Education Department

Professor: Christopher Roellke (and Dean of Studies); Associate Professors: Joyce Bickerstaff, Christopher Bjork (Chair); Assistant Professors: Erin McCloskey; Visiting Instructor: Carmen Garcia; Lecturer: Julie Riess (Director of Wimpfheimer Nursery School).

The teacher preparation programs in the Department of Education reflect the philosophy that schools can be sites of social change where students are given the opportunity to reach their maximum potential as individuals and community members. Vassar students who are preparing to teach work within a strong interdisciplinary framework of professional methods and a balanced course of study in a select field of concentration leading to the degree of Bachelor of Arts. In addition to a degree in an academic discipline, they may also earn initial New York State certification at the childhood and adolescent levels. The certification is reciprocal in most other states.

Consistent with New York State requirements, the certification programs are based upon demonstration of competency in both academic and field settings. It is advisable that students planning childhood or adolescent certification consult with the department during the first semester of the freshman year.

Transfer Students: Transfer students who wish to be certified for childhood or adolescent school teaching under the Vassar program must take their units in professional preparation at Vassar. They are also required to do their student teaching under Vassar’s supervision. Early consultation with the Department of Education is advised.

Students interested in the theoretical or cross-cultural study of education, but not in certification, should consult the department for a list of recommended courses.

Special Programs:

Clifden, Ireland: Internship in Irish Primary and Secondary Schools. Vassar College, in cooperation with University College, Galway, and the schools of Clifden, offers a one-semester internship in Irish schools. Students interested in teacher certification, the theoretical study of education, or the study of cross-cultural education are assigned as interns in primary and secondary schools in Clifden. They are expected also to take a “half-tutorial’’ of study at University College, Galway, in some area such as history, English, psychology, history of art, physical sciences, geography, or other subjects taught in the university. Those interested in applying should consult with their adviser and the Department of Education before submitting a formal application.

Exploring Science at Vassar Farm. The Department of Education offers a one-semester program in science and environmental education at the Collins Field Station on the Vassar Farm property. Vassar students work with faculty to design and implement lessons for local Poughkeepsie elementary students. Children from second and third grade classrooms are invited to spend a morning at the Farm in exploration and discovery. Those interested in participating should contact Ms. Capozzoli, Director of the program.

Vassar After School Tutoring (VAST) is an academic enrichment program at Poughkeepsie Middle School. Vassar students serve as tutors and mentors, assisting in homework, subject tutoring, and academic skill building. In addition, Vassar students have the opportunity to work with students in a co-curricular and extra-curricular capacity. VAST is a collaborative effort between the Vassar College Urban Education Initiative and Vassar’s Good Neighbors program. Students can earn field work credit for this experience.

Venture/Bank Street:

Urban (NYC) Education Semester. Vassar College, in cooperation with Venture/Bank Street, offers a one-semester program in urban education. Participants are assigned as interns in New York City public schools. In addition to the two-unit internship, students also take three courses at Bank Street College. Those interested in applying should consult with their advisor and the Department of Education before submitting a formal application through the Office of the Dean of Studies.

New York State Teacher Certification

Childhood Education Certification: A program leading to the New York State Initial Childhood Education Certificate (1-6) is offered. New York State certifies students for the initial certificate upon recommendation of the teacher certification officer. Such recommendation depends on academic excellence, specified competencies in professional course work, field experiences, and demonstrated fitness for teaching. In addition, students must pass qualifying examinations set by New York State. The program of study must include the following requirements: Psychology 105, 231; Education 235, 250, 290, 240, 350/351, 360, 361, 362.

Recommended Sequence of Courses for Childhood Education Certification:
Freshman year:
Psychology 105
Education 235
Education 290 (Field Work)
Sophomore year:
Psychology 231
Education 350/351
Junior year:
Education 250
Education 361
Senior year:
Education 300
Education 360
Education 362 (Student Teaching)

NRO work may not be used to satisfy state certification requirements.

The student teaching internship is a five-day/week full time classroom experience in selected local schools during the a-semester.

Adolescent Education Certification: Programs leading to the New York State Initial Adolescent Education Certificate (7-12) are offered in the fields of English, foreign languages (Spanish, French, German, Russian), mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, and social studies. Students with a major in the areas of anthropology, economics, geography, history, political science, urban studies, American culture, and sociology are eligible for social studies certification. New York State certifies students upon the recommendation of the teacher certification officer. Such recommendation depends on academic excellence, specified competencies in professional course work, field experiences, and demonstrated fitness for teaching. In addition, students must pass qualifying examinations set by New York State. The program of study must include the following:

Psychology 105; Education 235, 250, 263, 290, 301, 373, plus one additional course in adolescent literacy determined in consultation with the department.

