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Overview of Conceptual Framework

Overview of Conceptual Framework

Vision and Mission

Consistent with the institutional vision and mission and with our heritage as an institution with a major commitment to quality teacher preparation, the vision of the teacher education unit at Austin Peay State University is to prepare highly qualified professionals who are knowledgeable and skilled in standards-based practice. Our goal is to prepare competent, reflective, and caring educators who, while working in collaboration with other professionals, will serve as change agents to foster development and learning in the lives of all learners. Our theme, “Preparing Professionals Through Standards-Based Practices” reflects our vision, mission, and goals, and also supports reflective, data-informed planning for continuous improvement.

The Teacher Education Unit's Philosophy, Purposes and Goals

The teacher education unit’s teacher preparation programs emanate from a conceptual framework that has evolved from a model adopted in 2000. The impetus to review and revise our conceptual framework came from several issues. In 2002, the College of Education was restructured as the School of Education and became a unit within the College of Professional Programs and Social Sciences. One reason to revise the conceptual framework was to clearly establish the School of Education as part of a community of professional programs. The second reason was to create a teacher education program in which teacher candidates see themselves as professionals. The third reason was the realization that in addition to students earning initial licensure to teach, the Unit prepares licensed teachers for roles as school administrators, reading specialists, school counselors, instructional technologists, and others who serve in an administrative role in our schools. Therefore, it was felt that our theme, “Preparing Professionals through Standards-based Practice,” sets the stage for the changing focus of the teacher education unit.

However, the Unit also recognized that today’s teachers must have the skills to function in a standards-based environment. Just as teacher educators within the Unit had modeled the knowledge, skills, and dispositions we wanted our students to possess, it was evident that we must also model how to teach from a standards-based format. It was clear that if teacher candidates are to achieve high standards and to promote high standards for their own students, we can expect no less from teacher educators. This was affirmed when the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (1996) argued that standards for teaching are the linchpin for transforming how we prepare teacher candidates.

Therefore, since 2002, preparing teacher candidates from a standards model became a new focus in our preparation of teachers. This emphasis was recently affirmed when Linda Darling-Hammond (2006) noted that teacher education programs should provide “a coherent curriculum organized to instill the knowledge, skills, and dispositions their vision entails; and well-defined standards of practice that guide development and assessment of teacher candidates” (p. 79). This is done through the alignment of multiple sets of standards–local, state, and national–to provide a coherent system of candidate assessment.

Our focus is on preparing professionals for the P-12 environment by providing three key elements–knowledge, skills, and dispositions–through standards-based practices. These three elements provide structure for the collection and organization of candidate performance data and are addressed through individual courses, field experiences, and program portfolio development. Specifically these elements address:

The knowledge element which enables professional educators to:

  • use their general and subject area knowledge to enable students to learn and communicate effectively with others, and
  • use technological knowledge and collaborative techniques to foster active inquiry, problem solving, and performance skills among learners.

The skill element which enables professional educators to:

  • use techniques and strategies to create learning environments that foster student intellectual, social, and personal development, and

  • use technology and collaborative learning strategies to foster active inquiry, problem solving, and performance skills among learners, and
  • use reflection and outcome assessments to improve learning experiences.

The dispositional element which enables professional educators to:

  • create a climate of openness, inquiry, and support by using strategies that develop an atmosphere of acceptance and appreciation for diverse individuals and groups in the larger community, and
  • practice behavior meeting ethical and professional standards while striving for continual personal improvement.

Interwoven throughout courses and experiences in all programs are learning opportunities that foster an array of knowledge, skills, and dispositional outcomes with special emphasis on diversity and technology. These elements are integrated throughout all courses and clinical experiences to provide a seamless experience as candidates move from novice to expert.

Alignment of National, State, and Institutional Standards

Four sets of outcomes are used to measure knowledge, skills, and dispositions for initial licensure. Two are national models of teacher outcomes. The first is the

Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) Model Standards for Beginning Teacher Licensing and Development. The second set of outcomes is that of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education Standards (NCATE). Aligned with these standards are eleven program outcomes outlined in the INTASC inspired Tennessee State Board of Education Teacher Education Professional Education Standards. The fourth set of outcomes is the Tennessee Framework for Evaluation and Professional Growth (FEPG). The FEPG is used to evaluate Tennessee teachers. These outcomes are used to assure a seamless transition from teacher candidate to professional.

Assessment of Candidates and the Unit

Continuous assessment is interwoven throughout the teacher education program at APSU. While assessments occur at the individual level through our milestone evaluation process, continuous assessment also applies to the Unit and program. The assessment system provides for both the ongoing assessment of candidate achievement (knowledge, skills, and dispositions) and the ongoing evaluation of program quality within the Unit. Implementation of the assessment system provides for data used for decision-making focused on maintaining or extending the quality of the program as well as the movement of candidates though the program. Operationally, the plan is characterized by data feedback loops that ensure a thorough and fair assessment of candidates.

