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Dr. Mike Trevisan

Dean's Perspectives

Ours is a college on the move

Mike Trevisan
Mike Trevisan

I am pleased and honored to be the interim dean for the Washington State University College of Education. After 19 years with the college, I know how both it and WSU work. I am fairly good at putting compelling arguments together, so you can expect that I will go to great lengths to advocate for the College of Education.

Based on feedback from my colleagues both inside and outside the college, here are the priorities I see for the spring term:

  • Our vision of “one college, four campuses.” I will regularly visit Spokane, Tri-Cities and Vancouver and, when I am home in Pullman, will stay in touch with faculty around the state.
  • Our slant towards R-1, the top tier of research universities. Our researchers collaborate with each other, with faculty in other WSU colleges, and with colleagues throughout the United States and beyond.
  • Teacher preparation. This is, and will remain, a core mission.
  • Educational leadership. One of our college’s greatest contributions to the state is preparation of principals, superintendents and other leaders through our certifications and Doctor of Education programs.
  • Development. Fund-raising is high on the list of the dean’s responsibilities, especially given the drop in state funding. I enjoy meeting with donors to explain our programs, contributions and needs.
  • Employee searches. We’re hiring a dozen new faculty and administrators this year.

I want to thank former Dean (now Distinguished Professor) A.G. Rud for his leadership, particularly with respect to the idea of “one college, four campuses.” His attention to all campuses has raised expectations for the College of Education. In addition, A.G. set the college on course to R-1 work. I continue to hear from faculty members that they appreciate this focus, as I did in my previous role as associate dean for research.

Ours is a college on the move. There is much work to be done. I know I’ll be working long hours, traveling a good deal, and getting lots of e-mail. (If you write, be patient! I will get back to you, though maybe not as quickly as in the past.) With an able leadership team and the top-notch support of Stacy Mohondro, assistant to the dean, I am optimistic that the college will do well in 2013.

Finding inspiration in Nishinomiya

Dean A.G. Rud
A.G. Rud

This fall, I was proud to be asked to visit Japan with four colleagues to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the partnership of the Washington State University College of Education and the Nishinomiya Board of Education.

The board had requested specific topics for this anniversary visit, so our faculty were chosen to share their expertise at faculty seminars. Tom Salsbury spoke on “Rousing the Will to Learn and Motivating Foreign Language Education,” Paula Groves Price on “School Management – The Independence and Autonomy of Schools” and Jane Kelley on “Immutability and the Educational Trends: The Potential of ICT Application in Classrooms and Preschool.”

Gisela Ernst-Slavit’s contribution was a meeting with the Nishinomiya Superintendent Akiharu Manabe, his associates, and me regarding a potential study abroad program for WSU undergraduate and graduate students.

For four days we visited schools in the morning and led our seminars in the afternoon. The agenda was packed, but stimulating. On Friday we all went to Kyoto. On Saturday, some of us went to downtown Nishinomiya for a festival and others, including me, went by bullet train for an unforgettable visit to Hiroshima.

Plans are afoot for a visit to Pullman by Japanese delegates in 2015, as well as a possible WSU study abroad program that could start as early as 2014. An additional partner, Mukogawa Women’s University, has approached us, and we spent a day visiting its campus as well as its junior and senior high school. MWU, which has a satellite campus at Fort Wright in Spokane, is an all-female private institution with many international satellite campuses. For developments on the possible study abroad program, contact Jane Kelley or Gisela Ernst-Slavit.

Faculty wave Cougar flag
Faculty show off the Cougar flag in Kyoto

In my Nishinomiya keynote speech, I focused on the challenges facing public education in the United States. In my farewell remarks, I commented on two topics that were on my mind during that week: hospitality in education, and food. I said, in part:

Hospitality to me is treating the stranger as a friend, and being open to that person or non-human animal. There is such suspicion of “the other” in our world and lives that it is refreshing, and humbling, to come to a culture that values hospitality and treating guests with openness and warmth. May we continue to see hospitality as an educational value, and have it in our teaching, learning, and leading in schools.