English: Education 372, 392

Foreign Languages: Education 372, 392

Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics: Education 372, 392

Social Studies: Education 372, 392

In addition to completing requirements for their major, students may need additional coursework in the subject area in which they plan to teach. These vary slightly for each field; therefore it is important that students planning such a program consult with the appropriate member of the department as soon as the area of concentration has been declared.

Advisers: The department.

Recommended Sequence of Courses for Adolescent Education Certification:
Freshman year:
Education 235
Psychology 105
Sophomore year:
Education 250
Education 263
Education 290
Junior year:
Education 290
Education 373
Education 390-396
Senior year:
Education 301
Education 372

NRO work may not be used to satisfy state certification requirements.

The student teaching internship is a five-day/week full time classroom experience in selected local schools during the a-semester.

Correlate Sequence in Educational Studies: The correlate is designed to provide students with an interest in education the opportunity to provide intellectual depth and coherence to their studies in this area. Under the supervision of a member of the department, students undertaking the correlate design a sequence of courses that address a central topic or theme related to education. Completing these courses should challenge students to think deeply and critically about the manner in which schools socialize as well as educate citizens, and how the interests of certain stakeholders are privileged or neglected.

Requirements for the Correlate: The Educational Studies correlate is offered to both students who plan to teach and those who are interested in pursuing other pathways related to education. For this reason, the correlate is organized into two distinct streams: 1) Human Development and Learning; 2) Educational Policy and Practice. All students must complete 6 units, although the sequence of courses they follow will be tailored to fit their interests. In collaboration with a member of the department, students must complete a one page proposal that explains their reasons for pursuing the correlate, the issue or topic that will unify their studies, and a list of the courses to be taken.

I. Introductory

160a and b. Books, Children, and Culture (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 160) This course examines select classical works from the oral tradition and contemporary works of children’s fiction and non-fiction. The course addresses juvenile literature as a sociological phenomenon as well as a literary and artistic one (illustrative content). The course traces the socio-historical development of American children’s literature from Western and non-Western societies. Social, psychoanalytic, and educational theory provide a conceptual basis and methodological framework for the cultural analysis of fairy tale and modern fantasy in cross-cultural perspective. Socialization issues include: ideals of democracy; moral character; race and class; politicalization; and the human relationship to the natural environment. Ms. Bickerstaff.

Two 75-minute periods.

166a-167b. American Sign Language I and II (1)

This total immersion course strongly adheres to the philosophy that language acquisition is best achieved when total language is taught by means of hands-on group activities that reflect common everyday interactions of people in the Deaf Community rather than through isolated vocabulary. Sessions introduce both formal and informal registers in American Sign Language. Meaningful and experiential group activities adhere to research findings detailing the importance of incorporating facial grammar, mouth morphemes, and non-manual signals, prosody, and body language in the beginning stages of learning the grammar as visual language. Role-playing serves a vital tool in helping students formulate grammatically correct ideas and concepts from concrete to abstract. The primary focus is to develop receptive skills. Deaf culture is highlighted throughout the course to enrich and complement the study of the language. In American Sign Language II, students continue to engage in meaningful and experiential group activities to enhance their fluency. Focus is on further development of essential receptive skills while guiding the student to effective expressive skills through instructor modeling, and modeling of Deaf individuals from the community and well known videotaped models in the profession. Ms. Garcia.

Completion of Education 166a-167b satisfies the foreign language requirement.

Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

Two 75-minute periods; one hour of laboratory.

III. Advanced

A minimum of 1/2 unit of field work is required for admittance to all 300-level courses for students seeking teacher certification.

300a. Senior Portfolio: Childhood Education (1)

This senior seminar focuses on analysis of the student teaching experience. Through the development of their teaching portfolio, senior students examine the linkages between theory, current research, and classroom practice. This course should be taken concurrently with the student teaching practicum. Mr. Bjork.

301a. Senior Portfolio: Adolescent Education (1)

Same as Education 300a, but for students earning certification in Adolescent Education.

320a. Up From Slavery: Schooling and Socialization of Blacks in America (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 320) Ms. Bickerstaff.

