program director, serious consideration must be given to improved staffing and/or capped enrollments.
The Early Childhood Education (ECE) program has been realigned to the SOE this past year. This has allowed more emphasis to be placed on meeting the needs of the ECE program. Since there were two failed ECE searches this past year, two full-time academic staff will be hired to fill the positions so that the number of needed adjuncts will be minimized. In addition, we are working on establishing a teacher exchange with the Menomonie Public Schools. Next year, two new searches will take place with the job descriptions expanded to be more inclusive. Program enrollment has been limited and will continue to be so unless more resources were given to the SOE.
The instability of the staffing, as well as the overuse of part-time staffing, is a problem which needs to be addressed. Students perceive inconsistency of many courses from section to section and semester to semester, causing them to question whether they are learning the “right stuff.” Working with the chair and program director, efforts must be made to stabilize the staffing with more full-time and (hopefully) faculty positions.
The ECE program was revised this year. Consistency and flow of course content is reflected in the revision. The program is built upon a solid foundation of Arts and Sciences courses which are needed as content for the program. The SOE coordinating chair, ECE program director, and I are working together to create a positive change in the program. Staffing plans addressed in Recommendation 2 (above) will also assist in keeping the content of courses on track.
It is crucial that competent and consistent program direction, faculty, and advisement exists for the ECE program. Plans for replacement and retention of faculty in the program needs to be undertaken.
As previously stated, the ECE program is now in the School of Education and has been under the direction of a competent program director this past year. An academic staff member has a .50 FTE to work with the program director and students for advisement purposes. Another .50 graduate assistant also works with the program director and ECE students. Two other ECE faculty also assist with student advisement. Being there were two failed ECE searches this past year, two academic staff have been hired for these positions and will assist with advisement. Next fall, two searches will be immediately begun.
Response from the Program Director
While the student responses should not be unduly emphasized, they do suggest something of a “disconnect” between the program and the students’ perceived needs and experiences. There seems to be a high degree of dissatisfaction among students and there seems to be little awareness among faculty of what appears to be pretty bad student moral at this points. Again, this may be a holdover from earlier times but it would seem worthy of more concern and awareness among instructors and other interested parties. It is recommended that the 2005 program director, working with the PRC, assess and give a status report as to whether the new program, its housing, curriculum, and direction is meeting these needs in the eyes of the students by use of the PRC student survey and/or other suitable instruments.
I appreciate your excellent recommendation on conducting a survey of student perception of the ECE program. In fact, my early childhood colleagues and I recommend that the survey be done every year until the next PRC review, in order to monitor incremental changes in student perceptions. A variety of factors warrant this recommendation:
- Some students are graduating from the old program and their perceptions are likely to continue to be affected by previous experiences coupled with inadequate and poorly monitored instruction that occurred prior to moving to the School of Education. No doubt, the attitudes of advanced students are transmitted to some beginning students. Then, too, new students need the time and an opportunity to experience changes introduced with the revised 2004 program.
- Change will also come slowly; but surely, only if and when newly hired faculty with formal education in ECE, as opposed to academic staff, join the Early Childhood Education faculty.
- Similarly, the student teacher supervision model will be restructured in cooperation with the Coordinating Chair of the School of Education to eliminate part-time student teaching supervisors, thereby ensuring consistency. Moreover, this model will help ensure the coordination of theory and practice.
Significant course overlap continues to be noted in this review as was the case in 1996; it is significantly greater than noted by students in other programs. With the new School of Education, opportunities should exist for better cooperation in order to determine educational objectives in the program and coordinate delivery. Monitoring of this needs to be done and assessed in the 2005 review recommended above.
Significant programmatic changes in the 2004 revision directly address course overlap. For example, student perceptions of overlap between many of the human development courses (HDFS Department) and Educational Psychology should change. All but one of the human development courses were eliminated from the ECE program in effort to directly address the course overlap issue. Moreover, eliminating the human development courses allowed the ECE program to add other courses deemed more helpful to students in their teaching careers. For instance, students, DPI, graduates and employers all recommended a course on classroom management. Therefore, a class was added to the revised program. Additionally, to meet DPI’s required mandate multiple assessment sources, the arts and sciences component was changed to provide students with a solid foundation in this area. Courses were selected in collaboration with faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Overlap was also addressed in the language arts and reading courses. The new program revamped this part of the curriculum and introduced two language arts/reading courses, deliberately designing them to prevent potential overlap. The early childhood faculty have recommended in the future all ECE courses be taught only by early childhood education faculty with expertise and experience in the specific areas.
Students take three developmentally appropriate practices classes, each class dealing with one of the sub-group ages within the early childhood period: Infants/Toddlers, Preschool, and Kindergarten/Primary- age break-downs corresponding to the three levels of student teaching required in the ECE program by the Department of Public Instruction. There will be some overlap in these three courses due to the general definition of DAP (Developmentally Appropriate Practice).
Student perceptions of course overlap will be closely monitored and documented through the yearly PRC/ECE survey of students.
Student’s perceived preparedness for teaching the early primary grades remains a concern as it was in 1996. The program director report indicates that the program meets new DPI certification requirements and that a reconfiguration of education courses may emphasize K-3 teaching competencies more. Students (both upper and lower division) should be surveyed again as noted above and may be otherwise monitored by the director regarding the success of the new configuration, and an effort made to discern confidence in subject-matter competencies. The survey should be coded to reflect the level of the respondent. If students are concerned with inadequate K-3 classroom experience, more opportunities for classroom observation and lesson preparation before student teaching needs to be explored.
The revised program requires active participation with primary grade children in math and classroom management prior to student teaching. For these classes, students are required to develop lesson plans and related teaching materials to carry out the plans with children in public school primary classrooms. After each experience they are then required to reflect on the success of the plan in helping children learn.
Student perception of the 2004 program will be closely monitored in a yearly PRC survey.
The PRC’s suggestion of coding the surveys to reflect the level of the respondent is an excellent idea. It is also instrumental to code the survey for transfer students. According to Larry Graves of the Registrar’s office, approximately fifty percent (50%) of UW-Stout ECE students entering the program in the Fall of 2003 and the Spring of 2004 were transfer students. During this time period there was a total of 127 students entering the program. Sixty of those students were new freshman and fifty-seven were transfer students. Many, although we do not have specific numbers, were students who were from traditional elementary education programs at other universities, the majority from UW-Eau Claire. Many students transferring from UW-Eau Claire were not admitted into their College of Education; consequently they transferred to UW-Stout’s Early Childhood Education program.
The report notes (page 5, #7) that a consistent complaint is an emphasis on “early childhood” with several students writing that they needed more preparation for the “elementary education” jobs they planned to take after graduation. “Early childhood” is defined as birth through third grade and UW-Stout ECE students are certified in “early childhood”. Transfer students who come to UW-Stout from an elementary education program might have an exceedingly strong preference for teaching in the primary grades and therefore might be quite likely to lack interest in coursework dealing with any other age. The survey being administered in 2005 needs to be designed and coded to reveal transfer status, which will shed light on this phenomenon. A targeted survey would provide more specific information. It is possible that some students would prefer never to study anything about infants, preschool, or kindergarten children but a true ECE degree like UW-Stout’s provides a balanced approach to learning about teaching the range of ages within the “early childhood” years.
In summary, to address the majority of concerns expressed by the PRC, additional faculty with experience in the primary grades need to be added to the Early Childhood Education faculty.