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Amherst College Courses

Amherst College Courses

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Education Studies

Program faculty: Professors Gentzler (Chair, Fall), Lembo, Moss*, O'Hara‡, and Sánchez-Eppler‡; Associate Professor Vigil; Lecturer and Director of the Intensive Writing Program Reardon; Lewis-Sebring Visiting Professor Luschen (Chair, Spring)

Contributing faculty: Professors Bradley, del Moral, Dhingra; Associate Professors Ching, Jaswal, Palmquist and Theoharides*; Assistant Professors Hyman, Leydon-Hardy*, and Liao

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 by completing these required courses. 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/EDST 352/HIST 352/SOCI 352, Purposes and Politics of Education One course on Cognition, Teaching, and Learning. Some possibilities include 

FYSE, Growing Up in America; EDST 120/ENGL 120, Reading, Writing, and Teaching; EDST 335/PHIL 335, Theory of Knowledge; EDST 227/PSYC 227, Developmental Psychology; EDST 206/PSYC 206, Psychology of Play; CHEM 200, Being Human in STEM

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

ECON 419, Education and Inequality in the United States; AMST 201/EDST 201, Social Construction of American Society; AMST 308/EDST 308, Gender, Feminisms, and Education; HIST 243, Childhood and Child Welfare in Modern Europe; AMST 326/SOCI 326, Immigration and the New Second Generation; EDST 337/SOCI 337, Dilemmas of Diversity: The Case of Higher Education; EDST 332/POSC 332, Political Economy of Development; POSC 302, Disabling Institutions; COLQ 332, Cities, Schools and Space; MATH 205/HIST 209, Inequality 

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

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 ensure 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 capstone event 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.

120 Reading, Writing, and Teaching

(See ENGL 120)

121 Writing the College Experience

(See ENGL 121)

135 Justice

(See POSC 135)

145 Work

(See POSC 145)

182 Constructing Childhood: From Page to Screen

(See ENGL 182)

200 Race, Education, and Belonging

(See AMST 200)

201 The Social Construction of American Society

(See AMST 201)

203 Youth, Schooling, and Popular Culture

(See AMST 203)

206 Psychology of Play

(See PSYC 206)

208 Power and Politics in Contemporary China

(See POSC 208)

214 What's So Great About (In)Equality?

(See LJST 214)

224 Intergroup Dialogue on Race

(See PSYC 224)

227 Developmental Psychology

(See PSYC 227)

232 Political Economy of Development

(See POSC 232)

240 Rethinking Pocahontas: An Introduction to Native American and Indigenous Studies

(See AMST 240)

265 Unequal Childhoods: Race, Class and Gender in the United States

(See SOCI 265)

301 Education for Democracy

(See PHIL 301)

308 Gender, Feminisms, and Education

(See AMST 308)

314 Black Student Power in the United States

(See HIST 314)

328 Indigenous Narratives: Creating Children's Stories about Native American History

(See AMST 328)

331 Childhood and Adolescence

(See PSYC 331)

337 Dilemmas of Diversity: The Case of Higher Education

(See SOCI 337)

345 Model Minorities: Jewish and Asian Americans

(See AMST 345)

348 Language Learning and Globalization

(See SPAN 348)

352 The Purpose and Politics of Education

(Offered as EDST 352, HIST 352 [US/TC/TR/TS], AMST 352 and SOCI 352) Focusing on the United States, this course introduces students to foundational questions and texts central to Education Studies. We will explore the competing goals and priorities Americans have held for primary, secondary and post-secondary education and ask how and why these visions have influenced—or failed to influence—classrooms, schools, and educational policy. We will pay particular attention to sources of educational stratification; the tensions between the public and private purposes of schooling; and the relationship between schooling and equality. 

In the first part of the course, students will reflect on how Americans have imagined the purpose of self-education, literacy, public schooling, and the liberal arts. Among the questions we will consider: What do Americans want from public schools? Does education promote liberation? Has a liberal arts education outlived its usefulness? How has the organization of schools and school systems promoted some educational objectives in lieu of others? In the second section of the course, we will concentrate on the politics of schooling. Here, we will pay particular attention to several issues central to understanding educational inequality and its relationship to American politics, culture, and society: localism; state and federal authority; desegregation; and the complicated relationship between schooling and racial, linguistic, class-based, gender, and ethnic hierarchies. Finally, we will explore how competing ideas about the purpose and politics of education manifest themselves in current policy debates about privatization, charters, testing, and school discipline. Throughout the course, students will reflect on both the limits and possibilities of American schools to challenge and reconfigure the social order.

Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Luschen. 

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2025

359 Living with Inequality

(See ENGL 359)

374 Rights

(See POSC 374)

390, 490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023

410 Seminar on Epistemic Agency

(See PHIL 410)

415 Bilingualism in the US

(See SPAN 415)

468 Research Methods in American Culture

(See AMST 468)

498, 498D, 499, 499D Senior Honors

Independent work on an extended academic, creative, or pedagogical project on a topic relevant to the field. 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. 

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023