Secondly, I have noticed how healthy and freshly prepared Japanese cuisine is. Though I have eaten such food before in the USA, I did not think of it as a cultural value in the way I do now. Fresh food is good for one’s health, and we in America do not heed that common enough and undisputed advice. My country is experiencing an epidemic of weight gain, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other preventable diseases that can be traced in part to our consumption of processed foods. I learned this week not only of Japanese hospitality, but of the healthy body practices of this country that will inform my own life and my views on how we educate our children.

My colleagues and I are grateful for the inspiring time we had in Nishinomiya.

Research associate explores what teachers know about assessment

Dean A.G. Rud
A.G. Rud

There is much disagreement about how much testing is too much, and which tests are best. But we can all agree on the value of understanding test results. So I am pleased to report that the Washington State University College of Education has a young expert who is focused on finding a good way to detect change and growth in what teachers know about assessment and measurement.

Chad Gotch is a research associate in the Learning and Performance Research Center and a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling Psychology. He did his doctoral research under Professor Brian French, focusing on measurement literacy. I attended Professor Gotch’s dissertation defense and then sat down with him to learn a bit more about his important work.

He showed me a report, “Teachers’ Ability to Use Data to Inform Instruction: Challenges and Support,” that gave the steps he and like-minded researchers and policy makers believe are necessary for teachers to master to be able to use test data in their teaching. They include the following:

  • Find the relevant pieces of data in the data system or display available to them (data location)
  • Understand what the data signify (data comprehension)
  • Figure out what the data mean (data interpretation)
  • Select an instructional approach that addresses the situation identified through the data (instructional decision making)
  • Frame instructionally relevant questions that can be addressed by the data in the system (data posing)
Chad Gotch
Chad Gotch

Chad asks this question in his research: To what extent are teachers prepared to interpret test data, such as those provided by Washington’s Measurement of Student Progress and High School Proficiency Exam—or smaller tests that are woven into the curriculum—and use that information to improve instruction?

Classrooms in the state of Washington are becoming increasingly diverse, and teachers are facing the challenge of providing instruction to many different students from diverse backgrounds. If teachers get access to data about student achievement, they will be able to tailor their teaching to a particular student or group of students.

As teachers get more test results, they need to learn how to use that information. Chad expects that, ultimately, his research findings will be used in professional development programs and in teacher preparation programs such as ours. He notes that the kind of data-driven decision making that we want to see in our schools is already required of professionals in business, government agencies and universities.

Chad’s work so far has been supported by a College of Education Faculty Funding Award, laying the groundwork for what he and Brian French hope will be a large federal grant. What they’re learning, we need to know.

Washington (and WSU) take lead in sustainability education

Dean A.G. RudStanding before other future high school teachers, a WSU education student sliced up an apple that represented our planet. She picked up one slice, a mere 1/16th of the apple, and peeled it — then compared that sliver of peel to all of our topsoil. With this small fraction of Earth, she explained,we need to grow food for more and more people.

The engaging lesson impressed Francene Watson, a WSU doctoral student, instructor and a veteran teacher. She recalled it when we were discussing a new Washington professional standard for teachers. Standard 5 includes a requirement teachers to demonstrate that they can prepare students “to be responsible citizens for an environmentally sustainable, globally interconnected, and diverse society.”

This aspect of Standard 5 puts Washington ahead of virtually every other state in the country in that it explicitly identifies education for environmental sustainability as a responsibility of new teachers, according to Dawn Shinew, chair of our Department of Teaching and Learning.

“The state’s emphasis on sustainability provides exciting opportunities to incorporate more place-based learning into our teacher preparation program, engage our pre-service teachers in more community-oriented projects, and develop their understanding of their responsibility to students beyond bringing them to grade level in reading and mathematics,” Dawn said.

WSU student teacher works with children at a Palouse Pollinators workshop
A Palouse Pollinators lesson

The College of Education has made great strides toward “greening” our curriculum. One sign of that is our Palouse Pollinators workshops. Created with a big push from Francene, the workshops involve our student teachers with local school children. (Did you catch the related video of Kathryn Baldwin’s science methods students?)  College-wide, faculty members are incorporating sustainability into their work. For example, Susan Finley at WSU Vancouver, known for her focus on education for the homeless,wrote an article titled “Ecoaesthetics: Green arts at the intersection of education and social transformation” for the journal Cultural Studies—Critical Methodologies.

