Continuing education brings new methods, capabilities to Franks School

August 23, 2018

Alison and MechelleWhile students were gone for the summer, faculty and staff in Trine University’s Franks School of Education worked to further their own education.

Alison Todd, assistant professor in the Franks School of Education, completed advanced coursework that will provide Trine education students, and possibly educators throughout the region, new tools for classroom management. Mechelle Snyder-Bruns, administrative assistant, received training to help the Franks School implement a program that will allow its majors to assemble portfolios for future job opportunities, and allow the school to better track outcomes.

Todd attended the Responsive Classroom Advanced Course for Elementary Educators in Chicago from July 24-27.

Responsive Classroom, Todd said, is a research-based system of addressing the need to educate students in academics, as well as giving students direct instruction to develop social/emotional skills. Teachers trained in Responsive Classroom provide academic and social/emotional instruction in a way that is appropriate for the cognitive development of children, focusing on building positive relationships between educator and student, and, ideally, creating a school-wide environment that ensures students’ basic needs are being met.

She said she first attended Responsive Classroom training about 10 years ago while she was an elementary school teacher in Vermont, and spearheaded an initiative to get all that school’s teachers trained to use the framework in their classrooms.

“Educators who are experienced in using the Responsive Classroom approach often don't have the added responsibility of addressing unwanted behavior in the classroom because they have followed the Responsive Classroom framework with fidelity, creating procedures, routines and expectations that are proactive, rather than reactive,” she said. “Responsive Classroom doesn't rely on antiquated ideas of reactionary and punitive methods of dealing with misbehavior.”

Todd said she had wanted to attend the advanced course for some time, and redoubled her efforts when a recent survey of Trine education graduates reflected that classroom management was one of their biggest areas of concern.

“By attending the advanced workshop, I feel I know the program on a deeper level and I'm more confident providing our students with information on how Responsive Classroom can transform a classroom, or even school-wide culture,” she said.

“Professor Todd is not only invested in the academic and social well-being of Trine teacher candidates, she is just as committed to how our teacher candidates positively impact the academic and social lives of their future students,” said Anthony Kline, Ph.D., dean of the Franks School of Education. “Responsive Classroom training presents a dynamic and evidence-based approach to meet these goals. We are thrilled to see how this training influences our teacher candidates in their clinical settings and future classrooms.”

Todd said Responsive Classroom is commonly practiced in New England, but not as well-known in other areas of the country. She hopes her training will not only benefit Trine students, but will open up the opportunity to bring Responsive Classroom trainers to campus and introduce the program to area educators and administrators.

“Every workshop at the host site seemed to be full, with the majority of participants coming from Illinois, so I hope Trine will make the push to bring Responsive Classroom to northeast Indiana,” she said.

Mechelle Snyder-Bruns, administrative assistant in the Franks School of Education, attended Watermark Engage 2018 from June 19-22 in Austin, Texas.

The Franks School of Education is looking to fully implement the Tk20 system by Watermark this fall. Once in place, Tk20 will allow students to collect assignments and other documents, track their academic progress, document clinical experiences and develop a portfolio to have available for interviewing after graduation. By integrating with Moodle, it also will aid the Franks School in collecting data and assessing objectives for internal and external reporting.

“Mechelle Snyder-Bruns provides many assets to our Franks School of Education. By serving as the School's Watermark Unit Administrator, she plays a central role in the development of how we assess our teacher candidates' academic progress individually and as a cohort,” Kline said. “Most universities' unit administrator role is served by faculty. As a staff member, Mechelle goes above and beyond in her role and is a valued member of our Franks School of Education team.”

The annual conference gave Snyder-Bruns, who is part of Watermark’s Knowledge Ambassador program, the opportunity to connect with peers and Ambassadors from other institutions, and learn about new developments from the company.

“The Watermark Knowledge Ambassadors connect with peers on an ongoing basis,” she said. “We learn how others create a culture of improvement on their campus, share best practices and learn from each other. We participate in polls, surveys and other related studies, as well as share experiences and insights.”

“Attending the Watermark conference has been an invaluable tool in the implementation and streamlining of Tk20 to meet the needs of the Franks School of Education for students, faculty and accreditation,” she said.

Snyder-Bruns said the university is investigating the possibility of expanding its partnership with Watermark to other academic schools. She hopes to attend Watermark’s 2019 conference in New Orleans and present to her peers.

Photo: Alison Todd, left, assistant professor in the Franks School of Education, and Mechelle Snyder-Bruns, administrative assistant in the Franks School of Education.

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