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Teacher as Reflective Problem Solver

Teacher as Reflective Problem Solver

The collaborative efforts of a broad constituency created the conceptual framework, Teacher as Reflective Problem Solver (TARPS) in 1987 and revised in 1992, 2008, and 2009. Drafts circulated among the Educator Preparation Program Council (EPPC), Deans, candidates, public school partners, and Educational Personnel Preparation Advisory Committee (EPPAC) members. Participant feedback shaped the vision of the EPPC. The EPPC, candidates, public school personnel, and EPPAC reflect and work together to benefit candidates’ positive impact on the education of all children. The mission of the EPPC is to work in partnership with area schools to prepare highly qualified, reflective teachers who believe in fairness and that all children learn.

Based on ongoing discussions of desired outcomes, research of the relevant literature, feedback from school administrators and teachers, and practitioners, INTASC and NBPTS standards, and the Framework for 21st Century Learning, the Educator Preparation Program Council believes that teacher candidates should possess the willingness and capacity to:

  1. Develop a philosophy of teaching based on philosophical and theoretical viewpoints about schooling, teaching and learning;
  2. Commit to continuous reflective self-examination for personal and professional development;
  3. Demonstrate leadership by functioning as a change agent who influences and improves the education of P-12 students, through scholarship, community action, and collaboration in educational settings;
  4. Focus on the development of P-12 students’ critical mindedness, problem-solving skills, self-motivation, cooperative social interaction, and commitment to excellent performance;
  5. Develop an adequate understanding of the social and psychological conditions of learning including cultural and linguistic differences, exceptionalities and developmental characteristics of P-12 students;
  6. Develop, articulate and practice a constructivist, integrated, and multicultural curriculum and pedagogy that promotes and honors individual dignity and rights of P-12 students consonant with the nature of a pluralistic and democratic society;
  7. Plan, implement, and assess learning experiences that promote acquisition of the knowledge, skills, and dispositions P-12 students need to become critical participants in a global society;
  8. Access current research findings regarding schooling, teaching and learning and use these findings in educational programs;
  9. Develop a critical understanding of the central concepts, tools of inquiry and structures of representation and their interdisciplinary connections in pedagogical content knowledge that are central to the discipline(s) she/he teaches including the uses of educational multimedia technology;
  10. Foster relationships between schools, higher education colleagues, parents, governmental agencies, individuals and groups in the larger community to support P-12 students’ learning;
  11. Integrate and implement theory and practice in a coherent pedagogy;
  12. Consistently reflect on their knowledge base, dispositional orientations, and performance characteristics.

Knowledge enables one to make informed choices, to participate actively in the shaping of one’s own life, and to influence the social, cultural, political and economic structures of a democratic society. Based on the belief that education should empower all students and teachers to exercise informed choices in a global society, our purpose is to facilitate the development of liberally educated teachers who demonstrate the willingness and capacity to empower all P-12 students.

The unit is committed to promoting social justice, embracing diversity and inclusion, and enhancing teaching and learning through technology.

The schooling context is complex; it is characterized by a significant degree of ambiguity that precludes a formulaic approach to teaching. This complexity necessitates that teacher candidates and practitioners develop a philosophy and principles for practice based on reflective problem solving. Teachers identify and frame problems, generate and consider multiple solutions, choose and implement courses of action, and evaluate results.

Knowledge Goals

Teachers must refer to a knowledge base that supports their beliefs and actions in order to engage pedagogical problems. The ability to render/discuss/interpret a knowledge base that justifies the predispositions and assumptions that underlie teaching/learning behavior is a key characteristic of theTeacher as Reflective Problem Solver. Teacher candidates must possess knowledge of content, context, and learners. When diagnosing student needs, planning, implementing, and assessing teaching/learning, the candidate/practitioner:

  1. Demonstrates an understanding of developmental issues (cognitive, social, emotional, physical);
  2. Accesses and uses current research findings;
  3. Demonstrates an understanding of the core concepts, tools of inquiry, and structures of knowledge of subjects being taught and their interdisciplinary connections;
  4. Demonstrates sufficient breadth and depth of content knowledge to meet student needs;
  5. Demonstrates an understanding of relationships between theories and practice;
  6. Considers the diverse nature of classrooms and society;
  7. Considers and uses the Framework for 21st Century technology practices.

