Education Department

The major in Educational Studies challenges students to think deeply and critically about the ways in which schools socialize as well as educate citizens. It provides ongoing opportunities for conceptual integration across disciplines and domains of theory, policy, and practice. This interdisciplinary approach encourages students to study the impact of political, historical, cultural, economic, and social forces on education. Requirements for the proposed major in Educational Studies press students to develop a solid foundation in learning theory, the social foundations of education, as well as a global perspective on education. All majors take one of the foundational courses offered by the department. Following this, each student works closely with a department faculty member to develop a course plan that meets the requirements for the major and fits the student’s interests. Individuals who complete a major in educational studies are prepared to integrate and apply knowledge to guide personal action and development, regardless of their ultimate career trajectory. The major is an excellent option for students who are interested in issues related to education-but who are not planning to earn a teaching credential at Vassar. Students who earn a teaching credential at Vassar are required to major in another discipline-and will not be eligible for the Educational Studies major.

Education Curriculum and Courses



Correlate Sequence in Educational Studies

The correlate is designed to provide students with an interest in education an 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 will 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. Students are encouraged to examine educational issues from multiple theoretical and disciplinary perspectives. Expanding upon their own educational histories, they will examine the relationship between theory and practice through study, observation, and reflection.

Special Programs



Approved Courses


Education: I. Introductory

162a. Education and Opportunity in the United States (1)

In this course, students identify, explore, and question prevailing assumptions about education in the United States. The objectives of the course are for students to develop both a deeper understanding of the system's historical, structural, and philosophical features and to look at schools with a critical eye. We examine issues of power and control at various levels of the education system. Participants are encouraged to connect class readings and discussions to personal schooling experiences to gain new insights into their own educational foundations. Among the questions that are highlighted are: How should schools be organized and operated? What information and values should be emphasized? Whose interests do schools serve? The course is open to both students interested in becoming certified to teach and those who are not yet certain about their future plans but are interested in educational issues. Mr. Bjork.

Fulfills the Freshman Writing Seminar Requirement.

Two 75-minute periods.

Education: II. Intermediate

235a and 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 PSYC 237) 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.

Prerequisites: PSYC 231 and permission of the 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. Ms. McCloskey.

Prerequisite: EDUC 162 or EDUC 235.

Two 75 minute periods.

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

(Same as AFRS 255 and URBS 255) This course interrogates 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 and public attitudes towards schools and schooling- 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 driving 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. Malsbary.

Two 75-minute periods.

262b. 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. Darlington.

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2014/15.

One 120-minute period.

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: EDUC 235.

Two 75-minute periods.

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

(Same as LALS 269 and SOCI 269) Students from low-income families and racial/ethnic minority backgrounds do poorly in school by comparison with their white and well-to-do peers. These students drop out of high school at higher rates, score lower on standardized tests, have lower GPAs, and are less likely to attend and complete college. In this course we examine theories and research that seek to explain patterns of differential educational achievement in U.S. schools. We study theories that focus on the characteristics of settings in which teaching and learning take place (e.g., schools, classrooms, and home), theories that focus on the characteristics of groups (e.g. racial/ethnic groups and peer groups), and theories that examine how cultural processes mediate political-economic constraints and human action. Ms. Rueda.

Not offered in 2014/15.

275b. International and Comparative Education (1)

(Same as ASIA 275 and INTL 275) 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: EDUC 235 or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

278b. Education for Peace, Justice and Human Rights (1)

(Same as INTL 278) The aim of this course is to introduce students to the field of peace education and provide an overview of the history, central concepts, scholarship, and practices within the field. The overarching questions explored are: What does it mean to educate for peace, justice and human rights? What and where are the possibilities and the barriers? How do identity, representation and context influence the ways in which these constructs are conceptualized and defined and what are the implications of these definitions? How can we move towards an authentic culture of peace, justice, and human rights in a pluralistic world? In order to address these questions, we 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 is 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. We examine these case studies with a critical eye, exploring how power operates and circulates in these contexts and consider ways in which to address larger structural inequities and micro-asymmetries. Since peace education is not only about the content of education, but also the process, the course endeavors to model peace pedagogy by promoting inquiry, collaboration and dialogue and give students the opportunity to practice these skills through presentations on the course readings and topics. Ms. Hantzopoulos.

Prerequisites: EDUC 162 or EDUC 235.

Not offered in 2014/15.

Two 75-minute periods.

284a. Children's Rights (1)

(Same as INTL 284) This course focuses on both the theories surrounding, and practices of, children's rights. It starts from the foundational question of whether children really should be treated as rights-holders and whether this approach is more effective than alternatives for promoting well-being for children that do not treat children as rights holders and adopt a Human Rights approach. Consideration is given to the major conceptual and developmental issues embedded within the framework of rights in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The course covers issues in both the domestic and international arenas, including but not limited to: children's rights in the criminal justice context including life without parole and the death penalty; children's rights to housing and health care; inequities in the education systems; child labor and efforts to ban it worldwide; initiatives intended to abolish the involvement of children in armed conflict; street children; the rights of migrant, refugee, homeless, and minority children; and the commodification of children. Country-based case studies are used to ensure that students come away with a solid understanding of current conditions. The course also explores issues related to the US ratification of the CRC, and offer critical perspectives on the advocacy and education-based work of international children's rights organizations. Ms. Holland.

Two 75-minute periods.

