Springfield, Ohio - The Ohio Board of Regents Thursday, Nov. 16 approved a Master of Arts in Education degree program at Wittenberg University. The program, designed to provide professional advancement for teachers, is unusual in its focus on collaboration with working teachers and for its emphasis on building teachers’ leadership skills.
The new master’s program is the only current graduate degree offered at Wittenberg and the first since the early 1980s.
The program is a new model for graduate education which serves to meet the range of challenges faced by working teachers. It is also a model for professional collaboration between colleges and schools which is intended to develop leadership among teachers for school reform.
“This new program builds on Wittenberg’s strengths in teacher education and is part of the university’s commitment to service in the community,” said Wittenberg President Baird Tipson.
The master’s program will formally begin accepting students for fall semester, 2001. The program is expected to enroll up to 20 students each year.
In addition to degree-seeking students the new program will provide opportunities for many more teachers to take graduate-level professional development courses designed to improve instruction, Welker added.
Although Wittenberg’s focus is on excellence in undergraduate education, the long and close collaborative relationship with public schools in the Springfield area made the extension of that relationship to graduate studies a natural development, according to Robert Welker, professor and chair of education at Wittenberg.
“One of the first things we did was to ask local teachers and school administrators what they thought teachers need to know and need to be able to do,” Welker said. “The answer was that they needed skills to cope with the incredible variety and demands of an ever-changing student population.”
“Social, cultural, economic, and ethnic factors combine, especially in an urban school environment, to create difficult cultural and social landscapes,” Welker said. “Without understanding the implications of that dynamic environment, effective learning seldom takes place.”
One of the most important elements of the graduate program will be research requirements that will develop teacher skills in assessing the results of their teaching strategies in terms of student learning and personal development.
This program will also stress teacher leadership in sharing successful teaching techniques in schools. “Teacher leaders must not only possess content knowledge, but they must also have the skills necessary to form effective collaborations,” Welker explained. “They are able to share this knowledge in ways that improve the work of their colleagues and the schools where they work.”
Many area teachers were educated at Wittenberg and the university’s community education courses and education seminars have continued to serve the needs of working professional teachers. In 1997 the Center for Professional Development was in partnership with the Springfield City Schools (SCS) to offer courses, conferences and visiting speakers which serve to tie Wittenberg’s resources to the daily needs of practicing teachers, Welker said.
In January, 1998 a second partnership, the Springfield-Wittenberg Teacher Institute was established with the SCS through which master teachers and administrators of the urban school district helped with early curriculum development for the new master’s degree program.
In the fall of 1998 the Institute formed the Wittenberg Fellows program, a core of teacher leaders from the community who were part of the effort’s first graduate course offered through the University of Dayton.
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