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University of Washington researcher Dr. Cap Peck speaks to faculty in the ECU College of Education about their efforts to use required data collection as an impetus for improving teacher education. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

ECU College of Education among 10 universities featured in national study

Dec. 4, 2012

By Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services

The College of Education at East Carolina University is among 10 institutions nationwide to be included in a study highlighting teacher education programs that use data in innovative ways.

University of Washington researchers, aided by a grant from The Spencer Foundation, are building case studies of programs that utilize data to direct research and improve programming. Fellow educators at Stanford University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill nominated ECU for inclusion in the study.

Principal investigator Dr. Cap Peck explained that teacher education has come under increased scrutiny in recent years, and institutions are now required to produce a wealth of data about numerous aspects of their programming. Many universities are following mandates to report the data, but doing little more with the information.

“Others lean forward into the opportunity to learn from the data,” Peck said. “They take an inquiry stance.”
Vivian Covington, director of teacher education for the ECU College of Education, listens to discussion about using collected data for improving teacher education.

The College of Education at ECU is seizing those opportunities, he said. Administrators use data to develop a vision for the program, he continued, and then encourage faculty and staff to further their own education and conduct research to meet emerging needs.

"The use of data has guided us in being more focused about our work as a college, said Dr. Vivian Covington, director of teacher education. "As a faculty, we have lots of research interests; however, a critical mass of research is now being focused on our work and about our work in teacher preparation."

A professor of special education and teacher education, Peck visited ECU’s campus Nov. 27-29 to converse with administrators, faculty and clinical teachers about how they use data to improve their effectiveness day-to-day.

“People share a belief system and culture…about pushing the status quo here,” Peck said. “It’s very unusual.”

Dr. Diana Lys, director of assessment and accreditation for the college, said his visit is evidence that the investments ECU has made toward improving and updating teacher education practices are “bearing fruit.”

“ECU has always had a proud tradition of teacher education,” she said. “Being included in this study really demonstrates that we continue to be a leader…in teacher education innovation.

“I also hope that Dr. Peck’s visit acts as confirmation, maybe even validation, for our faculty that their investments in assessment, program improvement, practice-based research, and focus on student learning outcomes is not only important locally, but valued nationally.”

Lys said she looks forward to seeing how ECU efforts compare to other “high data users” featured in the study.

“People respond to pressure in a variety of ways,” Peck said on the final day at ECU. “This place is very, very focused on creating better teachers for kids.”

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