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Program provides teaching toolkit to graduating ed students


April 25, 2008

Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

Education graduates at all three Arizona universities will have a unique resource library at their fingertips that will provide constant contact with their teaching peers, instruction tips from veterans in the field, access to useful and informative industry materials, and much more.

But only if tomorrow’s teachers enroll in the free program.

T-PREP (Teacher Preparation Research and Evaluation Project) is a collaboration among ASU, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University to assess teacher-preparation programs and ensure that all three universities are producing effective teachers. ASU is taking the lead in the statewide effort.

“This will provide students with a tool never before available,” says Mari Koerner, dean of ASU’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership (CTEL), adding, “It’s a wonderful resource available at no cost and one designed to provide a social link to their peers in education.”

In a recent letter to students preparing for graduation from CTEL, Maureen Gerard, coordinator of the college’s Office of Professional Field Experience, outlined the following benefits for students choosing to enroll in the Web interface IDEAL Integrated Data to Enhance Arizona’s Learning):

• the ability to retrieve current and historical transcript data, and to print certificates;

• the ability to enroll in online professional development courses;

• access to educational content aligned to grade levels, subject areas, and Arizona academic standards;

• access to Google applications for education in a secure, personalized environment;

• access to iTunesU for P-20 educational podcasts and resources;

• an environment that fosters professional collaboration and continuous support, as students, becoming teachers, enter their classrooms.

IDEAL, a partnership effort between ASU and the Arizona Department of Education (ADE), serves as the technical “platform” for the project.The IDEAL Web site can be accessed easily and instantly at http://ideal.asu.edu.

Tirupalavanam Ganesh, assistant dean of information systems at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton College of Education, says the IDEAL interface will provide access to resources that education graduates will find useful as they enter the teaching profession, including a standards-based library of user-driven content created by other teachers and administrators. He also notes that curriculum experts at ADE will supply content that teachers can access through the site.

“This program is important to ASU,” says Ganesh. “We are carefully examining our teacher preparation programs to improve the experience for future students, so those who enroll will also be leaving a legacy for those who come after them.

“This is a chance for our students to help us learn more about how our teacher preparation program graduates are performing while in their teaching assignments, which will, in turn, allow us to better meet their needs so they are able to realize their full potential and be successful in making a positive impact on pupils’ lives.”

The assessment model that will enable university education programs to monitor, assess and support students is being funded by the Arizona Community Foundation, a 29-year-old charity committed to supporting systemic improvements to education in Arizona.

“Our ongoing challenge and opportunity is this – how do we help our students make the transition from preparing to lead a classroom to ongoing support for them once they start teaching?” says Billie Enz, interim associate dean of the School of Teacher Preparation at ASU’s Polytechnic campus.

“IDEAL is a place for students to access resources, access each other, access classroom and professional development tools, and download essential items they will need as future teachers and even throughout their careers,” says Audrey Beardsley, a CTEL assistant professor in elementary education whose research interests include educational policy, research methods, and educational assessment.

“T-PREP is important because up to this point we really have had no mechanism or strategy in place to evaluate the effectiveness of that which we do. We need to know what our graduates think about our programs, what specific coursework helped them become ‘good’ teachers, and which courses need improvement.”

Beardsley also notes the program offers a social network of sorts for young teachers.

“The resources to which these students will have access, and the relationships they might build with teachers throughout the state via technology, will benefit student learning the most. Teachers for years have worked in isolation for the most part. Now a teacher in Globe might be able to communicate with a teacher in Phoenix about what strategies work best and what tools a teacher might use to best promote student learning on a certain topic or subject area.”

Angel Jannasch-Pennell, ASU assistant vice president and IDEAL principal investigator and architect, says IDEAL is a means of connecting and communicating.

“IDEAL represents an innovative model in instructional delivery and community connectivity – an approach consistent with ASU’s vision of the New American University.

“Virtually every state has established some form of educational network, ranging from informational Web sites to digital textbooks and online resources. Through IDEAL, ASU embraces P-12 education as an extension of the university environment, providing a continuum of direct access to the most effective tools, techniques and communication for children, educators, university faculty and researchers,” she says, adding, “ASU continually strives to give back to our surrounding communities, and IDEAL is the next step in that initiative, encouraging lifelong learning and eliminating educational barriers.”

For more information about the T-PREP program, visit http://tprep.asu.edu/.