Educational Foundations 610

EDEF 610: Educational Alternatives: History and Theory

Prerequisites: Graduate Standing

Credit Hours: (3)
This course is designed primarily to help students develop an in-depth understanding of educational alternatives including the scope of the field, points of similarity and difference between various theorists, the historical and philosophical roots of educational alternatives, criticisms of the theories and practices, and practical examples of these theories.

Detailed Description of Course

• Categories of educational alternatives and what distinguishes them from conventional education
• Historical and political context of alternative education
• Pioneers in learner-centered education
• Freedom to learn: free schools, democratic schools, unschooling
• Progressive alternatives: the social constructivist perspective
• Education for social change: critical pedagogy
• Montessori, Steiner (Waldorf)
• Holistic education
• Community-based learning
• Critical perspectives on learner-centered education and responses
• Public school choice: charter schools, vouchers, public alternatives
• A movement for alternative education

Detailed Description of Conduct of Course:

A variety of instructional methods will be used, including lecture, whole class discussion, small group work, research, class presentations, guest speakers, university-wide events, videos, case studies, email, the internet, WebCT, and/or class blogs and threaded discussions

Goals and Objectives of this Course

During the semester, students will:

• define “alternative education” in the context of the modern world’s understanding of education;
• discern the historical and educational significance of “alternative” philosophies;
• make connections between educational alternatives and a democratic culture;
• identify the pioneers in learner-centered education
• analyze how constructivism is connected to educational alternatives; examine how  constructivism translates into teaching, curriculum, views about parents & society, and other aspects of education;
• explore and discuss educational alternatives from the perspective of critical pedagogues, holistic educators, Steiner (Waldorf) and Montessori thinkers,  and unschoolers/deschoolers;
• review some common criticisms of educational alternatives;
• explore public alternatives to conventional education (charters, magnets, etc.)- assess whether these are significant ways to introduce alternatives to a much larger population;
• determine if there seems to be a coherent social movement, in the U.S. and/or internationally, working to establish educational alternatives and assess whether this is a growing trend; and
• identify what organizations exist to support educational alternatives.

Assessment Measures may include but are not limited to:
• Professionally-written responses to readings (personal journal, yet following APA style/format and adhering to standard written English conventions)
• Participation and active engagement in whole and small group work
• Critique of author positions/readings
• Summative course paper (following APA style/format and adhering to standard written English conventions) in which the student constructs/invents his/her ideal school/“learnery.” Students are asked to draw on the ideas of all the course readings and address questions which may include:
    o What do you believe about learning? (What are your assumptions?)
    o What do teachers and students and others do at the school?   And what are the relationships like between children and adults?
    o What evaluation/ assessment approaches are used, if any?
    o Who governs the school? Who holds power / makes decisions?
    o What does the physical facility look like?  
    o What are the big ideas or characteristics you hope all children walk away with?   In other words, what sort of people do you want your school/“learnery” to create? How is the school/“learnery” funded?

Other Course Information:      

This course will be offered with some elements of online teaching (either asynchronous bulletin board or synchronous chat/oral discussion through Adobe Connect).