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‘No Hoop Jumping Allowed’—Embedding New Pragmatic Expectations in Existing Practice

Although we may not have read it in a while or considered it with a lot of thought, we all have a conceptual framework for our programs. When we are faced with implementing new policies or considering other innovations, though, our conceptual framework is an essential guide that helps our programs undergo change while retaining their core identity.

At a session we attended last month at the Tennessee edTPA® Conference, faculty from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), demonstrated how sticking to their conceptual framework allowed them to embrace a new assessment without having to “jump through hoops.” Jennifer Jordan and her UTK colleagues intentionally and continually referenced their conceptual framework as they discussed how their institution considered integrating edTPA while also following the mantra, “We’re not going to give up who we are!”

Many of us view new policies/innovations merely as requirements that demand compliance. We might resign ourselves to adopting them without considering how to make them our own. That was not the case for the faculty at UTK, which uses edTPA to fulfill a licensure requirement as a substitute for a multiple-choice/constructed-response pedagogy test. UTK faculty looked at the tasks in edTPA and decided that rather than adjust their framework for edTPA criteria, they would embed edTPA criteria into their existing conceptual framework, which they already believed was effective.

UTK professors drew from many edTPA-related conversations to redesign and add more rigor to their courses by embedding components of edTPA tasks. Particular attention was given to the academic language called for by edTPA. They also looked closely at the days of the week their students were in the field, subsequently revising the schedules for field experiences to ensure that candidates were in the field on days when classroom instruction was at a premium.  

In addition, faculty adjusted major discussion topics in some of the methods content courses and replaced an action research component that had been part of course projects with a practice-based literature review, something more practical and more aligned with edTPA tasks. They also modified assignments in content-specific courses to create a more intentional match to edTPA criteria, and the language of the assessment was “layered on” in each course.

Unique to the process at UTK, however, is that the term “edTPA” hardly surfaces in all these instances. Instead, faculty focus on the actual work of teaching their students to “do what good teachers do”—plan, instruct, and assess. This way, when candidates receive their edTPA handbooks, the process and expectations will be familiar, and the students will not be overwhelmed.

Their approach seems to be working: Their data indicate that UTK candidates are successfully performing at or above the passing standard required for their graduates.

Initially, Jordan and her UTK colleagues believed, “edTPA was this big, bad wolf coming in.” Since then, grounding their adoption in their conceptual framework has helped pave the way for success and positive results. Now, teacher candidates summarize their experience with edTPA this way: “We learned all about it; we were ready for it; and we didn’t even know it.”

The UTK implementation story is an inspiring example of successfully aligning programs’ established practice and identity with the pragmatic expectations of edTPA—no hoop jumping allowed.

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Sharon Edwards

Tennessee Technological University

Malinda Hoskins Lloyd

Tennessee Technological University