At the Pullman campus, and thanks in large part to Dawn’s efforts, WSU launched the Palouse Project, an initiative that brings together faculty from various disciplines to raise interest in sustainability education. On all of our campuses, sustainability is a important component of science education initiatives, including the WSU STEM Education Partnership.

One reason that Francene was impressed with that “apple slice” lesson was its message that protection of the soil is everyone’s responsibility. In the same way, I believe that teaching sustainability is every educator’s obligation.

Stronger, more unified kinesiology programs on the horizon

Dean A.G. Rud
A.G. Rud

Since becoming WSU College of Education dean in 2010, I’ve wanted our three kinesiology programs to be better integrated with the undergraduate teacher preparation program, and more generally with the health sciences at our university. But first they need to be better integrated with each other.

Faculty members have been working hard to make changes to unify and strengthen our undergraduate kinesiology programs. Those efforts will bear fruit next fall, when we’ll institute the following changes:

  • The Movement Studies Program will be renamed Sport Science and will culminate in a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology. Students in the Health and Fitness Program will continue to earn a teaching certificate along with their B.S. in kinesiology. Our Athletic Training Program will continue to offer a Bachelor of Arts in athletic training. 
  • Students in these programs will take common core courses: movement fundamentals, anatomy, fitness, strength training, biomechanics and exercise physiology. All course numbers will have the prefix KINES.
  • We will add a practicum and an internship program to sport science. As faculty member and student adviser Judy Schultz puts it, “we’ve been missing hands-on experience in exercise education.”
  • We’ll increase the number of course sections offered to sport science students. With increased numbers of students pursuing that specialty, we expect our kinesiology enrollment to grow from approximately 450 to 600.

Eventually, sport science students will have the option to earn certification from the American College of Sport Medicine along with their degrees. (Hint to college supporters: That depends on our purchase of the necessary equipment for the certification process.)

Our kinesiology graduates work in many settings, from public schools to exercise clubs, sports medicine clinics to corporate gyms. Many go to graduate school. We’ll keep working hard to launch their careers in the best Cougar fashion.

Thanks to Stacy Mohondro, Kelly Ward, and program faculty for their input on this post.

Essayists explore reverence, teaching’s forgotten virtue

Dean A.G. Rud

A sense that there is something larger than a human being, accompanied by capacities for awe, respect, and shame; often expressed in, and reinforced by, ceremony.

That definition of reverence, from Paul Woodruff, guided me and my longtime friend and collaborator Jim Garrison of Virginia Tech as we edited Teaching with Reverence: Reviving an Ancient Virtue for Today’s Schools. The collection of essays, published in January, explores what has been called the “forgotten virtue” that’s vital to education.

As an educational philosopher, I’ve long been intrigued by reverence. It was the subject of my last book, Albert Schweitzer’s Legacy for Education: Reverence for Life. The word often connotes religion, even a prim solemnity. While religious and spiritual connotations are important, Jim and I took a different perspective.

The essays we chose confirm that reverence, though it may be hidden in our everyday practices, characterizes much good teaching. While much public, political and professional discussion about education focuses on skills and abilities, we believe that there is something else that attracts us to the profession.

Teaching With Reverence book coverJim and I believe, as we write at the start of the book, that “good teaching involves forming character, molding destinies, creating an enduring passion for learning, appreciating beauty, respecting silence, caring for others, and much more. In some sense, teaching is a spiritual, although not necessarily a religious, activity. When done well, it paves the way for human sociability and allows teachers to find creative self-expression in the classroom community.”

Editing Teaching with Reverence provided a great opportunity to gather smart people and invite them to think along with us.

Several essayists recalled reading and teaching Annie Dillard’s book from the 1970s, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, in which Dillard emphasizes the value of silence and mindfulness. As author Michael Dale points out, “In Dillard’s hands such silence not only quiets and opens up inner space but also renders us receptive to the world around us.” Michael explains how school administrators at first questioned the relevance of a book about a woman living alone in southern Appalachia, and how his students discovered, through Dillard’s writing, the connections between nature and learning.

