Admission & Financial Aid

Admission & Financial Aid


Amherst College Courses

Amherst College Courses


Education Studies

Program faculty: Professors Gentzler (Chair), Lembo, Moss*, O'Hara, and Sánchez-Eppler; Associate Professor Vigil*; Lewis-Sebring Visiting Professor Luschen.

Contributing faculty: Professor Emeritus Barry O'Connell (English); Professors del Moral and Dhingra; Associate Professors Ching, Jaswal, and Palmquist*; Assistant Professors Hyman*, Leydon-Hardy, Sánchez-Naranjo, and Theoharides.

Education Studies provides a context in which students can critically examine the history, purpose, politics, and consequences of education from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives, and in a manner that is consistent with the liberal arts tradition. The program aims to provide students with an understanding of the socio-historical structures and cultural processes that shape educational enterprises within and outside of schools. The curriculum highlights the dynamic relationship between education and social, economic, and political structures. Through an emphasis on experiential learning, community-based research, pedagogical innovation, and through collaboration with community partners and the Center for Teaching and Learning, the program creates space for students to imagine and foster alternative educational possibilities. Classes draw on diverse methods of inquiry and innovative pedagogical approaches to help students critically examine educational thought, the expressive and creative dimensions of educational research and practice, and the organization and function of educational institutions in the U.S. and globally. A core feature of the Education Studies program is that it asks students to reach across disciplinary divides—most notably between the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields. 

In whatever capacity students face educational questions after leaving Amherst—be it as a citizen, a student, a parent, a teacher, a researcher, or a policy-maker—a major in Education Studies will prepare them to think through complex questions about education’s purposes in a liberal democracy; the sources and mechanisms of educational inequalities; how teaching and learning happen; and how and why schools and school systems look the ways they do. 

Major Program. Majoring in Education Studies requires the completion of eight courses: five courses as described below, plus three additional courses to be chosen in consultation with the student’s advisor. The comprehensive assessment in the major will be met through participation in a capstone roundtable. Majors electing to write a thesis are required to take three additional course credits across the year devoted to the completion of the honors thesis.

The required foundational course: AMST 352/EDUC-352/HIST 352, Purpose and Politics of Education One course on Cognition, Teaching, and Learning. Some possibilities include 

FYSE, Growing Up in America; EDUC 120/ENGL 120, Reading, Writing, and Teaching; CHEM 200, Being Human in STEM; EDUC 227/PSYC 227, Developmental Psychology; PSYC 262, Psychology of Play; EDUC 335/PHIL 335, Theory of Knowledge; EDUC 348/SPAN 348, Language Learning and Globalization

One course on School, Society, and Policy. Some possibilities include

ECON 26, Economics of Education; POSC 32, Political Economy of Development; AMST 201/EDUC 201, Social Construction of American Society; HIST 209/Math 205, Inequality; SOCI 225, Reproducing the Social Order; HIST 243, Childhood and Child Welfare in Modern Europe; POSC 302, Disabling Institutions; AMST 308 Gender, Feminisms, and Education; SOCI 326, Immigration and the New Second Generation; COLQ 332, Cities, Schools and Space; EDUC 337/SOCI 337, Dilemmas of Diversity: The Case of Higher Education 

One course on Education and Culture. Some possibilities include 

ENGL 120, Reading, Writing, and Teaching; AMST 200, Race, Education and Belonging; AMST 203/EDUC 203/SOCI 203, Youth, Schooling, and Popular Culture; EDUC 208POSC-208, Power and Politics in Contemporary China; EDUC 301/PHIL 301, Education for Liberal Democracy; FREN 346, Enfants Terribles; BLST 362, Childhood in African and Caribbean Literature

One Research Methods Course (quantitative or qualitative) in any department. Ideally, this course should be chosen in anticipation of the research methods to be employed in capstone or thesis work. This course must be approved both by the major advisor and by the professor teaching the course. This requirement of a course that provides specific training in appropriate research methods is distinct from the requirement that all majors have some exposure to both quantitative and qualitative approaches to Education Studies. Three additional courses chosen in consultation with the advisor to create a concentration within the major. Concentrations could be thematic or disciplinary in orientation. Examples of possible concentrations include—but are not limited to—Education Policy; Cognitive Development and Curriculum Studies; Higher Education; Urban Education; Race and Education; Comparative International Education; Arts Education; Math Education; or the Anthropology, Sociology, Philosophy, Economics, or History of Education. 

To assure that students have exposure to qualitative and quantitative research approaches, global breadth, and the opportunity to conduct independent research, while completing the eight total courses, students must: 

Take at least one course that exposes students to reading and interpreting qualitative scholarship. Take at least one course that exposes students to reading and interpreting quantitative scholarship. Take at least one course that exposes students to education from a global or comparative perspective. Take at least one 300- or 400-level course that results in the production of a significant research project or paper (20 pages or its equivalent) related to education. Capstone: The comprehensive assessment for education studies majors involves participation in a two-hour roundtable discussion about a project of their choice related to the student’s concentration. 

Departmental Honors. The program recommends Latin Honors for seniors who have achieved distinction in their course work and have completed a thesis of Honors quality. Honors theses in Education Studies entail an extended academic, creative, or pedagogical project on a topic relevant to the field. Thesis students enroll in three courses distributed across the senior year. Thesis progress will be assessed by the department at the end of the first semester as a precondition for entrance to the next semester of thesis work.

Honors Process. Five-hundred-word thesis proposals should be submitted to the program in the spring of the junior year or the fall of the senior year. Students are encouraged to submit their proposals as early as possible to avail themselves of grant support and suitable advising. Solicitation of interest will be sent to all majors in the second semester of their junior year. Students who indicate a possible interest in pursuing thesis work are encouraged to reach out to their major advisor. In addition to a description of the project, proposals should include an account of relevant coursework or other appropriate preparation for writing the thesis, including the necessary training in methodology. They should also include a brief bibliography.