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Radio Interviews Probe Quality Assurance, Advocacy, Online Learning

Education Talk Radio host Larry Jacobs traveled to the AACTE 70th Annual Meeting earlier this month to capture voices from the field in a series of in-person interviews with AACTE members and volunteer leaders. The recorded discussions later aired in three segments on Jacobs’ radio show, the first of which is highlighted below (subsequent articles will feature the other segments).

In the first interview, two members of AACTE’s Committee on Professional Preparation and Accountability – Jacob Easley of Eastern Connecticut State University and Deb Rickey of Grand Canyon University (AZ) – discussed the committee’s work to assist teacher educators with quality assurance and program improvement. Having just facilitated a preconference workshop on the topic, Easley and Rickey explained what quality assurance means for colleges of education and what the key challenges are.

“It’s not a matter of saying that programs are going to do exactly the same thing, lock-step,” Easley said. “Quality assurance is making sure that programs are meeting high-level professional expectations. [A college has to be] continually assessing its own practices, its programs writ large, and then using that data so it can have evidence-based decision making for how to make changes” for continuous improvement, he said.

Jacobs asked how quality assurance approaches differ for different program types and settings, including online. Rickey said it’s important to acknowledge these differences while upholding common goals for outcomes, developing good communication and a shared understanding of quality. The committee’s workshop was about helping each program “find its voice” to articulate the pathways that work in a particular setting and model – but everyone is working toward the same end goal. While certain emphases vary state to state, she said, “Good teaching is good teaching.”

Jacobs’ second interview was with Robert Smith of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, discussing advocacy roles for teacher educators. Anyone looking to get into education has to be “fundamentally supporting public schools,” he said, including the value of teaching as a profession – but the current climate challenges these values. Smith cited recent policy changes in North Carolina as an example of why advocacy by teacher educators is needed. “We have to be writing to the public, and we have to be writing to the legislature,” he said. “If we as individual faculty are not doing the advocacy for public schools, teaching, and teacher education, we might as well pack up and go home.”

The third interview brought in Becky Johnston and Samantha Anth of Western Governors University (WGU) to discuss the value of online teacher preparation. They said the first criterion in looking for faculty to hire is love of students – people who are passionate about improving people’s lives. WGU also conducts extensive and ongoing training for instructors, including technological and pedagogical work. Jacobs asked about their graduates’ outcomes and satisfaction with their preparation. “We find that students are successful,” Johnston said, noting that they tend to be older than traditional undergraduates and tend to stay longer in the profession after completing the program.

Click here to listen to the interviews in this segment, and stay tuned for reports on the rest of the series.

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