The 2014-2015 school year marks the official beginning of the Education Studies Concentration. Although Oberlin doesn’t have an education department, there are many opportunities for students to learn and practice education, and education students now receive more support than ever.
The Education Studies Committee, which oversees the concentration, was formed in spring 2012 with Professor of Education Deborah Roose serving as chair. The idea for the concentration came from students interested in education who wanted a way to recognize and synthesize the ways they had been learning about the subject. “A lot of students felt their academic and extracurricular work at Oberlin College focused on education in some way, but they had to put it together all by themselves. The concentration is a way to support and explicitly value what students have already been doing here,” Roose says.
The concentration requires work in three areas: conceptual approaches, pedagogical approaches, and experiential components. Students write frequent reflections as part of their portfolios, which Roose says has been incredibly valuable to them. “They say they didn’t realize how much it all fit together until they reflected.”
The concentration is flexible enough to account for the different directions studying education at Oberlin can take. Students can petition for classes and experiences that fall outside of the suggested coursework to count for the concentration. “Do the work you want to do and the concentration can support you,” Roose says.
Opportunities to study education at Oberlin include the Ninde Scholars Program, in which students provide academic support and college access services to 7th-12th graders in the Oberlin City Schools, many of whom would be the first in their families to attend college; a Language Pedagogy course that can be taken in conjunction with the Spanish in the Elementary Schools (SITES) program, in which students learn to teach Spanish at local schools, or another teaching program; and the Teaching and Tutoring Writing Across the Disciplines course, which trains students to work as writing associates in the Writing Center or in specific classes.
Sarah Gord, a senior history major and English minor with an education studies concentration who was awarded a Fulbright English teaching assistant grant in Norway, says her experience as a writing associate has influenced her desire to teach English. “I love talking to peers about their ideas, frustrations, and realized drafts. Teaching and Tutoring Writing Across the Disciplines has helped me develop the tools to discuss students’ work with them in an encouraging, positive, and thorough manner,” Gord says. “I learn new things every time I read someone’s work, and I thrive on the energy of collaborative problem solving.”
Kasey Cheydleur, a senior English major with a concentration in creative writing within the English department as well as an education studies concentration, says she likes that the education concentration mixes theory, practical pedagogy, and experience. “That combination has helped me feel more prepared to teach, and to teach well, because I understand education as a discipline and not just a skill,” she says. Cheydleur also says she had a great experience with the Writing Associates Program. “Teaching and Tutoring Writing Across the Disciplines got me thinking about pedagogy,” she says. “Being a writing associate has allowed me to put some of the theoretical knowledge I have learned into action and to test my own boundaries as an educator.”
Roose is currently working with 11 seniors who have declared the education concentration, in addition to a mixed group of 12 first-years, sophomores, and juniors. The concentration has already had a big effect on many students, says Roose. “They have more knowledge and understanding of the field of education than they did before.” As for the future of the concentration, she says she trusts that the students will continue to articulate their needs.