Teachers and Students Re-Imagining their Worlds

Our teacher education program sees teaching and learning as a process of collaboration among teachers, students, parents, and communities. Faculty in this program believe that, as educators, we must always consider the possibilities of who teachers can be, how we live together in local, regional, and global communities and, our evolving vision of school settings for children from preschool to grade 4. Our core values place children and teachers reimagining their world at the center of our work. We seek to empower students and teachers both here at Penn State and in their future classrooms and lives by supporting them with the surrounding core values of leadership, diversity, and engaged citizenship within a culture of inquiry.

The Elementary and Early Childhood Education faculty understands schools as one important site where democratic citizenship begins. We recognize citizenship as an active process involving work toward the betterment of community. The ideal of a sustainable democracy is not an end but a constant process of re-imagining to which each generation must re-commit. Active citizenship at every level—classroom, local, national and global--requires educated citizens who acknowledge and respect diverse viewpoints, thoughtfully applying concepts and skills such as inquiry, research, and debate, as they participate in public life.  

Penn State Elementary and Early Childhood Education teacher candidates:

  • explore theories of teaching and learning across disciplines that prepare students not only to take tests but to ask questions about their communities and work to solve problems they perceive (starting in the classroom, then moving beyond).  

  • engage in a range of teaching approaches that empower students through the use of processes such as investigation of social problems, active consideration of differing viewpoints, debate, and cooperative civic action.

Teacher educators and students in our program are guided by the core value of diversity. As we understand and use it here, “diversity” encompasses a variety of ways of being human and includes embodied, cognitive, linguistic, and sociocultural characteristics that in any given context may be considered atypical. We also use “diversity” to encompass intellectual diversity. To understand diversity is to recognize it as a form of inclusiveness. Understanding diversity requires us to honor others both as individuals and as members of identifiable groups whose values may be different from our own. To value diversity means to be willing to confront racism, sexism, ageism, classism, childism, and bias against gender identity when and where it appears in our schools, our curriculum, and our communities.

Penn State Elementary and Early Childhood Education teacher candidates:

  • consider ways to promote students’ academic learning and their emotional and social development

  • learn ways to regard diversity not as a challenge to be overcome but as a resource that--when acknowledged, appreciated, nurtured, and celebrated--enriches the school experiences and learning of everyone.

  • work together to develop ways that teachers can nurture an appreciation for a wide range of diversities--visible diversities as well as invisible ones.

In the Elementary and Early Childhood Education program, we value teaching as a field whose professionals continually advance their practice in order to meet the needs and support the development of children as independent, social learners. We do this through inquiry. Inquiry is challenging work that involves engaging in an iterative process of asking questions, collecting and analyzing data, and using evidence to inform pedagogical decision-making. Engaging in this work supports children in becoming thoughtful problem solvers and able to make informed decisions and contributions as citizens.

Penn State Elementary and Early Childhood Education teacher candidates:

  • engage in teacher inquiry, which uses a reflective practice approach to support evidence-based decision-making about their teaching practice.

  • learn to utilize teacher inquiry as a way to continue to reflect on and improve their teaching practices as they continue throughout their careers.

  • support student inquiry as a way for children to express their curiosity through recognizing tensions and identifying questions and wonderings.

  • elicit children’s prior knowledge and engage them in the practices of collecting and analyzing data and evidence, and using that evidence to critique and expand their knowledge, fostering children’s sensemaking and critical thinking abilities.

  • become advocates for the rights of students, teachers, the profession of teaching, and the value of education for all

  • become leaders in the teaching profession through their abilities to use inquiry as a tool to support other teachers’, administrators’, and parents’ evidence-based decision-making in the school community.

Penn State teachers are leaders in their own classrooms, in their districts, in their universities, and in their local and global communities. They are advocates for students, parents, schools and the teaching profession as a whole. We believe good leaders are people who will listen and be responsive to contexts with humility. They are confident but willing to learn new things; they have a vision grounded in a set of values and enact leadership with integrity.

Penn State Elementary and Early Childhood Education teacher candidates:

  • develop the skills of becoming teacher leaders in their schools, states, and nation

  • learn to seek challenge instead of accepting the status quo, take risks, ask questions, reflect and act

  • build key relationships so that they can be lifelong leaders