The department of education at Hope College is telling the story of its journey to help other programs with theirs.
Several members of the faculty and staff have contributed to the book "Finding Our Way: Teacher Education in the Liberal Arts Setting," being released by Peter Lang Publishing Inc. of New York as part of the series "Questions about the Purpose(s) of Colleges and Universities." The book provides an overview of how the department reshaped itself to better respond to contemporary needs in teacher education, not only to meet the evolving expectations of governmental and accrediting agencies but--especially--to serve graduates well.
The book, according to lead editor and author Dr. Richard Mezeske, offers insights that Hope would have found helpful--if only such a volume had existed. "We like to think that other programs that are struggling with reform can learn from our story," said Mezeske, who is an associate professor of education.
"There's almost nothing in print about how a relatively small program at a liberal arts college can go about reforming itself, and what the results might be," he said. "I cannot find any evidence of an entire department having written a volume like this."
The project was born of two events that in most contexts would be considered painful.
The first was the department's loss of its 30-year accreditation in 1990, a result of changes in the expectations of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). The other was the way that Mezeske began to write down the outline for the book, which he had pondered for months: he conked his head on a low doorway in the middle of the night in a hotel in England.
Unable to sleep and mind racing, he subsequently scribbled on a succession of business cards, the only writing material at hand, a general outline for sharing how the department made the denial an opportunity to strengthen the program--not just for successful re-accreditation two years later, but with an emphasis on continual improvement.
The lesson for other programs, he said, is not in Hope's specific solutions, but in how the college went about finding them.
Conversation, Mezeske said, is key.
"First of all, talk to each other, constantly," he said. "Learn your entire program--know what's there, what's being taught. Whether your discussions end up being serious or feisty, you still have to have a collegial environment where you can share those ideas."
Through such conversation, he said, faculty can begin to work together to determine the approach that will work best for their individual program.
"All reform is local," he said. "There's no single response to reform--there are many ways to reform and to meet the mandates."
He cited the integration of technology as an example.
"We chose to integrate technology into every single course and to ratchet up the requirements and make them more sophisticated and more demanding as students went through the program," Mezeske said. "That may not work for another program that's smaller or larger or different from us in some other way. They have to find their own way."
It is also crucial, he said, to realize that the process is never done. "Reform and thinking about programs is ongoing," he said.
The book has 12 chapters, drawing on a variety of areas of faculty interest and reflecting several significant components of the college's program and the reform. Topics range from how the program developed its framework, to the evolution of assessment, to the integration of technology, to the effort to attract minorities to teaching, to the importance of field placements.
Associate editor for the volume is Barbara Mezeske, who is an associate professor of English at Hope and Mezeske's wife.
In addition to Richard Mezeske, the contributing Hope authors are: Dr. C. Baars Bultman, associate professor of education; Susan Cherup, professor of education; Nancy L. Cook, associate professor of education and director of student teaching; Dr. Jeanine Dell'Olio, associate professor of education; Dr. Tony Donk, associate professor of education; Dr. Yooyeun Hwang, associate professor of education; Linda Jordan, assistant professor of education; Linda Linklater, formerly director of the Van Wylen Library's Instructional Media Center; Dr. Leslie Wessman, who is the Arnold and Esther Sonneveldt Professor of Education and chair of the department; Dr. Ronald Wolthuis, associate professor emeritus of education; and John Yelding, associate professor of education.
Dr. Cheryl L. Rosaen, associate professor of teacher education at Michigan State University, wrote the book's prologue. The introduction and conclusions were contributed by Dr. Mary Diez, a professor of education and graduate dean at Milwaukee's Alverno College, an early leader in the reform of teacher education.
Additional information about the book may be obtained through the publisher online at www.peterlangusa.com  or by calling 1-800-770-LANG.