[321. Cross-Cultural Studies in Education] (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 321)

Not offered in 2007/08.

336a. Childhood Development: Observation and Research Application (1)

(Same as Psychology 336) What differentiates the behavior of one young child from that of another? What characteristics do young children have in common? This course provides students with direct experience in applying contemporary theory and research to the understanding of an individual child. Topics include attachment; temperament; parent, sibling and peer relationships; language and humor development; perspective-taking; and the social-emotional connection to learning. Each student selects an individual child in a classroom setting and collects data about the child from multiple sources (direct observation, teacher interviews, parent-teacher conferences, archival records). During class periods, students discuss the primary topic literature, incorporating and comparing observations across children to understand broader developmental trends and individual differences. Synthesis of this information with critical analysis of primary sources in the early childhood and developmental literature culminates in comprehensive written and oral presentations. Ms. Riess.

Prerequisite: Psychology 231 and permission of the instructor.

For Psychology Majors: completion of a research methods course.

One 3-hour period.

4 hours of laboratory observation work.

350/351. The Teaching of Reading: Curriculum Development in (1)

Childhood Education

The purpose of this course is to examine the nature and process of reading within a theoretical framework and then to examine and implement a variety of approaches and strategies used to promote literacy in language arts and social studies. Special emphasis is placed on material selection, instruction, and assessment to promote conceptual understandings for all students. Observation and participation in local schools is required. Ms. McCloskey.

Prerequisites: Psychology 105, 231.

One 2-hour period; one hour of laboratory.

353a. Pedagogies of Difference: Critical Approaches to Education (1)

The idea of difference has served as the conceptual groundwork for educational theorists of diverse ideological perspectives to work toward actualizing equitable teaching and learning contexts for all individuals and groups within a society or culture. Yet in their desire for securing equitable educational environments and opportunities, different approaches such as multicultural education, feminist pedagogy, critical pedagogy, antiracist education, postcolonial pedagogy, and queer pedagogy diverge with respect to the concept of difference, placing more and less emphasis on particular sociocultural categories (i.e., race, gender, class, sexuality, language, dis/ability). Given these discrepancies, to what extent can the idea of difference help us to redefine or rethink the principle of educational equity and the questions of social justice that it raises both within and outside of the classroom? In this course, we examine the historical and philosophical roots of critical approaches to education as well as diverse theoretical paradigms about teaching, learning and school reform that situate schooling in a larger political and global context. We utilize these theoretical paradigms to analyze educational policies, curriculum, and pedagogical practices that address the relationship between schooling and society in global times. Instructor to be announced.

Prerequisite: Education 235.

360a. Workshop in Curriculum Development (1/2)

This course focuses on the current trends, research and theory in the area of curriculum development and their implications for practice in the elementary schools. Procedures and criteria for developing and evaluating curricular content, resources and teaching strategies are examined and units of study developed. Offered in the first six weeks. Mr. Bjork.

Prerequisites: open to seniors only or by permission of instructor.

One 3-hour period.

361b. Seminar: Mathematics and Science in the Elementary Curriculum (1)

The purpose of this course is to develop the student’s competency to teach mathematics and science to elementary school children. Lectures and hands-on activity sessions are used to explore mathematics and science content, methodology, and resource materials with an emphasis on conceptual understanding as it relates to the curricular concepts explored. Special emphasis is placed on diagnostic and remedial skills drawn from a broad theoretical base. Students plan, implement, and evaluate original learning activities through field assignments in the local schools. In conjunction with their instruction of instructional methods in science, students also teach lessons for the Exploring Science at Vassar Farm program. Mr. Bjork.

Permission of instructor.

One 3-hour period; weekly laboratory work at the Vassar Farm.

362a. Student Teaching Practicum: Childhood Education (2)

Supervised internship in an elementary classroom, grades 1-6. Examination and analysis of the interrelationships of teachers, children, and curriculum as reflected in the classroom learning environment. One or more conference hours per week. Mr. Bjork.

Open to seniors only.

Prerequisites: Psychology 105, 231; Education 235, 250, 290, 350/351; Education 360, 361 may be concurrent. (Ungraded only.) Permission of instructor.

367b. Urban Education Reform (1)

(Same as Urban Studies 367b) This seminar examines American urban education reform from historical and contemporary perspectives. Particular attention is given to the political and economic aspects of educational change. Specific issues addressed in the course include school governance, standards and accountability, incentive-based reform strategies, and investments in teacher quality. Instructor to be announced.