The teacher education unit and its candidates are evaluated through a four-tier structure which is described in detail in Standard 2.

Student growth is measured through a continuous assessment system that reviews student competency at four key milestones for those earning initial licensure and at three milestones for those in advanced programs. For those students earning initial licensure, the first milestone is measured at the beginning of the student’s academic career to assure that the student has the basic skills and attitudes needed to be a successful candidate. The final milestone is measured at the end of clinical practice (student teaching) and is the final gateway to licensure.

For those students in advanced programs, the first milestone is measured at the beginning of students’ academic careers to assure that they have the basic skills and attitudes needed to be successful candidates. The final milestone is measured at the end of the student’s program, and in some cases is the final gateway to licensure.

Successful completion of initial and advanced programs at APSU signifies that candidates for licensure and service to the P-12 educational community have developed knowledge, skills, and dispositions in general education, professional education, and an academic major that collectively address performance outcomes established by the state of Tennessee.

Shared Vision

The vision for the revised teacher education unit’s conceptual framework began in the spring of 2004 during a series of retreats. Included in these retreats were faculty from the School of Education; faculty from across the campus involved in the preparation of teachers; representatives from the school districts which provide placements for field experiences, clinical practice, and internships; and current students and graduates.

During the spring of 2004, an ongoing discussion occurred related to the preparation we wanted to provide to students and the outcomes expected from their experiences. At the end of the spring semester, the revised conceptual framework was presented to faculty and approved by the Teacher Education Council.

The conceptual framework has been an evolving document designed to meet the needs of teacher candidates. When the University mission and vision statement were revised, the conceptual framework was reviewed to make it consistent with the mission and vision statement. The conceptual framework will continue to be shaped by the demands of our candidates and the students they teach.

The framework has been shared with all teacher candidates and the community in a variety of ways. First, the conceptual framework is included in every syllabus for courses designed specifically for students in initial or advanced programs. Instructors begin each semester with a discussion of the conceptual framework and how the material presented in the course relates to the conceptual framework. Assessments within courses required for licensure are directly tied to the standards outlined in this conceptual framework and instructors directly relate course activities and assessment to standards. Second, the conceptual framework is shared with mentor teachers and university mentors who supervise and evaluate teacher candidates.

The teacher education unit and all involved stakeholders are committed to “Preparing Professionals through Standards-based Practice.”


The goal of the teacher education unit at APSU is to provide a coherent program that connects the “what” and the “how” of teacher preparation throughout the coursework and clinical experiences of teacher candidates. As Darling-Hammond (2006) notes, the experience of learning to teach must be seamless from the acquiring of knowledge to the application of skills. Woven within these experiences is the acquisition and assessment of the dispositions to teach.

For those students who are completing the traditional education program of 120 semester hours, the first two years is spent acquiring knowledge of content. The last two years focus on the connection of content and pedagogy and on the acquisition of the ability to turn the knowledge acquired into the skills of teaching so all students can learn.

Throughout the four-year program, students are provided opportunities to observe and work with teachers in the K-12 setting. The first experience begins in the Foundation of Education course (2100) and is designed for students to have their first look at classrooms through the eyes of a teacher. As the candidate progresses, the field experiences advance from simply observing to teaching under the watchful eye of a mentor teacher, to opportunities to have complete responsibility for the classroom during clinical teaching.

Professional Dispositions

Admission and retention decisions for teacher candidates and those in the advanced program are not based only on satisfactory academic performance. It is equally important that candidates demonstrate the dispositions critical to being a successful teacher or an educational professional.

Specific dispositions have been identified for both initial and advanced candidates. Students in initial licensure programs at APSU are expected to demonstrate the following positive professional dispositions. These dispositions are evaluated by university professors and classroom teachers during field experiences. Failure to exhibit these dispositions may result in dismissal from the teacher education program.

  1. Demonstrates a positive attitude about working with diverse students, peers, professionals, and in diverse environments.
  1. Attends classes and field experiences consistently and punctually (including not arriving late or leaving early).
  1. Demonstrates honesty and integrity.
  1. Communicates effectively both orally and in writing.
  1. Demonstrates positive interactions with peers, faculty, P-12 students, and school personnel.
  1. Demonstrates a commitment to P-12 students’ success and to maintenance of a positive learning environment.
  1. Demonstrates self-respect and respect for others.
  1. Accepts constructive criticism and is willing to modify one’s behavior.
  1. Analyzes problems critically and attempts to resolve them independently.
  1. Assumes personal responsibility for adhering to professional guidelines regarding academic conduct.
  1. Assumes personal responsibility for adhering to established guidelines for the Teacher Education Program.
  1. Maintains professional ethics, appearance, and demeanor.

