ABILITY-BASED TEACHER EDUCATION AT ALVERNO COLLEGE

Overview

In this case study the committee provides a description of teacher education and assessment as practiced at Alverno College, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Alverno College undertook development of a performance-based baccalaureate degree over 20 years ago (Diez, et al., 1998). This change resulted in an overhaul of the college’s curriculum and its approach to teaching. The approach is characterized by publicly articulated learning outcomes, realistic classroom activities and field experiences, and ongoing performance assessments of learning progress. Alverno’s program is of interest because it provides an example of a system in which a party other than a state or district could warrant teacher competence. The focus here is on Alverno as a working program that can expand the debate about other models for warranting teacher competence.

Alverno College has an enrollment of approximately 1,900 students in 66 fields of study, 300 of whom are education majors. With the exception of a postbaccalaureate teacher certification program and the master of arts in education program, all programs admit only female students. Two-thirds of Alverno’s students are from the Milwaukee area, and about 30 percent are members of minority groups. There are about 100 faculty members, and the average class size is 25. The next section provides a brief overview of Alverno’s philosophy and practices.2

Abilities and Learning Outcomes for the Baccalaureate Degree

At Alverno College an ability is defined as “a complex integration of knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, attitudes, and self-perceptions” (Diez et al., 1994:9). The general education courses provide students with the opportunity to expand and demonstrate each of eight abilities:

  • Communication—an ability to communicate effectively by integrating a variety of communication abilities (speaking, writing, listening, reading, quantitative, media literacy) to meet the demands of increasingly complex communication situations.

  • Analysis—an ability to be a clear thinker, fusing experience, reasoning, and training into considered judgment.

2  

Mentkowski and Associates (2000) gives a comprehensive picture of Alverno’s practices and philosophy, and Zeichner (2000) provides an independent description of Alverno’s teacher education practices.



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