Bob Boostrom discusses in his chapter how he practices reverent teaching by keeping in mind that a teacher needs to listen, think, laugh, love, and correct. It is in laughing while thinking that he sees the humility of reverence. Bob recalls how, early in his teaching career, he helped a second-grader with addition. The student was stymied by a word problem that asked how many houses Godzilla smashes if he crushes eight with one foot and seven with the other. Bob asks if the student is familiar with Godzilla. When the student says no, Bob describes the large lizard in funny and almost nerdy detail. The student looks at him, and says, “OK, I get it.” He solves the problem.

Bob can laugh at what may have been unnecessary detail about Godzilla, but realizes that he may have helped that student solve the problem by showing he cared about the student’s understanding. He is not sure what made the lesson “click” for the student, and this mystery inspires in him a sense of wonder about learning. We teachers know that it is not easy to reach all students. But our willingness to try, sometimes with a chuckle  or a wink, is a sure sign of reverence.

On the horizon: A new department name

Dean A.G. Rud
A.G. Rud

Simplification is good. Except when it’s not.

Consider the last two times the WSU College of Education changed its structure. In 1994, the college was reorganized into three departments: Educational Leadership and Counseling Psychology, Teaching and Learning, and Recreation and Leisure Studies. In 2001, that third department was dropped.

Our kinesiology (physical education) and sport management programs are part of the Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling Psychology (ELCP), but the name doesn’t reflect that. As a result, two vital components of our college are hidden.

We’re planning to set things straight.  Department Chair Kelly Ward is leading the charge for a name change that reflects all program areas in ELCP. There are two names still in the running:

  • Leadership, Sport, Educational and Counseling Psychology
  • Leadership, Sport, and Psychology Studies

The goal for this spring is to finalize the new name and fine-tune a departmental mission statement.

Though the naming process is well under way, we still have a final decision to make and Faculty Senate approval to secure. Meanwhile, we welcome your thoughts. What do you think of the options above? Any reflections on how the pending change fits into the history of our college? Feel free to share your comments on this blog post, or drop Kelly a note at

Newly tenured faculty: Take a bow

Dean A.G. Rud
A.G. Rud

Achieving tenure and promotion is a landmark event in the career of a faculty member. It means you’ve proven yourself through your teaching and service and, at a major university such as Washington State, through your research productivity. Tenure is a sign of approval from your peers and an indication of what you have to offer students.

This year, the College of Education has four newly tenured faculty and one newly promoted clinical faculty member, representing both departments and three campuses. They are:

Michael Dunn, Vancouver, whose focus is on strategies for helping students learn to read. If you want to understand RTI (response to intervention), Mike is the fellow to ask.

Paul Pitre, an expert in school leadership and policy, with a special interest in what it takes to help minority students succeed. This academic year, he is on leave from his Vancouver position while he puts his talents to use overseeing WSU’s efforts in Everett.

Tom Salsbury, on the Pullman campus, whose specialty is language learning and applied linguistics. Last year, he co-authored the outstanding article of the year chosen by the editors of the journal Language Learning. (I see that Tom has joined me in the blogosphere — he’s writing about bicycling.)

Danny Talbot, promoted to clinical associate professor, is one of our K-12 experts with special interest in the work of principals and the role of social justice. As proof of his collegiality, he was honored with the 2010 WSU Tri-Cities Departmental Award for Building Partnerships and Networking.

John Wong of the sport management faculty in Pullman. He is well known for his work in sport history, especially as it relates to hockey. And he can tell you a lot about the career of martial arts movie star Bruce Lee.

For more information about these associate professors, click here. And if you haven’t already done so, give them a high five and a hip-hip-hooray.

On Melville and teacher education: ‘There is always more’

Dean A.G. Rud
A.G. Rud

I have been thinking about one of my former places of employment, The North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT), which I helped to establish in the post-Nation at Risk heady days of teacher preparation reform in the mid-80s. We had a different concept about working with teachers than most, one that focused on intellectual and personal renewal, not reform. Recently NCCAT’s budget was cut in half by the North Carolina Legislature, and some of my former colleagues let go immediately, so I thought more about its legacy.

