Students at Colorado College can now major in education, a change that recognizes shifts in society and educational norms, Education Department Chair Mike Taber says. The new major was recently profiled in Inside Higher Ed.
Before the major was approved, the focus of the department was on the Master of Arts in Teaching, still an important emphasis of the department.
The new education major places the study of education within the liberal arts, and recognizes education as a discipline with historical, social, political, and economic aspects. “Through social inquiry, critical analysis, and community engagement, education majors will examine the central position educational systems occupy in civic functioning,” the rationale for the major states.
The major is a shift for the department, which had previously offered a thematic minor in education to undergraduates. A minor is still available for students. The department’s graduate programs will continue, including a teaching certificate program and programs for graduate students to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree.
The major, which was approved by the faculty, consists of a total of 10 units, or courses, five of which will “examine the historical, psychological, and social underpinnings that define American public education,” according to the rationale for the major submitted to the faculty. All students are required to conduct educational research, understand the latest findings on learning and human development, and participate in clinical aspects of education through observation and practicum experiences
Colorado College’s previous education major was dropped in the mid-60s, when the current MAT program was created, Taber said. Before 1965, about a quarter of CC students became teachers, but post-war shifts opened up more professions for college-educated women, and the major was discontinued. This pattern was repeated at many schools.
In the half-century since then, education training became specialized, effectively splitting teacher training from research. “We created a Grand Canyon-style rift between researchers and practitioners,” Taber said. Undergraduates studying education often were in programs with little emphasis on research, design, and the study of how people learn.
As a result, college and university students who went into public policy fields had little understanding of what a good education system is. “Now, people who are making decisions about education don’t know much about it,” said Taber, pointing to the troubled and controversial No Child Left Behind legislation.
“We have not produced a knowledgeable academic community about the discipline of education,” Taber said of the nation’s universities and colleges.
Students who major in education won’t necessarily stand at the head of a class of kindergartners, Taber said. With the new major, “We want students thinking about reform,” he said.
For example, he said, an economics major who wants to change education from outside the classroom might double-major in economics and education, looking at the economics of education. Or the student might major in education and minor in economics in order to examine the intersection of economics and education. The major helps students to be “well-versed in what education means,” Taber said.
The major is designed to use existing faculty, Taber said. He welcomes opportunities to work with other faculty who have an area of expertise in education.