Overview and Conceptual Framework Report
A.1 What is the institution’s historical context and unique characteristics?
Unlike many regional universities, which were founded as teachers’ colleges, the University of West Georgia was established in 1906 as the 4th District Agricultural and Mechanical School, one of 12 such institutions in the State of Georgia. Twenty five years later the Board of Regents (BOR) of the University System of Georgia changed Carrollton A&M School to West Georgia College, a junior college. In 1939, the College was authorized to add a three-year program in elementary education, and in 1957 to confer the B.S. degree in education, making it a four-year senior college unit of the University System. Two years later, West Georgia College added the Bachelor of Arts degree in English, history, and math. In the 1980’s the BOR approved off-site locations, including collaborative programs with Dalton College and Georgia Highlands College, and the creation of the Newnan Center. With an enrollment of more than 300, the Newnan Center provides core curriculum and upper division courses in nursing and education. In June 1996, the BOR officially changed our name to State University of West Georgia, and then in 2005, to the University of West Georgia.
Today’s UWG is a dynamic institution, designated as one of Georgia’s four Robust Tier doctoral-granting, comprehensive universities. Located about an hour’s drive from Atlanta, the Carrollton campus is situated in one of Georgia’s fastest growing industrial areas. Carrollton provides a regional population of more than 100,000 with retail shopping, medical, educational, entertainment, financial, and recreational services. Considered one of the most beautiful campuses in the University System, UWG has grown over the past seven years from 150 acres to just under 400 acres and become much more a destination institution with the addition of new residential halls, a Greek Village, the Coliseum, and the University Stadium. From an enrollment of 576 in 1957, the student body has grown to more than 11,000. UWG is also rapidly expanding online courses, extending its reach across the state and nation, and we are the host institution for all eCore and WebMBA programs in the System. Currently we offer 12 undergraduate degrees with majors in 60 fields and 10 master’s degrees in 31 areas. The Specialist in Education degree is offered in 9 areas, and the Doctorate is offered in 3. UWG has been named among America’s Best Southeastern Colleges every year since 2004. For more information and all documents in the Institutional Report, please visit our NCATE Virtual Evidence Room.
A.2 What is the institution’s mission?
The University of West Georgia seeks to achieve preeminence in providing educational excellence in a personal environment through an intellectually stimulating and supportive community for its students, faculty, and staff.
Vision Statement for the University of West Georgia Year 2000 and Beyond
The University of West Georgia will be a leader within the University System of Georgia in providing educational excellence in a personal environment. The University of West Georgia will seek to create for students from various backgrounds every possible avenue to intellectual achievement, personal development, and leadership potential without compromising academic excellence. The University will maintain close contact with all people of the region, be responsive to their needs while raising their aspirations, and generate a more highly educated populace. The University of West Georgia will be recognized for excellence in teaching and learning, research, and public service in undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education. The University will be recognized as being fundamental to the educational, social, cultural, technological, and economic advancement of the region and state.
A.3 What is the professional education unit at your institution and what is its relationship to other
units at the institution that are involved in the preparation of professional educators?
The professional unit includes the College of Education (COE) and focused areas from the Richards College of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences. The COE is housed in three buildings and includes six academic departments, including: Counseling & Educational Psychology; Curriculum & Instruction; Educational Leadership and Professional Studies; Health, Physical Education, & Sports Studies; Media & Instructional Technology; and Special Education & Speech-Language Pathology. The COE also includes a Pre-K program, Teaching Materials Center, Evaluation Center, Advisement Center, Certification Office, Field Placement Office, Georgia Youth Science and Technology Center, Science and Mathematics Education Center, and Community Clinics for children needing services in speech/language pathology or reading. Undergraduate candidates enter Teacher Education after completing two years of core content courses, selected to provide a solid liberal arts foundation. Graduate programs include a strong mix of content and education coursework. In total, we offer 40 programs at the initial teacher certification level, which includes both undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and 43 other programs, many of which lead to advanced certification levels.
The Richards College of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences also house several degree programs that prepare educators. Although the Dean of the College of Education is considered the head of the professional unit, faculty members in the other two colleges report to their own deans. The unit works together through a shared governance structure to ensure that courses are offered in sequence and certification guidelines are followed. Technological solutions, such as program change tracking, have enhanced communication across the unit.