Cleaning out files this summer, I came across a photocopy of the foreword Maxine Greene wrote in 1992 for the book I co-edited on NCCAT with my late colleague Walt Oldendorf (A Place for Teacher Renewal: Challenging the Intellect, Creating Educational Reform, Teachers College Press 1992, reprinted Information Age Publishing 2008). I share some of it with you as it speaks to our situation now in education as it did back then:

“Pondering the pages of this book, recalling a few bright moments of engagement at NCCAT, I think of those lines from Melville’s Moby-Dick, when the narrator talks about the impossibility of total systems, more specifically of classifying every known variety of whale. … he concludes: ‘God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught – nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!’ Teacher renewal is equally, wonderfully incomplete; there is always, always more. Like feminist thinking, too, it refuses systematization, monologism, insularity. There are more and more connections, more and more relationships to explore.” (viii)

I am especially pleased that Maxine cites Herman Melville, as the sale of the headquarters of the Berkshire Historical Society in Pittsfield, Mass., to my parents enabled them to start a school, and for the BHS to then purchase Arrowhead, the home on the south side of Pittsfield where Melville lived for a time. He could see Mount Greylock, the tallest peak in Massachusetts, from his study window while he wrote Moby-Dick.

Generous education alumni, we’re counting on you

Dean A.G. Rud
A.G. Rud

“WSU did it for us. We went over there as high school sweethearts, we got into education, and we owe a lot of it to WSU.”–Greg Stock (Education ’71) in “Some help along the way,” on why he and wife, Lynette, included the College of Education in their estate planning.

We hear many reasons why people choose to support education. Sometimes it’s because someone helped them. Sometimes it’s because they see the connections between excellent teachers, focused research and a strong economy. Whatever the reason, the Campaign for Washington State University offers a fine opportunity to give.

The campaign was launched publicly last fall with the theme, “Because the World Needs Big Ideas,” and a goal of $1 billion. That amount includes the WSU College of Education’s $18.5 million goal. We’re already 75 percent there, thanks to major donations from people such as the Stocks. We’re sure we can reach our campaign goal, and perhaps exceed it, by the end of the campaign in 2015.

Map showing College of Education alumni
WSU College of Education alumni in the U.S.

One reason for our optimism: College of Education graduates are among the most generous Cougar alumni. WSU Foundation records confirm that 16.8 percent of education alumni contribute money to WSU last year, compared to 15.9 percent for all Cougar alums. We all know that’s not because teachers, administrators, counselors and coaches are among Washington State’s best paid graduates! Rather, it’s a sign of your generous spirits, your enthusiasm for helping others and the values that brought you into your profession.

For the fun of it, we calculated how much each of our 24,422 education alumni would need to donate for us to raise $4.5 million and meet our goal. It would be $184 per person. If 20 percent of you were to contribute — a figure not much above the number who give now — it would be $921 per person.

Whatever amount you can give, you can rest assured we’ll spend it wisely. The campaign is a chance for us to help fulfill the potential of our students and faculty. Gifts of any size demonstrate confidence in College of Education programs. Our “big ideas”  focus on four priorities:

  • STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics education)
  • educational leadership
  • diversity
  • research/assessment.

Our development team and I are crossing the state and, at times, the nation to meet with active and potential donors. We let them know about the three ways they can support us: faculty fellowships that benefit the priorities mentioned above; scholarships, which are critical in this time of rising tuition; and unrestricted support, which gives us the flexibility to address needs as they arise.

In the spring, the WSU Foundation held its meeting on the beautiful Tri-Cities campus. We had an opportunity to tour the STEM-focused Delta High School in Richland, site of professional development work by our faculty in math and science education. Nancy (Education ’63) and Ben Ellison (Engineering and Architecture ’62) took the tour, and were able to see firsthand the effects of their own support on the work done by Associate Professor Amy Roth McDuffie in improving mathematics instruction.

Mark (Sciences ’67) and Patt (Education ’67) Suwyn have chosen to support the College’s highest priorities by providing funding to the Dean’s Excellence Fund. Their commitment comes from a desire to give where their investment can make a fundamental difference, such as improving undergraduate STEM education  and preparing educational leaders in our statewide Ed.D. program.

To those of you already supporting the college, we extend our heartfelt thanks. If you haven’t given, please consider doing so. You’ll find more information about how to contribute on our “alumni and friends” page.