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Overview and Conceptual Framework

NCATE Institutional Report for the School of Education and Graduate Studies

Valley City State University


Institution's Mission, Historical Context, and Unique Characteristics

Valley City State University (VCSU) celebrates its 125th anniversary October 13, 2015. Founded as a normal school in 1890, VCSU has been nationally accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) since 1954. VCSU offers more than 80 undergraduate programs in art, business, communication arts, computer systems and software engineering, education, health and physical education, language and literature, mathematics, music, science, social science, and technology education. VCSU makes courses and degree programs available through traditional on-campus courses, distance learning (online or interactive video), and hybrid formats that combine both elements.

In 2005, VCSU began offering its first graduate program in education. VCSU's completely online M.Ed. program offers six concentrations: elementary education, English education, library and information technology, teaching and technology, teaching English language learners, and technology education.

To enhance student learning and preparation, VCSU provides all faculty members and full-time, on-campus students with laptop computers, easy access to high-speed wireless networking, advanced multimedia technology, and classrooms equipped with the latest educational technology. In 1996, VCSU became the nation's second laptop university and the first with a teacher education program. U.S. News has ranked VCSU among its "Best Colleges" for 16 consecutive years. In the last five years, VCSU has enjoyed either the No. 1 or No. 2 spot in the U.S. News ranking of "Public Regional Colleges in the Midwest."

VCSU is one of 11 institutions of higher education in the North Dakota University System (NDUS), governed by the State Board of Higher Education (SBHE).  The VCSU campus is located on 55 acres on the banks of the Sheyenne River in Valley City and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The university is located fifty-eight miles west of Fargo on Interstate 94 in the southeastern area of North Dakota. The university has an enrollment of approximately 1400 students and the community of Valley City has a population of approximately 6,600.

University Mission

Valley City State University is a public, regional university offering exceptional programs in an active, learner-centered community that promotes meaningful scholarship, ethical service, and the skilled use of technology. As an important knowledge resource, the university offers programs and outreach that enrich the quality of life in North Dakota and beyond. Through flexible, accessible, and innovative baccalaureate and master's programs, VCSU prepares students to succeed as educators, leaders, and engaged citizens in an increasingly complex and diverse society.

University Vision

Valley City State University will be nationally recognized for advancing important collaboration, fostering innovative engagement, and promoting noteworthy transformation. Through effective use of best practices in technology, teaching, and learning, VCSU will be a destination university for students in North Dakota and throughout the region, extending its reach and influence beyond the campus boundaries.

The Professional Education Unit, Mission, and Relationship with Other Units

The professional education unit includes all initial and advanced programs across the university involved in the preparation of educators to work in P-12 schools. The initial and advanced programs reside in the School of Education and Graduate Studies (SEGS). The unit is comprised of 15 full-time professional education faculty members. In addition, there are 10 part-time unit/full-time institution faculty members who serve another department and 25 adjunct faculty members. The dean of education is responsible for administration duties for the unit and makes every attempt to have full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty supervise candidates in field experiences as part of their workload in order to maintain a strong connection with P-12 colleagues. Each secondary and P-12 academic area has a full-time faculty member who teaches a content specific methods course and supervises student teacher candidates in their area.

The mission of the unit states: "Committed to learner-centered education and effective use of instructional technology, the VCSU Teacher Education Program prepares exemplary teachers who are knowledge-based decision makers." The unit's mission statement connects with the VCSU conceptual framework that permeates all areas of the program. 

In 2009, the Bush Foundation awarded a grant to VCSU and 13 other institutions in Minnesota and South Dakota. The grant helped the unit make significant changes for improvement in the recruitment, preparation, and support of effective teaching to impact student achievement. The unit has implemented program changes based on data collected since the last NCATE visit in 2008. Curriculum changes include greater emphasis on differentiated instruction, educational technology, assessment, classroom management, and strategies for teaching English language learners. The unit has also raised its standards for admission to teacher education, promoted co-teaching, and added summer academies along with support for first year teachers.

Initial Teacher Preparation Programs

The unit provides 15 programs for the preparation of school personnel at the initial level. The largest program is elementary education. All of the programs are state approved, with music education additionally accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). A full listing of all VCSU educator programs and enrollments is available for review.

Advanced Preparation Programs

The unit's Master of Education program is entirely online with six active concentrations: Teaching and Technology, Technology Education, Library and Information Technologies, English Language Learners, Elementary, and English. The unit is the only program in the country approved to offer initial licensure in Technology Education at the master's level online. The unit's Library and Information Technologies program is unique in North Dakota and is nationally recognized.

