Fall 2014
ED 102: Introduction to American Education

School of Education

University of Rhode Island

Instructor: Dr. Nancy Noonan
Email: nancy_noonan@mail.uri.edu
Office Hours: By appointment
Time: Monday 4:00-6:45
Location: Quinn Hall 209


The goal of this course is for students to develop an understanding of education in American society, to begin to analyze educational principles and practices, and to apply these principles to modern approaches to learning and teaching. Students will be introduced to the complex nature of the American public school system and apply these ideas by researching and describing Rhode Island educational contexts. The course also incorporates themes of diversity by studying persistent inequities in American education, and comparing schools situated in different Rhode Island communities.

The course is learner-centered and project-based, with most of the artifacts created and refined by students contributing to URIOPENMINDS (www.uriopenminds.wikispaces.com), an online knowledge base about teaching and learning in Rhode Island schools accessible only to students in this course. Effective research methods, writing, and collaboration methods are stressed in the context of creating these artifacts. Exemplary student products will be published on the Internet.


To answer the question “Who is in our schools today?” you should be able to do the following:
· Identify the characteristics of professions and develop an argument for or against declaring teaching a profession.
· Describe what we mean by culture and groups within a culture.
· Describe the theories and ideologies that influence how schools respond to students from diverse groups.
· Identify the challenges that many students face as a result of being at risk because of societal factors, such as poverty, over which they have little or no control.
· Discuss the importance of diversity, equality, and social justice in delivering high-quality education for all students.
· Describe the role that schools play in the education and socialization of today’s children and youth.
To answer the question “How and what we should teach in school?” you should be able to do the following:
· Identify different conceptions of standards and analyze the consequences that these conceptions have for teaching and learning.
· Define accountability for student learning and describe how current educational policies are holding schools, districts, and states accountable for student achievement.
· Understand the meaning of “helping all students learn” and explain how standards and assessments may influence efforts to meet this goal.
· Define philosophy and describe methods of inquiry used by philosophers.
· Elaborate on the major tenets of idealism, realism, pragmatism, and existentialism.
· Relate philosophical concepts to teaching and learning.
· Identify the major tenets of authoritarian educational philosophies of essentialism, behaviorism, and positivism.
· Identify the major tenets of non-authoritarian educational philosophies of progressivism, humanism, and constructivism.
· Relate educational philosophy to classroom organization, discipline practices, motivation, and classroom climate.
· Describe and analyze characteristics of direct and indirect teaching strategies.
To answer the question “What has led us to where we are now?” you should be able to:
· Describe the organizational structure of schools, school districts, and the authority relationships among schools, states, and the federal government.


Your performance will be evaluated on the following:

Class attendance, participation, and completion of in-class assignments and extended study - 40%

Students are expected to attend each class. Each class session will require active participation such as peer teaching/presenting, discussion, group work, etc. Students should be prepared to share and apply their understanding of the assigned readings during each class.

There will be some type of assignment or assessment given during almost every class meeting. Since many of these assignments rely on each student contributing to a group product, they cannot be made up. Students are encouraged to trade phone numbers and other contact information; be prepared to contact a classmate for any missed handouts or notes on class discussion.

Context Statement: Describing a District, a Community, and a School - 30%
During first half of the course, we will learn about who is teaching and learning in public schools. We will also use various websites to learn more about what is happening in local school districts. Your task will be to apply this information to describe a specific Rhode Island district. The specific requirements for this assignment will be distributed later in the course.

Group Educational Issue Bibliography and Presentation - 30%
During the second half of the course, we will continue to learn about issues that are currently affecting American education. You will work in small groups to create an annotated bibliography exploring a particular educational issue, present your group’s perspectives, and engage the class in a discussion of the issue. Specific instructions for this project will be distributed later in the course.

Revision Policy: Most of your assignments will be posted online in the class wiki. You are encouraged to write and revise your draft papers online early and often. Because you have this opportunity, revisions made after a project’s due date will not be considered unless you have explained your situation to the instructor beforehand.


The grades for this course are weighted as described in the previous section. Since you may not be used to having grades weighted, please ask the instructor if you have any questions.
Your final letter grade will be determined according to the following scale:
A (93-100) A– (90-92) B+ (87-89) B (83-86) B– (80-82)
C+ (77-79) C (73-76) C– (70-72) D+ (67-69) D (63-66)
D– (60-62) F (59 points or below)
If you have a documented disability that may require individual accommodations, please make an appointment with me prior the third class meeting. We will discuss how to meet your individual needs to ensure your full participation and fair assessment procedures.