Coursework and Experiences Related to Diversity

Every teacher candidate at Ohio Northern University begins the professional education coursework with EDUC 1151 Culture and Schooling.  Candidates from all programs and licensure levels share this introductory course to be introduced to "the philosophical, historical, and sociological aspects of the American public school experience including the impact that cultural factors have on students, teachers, and on the development and enactment of the school curriculum."  This course includes such topics as assimilation and diversification, the hidden curriculum, schooling vs. education, nationalism and education, the common school, religion in schools, the African-American experience and exceptional student experience in the common school, historical and contemporary portraits of teachers, sexuality and education, the Indian removal experience, multiculturalism, desegregation, dropouts, immigrant children, tracking and ability grouping, social class and education, and others.  Course assignments include the development of a teaching philosophy, progressive education summary and a true life essay, critical issues forum presentations, the creation of a desktop documentary, and others.  Currently, ONU's Director of Multicultural Development teaches two lessons as part of this course.  The first, which occurs early in the term, is an introduction to multiculturalism with related activities.  Later in the semester, he presents a related activity which expects deeper reflection from the teacher candidate as they think about their own experiences with multiculturalism.

Upon completion of this course, candidates may register for EDUC 1501 Five-Day Field Experience I.  This field experience requires the candidate to attend a pre-conference meeting with the instructor, observe and participate in a racially diverse school setting for five consecutive full days, write a reflection paper responding to prompts about the diverse experience, and attend a post-conference debriefing session with other candidates.  This unit assessment and the related data will be discussed below.  The Five-Day Field Experience I is required of all teacher candidates regardless of program or licensure level.

EDUC 2101 Exceptional Learners is also required of all teacher candidates regardless of program or licensure level.  This course helps teacher candidates to, "Understand the varying characteristics and needs of exceptional individuals; legal requirements, bilingual/multicultural considerations, least restrictive environment and programming alternatives developed to meet student needs."   Course topics include special education definitions, history, and origins; multilingual and bilingual considerations; identification prevalence and causes; legislation and litigation; least restrictive environment; psychological and behavioral considerations; early intervention; IEPs; and other.  Course assignments include abstracts of articles from relevant journals.  For those candidates who entered under the semester curriculum in Fall 11-12, the field placement during the semester in which this course is taken will include a minimum of 10 hours (more for some programs) working in a classroom with a special needs student and a minimum of 10 hours working in a classroom with an ELL student.

The Education Department carefully considered the preparation of teacher candidates for working with special needs and ELL students during the semester curriculum revision.  For many years, the unit has required the Exceptional Learners course of all teacher candidates and these were topics integrated throughout the rest of the required course work as well.  Particularly in the methods classes, faculty address the special needs student and differentiation strategies.  On the unit's lesson plan format used in most courses and field work, the candidate must consider any special needs in the classroom, develop individualized strategies, and reflect on the success of the plan after the lesson.  During the assessment courses, assessment as related to identifying and serving special needs students is discussed.  For many years, candidates have participated in required field experiences with students from special needs populations.  Yet, the faculty determined that more needed to be included, particularly for working with ELL students, as part of the semester curriculum.  A textbook, Scaffolding language scaffolding learning:  Teaching second language learners in the mainstream classroom, by P. Gibbons, was selected to be integrated into the course plan for EDUC 2101 Exceptional Learners, with the plan that the teacher candidate will be asked to keep this text for future reference.  During EDUC 3421 Literacy Across the Content Areas EC/MC or EDUC 3451 Literacy Across the Content Areas AYA/MA, one of which is required of every teacher candidate and taken much later in the program, this textbook will again be used as a reference as candidates plan and teach units and lessons which integrate reading and their content areas.  This reference can also be used and referred to in other professional education courses but will be used specifically in those two courses.  The text will certainly vary with time but the plan allows for multiple points of content exposure and practice with planning for ELL.

Finally, coursework and experiences specific to certain programs also impacts candidates’ ability to work with diverse populations.  For example, in the Early Childhood course ECED 2401 Introduction to Early Childhood, candidates learn how to conduct conferences with families including those who may feel uncomfortable attending a conference due to language differences and those with prior negative experiences with school personnel.  The program assessment Families Project includes components related to providing community resources to families with diverse needs and structures.  The ECED 3051 Early Childhood Social Studies Methods course includes methods and materials related to addressing the ideas of teaching diverse students and teaching about diversity.

In addition to the curriculum revisions described above, field experience minimum requirements were refined as well.  For many years, teacher education candidates have been required to have at least one field experience in a racially/ethnically diverse setting, at least one experience with a special needs student, and at least one additional experience in a diverse or different setting (SES, language, single gender school, parochial school, or other).  The faculty intentionally refined the additional requirement to include required and more defined experiences with special needs and ELL students.  An additional experience in a racially/ethnically diverse setting later in the program (junior year) was added.  A unique placement opportunity for working with ELL students has evolved in the local Ada Schools with students from Saudi Arabia as Ohio Northern University has entered into an agreement with this country for the extended education of Saudi prison guards.  These individuals and their families become a part of the university and Ada school community for a period of two years while the educational program is completed.  Some candidates complete their experiences with ELL students in this environment.

In addition to the coursework and experiences required specifically for teacher education candidates, all ONU undergraduate students at ONU are required coursework related to diversity.  For first-year students entering in Fall 2011, the university moved to a university-wide outcome-based general education system with “understanding diverse cultures and their impact on human interactions” as one of the seven outcomes for all students.  The EDUC 1151 Culture and Schooling course has been “tagged” as meeting that outcome and is open to any student on campus who wants to meet a general education requirement with this course.  In addition, every teacher education candidate must complete at least one second course, which could be taught in any department, which has been officially tagged for this outcome.

Finally, in addition to the required coursework and experiences above, teacher education candidates at ONU have a variety of opportunities to participate in activities which enhance understandings of those from different backgrounds.  The Center for Teacher Education has a selective Student Teaching Abroad program which permits certain candidates, through an application process, to student teach at international or Department of Defense schools worldwide.  Candidates have recently student taught in Switzerland, England, Greece, Spain, Germany, and Estonia.  Several candidates were included in a recent Fulbright Hays Study Trip with ONU faculty and alumni teachers in a month-long study tour of South Africa.  An ONU tutoring program in Lima City Schools led by an ONU Education Department faculty members provides opportunities for further experience and service with students in this district.  Campuswide programming conducted by the Office of Multicultural Development includes such activities as cooking classes by Muslim students, celebration of Chinese New Year, an Annual Kuumba Festival, a presentation on the earthquake in Japan by the Asian Student Union, and numerous other events.  The Director of Multicultural Development introduces all teacher candidates to these activities during the EDUC 1151 Culture and Schooling introductory education course.  Open Doors provides support and programming related to LGBT students.  In addition, the Department of Modern Languages is now offering several additional languages including Chinese, Japanese, Russian, and Arabic as well as French, Spanish, and German.