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First Cohort Graduates from New UWRF Master's Degree program

MAY 25, 2007--The first cohort of a new master's degree program at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls donned their hats and gowns to participate in commencement May 12.

Forty-four students graduated with a Master of Science in Education degree in Professional Development through Shared Inquiry. The "shared inquiry" component of the program gives students the opportunity to set academic goals and explore answers to questions raised by a text or experience with their peers in the program. As a cohort program, the students who start the program together finish together. Students customize their semester goals and design research projects to meet their own goals as educators and learners.

Currently two communities of students are completing the program, according to Mary Manke, associate dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies and who coordinates the program.

One group meets in River Falls and Menomonie, and the other meets in the Wausau area. Each community of learners meets monthly to complete 7-8 credits each term during the two-year program. The program incorporates school, district, state and national standards into the program of study and allows collaboration with peers, principals and school districts to meet Wisconsin educational standards.

"This is not a cookie-cutter program," said Stacy Valen, a graduate student in the River Falls/Menomonie shared inquiry community. "You can expand on your passion and construct a program that directly relates to your goals. I feel that I'm developing not only as a teacher but as a person."

Valen is an English teacher locally and a teacher education graduate of UW-RF. In this program, her project focuses on helping secondary educators incorporate writing into any curriculum area--from chemistry to calculus. "I believe that through the discipline of writing students can better understand their thinking," said Valen, who has been asked to offer the course she has developed as an online course through UWRF next fall.

Valen said the format of learning with a cohort of other learners is a valuable experience. "I appreciate the personal attention provided by the facilitators, the ability to structure a project that relates to my passion, and the networking and support from the group."

Chris Crowe, another student from the River Falls/Menomonie community, a teacher at the Renaissance Academy in River Falls. His strong interest in technology led him to focus his research on using Inspiration, a concept-mapping program, with his high school students. Through his studies, he found evidence that their writing improved in quality when they used Inspiration to plan before they started to write. Crowe has provided in-service professional development for teachers in the River Falls Public School District, and plans to continue his research on the use of Inspiration as a writing tool.

The shared inquiry graduate program is available to anyone interested in developing as an educator and leader. Manke expects that next spring UWRF will graduate its second cohort of 22 learners. "We had a good turnout of graduating teachers from this program at commencement," Manke said. "We want the community to see how valuable this program is to educators."


Last updated: Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:08:19 Central Daylight Time


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