Educational Studies Program
It has been suggested that Occidental institute an Educational Studies major. In the state of California, an Educational Studies major is not considered an academic major for credentialing purposes. It must be paired with another “academic” major.
In other states, with different restrictions on academic majors, a number of institutions have followed this path. “A substantial number of liberal arts colleges and universities offers educational studies programs …These programs offer the combination of disciplinary study, pedagogical instruction, field experience, and multidisciplinary inquiry that prepares their students to make valuable contributions to school communities.” (Bjork, p. 15). While this may be an interesting avenue for students interested in learning about the social implications and history of the educational system, it would be worthless if such a program were to replace the traditional approach of creating new teachers. Theory is one thing, but to effect real change in education, reform must come from professionals with a knowledge of the system from the inside out, and have an understanding of the challenges that are faced.
The Illinois Wesleyan University experience is one interesting example of the way that an educational studies program can be effective. “The department was transformed from an “education” to an “educational studies” department, non certification programmatic alternatives were introduced to expand the department’s curricular focus and faculty with significant interdisciplinary interests were hired…First, clinical experiences were systematized…Mandatory student teaching seminars were made more rigorous. Policies involving supervision of candidates in the field and the selection of cooperating teachers were reformed and, most importantly, the student teaching experience became more closely linked to candidates’ previous field experiences…qualified district personnel were invited to teach selected courses in curriculum and pedagogy, or to work with teacher preparation candidates as university supervisors during their student teaching experience…The expectation is that all students will complete a one-semester research project of some type…Additional curricular changes have been initiated within specific certification programs at the secondary level…”(Epstein, p. 44)
At Barnard, an approach to the oft-reviled standards issue had impressive results that should be considered. “Experiences required by the expanded New York State standards can be woven into existing courses. For example, faculty of various departments from economics and philosophy to psychology and urban studies have been helpful. Colleagues have been keen to include issues of public education and learning as topics on their syllabi from fiscal equity to social understanding to concerns for a “good and just society.” Getting to know a community becomes an urban studies assignment, visiting a community religious center becomes a paper’s focus, creating a garden in a vacant lot becomes an environmental project, tutoring becomes a study of motivation for psychology and helping with senior citizens serves as oral history lessons. By integrating education into the fabric of other departmental courses, support and relationships are established to enhance the students’ depth of learning and experiences in preparation for student teaching.”(Sacks, p. 179)