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Education Department Goals and Objectives

Important Note: Vassar does not currently permit students to earn a major or correlate in education. As a result, our review of our goals and objectives has focused on what we expect of our students who earn New York State teacher certification. Further, unlike other departments and programs, many of our goals and objectives in certification courses are externally mandated and assessed. Individual faculty, of course, regularly move beyond these mandated competencies to include broader intellectual skills required in a liberal arts education. In fact, most students enrolled in our courses (with the exception of senior methods courses and the student teaching experience) have no firm career plans and, therefore, must find our course work and expectations aligned with other disciplines they study.
The department has submitted a proposal to add a correlate sequence to respond to the growing demand for non-teaching related concentrations in the field of education. This demand is illustrated, in part, by the increasing number of students pursuing independent majors in education.

From the Vassar Catalog--Philosophical Approach

The teacher preparation programs in the Department of Education at Vassar College reflect the philosophy that a broad liberal arts education is the best foundation for teaching, whether on the nursery school, elementary, or secondary level; whether in public or private schools. The student at Vassar who is preparing to teach works within a strong interdisciplinary framework of professional methods and a balanced course of study in a major leading to the degree of Bachelor of Arts. The department offers course work that satisfies requirements for New York State teaching certification in childhood education or adolescent education. This certification is reciprocal in many other states.

Consistent with New York State requirements and reflecting the State Learning Standards, the certification programs are based upon demonstration of competency in both academic and field settings.

The Department also provides courses in the theoretical and cross-cultural study of education. Our objective is to guide students to make links between theory and practice, whether it be in classroom methodology or in the wider arena of educational issues. 

Central Questions Addressed in Our Discipline

Our courses examine of the social, economic and political forces that shape public schooling in America and around the world.  Our discipline is inherently multidisciplinary, drawing in particular from the disciplines of anthropology, history, psychology, sociology, and political science. The members of our faculty possess expertise in a wide range of programs and disciplines, including Africana Studies, Urban Studies, Women's  Studies, Asian Studies, International Studies, and American Culture. 

For example, in our foundations courses, we explore central questions in depth and through a variety of disciplinary lenses. These questions include What is the purpose of schools? What interests should schools serve? What should be taught? How should schools be organized and operated?  How does the social history of education affect contemporary education policy?

In our more advanced curriculum theory and practice courses, the primary objective is to foster skills in curriculum development and analysis. These skills include the ability to evaluate, select, and adapt existing programs to suit particular teaching situations and contexts. To gain these skills, students must develop a thorough understanding of competing theoretical and philosophical perspectives on curriculum. These perspectives serve as a framework for analyzing a variety of curriculum topics: purpose, content, organization, implementation, and evaluations. We examine these topics from divergent viewpoints in order to expose the underlying assumptions of decisions in each area.  Most of our courses employ a "dialectic" approach: a strategy that requires students to examine and confront conflicting research and viewpoints. This approach requires constant analysis of societal concepts of equity, pluralism, social justice and tolerance.

For Our Most Advanced Students (Vassar undergraduates who will earn teacher certification)

Our pedagogical courses and experiences ensure that students in our two certification programs (childhood education in grades 1-6 and adolescent education in grades 7-12) receive the knowledge, understanding and skills essential to meet the requirements set by the New York State Department of Education. The state sets minimum requirements for knowledge, understanding and skills in the following areas: human developmental processes and variations; learning processes, motivation, communication, and classroom management; meeting the needs of students with the full range of disabilities and special health-care circumstances; language acquisition and literacy development; curriculum development and instructional planning; formal and informal methods of assessing student learning; the use of technology for classroom instruction and for research; the history, philosophy and role of education; and continuous professional development and intellectual growth.

Our goals and objectives for teacher education courses are inherently "public" and our success in reaching these goals and objectives are externally measured through competency exams. Vassar student performance on these competency exams is also public and for decades we have enjoyed a 100% pass rate on these exams. Of course, we challenge our students well beyond the state minimum requirements.

Relevant Course Work in Childhood Education to Meet These Goals/Objectives
(skills and competencies emphasized)    
Psychology 105:    Introduction to Psychology (1, 2)
Psychology 231:      Principles of Development (1, 2, 3)
Education 235:      Issues in Contemporary Education (5,6,7,8,9)
Education 240:      Mathematics for Elementary Teaching: Content, Methodology for Regular and Special Education (1,2,5,6)
Education 250:          Introduction to Special Education (1,2,3,4,5,6)
Education 290:      Field Work (all competencies)
Education 350:      The Teaching of Reading: Process and Strategies for Regular and Special Education (3,4,5,6)
Education 351:      The Teaching of Reading: Process and Strategies for Regular and Special Education (3,4,5,6)
Education 360:      Workshop in Curriculum Development (5,6)
Education 361:      Seminar: Science in the Elementary Curriculum (5,6)

Relevant Course Work in Adolescent Education to Meet These Goals/Objectives  
(skills and competencies emphasized)
Psychology 105:     Introduction to Psychology (1,2)
Education 235:      Issues in Contemporary Education (5,6,7,8,9)
Education 250:      Introduction to Special Education (1,2,3,4,5,6)
Education 263:      The Adolescent in American Society (1,2,8)
Education 290:      Field Work (all competencies)
Education 373:      Adolescent Literacy (3,4,5,6)
Education 392:      Multidisciplinary Methods in Adolescent Education (5,6,8)

New York State also requires the following competencies for our student teachers in both childhood and adolescent education

A) Means for identifying and reporting suspected child abuse and maltreatment

   •    Students in the Teacher Certification Program are required to take a three-hour seminar in child abuse and maltreatment presented by a member of our faculty who is a State Certified Trainer.

B)  Instructing students for the propose of child abduction prevention and school violence prevention

   •    Students in our teacher certification programs are required to take a 2-hour seminar in Education-related law. 
   •    Students in our teacher certification programs are required to take a 2-hour seminar with a certified instructor in school violence prevention.
   •     Students in our teacher certification programs are required to take a 2-hour seminar trained counselor in substance abuse prevention.