Disposition Goals

The candidate’s reflective disposition is fundamental to Teacher as Reflective Problem Solver. The Educator Preparation Program Council’s commitment to the development of reflective dispositions is strongly indicated by the use of both the terms “willingness” and “capacity” in the statement of Program Goals and Candidate Outcomes. Willingness means the demonstrated commitment to continual professional development and capacity means demonstrating the ability to achieve professional and pedagogical goals. Reflection is an innate human capacity and ability amplified so it becomes a conscious tool for effective teaching/learning. Candidates demonstrate the capacity to reflect on the day-to-day aspects of teaching/learning; to decide whether a teaching/learning activity achieves the purposes of a sound education; and to judge how this experience relates to the larger issues of democracy, justice, and equity in our diverse society. The candidate demonstrates the willingness and capacity to:

  1. Practice teaching/learning from our model’s thematic structure: Action, Interpretation, and Critical Reflection;
  2. Continuously engage in self-analytical and self-reflective processes for professional development;
  3. Engage in critical discourse about education issues;
  4. Respect the individual dignity and diverse learning orientations of all students;
  5. Commit to excellence in academics and practical teaching/learning experiences;
  6. Assume personal responsibility for professional development;
  7. Engage in lifelong learning.

Performance Goals

Performance goals facilitate the development of the candidate’s capacity to plan, implement, and assess a program of teaching/learning that is effective for all students. Teacher candidates must be skillful in reflection on learner and teacher performances. The candidate:

  1. Observes, describes, and analyzes self, individual student and group performance in order to design developmentally and individually appropriate and improved teaching/learning experiences;
  2. Plans and implements teaching/learning experiences that develop students’ problem solving capacity and critical thinking skills;
  3. Plans and implements teaching/learning experiences that are based on a constructivist epistemology;
  4. Plans and implements teaching/learning experiences that embrace student diversity;
  5. Plans and implements teaching/learning experiences that promote students’ ability to contribute productively in a global society;
  6. Plans and implements 21st Century Learning experiences that are based on explicit understanding of the core concepts, tools of inquiry, and structures of knowledge that are central to the subjects being taught;
  7. Uses a variety of 21st Century Learning assessment strategies (e.g., portfolios, observations, presentations, essays, criterion-referenced tests, learning project results, norm-referenced tests), both formative and summative, to assess the effectiveness of teaching/learning experiences;
  8. Uses a variety of 21st Century Learning strategies (e.g., individualization, whole group, project groups, cooperative learning, learning centers, discussion, lecture, technology) to optimize teaching/learning opportunities in the classroom;
  9. Uses reflection to modify instruction to meet the needs of students.
  10. Uses professional organizations, community, and other resources outside the classroom to enhance student learning.

Reflective dispositions prepare candidates to respond effectively to the range of concerns found in the classroom. Teachers need to be concurrently reflective across three fields of consideration: Action, Interpretation, and Critical Reflection. The candidates examine their Action and are concerned with the application of pedagogical knowledge to achieve stated educational goals for every child. This action is subject to Interpretation. The candidates explicate and justify the assumptions and predispositions that underlie their teaching/learning activity. During Critical Reflection, candidates assess the adequacy of the educational goals toward which the educational experience leads and incorporates moral and ethical criteria in assessing the outcomes of teaching/learning activities. This model conceptualizes and implements an experience cycle for teacher candidates that involve them in a continuous process of action and reflection. The cycle occurs respective to the aspects of campus coursework and field experiences/teaching as well as between the aspects of campus coursework and field experiences/teaching. The majority of professional education courses are characterized by a pattern of attendance in campus-based courses followed by performance in a field-based site. This campus-field-campus pattern ensures that each episode of action is followed by a systematic opportunity to reflect on practical experience and the theoretical frameworks that guide practical activity. Field experiences are not just opportunities for application, but are occasions for critical reflection on the theory/practice interaction.


The MACI is a comprehensive program grounded in the philosophy of scholarship, advocacy, leadership, and collaboration. The program supports the symbiotic relationship between theoretical and practical knowledge and cultivates educational experiences, which recognize teachers as questioning intellectuals who continually explore, examine, and reflect upon the teaching and learning process. Graduates of this program demonstrate expertise in their subject matter, recognize the ever increasing need for understanding and valuing diversity, and promote the betterment of students, schools, and the global community.

The MACI program builds upon the Teacher as Reflective Problem Solvermodel by utilizing the Five Core Propositions of the National Board for Professional Teacher Standards (NBPTS):

Proposition 1: Teachers are Committed to Students and Their Learning.

Proposition 2: Teachers Know the Subjects They Teach and How to Teach Those Subjects to Students.

Proposition 3: Teachers are Responsible for Managing and Monitoring Student Learning.

Proposition 4: Teachers Think Systematically about Their Practice and Learn from Experience.

Proposition 5: Teachers are Members of Learning Communities.