The Conceptual Framework is the foundation for all that happens in the unit. The unit’s vision and mission flow naturally from the College mission. Saint Mary’s College is an academic community where women develop their talents and prepare to make a difference in the world. It is the mission of the Saint Mary’s Education Department “to develop reflective decision-makers who are passionate, ethical school leaders, well prepared in the scholarship, methodology, and professionalism of teaching to successfully cultivate the diverse gifts of each student.”

Education Department graduates will have extensive professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions that enable them to deliver effective instruction using a wide variety of methodologies in a manner that is student-­centered and focused on individual needs. They will demonstrate compassion for the students and families they serve. Education Department graduates will be reflective practitioners and decision-­makers who are able to analyze and grow from their teaching experiences throughout their professional careers. Grounded in a Constructivist philosophy, they seek to engage all learners, guided by the 3 elements of Scholarship. Mission, and Competence.

Context and Unique Characteristics

Saint Mary's College is a small, Catholic, liberal arts college for women located in Notre Dame, IN. The student body is comprised of approximately 1,500 students from nearly 50 states and 17 countries. About 84% of students live on campus.  Saint Mary's is fully accredited through the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. More than 30 majors give Saint Mary's students a wide variety of study options.

For the academic year 2022-2023, the student-to-faculty ratio was 9.9:1. This allows for close connections and relationships between students and faculty. Through classes and advising, faculty come to know students well.  Faculty and students have many opportunities to work together:  on research, through travel abroad, and participation in clubs. Over half of Saint Mary's students study abroad.  SMC has programs in Australia, Austria, France, India, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Spain, and other countries.  The most common participation by Education students include Ireland, Uganda, and Rome.

Saint Mary's was founded in 1844 by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. In 1843, four Sisters of the Holy Cross in Le Mans, France, were sent to open a college in northern Indiana. In 1844, their first school in Bertrand, Michigan, was opened.  In 1855, the school moved to its present site and grew to become Saint Mary's College, a recognized leader among Catholic women's colleges in the United States.

As the Sisters of the Holy Cross were called to educate, the mission of Saint Mary's includes excellence in teaching.  Accordingly, the Education Department began to prepare teachers in the early 1900s.  The first BA for "Pedagogy" was awarded in 1914-15. It was not until 1917-18 that "Pedagogy" became "Education," with the first four-year graduate degree conferred in 1922.  The Education Department encourages an active, open learning environment among women, respectful of others and in keeping with the Catholic, liberal arts tradition of Saint Mary's.

Oganizational Structure

Within the Education Department, the Chair collaborates with five tenure-track faculty members (two full professors, two associate professors, and one assistant professor), one visiting assistant professor, and two professional specialists.  The department has its own Administrative Assistant.  The Learning Tree is a resource room housed within the Education Department; it supports the work of students and faculty in the department as they prepare learning materials.

In addition, the Department as the following committees:

  • Policy Committee
  • Elementary Education Faculty
  • Secondary Education Faculty
  • Student Teaching/Field Study Committee
  • Teacher Candidate Assistance Team (TCAT)
  • Partners in Education (Field Advisory)
  • Teacher Education Council
  • Education 201 Committee
  • Assessment Committee
  • Advanced Writing Proficiency Committee
  • Recruitment Committee
  • Education Club/Hooding Committee
  • Learning Tree Committee
  • Website Committee
  • Social Committee

Vision, Mission, and Goals

Our mission is "to develop reflective decision-makers who are passionate, ethical school leaders, well prepared in the scholarship, methodology, and professionalism of teaching to successfully cultivate the diverse gifts of each student." The mission is reflected in the department's eight learning outcomes, the Indiana P-12 Developmental Standards, and the InTASC Standards. Through these aligned sets of standards, candidates develop the requisite knowledge, skills, and dispositions for effective instruction and to positively impact P-12 student learning.