Off-Campus Offerings and Alternate Programs

The unit has an off-campus elementary education program on the North Dakota State University (NDSU) campus in Fargo, North Dakota. Unit education faculty members travel to deliver the courses face-to-face at NDSU.

The unit also has partnerships with six community colleges in Wyoming and Trinity Bible College (TBC) in Ellendale, ND. Candidates from Wyoming complete their associate degree in education at their community college and their bachelor's degree at VCSU. Students from TBC have the opportunity to obtain an elementary education or physical education degree from VCSU, with courses offered face-to-face, online or via compressed video. 

Valley City State University offers 'Transition to Teaching' as an alternative teacher licensure program. The curriculum meets the needs for career-changing individuals, persons with baccalaureate degrees related to teaching-shortage content areas and persons from industry or the military who have specific career-technical skills.

Conceptual Framework

The unit's mission statement connects the VCSU mission statement with the unit's conceptual framework that permeates all areas of the program. The preparation of teachers and the School of Education and Graduate Studies assessment activities reflect commitment to the university mission, vision, Abilities, Core Values, conceptual framework, and accreditation standards.

The Unit's Conceptual Framework for Initial and Advanced Preparation

The unit expects initial and advanced candidates to understand and apply the conceptual framework that underlies the pre-service and in-service program design. The broad goals of the unit are to prepare entry-level teachers, advanced in-service teachers and school personnel who:

1.   are capable of teaching and guiding students of varying backgrounds, strengths, and needs;

2.   are competent decision makers;

3.   are skilled in planning, implementing, and evaluating learning experiences so all students can learn;

4.   view decision making as a reflective process;

5.   understand and are committed to the moral dimensions of teaching;

6.   select and apply technology appropriately; and

7.   accept the view that professional growth and development is a lifelong process.

Knowledge-based Decision Making

Both initial and advanced assessments support the four major pillars of the conceptual framework.

Plan: While planning, the teacher must make decisions regarding areas such as goals and objectives, the degree of background building required, specific materials and methods to use.

Implement: The implementation function requires the teacher to carry out his/her plans, making numerous decisions quickly in response to students' reactions, questions, and instructional needs. As a result, modification of prepared plans becomes the rule rather than the exception.

Evaluate: During the evaluation phase of decision-making, the teacher determines the degree to which the plans attained the instructional objectives. Determining the degree of re-teaching that is needed, recording information, and reporting progress are some of the areas within the evaluation phase of decision-making.

Reflect: The teacher plans, implements and evaluates by using feedback in a reflective manner. During the entire process, it is essential for the teacher to realize that professional growth and development is continuous.

Teacher Education Domains (Knowledge base)

The teacher education program has three major domains. The goals of each domain include:

Domain I - Foundation Studies: To prepare pre-service teachers to acquire a liberal arts education needed in order to function as informed members of our society and within the teaching profession.

Domain II - Specialty Studies: To prepare pre-service teachers who possess strong backgrounds within each subject area they will teach. Content majors demonstrate competencies in the University Abilities as defined by their course of study.

Domain III - Professional Studies: To prepare pre-service teachers to function effectively in a variety of educational settings and with students of diverse backgrounds, abilities, and needs.

Master of Education Domains (Knowledge base)

The graduate program has similar domains that build upon the professional preparation of the in-service teacher and other school personnel in advanced studies. The overall goal of each domain is as follows:

Domain I - Core Courses: To prepare in-service teachers and other school personnel with knowledge, skills, and dispositions appropriate for a foundation for advanced study.

Domain II - Concentration (Specialty) Studies: To prepare in-service teachers and other school personnel at an advanced level within their concentration area.

Domain III - Professional Studies (Core Values, NBPTS): To prepare in-service teachers and other school personnel to function in a variety of educational settings and with students of diverse backgrounds, abilities, and needs, and to use technology effectively.

Candidate Proficiencies

Candidates demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and dispositions aligned with state standards, University Abilities (initial programs), or Core Values (advanced programs), including proficiencies associated with research, diversity and technology. In both initial and advanced programs, the four major pillars guide assessment of candidate proficiencies in the conceptual framework.

Unit Assessment System

The unit has developed a system of assessments that regularly and systematically gathers, analyzes, and informs decisions related to the unit's alignment with the university vision and mission, the unit's conceptual framework, state and professional standards. All candidates in the initial program are required to complete a Teaching for Learning Capstone (TLC) unit during their student teaching experience to highlight the application of the candidate's conceptual framework.

