Undergraduate Courses (Non-Teacher Education)
EDUC 118: Schooling in a Multicultural Society
(Syllabus from Winter 2012 available here)
This course focuses on schooling in the multicultural society of the United States. From the founding of common schools in the nineteenth century to the drive to provide mass public schooling in the twentieth century, the purposes of education in this country often have been conflicting and the outcomes of schooling complicated. Americans have wanted a great deal of their schools, but equipped them weakly to achieve those aspirations. Diversity has been at the center of the American educational story, as society has continued to struggle with competing goals of assimilation and diversity, opportunity and competition. The American dream that promises a better life through education has played out unevenly for different groups. Over time, as the struggles of a diverse society were compounded in schools, Americans have expected more and more of their educational system. And as purposes multiplied, critiques proliferated as well. Meanwhile, the opportunities and outcomes for different groups diverged.
This course aims to help students develop new understandings of the role and nature of schools and teaching, as well as to construct alternative perspectives on and approaches to examining educational issues.
PUBPOL 201 Module 1: Teacher Quality: What It Is, Why it Matters, and How to Improve It
(Syllabus from Fall 2015 available here)
Part of "Systematic Thinking About Problems of the Day"—a larger course designed and taught by Paul N. Courant—this module investigates a central problem of schooling in the United States, something most often referred to as “teacher quality.” This problem starts from another, more central, one: students’ learning in school and the enormous gaps in what different groups of young people learn.
Teachers are the focus of many who seek to improve U.S. schools, but untangling the issues involved is far from simple. Consider this: if we think that teaching is learned primarily through experience, and that being successful academically is necessary for effective instruction, then policies that control the selection, evaluation, rewards, and dismissal of teachers would be primary. If, instead, we think that teaching is a complex skill that can be taught, policies that center on training and licensure would be important. If the lack of a common school curriculum is seen as a principal gap, then efforts to develop shared goals, materials, and assessments, would provide the crucial foundation for improved practice.
Moreover, these issues are situated within the larger context of educational inequality. Some would argue that, in a society as unequal as the U.S., there are severe limits on what teachers and schools can do to improve achievement for disadvantaged learners, to enhance social mobility, to reduce racism, or to do anything else that runs across the grain of social structure. They question whether policies about teachers and teaching can have any effect on student outcomes.
This course uses these thorny issues as a backdrop as students continue to cultivate practices and stances important for systematic and disciplined thinking. These include how students listen, analyze, argue, and write, how they keep track of their ideas as well as others’, and how they use texts, discussions, interactions, people, and experiences, to help themselves develop.
Teacher Education Courses
EDUC 406 (first semester): Managing to Teach
(Syllabus from Fall 2012 available here)
This course focuses on what is often called “classroom management.” The course introduces first-year interns to a set of endemic problems that teachers have to manage in order to teach. These problems are rooted in the interpersonal and relational nature of the work of teaching and the fact that it takes place in group settings. Four categories of these problems are: (1) creating a classroom culture for learning; (2) building individual relationships; (3) establishing routines; and (4) developing an individual identity as teacher. Interns explore these problems and develop a small set of tools and techniques for managing them.
Across the four weeks, interns learn how to:
- Begin developing and practicing a teaching persona.
- Identify several key features of a classroom learning culture, with a focus on tone, respect, and diversity.
- Focus attentively on and interact with individual students.
- Identify specific routines and their purposes, and how they affect the classroom learning environment.
In addition, through their experiences at a partner school, the interns begin developing skills of classroom observation and of questioning and discussing teaching with other teachers. These are capabilities that will be fundamental to interns as they learn to develop and improve their practice as teachers.
EDUC 406 (second semester): Managing to Teach
(Syllabus from Winter 2013 available here)
This course continues the work on what is often called “classroom management.” The focus is on basic professional practices that enable interns to manage problems that are inherent in the interpersonal and relational nature of the work of teaching and the fact that it takes place in group settings. Much of what interns learn enables them to be proactive, and to anticipate and prevent predictable difficulties. The course also deals with some common situations and how to manage them if they arise.
Though this course, interns learn how to:
- Continue developing and practicing ways of acting and speaking needed for teaching (a “teaching persona”).
- Carry out specific routines that support the intellectual work of the class, the particular subject matter being taught, and the environment for learning. These routines focus on students' work in small groups, alone, and with materials, as well as on whole group work and using time and space efficiently and effectively.
In addition to being able to do these specific things, interns learn how to identify their purposes, explain how they support the learning environment, and how they help them to manage predictable difficulties.
EDUC 415: Children as Sense-Makers #2
(Syllabus from Winter 2016 available here)
In addition to eliciting, interpreting, and paying careful attention to students’ talk and writing, teachers use a variety of more specific assessment practices to document their students’ learning and to inform students, parents, and other educational stakeholders. Assessment encompasses much more than grading and testing. It includes interacting with students as they are learning, pausing to document what students are saying, and noticing patterns in students’ work. This is not easy work even with a single student, but teaching involves working with many students and therefore learning to attend to and follow the progress of each student. During this course, interns develop their ability to assess and keep track of students’ learning and to use the evidence from assessments to design and enact targeted instruction with an individual student.
Because teaching involves using what one finds out about students to help them grow, interns also work on learning to explain mathematical ideas and practices in ways that are attuned to students. Mathematical ideas and processes can be represented in many ways. Having a wide repertoire of mathematical representations and understanding the relationships among different representations are important for teaching mathematics. By the end of this course, interns should be able to use resources to represent and explain core fractions content. They also should have developed more general skills for representing and explaining mathematical ideas in domains beyond those in this course.
EDUC 772: Policy Contexts of Teaching and Teacher Education
(Syllabus from Winter 2015 available here)
The purpose of this course is to investigate and consider the relations of policy and practice with respect to teaching and teacher education. It seeks to help students understand not only these relations as they are, but also how they have come to be and what they could be. To do so, the course uses an historical perspective to take stock of the current fragmented environment in which U.S. education takes place, and the highly individualized and local nature of practice.
Three questions frame the work of the course:
- How might we prepare skillful beginning teachers and support responsible beginning teaching?
- How might we build and sustain a diverse teaching force?
- How might policies be designed to support building and sustaining a skillful diverse teaching force?
EDUC 790/628 & PUBPOL 628: Social Foundations of Education
(Syllabus from Fall 2011 available here)
The design of this course is premised on the view that the structure of democratic government in the U.S. is the central social foundation of schooling in this country. That structure has not only defined the political form of public education, but also interacted with other social, intellectual, economic, and political influences. The result gives a distinctive shape to public education and it has played a key role in creating the problems that educators, policymakers, students, and citizens now face. Understanding the historical, social, political, and cultural roots and relationships between government and schooling is fundamental to the study and improvement of education practice, and hence, an important domain of inquiry for doctoral students at the beginning of their preparation.
This course, while considering the beneficial effects that education might have on democracy, investigates the effects that U.S. democracy has had on public education. Students probe the effects of democratic governance on:
- The quality of teaching;
- The content of academic work;
- The allocation of educational resources; and
- Political and historical knowledge, the ability to think critically, and political values.