Students in advanced programs at APSU are expected to demonstrate the following positive professional dispositions. These dispositions will be evaluated by university professors and supervisors during internships. Failure to adhere to dispositions one and two will be cause for immediate dismissal from the program. Failure to adhere to dispositions three through seven may result in dismissal from the teacher education program.

  1. Adherence to professional ethics: demonstrates adherence to standards of ethical conduct, fulfills professional obligations, and assumes responsibility for own decisions.
  2. Professional demeanor: deals with conflict appropriately, exhibits poised and professional behavior, responsive to professional feedback
  3. Collaboration: works effectively with professional colleagues, parents, and other adults.
  4. Commitment to diversity: values multiple aspects of diversity; respects children and adults of various cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, social classes, abilities, political beliefs, etc.
  5. Leadership and initiative: assumes leadership roles in improving professional practice, goes beyond what is expected, and actively seeks solutions to problems.
  6. Professional advocacy: serves as an advocate in schools and in the broader community to enhance educational opportunities for all students.
  7. Self-reflection: reflects on and evaluates one’s own experience and work, is willing and able to recognize difficulties or deficiencies in one’s professional practice, seeks after knowledge and professional development.

The candidate disposition assessment process is composed of three components. In the first component, dispositions reports are completed by instructors at three distinct points in the program. These reports are completed for those who demonstrate both appropriate and inappropriate dispositions.

The second component is the measurement of dispositions during field experiences, clinical teaching, and internships. Mentor teachers complete evaluations of dispositions during these experiences.

The third component is the reporting of inappropriate dispositions. Disposition reports are completed to identify and to provide remediation for those dispositional issues that are problematic. This process consists of the reporting of a dispositional problem, development of a set of actions the candidate agrees to follow to correct the problem, and, if needed, a process for the removal of the candidate from the program.

Commitment to Diversity

All candidates in initial licensure programs are required to take a diversity course. At the undergraduate level, that course is Educ 4160 (Teaching Diverse Students). Graduate students earning initial licensure enroll in Educ 5520 (Teaching in a Pluralistic Society).

However, it is our belief that enrollment in a single course fails to prepare teachers to fully engage and reach all students. Therefore, it is our goal that diversity be recognized, appreciated, and addressed as an inherent aspect of the teacher education program. Diversity is also infused throughout all programs that prepare candidates for initial licensure and those in advanced programs. Our commitment to diversity is revealed in the beliefs that form our programs and in the coursework and field experiences to which candidates are exposed.

Each course within the education minor has a diversity emphasis which is outlined in the Conceptual Framework. Each advanced program has identified a course or experiences within courses that addresses diversity issues. These are outlined in the Conceptual Framework.

Commitment to Technology

If students are to be prepared for meaningful participation as self-sufficient citizens in an increasingly technological world, their teachers must be comfortable with technology as a tool to engage them and enhance their learning. Therefore, teacher candidates must be comfortable with and model the ways that technology can enhance instruction. The Tennessee Teacher Education Professional Education Standards measures teacher candidates in technology in three distinct ways:

  1. to facilitate developmentally appropriate student learning
  1. to enhance their professional growth and productivity
  1. to use and manage all technology available to them and explore uses of emerging resources. They promote the equitable, ethical, and legal use of technology resources

To assure competency of teacher candidates seeking initial licensure, every teacher candidate is required to enroll in Educ 3040 (or an equivalent course) at the undergraduate level or in Educ 5540 at the graduate level. These courses incorporate the standards of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in addition to the Tennessee teaching standards. In addition, all students in initial licensure programs complete an electronic portfolio via LiveText. With the exception of students in School Counseling and Music Education, all students enrolled in advanced programs also complete electronic portfolios via LiveText.

However, the goal is not that students take one course in technology but that teacher candidates are exposed to technology in every course in their program. Therefore, each course within the education minor emphasizes technology in some way. The listing of those courses and the ways that technology is used is outlined in the Conceptual Framework. Students in advanced programs are also required to demonstrate competency in technology. The courses or activities that meet this requirement are listed in the Conceptual Framework.

Knowledge Base

The knowledge base that informs our conceptual framework is continually updated as new developments occur and ideas emerge that are related to our theme, “Preparing Professionals through Standards-Based Practices”. A complete listing of the theories, research, policies, and concepts that drives our conceptual framework appears at the end of the Conceptual Framework.