Overview and Conceptual Framework

1.1 What is the institution’s historical context and unique characteristics?

The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) is one of the 17 institutions of the University of North Carolina system. It was formerly Wilmington College, which was established in 1947 and became UNCW in 1969. In 1952 the institution was accredited as a junior college by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), became a part of the North Carolina state system of higher education in 1958, and then a senior college offering the bachelor's degree in 1963. The first graduate program at the master's level was in 1977 and the first doctoral program (in marine biology) in 2002. Now UNCW is a comprehensive university with undergraduate, graduate, and two doctoral programs designed to meet the diverse needs, abilities and interests of all students

Through nationally and internationally acclaimed programs, UNCW’s primary geographic service area is the State of North Carolina; however, program impacts, extend far beyond the state. During the spring 2013 semester 11,531 undergraduate students were enrolled (15% from out of state). In addition 1,307 graduate students and 74 doctoral students were enrolled with 14.3 % from out of state (Office of Institutional Research and Assessment). A total of 60.5 % of the student population is female, and 16.4 % is minority (including multiracial and international students). With an average freshman SAT score of 1176 and an acceptance rate under 60 %, UNCW is categorized as “more selective” by U.S. News and World Report. Admission is based on measures of academic performance.

The mission of UNCW, last revised in 2009:
Maintains that the state’s coastal university is dedicated to learning through the integration of teaching and mentoring with research and service. Our powerful academic experience stimulates creative inquiry, critical thinking, thoughtful expression and responsible citizenship in an array of high-quality programs at the baccalaureate and master’s levels, and in our doctoral programs in marine biology and educational leadership. Substantial research activity, combined with our hallmark teaching excellence and moderate size, advances distinctive student involvement in faculty scholarship. We are committed to diversity and inclusion, affordable access, global perspectives, and enriching the quality of life through scholarly community engagement in such areas as health, education, the economy, the environment, marine and coastal issues, and the arts.

To address the mission statement students are afforded opportunities to learn through collaborative scholarly activities with highly qualified faculty. UNCW faculty comes from all geographic areas of the United States and international countries, bringing a rich variety of educational experiences and extensive scholarship. Of the 639 full-time instructional and research faculty in fall 2012, more than 86% hold a Ph.D. or terminal degree. In conclusion UNCW is one of the five best public master's university in the South according to the 2013 U.S. News & World Report rankings for regional universities, and has ranked in the top10 for the last 15 years. For the fourth consecutive year since 2009, UNCW was named one of the nation's "Best Value" Public Colleges and Universities by The Princeton Review.


1.2 Summarize the professional education unit at your institution, its mission, and its relationship to other units at the institution that are involved in the preparation of professional educators.

UNCW is organized into six primary academic units, the Cameron School of Business, Watson College of Education (WCE), College of Arts & Sciences, College of Health & Human Services, Center for Marine Science and the Graduate School. UNCW is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). WCE is accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, the School of Nursing by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, and the Cameron School of Business by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business. 

WCE is the professional education unit at UNCW and works closely with faculty in the College of Arts and Science in Foreign Languages, Music, Science, English, Math, and Social Studies, and in the College of Health and Human Services, in the preparation of Health and Physical Education candidates. Faculty representatives from these programs meet with WCE faculty in monthly Program Coordinator meetings, and in department meetings as needed.

The development of the current Conceptual Framework occurred over the past three years, with a revised WCE Mission Statement and newly developed Values Statements. The Conceptual Framework has a focus mission of developing knowledgeable and proficient education professionals dedicated to improving schools and society—professionals, who learn, lead, create, and inspire. This mission is supported by professional dispositions and values categorized as advocacy, diversity, ethics, global perspectives, innovation, inquiry, nurturing, and reflection, and are shared with other units on campus as applicable. WCE is responsible for constructing academically rigorous programs, monitoring of all candidates, including application requirements, supervision in clinical and filed experience placements, ensuring candidate proficiency for NCDPI requirements for licensure, and maintaining program quality.


I.3 Summarize programs offered at initial and advanced preparation levels (including off-campus, distance learning, and alternate route programs), status of state approval, national recognition, and if applicable, findings of other national accreditation associations related to the preparation of education professionals.

WCE offers initial licensure teacher education programs in Elementary Education; Special Education, General and Adapted Curriculum; Early Childhood Education (B-K); Middle Level in Mathematics, Science, Language Arts, Social Studies; Secondary Level in Mathematics, Science, English, Social Studies; Foreign Language K-12 in French and Spanish; Music Education K-12; and Physical Education and Health K-12. Distance learning programs are offered in the Elementary and Middle level programs. Alternate Route Programs also are offered through the MAT in Elementary Education, Middle Level and Secondary Education. The B.A. in Elementary Education is offered as a 2+2 program in collaboration with Coastal Carolina Community College in Onslow County, and a fulltime education advisor is based at the community college to assist with the transfer process, transition to the university, and degree completion.