A.4 What are the basic tenets of the conceptual framework and how has the conceptual
framework changed since the previous visit?
The Conceptual Framework is the rationale and provides organizing principles that guide the curriculum, programs, and outcomes for Preparing Exemplary Practitioners. It is grounded in research, knowledge, and experiences that describe what undergraduate and graduate candidates should know and be able to apply in their professional settings. It incorporates 10 descriptors, clustered into 3 interrelated and overlapping thematic commitments to preparing professionals to engage in field-based inquiry, demonstrate professional excellence, and contribute to the betterment of society. National and state standards, including the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), Georgia Professional Standards Commission (PSC), and Specialized Professional Associations (SPAs) also are incorporated as criteria against which candidates are measured. We believe that we have developed a Conceptual Framework that articulates our philosophy and undergirds all programmatic efforts. The commitments and their descriptors are outlined as follows, yet we recognize that this organizational structure is fluid and descriptors may overlap and enhance all three commitments.
Commitment to Field-based Inquiry:
- Inquisitive: We believe that candidates should understand educational research and the implications for practice, have the ability to assess achievement and growth, and to question practices and investigate alternative solutions in educational settings.
- Adaptive: We believe that candidates should be able to demonstrate flexibility and a willingness to attempt promising new approaches for effective educational improvement.
- Proactive: We believe that candidates should be able to advocate for the removal of barriers and practices that impede educational improvement.
Commitment to Professional Excellence:
- Leading: We believe that candidates should be able to demonstrate effective leadership skills to initiate and facilitate educational improvement.
- Reflective: We believe that candidates should be able to demonstrate critical thinking skills and the ability to recognize internal strengths and weaknesses.
- Knowledgeable: We believe that candidates should be able to demonstrate general knowledge inherent in a liberal arts curriculum, advanced knowledge in content areas, proficiency in technology, and specific knowledge in professional education.
- Decisive: We believe that candidates should use data to make informed decisions that will drive educational improvement.
Commitment to the Betterment of Society:
- Culturally Sensitive: We believe that candidates should understand diversity among individuals and groups, be committed to equity and the belief that all children can learn, and have the tools to prepare their students and clients for the global world they will face as adults.
- Empathetic: We believe that candidates should be sensitive to the cultural, religious, gender, and socio-economic differences that are reflected in their communities and ensure that these differences do not impede their educational progress.
- Collaborative: We believe that candidates should be able to develop skills to work effectively with various stakeholders involved in the educational process.
In 2009 the College held a retreat for all faculty and staff to examine our beliefs and vision and to make suggestions for revising the conceptual framework. From there, a committee worked over numerous iterations that were returned to the faculty many times seeking feedback. Through a college-wide process designed to analyze the existing conceptual framework, the faculty and staff reached consensus on several shortcomings. First, the language of the conceptual framework was focused on the development of teachers, though our college programs prepare educational professionals for a wide variety of roles. Even the theme “Developing Educators for School Improvement” was limited compared to the actual scope of preparation programs within the College. Second, many believed the Vision Statement was wordy and generic and not focused on what makes UWG unique. Third, the language used throughout was not up-to-date and did not reflect our current approaches or philosophies. Finally, the Conceptual Framework descriptors we had chosen were hard to remember, not written in parallel structure, and were not organized thematically.
Based on this analysis, several changes were made to the conceptual framework. First, the language was broadened to reflect the variety of programs within the College; for example, the theme was changed to “Preparing Exemplary Practitioners.” Second, the Vision Statement was completely revised through many iterations and now captures the direction we envision for the College. Third, the language and literature base of the Conceptual Framework was updated, and finally, the descriptors were modified for parallel structure and then clustered into three commitments our faculty members embrace. To develop the graphic schema, we held a competitive process, and a student’s design was chosen as our visual representation. In October 2009, the faculty and staff voted to approve the new Conceptual Framework, and we then relied on school partners (through our Advisory Boards) for input on operationalizing it. Finally, visibility strategies were identified to help ensure that all faculty, staff, candidates, and constituents know and understand the principles underlying the framework. Our Conceptual Framework is a dynamic, living model that is under continuous revision. We seek feedback from faculty within the College of Education as well as from colleagues in Arts and Sciences and Business, the educational community, and graduates about ways to strengthen it and ensure we operate according to its ideals.