Education Department

Chair: Christopher BjorkProfessor: Christopher RoellkeNursery School Director: Julie A RiessAdjunct Instructors: Norene D CollerCarmen M. GarciaAssociate Professors: Joyce BickerstaffChristopher BjorkAssistant Professors: Colette CannaMaria HantzopoulosErin McCloskey;Visiting Assistant Professor: Tracey HollandExploring Science Teacher: Lynn Capozzoli.

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.

The Department also offers a variety of courses and the option of earning a correlate in Educational Studies to students interested in education related issues, but not necessarily planning to teach. 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

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.

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 an area such as history, English, psychology, history of art, physical science, geography, or another subject taught in the university. Those interested in applying should consult with their adviser and the Department of Education before submitting a formal application to the Office of International Programs.

Cloud Forest School, Costa Rica: A one-semester internship program that immerses students passionate about education in the Cloud Forest School, an independent K-12 bilingual school located in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Vassar students observe experienced teachers in the classroom, design and implement lessons, study Spanish, and carry out an independent research project.  The school promotes child centered, progressive forms of curriculum and instruction that reflect the educational approaches we encourage our students to take here at Vassar College. Spanish language instruction is provided for Vassar students through the University of New Mexico.

Urban (NYC) Education Semester: Vassar College, in cooperation with the Bank Street College of Education, 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. Those interested in applying should consult with their adviser and the Department of Education before making formal application through the Office of the Dean of Studies.

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 fieldwork credit for this experience.

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, 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, 379, 392, plus one additional course in adolescent literacy determined in consultation with the department.

In addition to fulfilling requirements for their major, students may need to complete additional coursework in the subject area in which they plan to teach. These requirements 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.

Recommended Sequence of Courses for Adolescent Education Certification:

Freshman year:

  • Education 235
  • Psychology 105

Sophomore year:

  • Education 250
  • Education 263
  • Education 290 (middle school)

Junior year:

  • Education 290 (high school)
  • Education 373
  • Education 392

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.

Graduate Fellowship in Education Program: The Graduate Fellowship in Education Program makes it possible for selected students who have graduated from Vassar to complete their teacher certification program.  Candidates should have completed all of the certification requirements, except for Education 301 and student teaching.  In return for this opportunity, the Graduate Fellows will work with the Department in a variety of activities: attendance at various state education meetings, meeting with prospective students interested in education to discuss both the profession and the education program at Vassar, and promoting the teaching profession in the community.  Applications for this program are due during the first week of December.

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 160a and b) 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.

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? The department.

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)

This 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 service 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.

255b. Race, Representation, and Resistance in U.S. Schools (1)

(Same as Africana Studies, Sociology and Urban Studies 255) This course seeks to interrogate the intersections of race, racism and schooling in the US context. In this course, we examine this intersection at the site of educational policy, media (particularly urban school movies) and K12 curricula- critically examining how representations in each shape the experiences of youth in school. Expectations, beliefs, attitudes and opportunities reflect societal investments in these representations, thus becoming both reflections and riving forces of these identities. Central to these representations is how theorists, educators and youth take them on, own them and resist them in ways that constrain possibility or create spaces for hope. Ms. Cann.

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 are 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. Ms. Holland.

Prerequisite: Education 235.

Two 75-minute periods.

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

(Same as Latin and Latino/a American Studies 269b and Sociology 269b) Ms. Rueda.

275b. International and Comparative Education (1)

(Same as Asian Studies 275b and International Studies 275b) 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.

282b. Education for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights (1)

The aim of this course is to explore the following questions: What does it mean to educate for peace, justice, and human rights? What/where are the possibilities and what/where are the barriers? How do identity, representation, and context influence the ways in which peace, justice, and human rights are conceptualized? Who defines peace, justice, and human rights? Is it possible to move towards a culture of peace, justice, and human rights in a pluralistic world? This course will introduce students to the field of peace education and provide an overview of the history, central concepts, scholarship, practices and current debates and controversies within the field. We will survey the human and social dimensions of peace education, including its philosophical foundations, the role of gender, race, religion and ethnicity in peace and human rights education, and the function and influence of both formal and non-formal schooling on a culture of peace and justice. Significant time will be spent on profiling key thinkers, theories, and movements in the field, with a particular focus on case-studies of peace education in practice nationally and worldwide. There will also be opportunities to engage with peace education practitioners, both as guest speakers in our class and through external events at Vassar and beyond. Since peace education is not only about the content of education, but also the process, the course will aim to model peace pedagogy by promoting inquiry, collaboration, and dialogue and give students the opportunity to practice these skills through student presentations on the course readings and topics. Ms. Hantzoppulos.

290a or b. Field Work (1/2 or 2)

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.

294. Educational Pedagogy (1)

A research project chosen and conducted in conjunction with the Vassar Study Abroad Program at Cloud Forest School in Costa Rica.

296a or 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 will help strengthen foreign language education in Dutchess County schools. Readings and discussions for the accompanying course will address issues of language learning pedagogy, intercultural communication, and assessment. Mr. Schneider.

Enrollment is limited and by permission. 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 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.

III. Advanced

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 320a) Ms. Bickerstaff.

Not offered in 2011-12

321b. Cross-Cultural Studies in Education (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 321b). Ms. Bickerstaff.

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.

350a. The Teaching of Reading: Curriculum Development in Childhood Education (1)

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

Year-long course, 350/351.

Prerequisites: Psychology 105, 231.

One 2-hour period; one hour of laboratory.

351b. The Teaching of Reading: Curriculum Development in Childhood Education (1)

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.

Year-long course, 350/351.

Prerequisites: Psychology 105, 231, Education 350.

One 2-hour period; one hour of laboratory.

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

Pedagogies of difference are both theoretical frameworks and classroom practices- enacting a social justice agenda in one's educational work with learners. In this course, we think deeply about various anti-oppressive pedagogies- feminist, queer and critical race- while situating this theory in our class practicum. Thus, this course is about pedagogies of difference as much as it is about different pedagogies that result. We will address how different pedagogies such as hip hop pedagogy, public pedagogy and Poetry for the People derive from these pedagogies of difference. The culminating signature assessment for this course is collaborative work with local youth organizations. An important part of this work is mapping the community of your youth. Ms. Cann

Prerequisite: Education 235 or permission of the instructor.

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 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. Mr. Bjork.

One or more conference hours per week.

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.

367. 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.

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 373b) 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 broadly 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; one hour of laboratory.

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. Ms. Hantzopoulos.

One 2-hour period.

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

Special permission. The department.