By Robert E. Floden
I entered the deanship with deep knowledge that comes from years of working in the college. My formal training combined mathematics, statistics, economics and philosophy, along with the foundational and pedagogical training needed for my New Jersey mathematics teaching certificate. I was hired at Michigan State University in 1977 as part of an interdisciplinary group at the newly created Institute for Research on Teaching (IRT). Drawing on my initial preparation and what I learned from working with an incredible group of scholars at MSU, I’ve built a record of research. Teaching and teacher education have been focal points for my work, which I’ve approached from perspectives of education policy, program evaluation, mathematics pedagogy and curriculum, and teachers’ learning.
For the first decades here, I worked as part of a series of large research centers: the IRT, the National Center for Research on Teacher Education (NCRTE) and the National Center for Research on Teacher Learning (NCRTL). Those centers spawned lines of research taken up by scholars at MSU and elsewhere, such as studies on connections between policy and teaching practice, international comparisons of student and teacher learning and assessment of teachers’ knowledge.
I have had the pleasure of teaching at all levels. In our Teacher Preparation Program, I taught foundations courses with foci on psychological, sociological and philosophical dimensions. At the master’s level, I have taught online courses in learning in and out of school as part of our general online degree (see Final Thoughts). And at the doctoral level, I have taught courses on teaching and teacher education, philosophy of education and research methods.
I also served the college in many administrative roles, assisting with graduate study, program development, technology, faculty development and research. I gained initial experience in the dean’s role by serving as acting dean in 1992-93 and interim dean in 2011.
What’s next for the college
When I started my term as dean in January 2016, I began to review the stated priorities for our college in consultation with the department chairs and our Faculty Advisory Committee. Based on these discussions, I’m convinced we should continue our focus in major priority areas, and expand our resources to acknowledge areas where we’ve made substantial recent investments.
The three continuing priority areas are:
- urban education,
- global education and
- STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.
Each of these encompasses a range of specific areas. Urban education, for example, includes instructional programs for school leaders as well as research aimed at improving instruction in early literacy. In STEM education, we are expanding work to include engineering education, such as the newly emerging national interest in K-12 computer science education.
Two additional priority areas address:
- the enhancement of well-being and
- work with persons with intellectual disabilities.
The former is a broad goal for much of the work in Kinesiology, but also captures important aims for faculty in other departments. Our investments linked to intellectual disabilities have been concentrated on addressing issues related to autism spectrum disorders. An emerging priority area is work with young children, responding in part to the national recognition of the importance of the first years of life; we plan to build collaborations with faculty across campus with related interests.
Across all of our priority areas, we see the importance of measuring desired outcomes, so that our work, and the work of policymakers and practitioners, can be informed by evidence of what works best.
I look forward to working with our faculty, staff and students, in consultation with others outside our college, to move us ahead in these priority areas. I know from my many years in our college what a wonderful group of people we have assembled. I’m delighted to serve as dean.