Education department to begin offering graduate program

Kelly Bergh September 25, 2015 0

In the fall of 2016, the Elizabethtown College education department will be offering a Master’s of Education (M.Ed.) degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Separate from the Etown School of Continuing and Professional Studies, the program will be a standalone, solely administered by the education department.

A master’s in curriculum and instruction is one of the most common degrees that in-service teachers will earn as they develop professionally in the field. Dr. Rachel Finley-Bowman, chair of the education department, emphasized the difference between Etown’s curriculum and that of other master’s programs. “What makes ours unique is its emphasis on peace education, so it covers everything from conflict resolution to social and emotional learning to collaboration and conversation in the classroom.”

She believes that adding the degree to the offerings of the College and the department is a natural fit.

Finley-Bowman explained that the peace-centric curriculum represents the strengths of the professors within the department, in which the top research area for faculty members is peace education. “It’s a degree that really plays to the strengths of our department,” she said.

The graduate program is designed to aid current undergraduate students in their education, as well. Since the in-service teachers in cooperation with the Etown education department through undergraduate field placement are the intended participants of the program, “by giving them an opportunity to work on their own professional development, that indirectly helps our own students that they’re working with in our neighboring schools,” Finley-Bowman said.

The field placement program connects Etown’s pre-service teachers with in-service teachers within a 30-mile radius. “We really see this as a reciprocal relationship between our pre-service teachers and our in-service teachers. They are all together to continue their professional development,” Finley-Bowman said. “We’re really creating a sort of learning community. That was really our approach.”

The program would also love to see department alums come back with a desire to work with the professors with whom they studied while receiving their undergraduate degree. The mission of both the College and the education department emphasizes social justice, and the graduate degree will act as a continuation of that branding.

The cooperative teachers and alums who enroll in the program will most likely be fulfilling the requirements of the state of Pennsylvania, which requires teachers to obtain an additional 24 credits after their initial teaching certification. Finley-Bowman believes that this program will help service their need to enroll in those credits and have the benefit of earning another degree.

The program is open enrollment, meaning that it is designed to work with the demands in the life of the in-service teacher, who may be juggling a full-time teaching job with coaching, family life or mentoring.

The degree is fully online, taught by the department’s full time faculty, and will ideally cater to the needs of those who could be taking classes here or there without the intention of working towards a degree.

“Our target group are in-service teachers who will take the classes, see the theories, and then be able to apply it to their own classrooms,” Finley-Bowman said. “We’re really thinking about theory into practice, the idea of applying right away.”

She hopes that action-research and the opportunity to analyze their own practices will cause teachers in the program ro question how their own teaching ability can improve to meet the needs of their students.

With an expected cohort size of 15 students, the degree will build the skill sets of students in accelerated semesters of 8 weeks, allowing two classes to be taken each semester.

The application will go live on Jan. 1, 2016, administered by the Etown admissions department. Course information and check sheets can be found in the Etown digital course catalog

“We’re very excited about the launch,” Finley-Bowman said of the department’s anxiousness to offer the degree. “We’re really excited in seeing this as an extension of our department.”

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