Executive Dean Rosebrough Shares Insight on Educational Reform
October 4, 2011 - Current educational policies are highlighting the need for increased accountability. Students, teachers, and administrators across the nation are feeling the pressures of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, while Tennessee educators are working under the guidelines of First to the Top. Regardless of the level, accountability in the name of increased student achievement is the focus of today’s leading educational policies.
Dissatisfied with the excesses of this focus, however, Dr. Tom Rosebrough, Executive Dean of Union University’s School of Education, is not content with accepting the status quo merely because it has been officially proclaimed in educational policy. Dr. Rosebrough is a seasoned educator and has served as Dean of the College of Education and Human Studies at Union since 1996. He has taught extensively in public school as well as university undergraduate and graduate levels in educational foundations, learning theory, and instructional design.
Based on his extensive educational experiences and theoretical understandings, Dean Rosebrough was recently invited to offer a keynote address at the 5 th Annual Education Research Forum, held on Union’s Germantown, TN campus. Rosebrough’s address, Beyond the Tyranny of the Present: What We Know and What Matters in Instructional Practice, was a synthesis of psychological foundations of education and a call to action based on related principles.
During his address, Rosebrough reflected on a recent occurrence as a panelist at a state-senator organized educational event. While on the panel, the facilitator opened the dialogue by asking, “What do our children need?” In reply, Rosebrough responded, “What they do not need is to learn to be better test-takers; but what they do need is to learn to be better problem-solvers in school.” At the event, many teachers, principals, and community leaders were in attendance, and his comments resonated strongly.
At the Union University Education Forum, Rosebrough cited numerous educational studies to support his words. For example, he mentioned the work of Gordon, Kane and Staiger (2006), which has demonstrated that effective teachers can make a significant difference. Their work has indicated that students with an effective teacher can gain as many as five percentile points each year relative to their peers. Likewise, he cited the work of Darling-Hammond, a renowned scholar at Stanford University. She, too, is an authoritative advocate for the importance of quality teachers.
Rosebrough’s keynote address, however, offered much more than a review of current educational literature, as he also spoke directly about his own recently published book, which was co-authored with Dr. Ralph Leverett, University Professor of Special Education at Union. The book, Transformational Teaching in the Information Age: Making How and Why We Teach Relevant to Students, offers a more holistic focus on the goals of education and the roles that teachers play in the classroom. In his keynote address, Rosebrough said it simply, “Education should be about people. We indeed can have effective teachers who can measure the learning of their students while teaching both to the head and to the heart.”
In speaking about what we currently know in the field of education, Rosebrough outlined and delineated seven key points. They included the following:
- Behaviorism is rather empty and limited.
- Learners construct their own learning not from a receptive process but from a problem-solving process.
- Teaching effectiveness is an elusive concept because teaching and learning are complex.
- Cognitive psychology has produced what seems an accurate picture of how our brains learn.
- Students must be allowed to self-motivate, self-regulate, and self-direct their own learning.
- Instructional effectiveness is related to clarity and deep understanding of subject matter.
- A cognitive approach to instructional practice implies new approaches to assessment.
Rosebrough followed his explanation of these psychological foundations with analysis of what really matters in education. Related to this perspective, and seminal to his co-authored book, he offered his educational audience a new set of 3 R’s to coincide with the aforementioned foundations: relevance, rigor, and relationships.
Related to relevance, Rosebrough said, “Students need teachers they can believe in: teachers who seek to capture the emotions and ignite the interests of learners.” He sees relevance as “a concern for illuminating contemporary young minds.” Partnered with this idea is a call for more rigor in schools. According to Rosebrough, “Rigor is a desire to connect to the great world of academic knowledge. Rigorous teaching means that school work should be difficult with high expectations set by knowledgeable teachers.” And finally, Rosebrough called educators to embrace the importance of relationships in schools. To this end, he said, “What matters is that teachers who relate to their students, who convey that they care, who prize the individuality of their learners, and who encourage their students to take responsibility for themselves not only have higher levels of student achievement, but affect lives for eternity.”
He closed the address by noting, ironically to some, that the tiny Nordic country of Finland is serving as an educational policy, pedagogy, and achievement model for the rest of the world with its relaxed but rigorous school days, focus on project-based learning, and lack of standardized tests except at graduation to determine college or vocational paths.
Rosebrough's keynote address was well attended and was designed to highlight topics and to establish a tone of intellectual excellence for the Education Forum. His address was simulcast to Union University's teacher education majors at the Jackson, TN campus. Likewise, it was recorded via video and audio for further distribution.