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Statement of Practice

Principles & Practices


The Statement of Practice is an orienting framework that articulates some of the ways the Graduate School faculty strives to enact principles of progressivism. Its purpose is to make these practices explicit to us, our graduate students, and to the outside world. The developmental interaction perspective animates our work. Developmental-interaction starts with learners, and reflects the recursive nature of the development of educators and learners alike. Inspired by Lucy Sprague Mitchell’s vision and commitments, we emphasize the individuality of each learner as well as the need for democratic community-building in the reconstruction of a more just society (Conceptual Framework, pp. 4-7).

The practices we outline below have been informed by a range of foundational documents including the College’s Credo and Principles of Progressivism. They help illustrate our institutional values as we think about our work with each other in the context of our work with children, families, graduate students and the broader community.

Practices Informed by Our Six Institutional Goals

Integrating Human Development and Subject Content to Enhance Student Engagement and Learning

We want teacher and leadership candidates to closely observe children and adults with a solid developmental frame for how people learn across the lifespan. Our primary goal here is for our candidates to use theory to inform practice and practice to inform theory. Examples of the ways we strive to enact these skills and orientations in practice include:

  • Modeling attention to the interrelationship between social, emotional, physical, academic and cognitive development.
  • Supporting graduate students in applying knowledge of the multiple domains of development throughout course work and fieldwork.
  • Modeling with graduate students the iterative relationship between theory, practice, and reflection.
  • Engaging our graduate students in continual reflection on their emergent philosophy of education, and how to negotiate a range of environments.

Be Able to Mediate the World for Children

We want our candidates to be able to mediate the world for children so that eventually children can mediate it for themselves. One of the principal methods is through using the social studies as the pivot around which the learning environment turns. For leaders, it is learning to mediate the larger social, economic, and political context on behalf of their schools and students, in order to create opportunities and anticipate challenges. Examples of the ways we strive to enact this in practice include:

  • Providing opportunities for us and for our graduate students to learn from direct experience and through diverse resources, media and materials.  Some examples of this are the Long Trips taken by faculty and field trips in advisement and course work.
  • Engaging graduate students in sharing and connecting their diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences to their course work and fieldwork experiences.
  • Creating conference groups for supervised fieldwork in which the advisor guides and co-constructs with graduate students the content, questions and structures that will drive their collective engagement.
  • Providing opportunities across courses and supervised fieldwork for graduate students to reflect, explore, investigate, discover, question, encounter and challenge themselves as learners.

Meet Educational Needs and Support all Learners

Children grow and develop in a host of familial and cultural contexts. Yet education, to be a truly democratic endeavor, has to be accessible to all children regardless of individual characteristics such as socioeconomic background, ethnic and linguistic background and learning abilities or disabilities (Spencer & Romero, 2008). Examples of the ways we strive to enact this in practice include:

  • Recognizing and building from the diverse range of skills, abilities and experiences our graduate students bring to the college.
  • Working with graduate students to support ongoing growth, while holding them accountable to our institutional principles.
  • Designing and implementing our curriculum and pedagogical practices to support our graduate students’ decision-making processes, providing them with the opportunity for authentic choice in their learning experiences.
  • Designing graduate classroom and online environments that encourage democratic practices through flexibility of design, small groupings, and open meeting areas and spaces, etc. to support multiple opportunities for graduate student voice and participation.   
  • Individualizing the fieldwork experience to focus on the specific professional development goals of our graduate students within the context of our programmatic standards.  
  • Modeling a strengths-based orientation as we consider the impact on our practice of variations in development, and cultural and linguistic diversity.

