With some minor modifications (depending on the level and subject of certification sought), the undergraduate curricula share the same pedagogical core. This set of learning experiences provides future teachers with a deep understanding of learners and learning, knowledge and knowing, teachers and teaching, and schools and schooling grounded in practice so that students will be able to enact their understandings after they graduate. The pedagogical core is completed by study in the subject or subjects that students will teach, and by specific curriculum and methods courses dedicated to each of the certification levels and subject matters.
In the first semester, each new teacher education student takes a special section of the New Student Seminar designed to introduce students both to NYU and to the profession they have chosen. Students visit several different schools to get a picture of the variety available. In the second semester, students engage in exploring their own learning histories, and placing them in the contexts of schooling in the challenging Inquiries into Teaching and Learning I. This course is the keystone of our efforts to help make NYU teachers into the thoughtful, reflective professionals they must become if they are to succeed in contemporary schools. A particular focus of this course is the acquisition and development of language in its social context and its implications for all teachers of all subjects. In addition to on-campus study, this course involves visiting a school and observing the teaching and learning practices within it.
This year is devoted to understanding the processes of human growth and development both in and out of the school, whether in New York or during a semester of study abroad. In Human Development, each participant develops a broad understanding of how humans grow from conception to death in psychological terms, including how we learn, how our minds work, how our bodies influence our minds, and how development is influenced by the family, school, and work environments we live in. Each module focuses on one of the four developmental levels that students can be certified to teach—early childhood, childhood, middle childhood/early adolescence, and adolescence. The modules share a commitment to exploring and understanding the wide range of human development at all ages from a multicultural as well as a learning point of view. Both semesters include field experiences, the first mostly in non-school settings and the second in appropriate school settings. The required Human Development course can also be completed in either London or Ghana, with in-school observation practica in local schools.
The core experiences during this year and the next begin to interact more specifically with the particular requirements of the specialization students choose in terms of level and subject or subjects to be taught. Both of the curricula that prepare people to work with younger children have as a mission that all of our graduates in early childhood and childhood education will be prepared to teach special education children as well as general education kids. This manifests itself in an integrated set of learning experiences for each level that looks at language and literacy developments, content (e.g., mathematics, social studies, science, the arts), curriculum and instruction for all children, and the legal and theoretical foundations of special education. These experiences are closely tied to an increasingly intense set of field experiences in a variety of schools and classrooms.
Most students intending to teach at all levels also take Education as a Social Institution, which involves students in seeing how schooling is structured in our society. Students visit school board meetings; explore how policy is made concerning testing, tracking, and special education; and explore the worlds of schools outside the classroom.
In addition to learning about using technologies in teaching their particular subjects in the appropriate curriculum and methods courses, secondary education students also take a Language Acquisition and Literacy Education course. The language and literacy course is based on the mutually supporting premises that children who cannot read and write will have a difficult time learning the subjects of the secondary curriculum, and that reading and writing are themselves powerful learning tools across the curriculum.
The key learning experiences of the final year are the two student teaching placements, where students make the final transition to being the teachers they have been preparing to be. While all experienced teachers recognize that we keep learning to teach throughout our teaching careers, the supervised student teaching experiences (with their associated seminars) provide the nurturing environments that make the successful transition from student to professional possible.
Growing out of and feeding back to the student teaching experiences is instruction on campus in a variety of areas including, particularly, at all levels, courses on the adaptation of instruction for special education students in mainstream classrooms. Building on the language and literacy course of the previous year as well as the development courses, students develop appropriate strategies for working with all the children in their classes.
The final course of the pedagogical core is Inquiries into Teaching and Learning II, which functions both as a summation of what has been learned about teaching and a look ahead to the professional practice that will be embarked on after graduation. This course helps students further develop their competence as reflective practitioners who can learn from their teaching to become better at it throughout their careers.