College of Education > News and Publications > News: July-September 2014 > The College’s New Strategic Plan: Some Highlights

The College’s New Strategic Plan: Some Highlights

The College’s New Strategic Plan: Some Highlights

The College’s new Strategic Plan has been very much on my mind these last several weeks as the Steering Committee (Patricia Best, William Hartman, Brandon Hunt, Peter Licona, Gwen Lloyd, David Monk, Priya Sharma, Jeanine Staples, Sue Tighe, and Suzanne Wayne) has been working to take advantage of the energy and good ideas that have emerged from our Departments, other budget units, and Focus Groups. While I think the plan will reflect well upon us as a College, and while I think the length (72 pages) is appropriate given the guidelines we were asked to follow, I recognize that not everyone will have the time to read through the entire plan.  What I provide here are some highlights that I hope will provide a useful overview of the thinking that underlies the plan. 

I am very grateful for the willingness of so many within the College to devote time and effort to thinking so deeply and with such good results about our future. I have been very impressed with the quality of the ideas that emerged from our faculty, staff, students, and alumni, and I believe our future as a College is quite bright as a result.

Here is an annotated list of some highlights, in no particular order.  Further information can be found within the actual plan which is posted at 

Areas of Accelerated Interest

We identified the following areas where we see our faculty, staff, and students excelling in the next five years. 

The Learning Sciences 

There is growing interest in the field of education in efforts that join efforts to design teaching and learning experiences with cognitive psychology and fields like computer science.  We are building faculty strength in this area.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education

 We have a longstanding commitment to STEM education and have been working to build strong faculty groups in mathematics and science education. We are also seeking opportunities to strengthen connections between science and mathematics education programs and our career and technical education programs.

Early Childhood Education and Child Well-Being and Protection

The recently released Child Care Task Force report for Penn State, with its call for additional tenure line faculty positions in early childhood education, has stimulated interest within the College in strengthening early childhood education programs. The close proximity of the Hort Woods Child Care facility along with the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s decision to offer a separate certification at the PreK-4 level have stimulated additional interest. This is a highly productive area of research, and we look forward to expanding efforts in this area of the field. Collaboration possibilities abound as there are many places in the larger University where faculty members pursue closely related interests.

Language Acquisition and Utilization

We recognize the increasingly important role of language acquisition as populations become more linguistically diverse.  We have a responsibility to prepare future educators for the increasingly diverse clienteles they will be working with over the course of their careers.  We are particularly sensitive to the needs of English language learners.

Diverse Literacies

Our Curriculum and Instruction Department has assigned a high priority to what it calls “diverse literacies.” The Department includes intercultural competence, global citizenship, and environmental literacy under this umbrella. The Department recognizes important connections to emerging social media technology. We are interested in thinking through the implications of social media for teaching and learning throughout educational systems.

Prevention and Intervention Sciences

Our Department of Educational Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education has singled out prevention and intervention sciences as an increasingly important organizing theme.  The Department is particularly concerned with finding ways to be helpful to students of all ages who are facing physical, cognitive, or emotional impediments as they seek to develop and utilize human capabilities.  We see elements of our enduring commitment to what we sometimes call Disability Studies fitting under this heading.

Education and Civil Rights

Our recent faculty hires include scholars located in several departments and programs with serious interests and expertise in the area of education and civil rights. These are very timely appointments given the lively debates taking place nationally and internationally regarding policies like affirmative action. The College recently hosted a major conference focused on Education and Civil Rights that involved collaborations across many parts of Penn State.  We plan to strengthen these efforts in the future. 

Organizational Studies

The College maintains a longstanding interest in the design, function, and evolution of organizations, including but not limited to educational organizations, to achieve societal goals. Our Educational Leadership Program is interested in K-12 schooling organizations while our Higher Education Program and the Center for the Study of Higher Education are directly interested in the design, function, and evolution of post-secondary organizations. Our Workforce Education and Development Program deals more broadly with the function and effectiveness of the workplace in corporate and nonprofit settings. We recently launched a new MPS program through  World Campus in Organizational Development and Change. It is clear that our interest in organization studies will be continue to be a priority for the College in the foreseeable future.