Collaborate With Colleagues, Families, Schools, and Communities

Faculty member Pignatelli (2011) writes, “Collaboration…as a way to be morally accountable, requires a deep understanding of vulnerability: the generosity, humility, and patience needed to work through conflicts, misunderstandings and miscommunications; the resolve to work through the tangle of ways of speaking that further embed us in conditions we strive to undo and get beyond; a tolerance for ambiguity and acceptance of uncertainty, even as we act” (as cited in the Conceptual Framework, 2012, p.18). Examples of the ways we strive to enact this orientation in practice include:

  • Identifying our own value systems and perspectives, and investigating those of others.
  • Modeling respect for divergent and conflicting views about education and its enactment across a range of settings.
  • Modeling respect, curiosity, and flexibility of thinking.  
  • Engaging graduate students in the development and use of communication norms in courses and conference groups.
  • Encouraging graduate students to reflect on their roles within and across communities.
  • Helping graduate students find ways to both have voice and make space for others towards the creation of engaged, respectful, and responsive communities.
  • Engaging graduate students in a range of collaborative models, including small group discussions, collaborative projects, peer-to-peer feedback, and group presentations in order to provide varied opportunities for graduate students to learn from and with each other, as we in turn learn from them.
  • Engaging graduate students in exploring a range of perspectives through methods such as case studies, scenarios, role-plays, and skilled dialogue to raise and address biases and barriers, and build bridges to understanding.
  • Supporting the development of graduate students’ knowledge and skills in creating engaged, collaborative, and reciprocal relationships with families that respect families’ diverse experiences, perspectives, and priorities.   
  • Working collaboratively with our colleagues to deepen our work in courses and fieldwork in order to better meet the needs of graduate students.  
  • Continually evolving as an institution, through striving to operationalize our ideals and participating in governance through work in faculty committees, recognizing that democratic communities are imperfect and ever-developing.

Execute Action Research for Innovation

The process of conducting action research and the findings that ensue, enable graduate students to develop a nuanced understanding of educative practices, the policies that undergird these practices, and the competing philosophies and needs that shape both policy and practice (Rust, 2009).  All candidates must be able to identify, read, and apply research relevant to their practice. They must be able to use action research methods to guide instructional improvement. Examples of the ways we strive to enact this in practice include:

  • Supporting graduate students’ engagement with direct sources of evidence and information from multiple perspectives, enabling them to ask questions and develop grounded responses.
  • Teaching graduate students to apply the skills of action research and use research and assessment to inform practice.  
  • Instilling an orientation towards life-long professional development and contribution to the field.
  • Collecting and disseminating to the wider world evidence of the impact of our practice.

Base Work in Principles of Social Justice

For Graduate faculty and our candidates, advocacy rooted in research is tied to everything we believe and do. Candidates study human development, subject content, and pedagogy with the aim of advocating for individuals, families, institutions, and within the community of professional educators and educational dialogue. To take action in tandem with one’s beliefs is both political and social and requires knowledge, skills, and dispositions that, in turn, require nurturance and support as candidates form their professional identity. Examples of the ways we strive to enact these values in practice include:

  • Providing a foundation of knowledge, skills, and dispositions to support graduate students as current and future advocates in their work within and across diverse communities in the broader field.  
  • Deepening our own and our graduate students’ engagement with conventional and controversial ideas connected to education and to wider local, state, and national educational policy.
  • Helping our graduate students understand, negotiate, and mediate the challenges they may face in their settings.
  • Working together to understand the impact of oppression, inequity, and injustice on educational contexts, including our own, through actively participating in ongoing conversations and activities about these issues with each other, with our graduate students, and with the larger world.
  • Cultivating through our work with each other and our graduate students the disposition that people should be participants and agents of change in the world, rather than simply consumers.


Pignatelli, F. (2011). Being accountable: Why friendship, vulnerability and forgiveness matter. Schools: Studies in Education, 8(2), 215-230.

Rust, F. (2009). Teacher research and the problem of practice. Teachers College Record, 111(8), 1882-1893.

Spencer, A. M. & Romero, O. (2008). Engaging higher education faculty in universal design: Addressing the needs of students with invisible disabilities. In Burgstahler, S. & Cory, R. (Eds.). Universal design in higher education: From principles to practice, 145-156. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.