Prerequisite: Education 235 or permission of instructor.

One 2-hour period.

372a. Student Teaching (2)

Adolescent Education Supervised internship in teaching in a middle, junior, or senior high school, grades 7-12. Examination of the interrelationships of teachers, children, and curriculum as reflected in the classroom learning environment.

Open to seniors only.

Prerequisites: Psychology 105; Education 235, 263, 290, 373; Education 392. (Ungraded only.)

Permission of instructor.

373b. Adolescent Literacy (1)

(Same as Urban Studies 373) This course combines research, theory, and practice in the context of an urban middle school. Concurrently with tutoring a student, we engage in case study research about the literacies our students accept and resist in the various disciplines. We define literacy bradly and look at how school literacy compares and contrasts to the literacies valued and in use in contexts outside of school. We explore how literacy training is constructed through methods and curriculum with a special emphasis on the diversities at play in middle and high school classrooms. Conceptual understandings of knowledge, strategies that support attaining that knowledge, and the role of motivation in learning are emphasized. Ms. McCloskey.

One 2-hour period.

388a. Schooling in America: Preparing Citizens or Producing Workers (1)

(Same as Sociology 388a) Ms. Rueda.

392b. Multidisciplinary Methods in Adolescent Education (1)

Seminar in the methods and materials used in adolescent education, grades 7-12. Examination of current trends in application of learning theories related to specific disciplines. Emphasis placed on expanding of student view of educational problem solving by exploration of instructional alternatives and multidisciplinary methods. Discipline and content specific methods and standards are also emphasized in this course. Instructor to be announced.

One 2-hour period.

399a or b. Senior Independent Work (1/2 or 1)

Special permission. The department.

II. Intermediate

235a or b. Issues in Contemporary Education (1)

This course introduces students to debates about the nature and purposes of U.S. education. Examination of these debates encourages students to develop a deeper and more critical understanding of U.S. schools and the individuals who teach and learn within them. Focusing on current issues in education, we consider the multiple and competing purposes of schooling and the complex ways in which formal and informal education play a part in shaping students as academic and social beings. We also examine issues of power and control at various levels of the U.S. education system. Among the questions we contemplate are: Whose interests should schools serve? What material and values should be taught? How should schools be organized and operated?

Prerequisite: Psychology 105.

Two 75-minute periods.

237b. Early Childhood Education: Theory and Practice (1)

(Same as Psychology 237b) What is the connection between a textbook description of preschool development and what teachers do every day in the preschool classroom? This course examines curriculum development based on contemporary theory and research in early childhood. The emphasis is on implementing developmental and educational research to create optimal learning environments for young children. Major theories of cognitive development are considered and specific attention is given to the literatures on memory development; concepts and categories; cognitive strategies; peer teaching; early reading, math, and scientific literacy; and technology in early childhood classrooms. Ms. Riess.

Prerequisite: Psychology 231 and permission of instructor.

One 2-hour period; 4 hours of laboratory participation.

250b. Introduction to Special Education (1)

Thie course explores the structure of special education from multiple viewpoints including legislative, instructional, and from the vantage of those who have experience in it as students, teachers, therapists, parents, and other serve providers. We tackle conceptual understandings of labeling, difference, and how individuals in schools negotiate the contexts in which “disability” comes in and out of focus. We raise for debate current issues in special education and disability studies such as inclusion, the overrepresentation of certain groups in special education and different instructional approaches. Ms. McCloskey.

252b. Race, Representation, and Resistance in U.S. Schools (1)

(Same as Sociology 252) This course examines the political and relational constructions of race and their significance in schooling. The examination includes the complicated relationship between identities at the individual level and the representations and discourses of knowledge created by the dominant racialized order at structural and ideological levels. Set within the context of schools, this analysis delves into the meanings of race in the everyday lives of students and teachers and in education policies, practices, and reform. Instructor to be announced.

Two 75-minute periods.

[262a. The Fairy Tale] (1)

The course focuses on European and Asian folk tales, with emphasis on how writers from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have reinvented the fairy tale while borrowing from traditional sources. Readings may include: Household Tales of the Brothers Grimm, and selections from Hans Christian Andersen, George MacDonald, Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, and Virginia Hamilton. Assignments include critical papers, the writing of an original tale, and the presentation of a traditional tale in class. Ms. Willard.

Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

263a. The Adolescent in American Society (1)

This course examines the lives of American adolescents and the different ways our society has sought to understand, respond to, and shape them. Particular attention is paid to the relationship between educational policies/practices and adolescent growth and development. Empirical studies will be combined with practical case scenarios as a basis for understanding alternative pathways for meeting the needs of middle school and high school learners. This course is required for secondary school teacher certification. The department.

Prerequisite: Education 235.

One 3-hour period.

266a. American Sign Language III (1)

Students further develop their receptive and expressive skills while progressing to narrative skills through the use of storytelling that helps them incorporate classifiers, mouth morphemes and prosody to their production. Videotaped student assignments continue to be utilized as an essential tool for self and group assessment and continued growth. Ms. Garcia.

Prerequisite: Education 166a-167b.

Two 75-minute periods; one hour of laboratory.

267b. American Sign Language IV (1)

In this course, focus is on the continued development of fluency through experiential group activities and videotaped assignments. Success stories, jokes, history and humor presented by Deaf Community members are studied to enhance further understanding of Deaf culture and values. Students explore how their knowledge and skills of ASL, Deaf culture, values and norms can serve as a valuable tool for effective interaction with Deaf individuals. Ms. Garcia.

Prerequisite: Education 166a-167b and 266a.

Two 75-minute periods; one hour of laboratory.

269b. Constructing School Kis and Street Kids (1)

(Same as Sociology 269b) Ms. Rueda.

[271. From Print to Film: The Reading, Writing, and Seeing of (1)

Children’s Books]

A study of selected children’s classics and the films based on them, both of which have attracted an adult audience: Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, Gulliver’s Travels, Mulan, The Wizard of Oz and others. Ms. Willard.

Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

Two 2-hour periods.

Not offered in 2008/09.

272b. Comparative Education (1)

(Same as Asian Studies 272b) This course provides an overview of comparative education theory, practice, and research methodology. We examine educational issues and systems in a variety of cultural contexts. Particular attention is paid to educational practices in Asia and Europe, as compared to the United States. The course focuses on educational concerns that transcend national boundaries. Among the topics explored are international development, democratization, social stratification, the cultural transmission of knowledge, and the place of education in the global economy. These issues are examined from multiple disciplinary vantage points. Mr. Bjork.

Prerequisite: Education 235 or permission of instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

290a or b. Field Work (1/2 or 1)

All candidates for certification must demonstrate competency in an intensive field work experience at the elementary, middle school, or senior high school level prior to student teaching. The department.

296a and b Vassar Language in Motion Program (1/2)

The Vassar Language in Motion program provides opportunities for students with advanced expertise in foreign languages and cultures to make guest presentations in local area high school classes. In addition to gaining teaching experience, students help strengthen foreign language education in Dutchess County schools. Readings and discussions for the accompanying course address issues of language learning pedagogy, intercultural communication, and assessment. This is a six-week course. Mr. Schneider.

Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor. Students wishing to participate should have advanced proficiency in French, German, Italian or Spanish as well as some first-hand experience of the culture(s) where the language is spoken (i.e. study abroad, summer programs, or a primary or secondary residence).

297a or b. Independent Reading (1/2)

Student initiated independent reading projects with Education faculty. A variety of topics are possible, including educational policy, children’s literature, early childhood education, the adolescent, history of American education, multicultural education, and comparative education. Subject to prior approval of the department. The department.

298a or b. Independent Study (1/2 or 1)

Individual or group projects concerned with some aspect of education, subject to prior approval of the department. May be elected during the regular academic year or during the summer. The department.

299. Vassar Science Education Internship Program (1)

The Vassar Science Education Internship Program provides opportunities for science students from Vassar College to intern with science teachers in area schools for course credit. Students have an opportunity to gain teaching experience, to explore careers in education, and to help strengthen science education in the Poughkeepsie area schools. Each intern works with a science teacher to develop teaching and mentoring skills, to create a laboratory and/or computer based educational exercise for their class, and to acquire laboratory and/or computing resources for sustaining a strong science curriculum. Interns participate in a weekly seminar on science education at Vassar College. Ms. Coller.

Enrollment is limited and by permission. Students wishing to pursue internships should meet the following criteria: four completed units of course work in the natural sciences or mathematics, with at least two units at the 200-level, a minimum GPA of 3.4 in science and math coursework, and 3.0 overall.