Education department announces new minor

by Colin Barry | 11/25/02 6:00am

After facing elimination twice in the past decade as a result of negative internal reviews, the education department now appears to be in the midst of significant change -- the oldest minor will be cut, and a new minor is in the works.

At the end of last year, the department announced that the Education Studies minor, one of two minors it offers, will be unavailable after the conclusion of Spring term in 2003. The Human Development and Teaching minor will continue to be offered and another minor will likely be created as additional tenure-track positions in the education department are filled.

"The education department is undergoing a wonderful revitalization," Department Chair Laura-Ann Petitto said. The department is "growing with two new faculty members, moving into a new building that will allow us to fully flourish and be all that we can be," she said.

According to the education department website, a new Human Development and Teaching minor will be the more pre-professional of the department's two minors -- "designed for students interested in becoming teachers."

Many of its requirements are also prerequisites for the completion of Dartmouth's Teacher Education Program, which serves as state teacher certification in New Hampshire. The curriculum for Human Development and Teaching also includes a culminating experience that is intended to expose students to "classroom teaching in a minor way," according to Department Administrator Sandra White.

The Education Department at Dartmouth has been the subject of substantial controversy in the past, twice lambasted in internal reviews in 1993 and 1996. Although it has always enjoyed considerable student support, faculty and administrators have criticized the department because of its vocational bent, which some consider inappropriate at a liberal-arts college.

Education faculty said that the elimination of the Education Studies minor should not be taken as a step toward pre-professionalism.

"We've increased our role in conducting basic science research on education," Petitto said. "We have increased our ability to take the basic science and apply it directly to the community."

Since the negative reviews, many education faculty have been replaced, and an external committee in 2000 commended the department. The education department has received substantially greater funding and more supportive administration feedback in recent years.

"I feel very positive about the administration's attitude towards the education department," education professor Andrew Garrod said. "They've made new resources available to us. I take that as a sign that the College thinks we have a very strong future."

The department intends to hire two more professors: a specialist in reading and literacy and an expert in numeracy. It also aspires to offer an education major to Dartmouth undergraduates.

"One day, there will be an education major. We just need more time," Petitto said.

Although the majority of Dartmouth's peer institutions have no undergraduate education department, almost all offer interdisciplinary programs for teacher preparation. Some also have well-developed organizations explicitly for teacher training, such as the Teacher's College at Columbia.

Education classes, in particular the introductory Education 20 course offering, have been highly praised by Dartmouth students in the past. Jennifer Wilson '05, who plans on pursuing the Teacher Education Program, described Education 20 as "one of those courses they say every Dartmouth student should take."

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