286a. Framing Autism in U.S. Policy and Practice (1)

From the iconic autism puzzle piece to the "startling statistics" that are displayed on billboards and in newspapers, autism has captured the attention of the American public. This course will explore the dynamic interplay between the medical, educational, and legal communities with regard to autism research and scholarship. We will discuss different theoretical and methodological stances to the study of disability in general and autism in particular. Investigating autism in a multidisciplinary way will entail reading texts and watching films produced by autistic individuals and engaging in multimodal research that investigates how language and image influence how people perceive autism and autistic people. Ms. McCloskey.

Not offered in 2014/15.

Two 75-minute periods.

288a. The Politics of Language in Schools and Society (1)

(Same as AFRS 288, LALS 288, and URBS 288) The United States is one of the most multilingual nations in the world, and, language is intimately connected to family and personal identity. This course explores how language, power, and ideology play out in public debate, state policy and educational justice movements. We examine the link between racism, language and national belonging by analyzing how Standard English, Black English (AAVE) and Spanish-English bilingualism are positioned as more or less "correct", or politicized and even policied. We then turn our eye to curriculum and education policy, examining how debates around language in the classroom. Finally we pose possibilities, and examine the politics of language in multilingual, hybrid and global contexts. What do debates about "correctness" in language obscure? How do our fears, hopes and longing for identity shape our beliefs about language in the classroom? How does the history of U.S. language politics inform our present? What does equitable language education policy look like? Why are these issues important to all citizens? Ms. Malsbary.

Prerequisite: EDUC 235 or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

290a or b. Field Work (1/2to2)

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.

294a or b. 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).

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).

Not offered in 2014/15.

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 (1/2to1)

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.

299a and b. 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 design a project and to obtain 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.

Education: 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 EDUC 300, but for students earning certification in Adolescent Education.

302a. Senior Thesis/Project (1/2to1)

Individual reading, research, or community service project. The department.

Prerequisite: EDUC 384.

Yearlong course 302-EDUC 303.

303b. Senior Thesis/Project (1/2)

Individual reading, research, or community service project. The department.

Prerequisite: EDUC 302.

Yearlong course EDUC 302-303.

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

(Same as PSYC 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: PSYC 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

Prerequisites: PSYC 105, PSYC 231.

Year long course 350/EDUC 351.

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. Ms. McCloskey

Prerequisites: PSYC 105, PSYC 231, EDUC 350.

Year long course EDUC 350/351.

One 2-hour period; one hour of laboratory.

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

(Same as AFRS 353) 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 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.

Prerequisite: EDUC 235 or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2014/15.

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 permission of the 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.

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods;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.

Prerequisites: PSYC 105, PSYC 231; EDUC 235, EDUC 250, EDUC 290, EDUC 350/EDUC 351; EDUC 360, EDUC 361 may be concurrent. Permission of the instructor.

Open to seniors only. Ungraded only.

One or more conference hours per week.

367b. Urban Education Reform (1)

(Same as URBS 367) 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. Ms. Hantzopoulos.

Prerequisite: EDUC 235 or permission of the 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.

Prerequisites: PSYC 105; EDUC 235, EDUC 263, EDUC 290, EDUC 373; EDUC 392. (Ungraded only.)

Permission of the instructor. Open to seniors only.

373a. Adolescent Literacy (1)

(Same as URBS 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 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.

384b. Senior Seminar (1)

An examination of selected topics in educational studies in a multi-disciplinary framework. Mr.Bjork.

Prerequisite: EDUC 162 or EDUC 235.

One 2-hour period.

385b. American Higher Education: Policy and Practice (1)

This seminar examines American higher education from historical and contemporary perspectives, paying particular attention to how students themselves experience college preparation, admission and campus life. Particular attention is given to the social, political, economic, and cultural challenges associated with policy and practice in private higher education. The types of questions the course addresses include: What changes in policy, administration, and/or instruction are likely to improve student outcomes in higher education in America? What research tools are available to decision-makers in higher education to help inform policy and practice? Who and what are the drivers of reform in higher education and what are their theories of action for improving the college experience? How should consumers of educational research approach the task of interpreting contradictory evidence and information about American higher education? What is an appropriate definition of equality of educational opportunity and how should we apply this definition to American private higher education? What roles do race and socioeconomic status play in American higher education? This semester, our texts and supplementary readings focus on issues pertinent to American higher education in general and highly selective private liberal arts college more specifically. Topics in the course include, but are not limited to: college admissions; student affairs policy and practice; micropolitics within colleges and universities; standards and accountability mechanisms, and efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. Small group case study projects give students the opportunity to develop potential solutions to contemporary problems in American higher education. Mr. Roellke.

Prerequisite: one course in Education, American Studies, or Political Science.

Open to juniors and seniors only.

Not offered in 2014/15.

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

(Same as SOCI 388) Ms. Rueda.

392b. Multidisciplinary Methods in Adolescent Education (1)

(Same as URBS 392) This course is designed to engage prospective middle and high school educators in developing innovative, culturally relevant, and socially responsive curricula in a specific discipline, as well as in exploring ways to branch inter-disciplinarily. In particular, students will strive to develop a practice that seeks to interrupt inequities in schooling and engender a transformative experience for all students. The first part of the course explores what it means to employ social justice, multicultural, and critical pedagogies in education through self-reflections, peer exchange, and class texts. The remainder of the course specifically looks at strategies to enact such types of education, focusing on methods, curriculum design, and assessment. Students will explore of a variety of teaching approaches and develop ways to adapt them to particular subject areas and to the intellectual, social, and emotional needs of adolescent learners. There will be a particular emphasis on literacy development and meeting the needs of English Language Learners. Ms. Hantzopoulos.

Prerequisite: EDUC 235.

One 2-hour period.

399a or b. Senior Independent Work (1/2to1)

Special permission. The department.