In a Changing World, Purdue’s College of Education Breaks New Paths to Success for Kindergarten to Grade 12 Teachers



WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana – Make no mistake about it. The pandemic has set the stage for seismic changes in teaching methods in American elementary and secondary schools. But the need to evolve in a hyper-competitive, increasingly data-driven and tech-driven world has been around for a long time.

A new program at Purdue University College of Education responds to this change. Called the Innovation Initiative, or i2, the most comprehensive change in two decades in the teacher education curriculum, the program is designed to meet students more where they are. It deals, among other things, with how to teach students with disabilities. And those academically gifted. And those who are learning English.

For teachers like TJ Rosa, who completed her first year of teaching at West Lafayette Intermediate School in the spring, this will be of great help. She says being able to adapt to changing circumstances and environments is essential to successfully running the classroom.

Local students harvest produce as part of Heads Up’s Summer Garden and Nutrition Program at Country Villa in West Lafayette. (Photo provided) Download image

“Especially during the pandemic, everything changes all the time in schools,” says Rosa, a 2020 Purdue College of Education graduate and fourth-grade teacher. “Whether it’s new procedures and guidelines, schedules, or students entering and leaving quarantine, teachers need to be flexible. Even without the added stress of COVID, being able to adapt and resolve classroom problems quickly is a valuable skill. “

Rosa says that students change too, and today’s classroom environments can present unexpected situations.

Guided by research and evidence, I2 launched this fall and is built on six features that will give education students the tools and experiences they need to effectively educate all students while confidently navigating classroom environments.

Sustained and meaningful clinical experiences in P-12 schools, supported by university courses, are essential to prepare teachers. I2 the changes include field experiences every semester, combined with on-campus seminars, which results in an expanded teaching placement for students in the students’ final year, dramatically increasing their classroom teaching time. New Clinical Experience connects students with a community-based organization serving P-12 youth, expanding Purdue students’ knowledge of the rich and varied experiences P-12 students bring to school.

Additional innovations include specific preparation for students to better meet the needs of all learners through new concentrations. All students will have classes and learning experiences to better meet the educational needs of students with disabilities, those with gifts, talents and creativity, and learners of English. Most students will choose one of these concentrations to explore in more detail as part of their four-year program. The choice of the English learner or students with gifts, talents and concentrations of creativity prepares students with the knowledge and skills necessary for further teaching license in these fields. Alternatively, students can choose a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis, which will provide them with the specialist skills necessary to apply behavior analysis procedures in order to teach new behaviors and skills and reduce unwanted behavior in the school setting.

“Another exciting innovation is that all teacher education students will now meet the requirements for an additional Indiana license for online / blended teaching,” says Kathryn Obenchain, associate dean for learning, l ‘engagement and global initiatives at the College of Education and professor of social sciences. studying education.

Obenchain says preparation for the additional bachelor’s degree is seamlessly integrated into the students’ four-year curriculum.

“Here’s an example of what that might mean. If a student chooses to major in elementary education at Purdue, they will choose a concentration, say English learners, ”she says. “This means that after successfully completing their four-year program and passing the state-required licensing exams, the student would have an initial teaching license in elementary education with additional licenses to teach students. English and online / blended learners, resulting in three bachelor’s degrees in a four-year program!

Obenchain explains that a final innovation is the development of a mentoring program.

“We know that the early years of teaching can be a challenge, which is why the College of Education will stay with our graduates, supporting them through a mentoring experience during the first two years of their teaching career,” she says.

Nancy Marchand-Martella, Dean Suzi and Dale Gallagher of Purdue’s College of Education, notes: “With the Innovation Initiative, our graduates will be prepared with the knowledge and skills to better respond to the changing environment of schools P -12. None of us know what the schools of tomorrow will look like, but Purdue graduates will be better prepared to meet the needs of students and to be competent partners with fellow educators.

Classrooms in the United States are very different and present more complex challenges for teachers today. From ever-changing technology to evolving best classroom management practices, teacher education candidates need the right tools to help them succeed in their first class and stay in the education arena.

“As a member of the Teacher Education Council at Purdue, it was exciting as a P-12 Public School Principal to hear about these initiatives that will have a direct impact on our schools,” said Colleen Moran, Principal of the North Montgomery Community School Corporation of Indiana. All teaching candidates will be placed in a field experience each semester is essential in their initial training.

Moran emphasizes the need for educators who are competent, caring and committed to teaching and learning, noting that expanding field experiences will provide opportunities to foster their growth before entering the classroom as a teacher.

Based on groundbreaking faculty research and contributions from Purdue education experts, and with input from K-12 administrators and teacher candidates at Purdue, I2 is designed to prepare teachers to effectively educate every learner in every type of classroom.

“I am grateful for the work and dedication in creating the Innovation Initiative,” says Judi Hendrix, executive director of the Wabash Valley Education Center in West Lafayette. “Much has changed in education over the past 20 years, and the Purdue College of Education has listened to the needs of stakeholders while developing this initiative.”

Community leaders anticipate that I2 will support the further development of valuable relationships with Purdue teacher education students, providing them with an understanding of the learners they teach, not just the subjects they teach.

“Any opportunity to work with students is invaluable to both the at-risk student and the college student,” says Pauline Shen, community advocate and director of Heads-Up, a tutoring and mentoring program for low-income youth. “Measuring that result is almost impossible because it can take years to see the result, but you have to start somewhere. The local community always benefits when students learn about someone else, their environment, their life and their struggle with everyday life. It teaches the diversity, tolerance and complexity of life to students and gives hope to the young.

Undertaking large-scale curriculum reform was a huge task, says Marchand-Martella. Yet the existing responsibilities of the faculty and staff of the College of Education did not cease as they undertook this work. It was essential to provide varied support to faculty and staff for this additional and substantial effort.

Jay Akridge, Senior Vice President and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Diversity at Purdue, and a financial commitment from the College of Education have enabled the hiring of two visiting professors during the first year of the I2. allowed two education faculty members to work exclusively on innovation efforts.

“Provost Akridge and the College of Education have demonstrated a clear investment in I2 and in training teachers at Purdue, ”Obenchain says.

P-12 teachers like Rosa believe future Purdue Education graduates will be even better equipped to handle a variety of classroom experiences while supporting all learners.

“Kids are changing all the time and they can always throw something at you that you didn’t expect,” Rosa says. “Technology can fail in the middle of a lesson, supplies can run out, and students may need more or less support than you might expect. Being able to follow the flow and pattern that helps your students today and as they learn to solve problems on their own.

Writer: Jennifer merzdorf

Media contact: Brian Huchel, 765-494-2084,

Sources: Nancy Marchand-Martella,

Kathy Obenchain,

Jennifer Barce,


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