Cross-Cutting Themes

In addition, we established Focus Groups to help us think more clearly about a number of what we see as cross-cutting themes for the College as a whole.  These include:

Innovation in Teaching and Learning

We seek to build upon the success of the Krause Innovation Studio which is already being seen by colleagues within the University as well as beyond as a leading source of insight into how best to design technology-enriched physical space for productive teaching and learning. 

Embracing the Richness of Diversity

The College remains deeply committed to providing leadership for the University’s efforts to implement the Penn State Framework to Foster Diversity. We have developed a number of programs and initiatives (e.g., the S.C.O.P.E. Program, the Philadelphia Urban Seminar, and the Ecuador ESL Program) that appear to be best practices. We use the plan to re-affirm our commitment to the University’s diversity agenda and the development and implementation of best practices.

Improving Sustainability

Sustainability and awareness of environmental issues is a growing area of interest within the University, and the College is well poised to play a leadership role given the importance of educating the entire citizenry about the challenges, the evidence, and the attendant moral responsibilities. The plan includes ideas about how the College can provide this leadership.

Reducing Disparities in Opportunities and Performance

We articulate our interest in helping students of all ages overcome whatever impediments they might encounter as they seek to develop and utilize their capabilities.  We note that these impediments can take many forms, both social and economic as well as physical, and we express particular interest in finding ways to be helpful to students who for whatever reason are struggling to make progress with their learning.

Enhancing Learning in On-Line Environments

We are making significant efforts to work collaboratively with the World Campus to expand our online presence in the field of education. No fewer than seven new or significantly redesigned programs are in the process of being developed in a partnership between the College and the World Campus. These include: an expansion of the M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction to include STEM education, literacy education, curriculum and supervision, and social studies education; a redesigned M.Ed. in Higher Education; a new M.Ed. in Special Education; a redesigned M.Ed. in Learning, Design, and Technology; a redesigned M.Ed. in Adult Education; a new M.P.S. in Organizational Development and Change; and an expansion of the M.Ed. in Educational Leadership to include a certification option for Principals.

Creating and Marketing Intellectual Property and Services

We use the plan to declare a new interest in exploring our capacity to develop materials and/or services that can be viable in external markets. We see this as a possible new revenue stream for the College that is consistent with the broader University’s interest in becoming more entrepreneurial without compromising its role as a public research university. We recognize that this is new territory for us.

Strengthening and Creating Partnerships

The College has a long tradition of building partnerships with relevant constituencies. We see this commitment to partnership-building continuing, but we also express cautions as partnerships can be more difficult to build and maintain than many realize. 

Enhancing Contributions to General Education

Our Focus Group on this topic reviewed the larger University’s ongoing exploration of a new approach to General Education. Historically, the College of Education has not played a significant role in the delivery of General Education courses for Penn State students. This could change, particularly if the “thematic” approach being discussed by the University evolves in particular directions.

Additional Points

The plan also includes some detailed discussion about challenges we are facing as a College, including the enrollment declines that we and our peer institutions are experiencing in teacher preparation programs.  We also report on operational matters like our efforts to streamline administrative processes and to realize savings.  We also call attention to the fund raising success we have been having in recent years, including our success at significantly exceeding our fund raising goal for the
For the Future Campaign, the Campaign for Penn State Students.

I encourage you to take a look at the complete plan.  I think you will be impressed with our capacities and our ambitions. I also invite your thoughts about how best to implement the plan. We need to identify the concrete steps we will be taking over the next few months and years to make the goals we articulate in the plan become reality as we approach the end of the planning period in 2018-2019. 

Many thanks for your continuing interest and for all you do to move our agenda forward as a College. I hope you are enjoying these days of summer.