At the advanced preparation level programs are offered in Elementary Education; Middle Level in Mathematics, Science, Language Arts, Social Studies; Secondary in Mathematics, Science, English, Social Studies; Teaching English as a Second Language; Academically and Intellectually Gifted; Curriculum, Instruction, and Supervision; Language and Literacy; School Administration; and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership. The advanced preparation level Distance education options at the advanced level are offered in Elementary Education; Curriculum Instruction and Supervision; Middle Level; School Administration; and Teaching English as a Second Language.

All applicable programs submitted blueprints for revisions and approval to the North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction in 2009, and WCE received official approval for all programs in September 2012.  The program approval is valid until 2016-17 academic year. In the last NCATE visit in 2006, WCE was fully accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education with no Areas for Improvement.


I.4. Summarize the basic tenets of the conceptual framework, institutional standards, and candidate proficiencies related to expected knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions.

The Watson College of Education (WCE) Conceptual Framework has at its center the mission of developing knowledgeable and proficient education professionals dedicated to improving schools and society—professionals who learn, lead, create, and inspire. This mission is supported by professional dispositions and values categorized as advocacy, diversity, ethics, global perspectives, innovation, inquiry, nurturing, and reflection. The WCE Conceptual Framework represents the unit’s shared vision of teaching and learning, and the importance the WCE places on contributing to schools, the profession, and society. It guides the work of all WCE departments, programs, and offices. A detailed description of the framework and its development is provided in (I.5.c.1).

The current conceptual framework was adopted in fall semester 2012, replacing a previous 2005 framework. Evolution of the current WCE Conceptual Framework occurred over the past three years, along with a revised WCE Mission Statement and newly developed Values Statements. This evolution began in fall semester 2009 with college-wide meeting sessions and deliberations related to mission and values—who we are, what we value, and who we want to be. Through the work of two WCE committees and various iterations of mission and values statements incorporating input collected from the WCE professional community including WCE faculty, staff, candidates, B-12 partners, and UNCW’s Office of University Relations; the current WCE Mission Statement, Values Statements, and Conceptual Framework were developed and adopted (I.5.c.3).
Candidate proficiencies related to expected knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions are outlined in the WCE Conceptual Framework. The central mission, “developing knowledgeable and proficient education professionals dedicated to improving schools and society,” defines the primary outcome expected for all WCE candidates. It requires that WCE graduates are knowledgeable in their content area, are highly skilled and proficient in their practice, and embrace and enact professional dispositions that support their role as a professional and the ultimate goal of improving schools and society. The WCE facilitates this development through: (a) academically rigorous programs that are aligned with North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) standards, national association standards, NCATE standards, and the University of North Carolina Wilmington Learning and Strategic Goals; (b) producing and using meaningful scholarship as part of a culture that values inquiry, creation of new ideas and innovations, and research-based practice; (c) partnering with schools, organizations and diverse communities as a collaborative effort in the development and implementation of programs, and to provide candidates rich opportunities for application and professional practice; and (d) advancing the profession through teaching, scholarship, and service.

Further, to improve schools and society, candidates must make positive contributions to their field. For candidates in initial teacher preparation programs and advanced programs that prepare candidates to work in B-12 educational settings, positive impacts on B-12 student learning are central to improving schools and society. In addition, the WCE subscribes to the belief that WCE faculty must be knowledgeable and proficient education professionals dedicated to improving schools and society in order to develop the necessary knowledge, proficiencies, and dispositions in candidates. The WCE faculty and staff are committed to modeling what is expected of our candidates and graduates. The core descriptors identified in the conceptual framework outline the professional dispositions and values needed for candidates to achieve the primary outcome of becoming knowledgeable and proficient education professionals (I.5.c.2).

Because the framework is the result of ongoing deliberations that have occurred over several years, the work of the WCE is already well-aligned with the framework even though it was recently adopted. For example, the professional dispositions identified in the WCE Conceptual Framework align with the WCE Categories of Professional Dispositions, which were in place prior to development of the framework (I.5.c.2). However, the process of alignment and integration is ongoing as departments, programs, offices, and the unit work towards better defining, operationalizing, and assessing the tenets of the framework in their particular contexts. For example, in fall semester 2012, a college-wide meeting session was devoted to small group work and focused discussion around questions of: what are we doing that supports the mission and values? What should/could we be doing in support of the mission and values? In spring semester 2013, the WCE Assessment and Accreditation Committee analyzed the notes generated from that meeting and developed a summary document (I.5.c.3). In fall semester 2013, the summary document will be used in a college-wide meeting session as the basis for identifying concrete steps WCE can take in support of the mission and values.



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