The advanced program follows a similar pattern of assessments. The capstone portfolio assessments align with the unit's graduate school Core Values, conceptual framework, and National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) with knowledge, skills, dispositions, and beliefs that characterize National Board Certified Teachers.

Changes to the Conceptual Framework

Each element of the conceptual framework aligns with learner outcomes at the initial and advanced levels. The four foundational pillars of the conceptual framework of planning, implementing, evaluating and reflecting on learning permeate both the initial and advanced programs and have not changed since the previous NCATE visit. The data gathered from assessing the conceptual framework have led to curriculum changes that include greater emphasis on differentiated instruction, integration of educational technology, use of assessment, classroom management, and strategies for teaching English language learners.

Exhibits for Overview and Conceptual Framework


Pages from catalogs and other printed documents describing general education, specialty/content studies, and professional studies

exhibit I.5.a.1 General Education Pages of VCSU Catalog

exhibit I.5.a.2 Teacher Education Pages of VCSU Catalog

exhibit I.5.a.3 Content and Professional Studies Pages of VCSU Catalog

exhibit I.5.a.4 Advanced Program Pages of VCSU Catalog

exhibit I.5.a.5 Link to Teacher Education Program Status Sheets

exhibit I.5.a.6 Sample of English Education Status Sheet (Secondary Example)

exhibit I.5.a.7 Sample of Elementary Education Status Sheet

exhibit I.5.a.8 Overview and Status of Initial Teacher Preparation Program

exhibit I.5.a.9 Overview and Status of Advanced Program


Examples of syllabi for professional education courses

exhibit I.5.b.1 Sample Syllabus for Professional Education in Initial Program

exhibit I.5.b.2 Sample Syllabus for Core Courses in Advanced Program

exhibit I.5.b.3 Link to Syllabi for Professional Education (Initial) and Core Courses (Advanced)

exhibit I.5.b.4 Examples of Multiple Syllabi (Initial Program)

exhibit I.5.b.5 Examples of Multiple Syllabi (Advanced Program)


Conceptual framework(s)

exhibit I.5.c.1 Conceptual Framework Data

exhibit I.5.c.2 Advanced Program Conceptual Framework Rationale Statements from Capstone Portfolios

exhibit I.5.c.3 Conceptual Framework Changes and Data Driven Decisions since 2008 in the Initial Program

exhibit I.5.c.4 Changes and Data Driven Decisions since 2008 in the Advanced Program


Findings of other national accreditation associations related to preparation of education professionals:

exhibit I.5.d.1a NASM Accreditation Letter for Music Education

exhibit I.5.d.1b Music and NASM

exhibit I.5.d.2 NCATE Accreditation Report for Library and Information Technologies ALA/AASL


Updated institutional, program, and faculty information under institutional work space in AIMS

exhibit I.5.e.1 Information available through CAEP AIMS work space



VCSU Conceptual Framework

Candidates PLAN, IMPLEMENT, EVALUATE, and REFLECT on lessons for learning

Celebrating 125 Years

VCSU 1890-2015

I.5.a.1 General Education Pages in VCSU Catalog

I.5.a.2 Teacher Education pages in VCSU Catalog

I.5.a.3 Specialty and Content Specific Pages in VCSU Catalog

I.5.a.4 Advanced Program Pages in VCSU Catalog

I.5.a.5 Link to Program Status Sheets

I.5.a.6 Sample Status Sheet_English Education

I.5.a.7 Sample Status Sheet_Elementary Education

I.5.a.8 Overview of Initial Teacher Preparation Program Data and Review of Status

I.5.a.9 Overview of Advanced Programs and Status

I.5.b.1 Initial Program Professional Education Sample Syllabus

I.5.b.2 Advanced Program Core Course Sample Syllabus

I.5.b.3 Link to Syllabi for Professional Education (Initial) and Core Courses (Advanced)

I.5.c.1 and 1.4.d.12 Conceptual Framework Data Exhibit

I.5.c.2 Conceptual Framework Rationale Statement Work Samples

I.5.c.3 Changes and Data Driven Decision Since 2008 (Initial Program)

I.5.c.4 Changes and Data Driven Decisions Since 2008 (Advanced Program)

I.5.d.1a Music Education Accreditation (NASM)

I.5.d.2 Library Accreditation Report

I.5.e.1 Information available in CAEP AIMS work space

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