Winter 2000
Vol. 17 No. 4
Publication Number:
USPS 244-800


National Model of Excellence

Soldier and Soldat

Studying Guide-by-Your-Side

Love Those Statistics!

These Were Close, Too

Other Stories
Willingness to Change Made Education School Most Effective

Faculty Compendium

Watching for Patent Expiration Dates Can Save Consumers on prescription Drug Costs

Bennett Cites Influence of a Great Teacher, Dean Percy Burns

A Cappella Choir CD Available

Floyd, Marler Receive $56,000 Lilly Fellows Program Grant

Debow, Sansom Get $32,000 Award from Atlas, Templeton

Samford Honors Alabama Ministers
Scofields Rate a Homecoming Cheer
for Loyal Support of Their Alma Mater

Crimson Editors Half a Century Apart
Find Differences, Similarities in the Job

Having a ball at Homecoming

Men's Cross-Country Team Wins Second TAAC Title; Kolb Named All-TAAC Freshman After Nine-Goal SeasonCLASS NOTES


Winter 2000

Willingness to Change Made Education School Most Effective

What provides the impetus for an education school to become one of the nation's best?

For Samford, a big part of the reason was its willingness to accept the changes necessary to meet today's school needs. It's not change for the sake of change, but change based on continuing dialogue with schoolteachers and administrators.

"We have to give students the ability to find the knowledge themselves and to keep learning, and our faculty has to be willing to change and commit to continuous improvement," said eduation dean Ruth C. Ash.

Taking a cue from proven business practice, the Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education and Professional Studies created formal ties to public schools and formed advisory groups including superintendents, principals, teachers and Beeson's own graduates and student teachers.

"The groups meet annually and recommend new programs," said Associate Dean Jean A. Box. "It's not a given that all recommendations will be incorporated, but certainly they are considered."

With a number of changes already incorporated during the past five or six years, the advisory groups now serve more of a fine-tuning role.

"These cutting-edge programs will provide powerful examples for others seeking to ensure that their graduates make a measurable difference," says Education Secretary Richard Riley.

"It might be called market research, but the difference is this research isn't profit driven," she said. "In fact, it has cost a great deal of money because it has meant renovating facilities to match new emphases on technology."

Two of the most significant changes are the education school's emphasis on collaborative problem solving and special education.

The school has been a campus leader in Samford's emphasis on Problem-Based Learning, blending PBL with traditional instruction methods in all courses. Student teachers observe the pressing problems in today's schools, and students and faculty incorporate those problems into their Samford classrooms.

It's not possible for the education school to introduce students to every possible situation they will encounter in the classroom, said Box.

"The goal is to introduce them to as many experiences as possible and give them a sort of intellectual tool kit to address the inevitable unforeseen problems," she said.

Some Samford schools using PBL create hypothetical problems for teams of students to solve. The education school doesn't have to invent the problems, said Box, because "they're already out there."

As part of their practical learning experience, Samford students visit Alabama schools on "Alert," on the verge of takeover by the state because of unacceptable student achievement. They focus on addressing immediate needs, such as tutoring students in reading, and also get firsthand experience with schools in crisis.

"This can be as valuable a lesson as clinical experience in award-winning schools," she said.

Employers of education graduates value Samford's encouragement of problem solving and collaborative work skills among student teachers, said education professor Maurice Persall.
A longtime public education administrator, Persall noted that rarely do unsuccessful teachers not know their subject matter, "it's that they can't work collaboratively."

He added, "That's increasingly important as schools work to reduce the isolation of teachers."

Samford's emphasis on special education reflects the way new social and legal realities have redefined what it means to be a well-prepared teacher, according to Box.

"Today's teacher might have 16 students, including one with Down's Syndrome, one with Spina Bifida and one learning English as a second language," she said. "You have to understand how to work with that kind of diversity."

The special education emphasis "responds directly to a genuine need" in today's schools, Box noted.

And it's the education school's responsiveness to today's problems today that helps it produce some of the nation's most effective teachers.