A teacher’s job is always changing. Remember that old image of the schoolmarm in the one-room schoolhouse, guiding youngsters of all ages through the worlds of reading, writing and ’rithmetic? That went away when one-room school houses disappeared. Today’s educators need to be many things and occupy many roles, not only in the classroom, but in the school and indeed, even the community.
Carroll University’s education department moves briskly to keep abreast of trends so that students are well-prepared for the ever-changing workplace they’ll encounter. That means new courses, certificates, even master’s programs. And it means recognizing that not all those who study education end up in a classroom.
Think about it: there are plenty of places where learning occurs, and there are plenty of people other than traditional classroom educators doing the teaching. In addition, many people outside of the classroom make decisions or otherwise influence educational policy.
From the speakers at nature centers, to human resource supervisors, to municipal office holders such as school board members, community organizers and even clergy, countless people are engaged in education, pointed out Dr. Kim White, associate professor and chair of the education department.
To meet these diverse needs, Carroll now offers both an undergraduate major and a minor in educational studies as well as a graduate certificate in community and civic engagement and a master’s in adult, community and professional education.
“We know that people can have a calling around service and teaching but discover that the structure of a K-12 classroom wasn’t the right fit for them,” said White. “The fit was really the calling, and they can do that in many settings other than a classroom.”
The revised educational studies major provides insights into human development, educational psychology and the history and philosophy of education. As such, the skills and knowledge it provides will help prepare students for careers in wide variety of occupations in business, government positions and community and non-profit organizations. Students in the major will explore issues facing education, understand a variety of factors that can impact an individual’s educational opportunity and develop an awareness of cognitive, social, emotional and physical development and diversity in education.
The major offers a capstone research project and an internship that can be targeted to career interests. Importantly, the major requires just 34 education credits, so that it is easier to pair with another major related to a student’s career interests.
It’s also good preparation for graduate school. For example, students pursuing a career as a school psychologist would find either the educational studies major or minor useful. Even the minor can be targeted to line up with career aspirations.
The minor pairs well with majors in art, business, criminal justice, music therapy, nursing, political science, psychology and public health, among others. Knowledge of child development and educational psychology would be useful for parole officers, for example, who work with juveniles or young adults.
The new certificate in community and civic engagement can be taken as a stand-alone program or combined with a certificate in adult learning for a master’s in adult, community and professional education.
The courses in the certificate will encourage frequent engagement with the student’s own community, as well as exploration of others. That means stepping outside one’s own bubble and encountering different viewpoints. Students will identify and tackle issues in their communities and develop public work projects, experientially learning civic engagement and developing essential community-building skills.
Chief among those is public deliberation, the development of channels through which meaningful dialog can occur. Listening leads to understanding, which leads to agreed truths. Which leads, it is hoped, to a more productive democratic process.
It’s no accident that the certificate arrives in the midst of a fractious time in our nation’s politics. It’s been hard to miss the changing tone of politics in the past year. Marches, rallies, online petitions and social media campaigns have flourished in the contentious soil of national politics. The result is a democracy that sometimes seems bruised, if not fractured. If it’s all made you wonder how you can best participate in the political process and how we can get along better, you’re not alone. People on both sides want to reach across the aisle and talk. People are realizing they do have more agency in democracy. Relying on the political professionals to hand down government is only part of the answer. People are seeking more say. The courses in the certificate are designed to empower citizens.
“Education is embedded throughout our communities,” White noted. “This program recognizes that. This is not education for degree sake, necessarily. This is professional development. This is development of self.”
It is also recognition of the fact that education in America has always been closely tied to civic life, that a healthy, functioning democracy is dependent on well-informed citizens. This program is driven in part by a recognition that today’s citizens need support to better engage in civic activities.
And, like the educational studies major and minor, it moves teaching beyond the classroom. “Education is a function of society,” notes White, “not just of schools.”