It’s an important moment for UVEI, which has led us to ask ourselves a fundamental question: What does it mean for UVEI to be a graduate institute of education? Before sharing our initial thoughts on that question, a brief history…
For more than fifty years UVEI has been a teacher preparation and training program. Since our founding, experiential learning, working closely with mentors and coaches, and focusing on rich and meaningful teaching and learning have been hallmarks of the program. Over that history, more than a thousand UVEI graduates have entered the profession. Page recently had occasion to look back through old newsletters and clippings, and while much has changed over the years, he was struck by the degree to which these core approaches have remained at the heart of UVEI. If you have a moment, ask him about the backwards planned unit focused on pig farming from the early 70’s– classic UVEI.
About ten years ago UVEI began to elaborate on this work, launching a principal internship program and creating graduate degree pathways. Since then, we have expanded our graduate offerings, adding licensure areas and degree programs. Concurrent with expansion, we made a subtle and important shift from our original mission to develop great teachers to a broader focus: Supporting schools by building the capacity of the teachers and leaders who work there. In some ways, this effort towards inclusion of more roles, encompassing the full career continuum, and partnering more closely with schools culminated in 2021 with the merging of UVEI and UVGSE under new accreditation and approvals.*
So now, as an institution, we are asking ourselves a new question: Who do we want to be as a graduate institute of education? We anticipate that answering this question will occupy much of our attention and strategic work over the next ten years. We want to share some of our initial thoughts with you and invite your feedback and perspective.
What won’t change
Even while we contemplate our next chapter, we are clear about some things that will not change:
- Our programs will remain experiential, practical, and applied; emphasizing deliberate practice situated in schools, and practice over epistemology.
- As many institutions and online providers are seeking to scale up, UVEI will remain a small, personal, relationships-based, regional program dedicated to working primarily with educators and schools in New Hampshire and Vermont.
- Even as much of the higher education world is rushing in the direction of remote and asynchronous learning, UVEI is committed to remaining a fundamentally in-person program. That means working in person at schools and in person at seminars that emphasize collegial learning.
- As always, great teachers and leaders are the heart of great schools. Developing our candidates will remain our core means of supporting schools. In terms of knowledge and skill-building, nothing can replace the in-depth learning and deliberate practice that characterizes UVEI internships and degree programs.
Our programs will remain experiential, practical, and applied.
New expressions of our core work
Those commitments leave plenty of room for new directions and in recent years we have experimented with new ways to build on our strengths:
- Convening educators. Because our faculty are working with educators across the career continuum (nearly 150 last year) and from a wide range of partner schools (approximately 45 last year), we are in a position to see trends and shared challenges across sites. Given this unique vantage point, we would like to play a role in convening educators to address shared challenges. In recent years, for example, we have brought educators together from across schools to address questions of how to engage one another in brave conversations about equity and race.
- Practical and applied research. We are committed to doing original research. However, our history and principles compel us to take a different approach to research than the norm in higher education, which all too often involves scholars talking to one another rather than collaborating with and supporting educators working in schools. Our commitment is to work with educators (both in their school settings and at UVEI) to develop applied, inquiry-based, design-oriented research intended to provide practical tools and guidance (like knowledge briefs and summaries of research such as our Teaching to Learning Differences Knowledge Brief).
- Networked design development. At its most comprehensive level, our approach to applied research involves collaborating using the Networked Design Development research framework. As part of the Barabra Barnes Initiative for Collaborative learning, each year UVEI brings together a network of educators to work on a shared design challenge, research the challenge in their setting, consult the research literature related to the challenge, design a prototype solution, pilot and evaluate the design, and publish the results. As important, the framework breaks down the tendency in the small-district environments of Vermont and New Hampshire for teacher leaders and small teams to work in relative isolation rather than leveraging the work and learning across multiple settings. Like the hub of a wheel, the Barnes Initiative and UVEI faculty play the role of organizing, coordinating, providing coaching, and providing specialized training to the group members.
- New approaches to school partnerships. Traditional approaches to professional development are fragmented and superficial, depriving teachers of opportunities to keep growing and increasing the sense of frustration and isolation that plagues the teaching profession, leading many to leave the field. UVEI does not offer professional development in the traditional sense such as “one-hit wonder” workshops. Instead, we seek to partner with schools to facilitate inquiry, leading faculty through their own cycles of action research: Identifying shared problems of practice, learning about possible solutions, trying things in practice, examining and reflecting on evidence, and transferring their learning to the next cycle.
- More ways to convene. Finally, over the last several years, UVEI has been convening groups of educators in the style of “critical friends groups” to learn about a new topic, discuss dilemmas of practice, or critically examine texts. We plan to increase the frequency and access to these gatherings, providing a low commitment but impactful way for educators to connect and support each other. We hope you will join us!
Help us shape what UVEI will become…
Page Tompkins, EdD is the President of UVEI. Chris Ward, PhD is the Academic Dean of UVEI. Both serve as faculty members, working directly with candidates and their colleagues to contribute to building capacity in regional schools.
*For information regarding UVEI’s candidacy for accreditation with the New England Commission of Higher Education, see: https://uvei.edu/about-uvei/accreditation/