Oberlin Revives Grad Studies
After several years of planning, Oberlin College is introducing two graduate degrees to its curriculum — Master of Education (a 12-month program) and Master of Music Teaching (a 14-month program), both of which begin classes in June 2008. Graduate students will work in Oberlin’s public school system while taking classes taught by Oberlin professors.
One of Oberlin’s stated principles at its inception was “[to] create educators and Christian leaders for the desolate West,” and up until the 1970s, the school offered professional training for teachers. State regulations led to the program’s dissolution, but it has recently been revived with a new dedication to enriching the town environment.
Those who pursue a MMT are part of a five-year program in which students earn their bachelor’s degree at Oberlin while preparing to teach choral or instrumental music. The fifth year is spent gaining experience in Lorain and Cuyahoga County schools for pre-kindergarten-12 levels as well as teaching in the Oberlin Conservatory of Music’s Community Music School.
The Graduate Teacher Education Program will educate students primarily through experience by placing graduate students in positions of responsibility in elementary and middle school classrooms.
Professor of Graduate Teacher Education and director of the GTEP Deborah Roose said, “You might be in lectures all day Monday, but we want the students to learn through experience. We’re going to bring theory and research into classroom practice.”
In the fall semester, students will lead class three days a week, the second semester four days a week, and by the end of the year, they will lead their class independently for three weeks.
Experienced mentor teachers will work closely with GTEP students and advise their teaching techniques.
According to Site Coordinator Kathy Jaffe, “Good teachers need to make their thinking visible. It’s not magic to be a good teacher. Instead of just making decisions, our mentor teachers will be taking the time to slow down and explain their decisions.”
As a smaller program, MMT and GTEP will offer a very individualized experience. This will make the program challenging, as heavy demands are made of students.
“You belong to your school for the semester. You’ll be immersed in the school and learning about how schools work, the economics and culture of a school and how to create curricula, while working with students, custodians and principals,” says Roose.
Roose and Psychology Professor Patty deWinstanley have also received funding for an interdisciplinary environmental science project to unite graduate students teaching at different levels.
“A new project will happen every year at Oberlin,” says Roose. “The theme might be water, for example — a second grader might be interested in a water fountain, where the water comes from and whether it’s drinkable. Fifth graders might examine the reservoir system, who pays for it and so on. And an eighth grade class might study the entire Black River watershed.”
Classes will be planned around the project, taught following appropriate developmental levels for different grades.
Of the pool of students expressing interest in the GTEP, half are from outside Oberlin. Students and alumni have had very positive reactions to the programs.
Maura Dwyer, a College senior interested in education, said, “Oberlin College places a lot of a social responsibility on students, but most of them never engage in the community around them, which needs help. This program is a great way to bridge the gap between the town and the College.”
Ohio has full reciprocity with all other American states’ teaching licensure, and MMT and GTEP graduates will be able to teach anywhere in the country after earning their degrees.
Roose said of the GTEP students, “We’d love for them to stay in Oberlin, but there are other parts of the country that need socially conscious and environmental teachers. This experience will help a student become an educational leader who can make changes in schools and communities.”