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