You don’t need to be an educator to benefit from learning about the research and policies related to education.
That’s the idea behind a new interdisciplinary educational studies minor at William & Mary, which caters to undergraduate students with majors outside of education.
“We’ve had a lot of students over the years who came to us from different departments and were interested in doing research and honors theses around issues of education, but weren’t necessarily interested in becoming teachers,” said Jeremy Stoddard, associate professor of education and chair of curriculum and instruction. “So this really emerged in response to student demand.”
The new minor, which officially launches in the fall, combines classes from education with ones throughout Arts & Sciences. While the minor is open to anyone, Stoddard — who spearheaded the creation of the program along with Virginia McLaughlin, chancellor professor and former dean in the school of education — said he especially sees it being suited for students in international relations, government, public policy, public health, global studies, psychology and sociology.
Spencer Niles, dean of the school of education, said learning the basics of how to educate can be a useful tool for any current or future leader.
"William & Mary produces great leaders," Niles said, "and truly transformative leaders — in any industry or area — must know how to teach effectively. We’re excited about this opportunity to share our expertise with more students and equip them with the skills and knowledge to affect change in a wide variety of employment contexts."
The minor is divided into two concentrations — global education or policy and equity — each tailored to interests shared by many students at W&M.
“William & Mary has a lot of students who work abroad teaching English or for education non-profits … yet they have no background in learning theory or in environments where there are non-English speakers,” said Stoddard. “So that’s an example of a student who might be interested in [our global education concentration]. On the other hand, we also have a lot of students who are interested in U.S.-based education policies around issues of equity, whether that’s school desegregation or looking at some of the educational reform movements and who they’re really working for. So the other strand is focused more on research and specifically on issues of equity.”
Joel Schwartz, professor of government and director of the Charles Center, said there are many students at W&M with an interest in education who would benefit from a program like this.
“It will enrich and complement the specific majors with which it is paired,” Schwartz said. “For instance, a government major interested in education could complete the new minor and end up with a more comprehensive and balanced overall understanding of the challenges of educational policy.”
The curriculum builds off of existing courses in education and other departments. It will also include a handful of new courses, such as globalization and education, critical race theory and “truthiness in education” — a deep dive into the data, such as rankings and test scores, that defines U.S. public education and how it’s often misused in the media. Stoddard, who is currently teaching globalization and education, said the new courses are designed to have broad appeal across campus.
“As faculty, we’re often focused on professional preparation for teachers and principals,” said Stoddard. “This gives us a chance to teach things that are more in our research areas, to bring a different crowd into the school of education and to have a stronger connection with all undergraduate students at William & Mary.”
Students interested in the educational studies minor can begin registering for courses now for the fall 2017 semester. To learn more about the program, visit the school of education website.