Our learning outcomes include

  1. Student Development & Diversity
  2. Learning Processes
  3. Planning & Instruction
  4. Assessment
  5. Learning Environment
  6. Professional Environment
  7. Reading
  8. Content

These are embedded in three themes: Scholarship, Mission, Competence that comprise our Conceptual Framework.

Scholarship is the knowledge needed for effective practice. Candidates acquire content knowledge through College Sophia program courses as well as through other content courses. Candidates demonstrate their knowledge through EPP-created formative & summative assessments, as well as state tests. 
Mission informs our educator preparation program.  Impactful teaching requires educators to have appropriate dispositions to make a difference in their students' lives. Our candidates form the commitment to teaching and education. They have passion for the work they will do, compassion for students and families, and an understanding of the moral and ethical dimensions of teaching.  
Competence includes the pedagogical content knowledge and content-specific skills necessary for teaching. Through modeling of best practices, the department espouses learning theories that enable our candidates to construct a personal understanding of teaching and learning. Connecting theory to practice, our school partnerships offer teacher candidates the opportunity to collaborate and co-teach with high quality K-12 Clinical Educators.

Our Shared Values and Beliefs for Educator Preparation

In all programs, The Education Department's mission statement delineates its goals of preparing future teachers who engage in reflective practice and are dedicated to the education of all learners.  As such, multiculturalism and reflective practice are foundational beliefs and are seen throughout all coursework and field experience expectations. Likewise, the department values the use of technology to enhance learning, and the expectation of integration of technology is embedded in all aspects of course and fieldwork.  Finally, our partner schools offer invaluable experiences for our candidates and input to the Department; we likewise seek out opportunities to positively impact partner work and to grow in mutual accountability for our candidates' success.

Regarding multiculturalism, students in all programs take EDUC 201 Foundations for Teaching in a Multicultural Society. In 201, multiculturalism in a broad context as it applies to education is explored.  After 201, elementary teacher candidates continue to study the importance of knowing one's students and their cultural backgrounds, understanding learning strengths and needs, and differentiating instruction.  Methods courses emphasize pedagogical considerations for diverse learners, focusing on students with disabilities and English language learners. Multicultural children's literature is woven throughout the literacy sequence of courses.  Secondary, music, and art education candidates continue in a similar way, with general and special methods courses emphasizing culturally responsive teaching and differentiation of instruction.  Both elementary and secondary candidates take two educational psychology courses focused on typical and atypical development of learners in the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional domains.

Reflective practice is also a foundational element of all programs. We know and believe that effective teachers critically assess their practice and make changes to support student learning. Reflective teachers use content knowledge to develop appropriate goals for students and to develop ways of assessing student understanding. Using pedagogical content knowledge and skills, they create lessons and units of study and choose appropriate instructional objectives, strategies, supports, and assessments. 

Our commitment to the use of technology by both faculty and candidates is evident.  Most of our classrooms are equipped with Internet capability and projection equipment. The department has purchased technology equipment for use by our teacher candidates as they review personal learning segment videos.  EDUC 220 Applied Media and Instructional Technology, taken by teacher candidates in all programs, addresses the technology needs of its 21st Century teacher candidates. Skills learned in this course are applied in fieldwork at all levels.

Finally, the Department values its partnerships with P-12 schools and the mutually-beneficial opportunities afforded through these partnerships.  We believe that the incorporation of supervised fieldwork is integral to the success of all programs. Most candidates will have four different (i.e., public/private, varying grade levels, rural/urban/suburban) placements over the three Steps of the program. Prior to full-time Student Teaching at 600 hours, candidates will have 180 hours of field experience and sometimes more, depending on additional licensure areas.  Candidates are involved in focused observations, practicum experiences, and teaching content area lessons and units of instruction.  We highly value the yearlong internship experience at Step 3, whereby candidates remain in the same placement for fieldwork (fall) and for Student Teaching (spring). We see this capstone experience as meaningful and purposeful, and where candidates are optimally prepared to impact learning.

We are confident that these shared beliefs are the foundation of the development of high-quality educators for today's classrooms.