College of Education announces change in curriculum for elementary ed majors

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On Tuesday, Rowan’s College of Education formally announced major changes to its elementary education specialization which will take effect over the next two years, starting with the upcoming spring semester. These updates were discussed in two meetings held in the Chamberlain Student Center Enyon Ballroom. The first was intended for freshmen and sophomores new to the college and the second was for upperclassmen.

Arguably, the most significant change is a new teaching residency standard to be enacted in fall 2018. The standard will require students to student teach in a classroom setting for a full year instead of the current requirement of a single semester.

The 2018 spring semester will be the last possible time for students to take the current one semester of clinical practice, provided they were already through the rest of the elementary education sequence by that time.

This shift resulted from a state mandate from the New Jersey Department of Education this year requiring students in education have more clinical hours with students in the classroom.

Assistant Professor of Education Corine Brown, who hosted both talks on Tuesday, explained how New Jersey colleges then had to promptly make adjustments to education curriculum to accommodate for the residency update.

“At least it gives colleges of education some time to be able to adjust their program sequence and adjust their course-work components so that in fact we can meet those requirements, because obviously that’s our desire,” Brown said.

The year-long residency breaks down into a two-semester system. In Rowan’s case, part one of the new residency will take effect spring 2018 with part two following that fall semester. In part one, student teachers will be in a classroom two days a week for 14 weeks. In the second part, they will spend four to five days a week in the classroom for 16 weeks (a full semester at the university).

“You want to have as much time in the classroom as you can as you enter into the emerging field,” Brown said to the students in attendance. “You will get to see the full-year cycle.”

Due to these changes, Rowan’s Department of Interdisciplinary and Inclusive Education revised current courses in the sequence, which will be introduced each semester until fall 2018. The courses make up a block which students can complete over four semesters.

“That was really important to us as faculty because we know we have so many transfers coming in and so many people who need to be assured that ‘in four semesters, I can graduate through this program sequence,'” Brown said.

The revised list by semester is as follows:

Spring 2017 — The TLC I and II courses, which traditionally are the first two in the sequence, are being flipped to the equivalents of “Principles & Pedagogies” and “Instruction & Assessment.”

Fall 2017 — Curriculum & Access will split into two classes: Stream Social Studies/Arts & Stream Practicum. The Teaching Students of Linguistic and Cultural Diversity (TSLCD) course becomes Diversity Seminar.

Spring 2018 (part I of residency, in accordance with student-teaching days) — Math Pedagogy is being replaced with Math Strategies in the Inclusive Classroom, while Practicum in Math splits into STREAM II Practicum and STREAM II STEM & Health; these will be taken to lead into the second half of the residency in the fall.

Because elementary education majors are required to dual major, Brown said the professors in the department spent numerous hours ensuring there was enough room in the new sequence to be completed simultaneously with other necessary classes.

She stressed many of these changes will not affect students further along in their college careers, but rather underclassmen or transfers. The crowd size of the first meeting reflected her comment, as nearly 100 students were in attendance.

“If you are a person who is anywhere prior to basically the junior year of the sequence, we are wanting to make sure that this message gets out to you,” Brown said.

Jacob Kauffman and Brianna Henderson, two junior education majors who attended the second meeting, said they still appreciated that they were made aware and given an explanation of the changes.

“A lot of this doesn’t really apply to most of us but they’re trying to keep us informed,” Kauffman said. “I’m just making sure that I get my second major done before the year-long sequence kicks in. It was nice of them to make sure we understand this.”

Henderson expressed sympathy for those who will have to adjust to the new system.

“I thought that the changes are definitely more stressful because they’re making more classes technically and more years to stay here,” she said. “It can definitely use some more clarifying because I’m still really confused.”

For students skeptical of the changes, Brown wanted to reassure them that everything is being done in the best interest of their futures as educators.

“I know that placing more clinical hours on a candidate is definitely a step up in what we’re asking of them, but I believe wholeheartedly that increased hours in the classroom translate to a more effective beginning teacher, and that is the platform that we stand on,” she said.

“That is what we keep coming back to: what can we do, as program faculty and as a college of education, to prepare our candidates to be the best beginning teachers that they can be?”

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