Penn GSE

Teacher Education Program

EDUC 515, Field Seminar in the Elementary/Middle Level Classroom

This seminar is designed to integrate student teaching fieldwork and university course work through reading, discussion, and reflection. Central to this course will be teacher research, an inquiry stance toward learning how to teach, and a social justice approach to education. Throughout the semester, we will be examining a range of issues through theoretical and practice-oriented lenses that will deepen our understanding of teaching and learning.

Two major themes drive the fall seminar. During Term II, our focus will be on “Learners & Learning” as we consider how close attention to the identities, experiences, and needs of our students can help us to create learner-centered classrooms. The culminating project for this term – the in-depth child study of one of your students – is integrated with your math, science, social studies, and literacy courses and is designed to help you gain insights into instruction through rigorous and nuanced inquiry into the experiences and perspectives of the children you are teaching.

During Term III, the focus of the fall seminar will shift to “Pedagogy.” Building upon the previous term’s emphasis on close observations of students, we will devote Term III to investigating how learner-centered approaches to teaching can inform our pedagogical decision-making. During this third term, you will complete an Analysis of Teaching assignment that is integrated across seminar and the methods courses (math, literacy, social studies, and science). The purpose of this assignment is to give you an opportunity to plan lessons and analyze your own teaching, as well as to develop questions that you would like to ask yourself as you continue to learn as a teacher.

EDUC 515, Field Seminar in the Secondary Classroom

The Fall Fieldwork Seminar is intended to be a space for exploring conceptual frameworks and issues related to teaching in urban contexts, for analyzing data drawn from your fieldwork placements, and for examining a broad range of questions about teaching and learning. Many of these questions will be posed by or for the group. Others will be drawn from your own pressing interests and inquiries.

Most of the questions we will explore together are intended for ongoing inquiry, oriented toward understanding complex issues impacting teaching and learning in urban classrooms. Thoughtful pursuit of these questions will help position you to address challenges and complexities over a lifetime of teaching and learning. Some questions we take up will be context-specific, rooted in daily practice. These explorations are meant to encourage viewing classrooms as sites for learning across the professional lifespan, as well as to draw out tangible, material suggestions for navigating the daily issues that arise in your student teaching experiences. The Fall Fieldwork Seminar is predicated on regarding teaching as complex, theoretical, deliberative, and political work, and the understanding that teachers shape opportunities for student learning through their choices of subject matter and pedagogy, their design and intentional construction of learning environments, and the relational and ethical norms they establish in their classrooms, among other things. As a means of investigating these aspects of teaching, this course encourages the idea of inquiry as a stance on classroom practice (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2001; 2009). This involves engaging in the intellectual and relational process of research in practice in collaboration with others. Toward that end, this course is structured as a collaborative inquiry, in which we will utilize processes and protocols used by teacher inquiry communities for learning from problems, issues, and questions emanating from our own practices. As we explore local issues and questions, we will critically explore the discourse of the broader field. These inquiries are intended to help you to envision how you might continue to learn from practice, including participation in professional communities of learning, beyond your experience in this program. Commitment to life-long inquiry into the practice of teaching will enable you to continue to learn and thrive as a teacher, and better serve the diverse needs of all of your students.

EDUC 520, Literacy Methods in the Elementary/Middle Level Classroom

In this course we explore the interconnections of language, literacy and culture to build a knowledge base and understanding of how children learn to read and write. The class is structured around the overarching program’s “Four Domains of Teaching and Learning”. Described in more detail below, they are “Contexts of Education”, “Self as Learner and Teacher”, “Curriculum and Pedagogy”, and “Students as Teachers and Learners”. Our focus throughout this course will be on how to teach and develop literacy curriculum in the elementary and middle level grades. A major emphasis of the course and our work together will be on how close listening and observation of children in their classroom contexts combined with a critical reading of research and theory can inform teaching practices. We will focus on the classroom rituals and routines that allow you to shape your teaching practice. In addition, we investigate ways to build classroom communities through literacy practices, including multimedia. Throughout the course we explore ways to teach in innovative child-centered ways that are also congruent with district guidelines and standards. In order to facilitate our inquiry and build a body of knowledge about literacy teaching and learning, we will use classroom descriptions from teachers and university-based researchers, your observations as student teachers from your field placements in local schools, research theory about literacy teaching and learning, class discussions, multimedia websites, videos, and individual and group reflections. A central tenet of this course is that the best teachers of reading and writing are themselves active and engaged readers and writers. As a result, you will engage in reading and writing in and outside of the class. In addition, an examination of our own reading and writing processes will inform our thinking about how to teach children. An important goal is to combine an inquiry approach to teaching and learning with an inquiry approach to thinking about how we teach.

EDUC 521, Science Methods in the Elementary/Middle Level Classroom

The goal of this course is to prepare teachers and informal educators to facilitate science learning in elementary and middle schools or in out-of-school settings. Content drawn from across biological and physical sciences with a focus on environmental/earth science themes. Special emphasis is placed on striving for a balance between curricular or institutional goals; individual needs and interests; and the nature of science.

EDUC 523, Social Studies Methods in the Elementary/Middle Level Classroom

How else does a social studies teacher responsibly plan and administer information than by scrutinizing the world, discerning responsible voices/points of view and mediating for the inchoate critic?

To what extent does “300” approximate the battle of Thermopylae? To what extent does Maus equal a typical Holocaust survival experience? Did the Trojan War even happen? When does, for instance, McDougal Littell’s Creating America serve as an adequately measured rendering of our nation’s progress? Does not absence from a particular historical moment render every bit of reliable retrospect conjecture? Should a publishing company ably sell a text that presents Rwanda as a progressive country where women have the right to vote? Are we all playing the role of Harry Turtledove? 

Students in our charge carry the responsibility (often unwittingly) of stewardship—they live in America and tend not to think about America’s place in the world. As such, practitioners carry the burden of orienting students to a sense of citizenship and the various lenses through which citizenship is perceived—relative to the rest of the world and the evolution of American life. How does American cultural transmission correlate to commercial hegemony? How does source selection and attribution inform one’s practice and/or reflect one’s politics? To what extent is social studies education a conscious political act? To what extent is it Matthew Broderick in “Election”?

The most effective social studies teachers serve as something aspiring to channel an inner Central Intelligence Agent: these people are disciplined, hyper-empowered discerners of relevance. What is more, they work to parse intellectually challenging information so that all students in their charge ably access complex, generative material. In short, effective social studies teachers foster critical thought and typically go broke buying maps and photocopies in the process.

For the sake of our varied practices, we will strive toward consensus, relying on the collective critique to help mediate a complex and disorienting world, undermining typically banal curricular approximations that so grossly miss the academic mark as to render history and culture irrelevant. What is more, we will consider the measured moral calculations inherent of teaching emotionally and intellectually provocative material and its typical association with volatility and contraband.

Ultimately, we will reorient our discussions to meet the needs of our students—potential change agents, status-quo promoters, or some conflation of the two.

EDUC 530, Community Based Mathematics

The purpose of the course is to engage future urban mathematics teachers in identifying and leveraging mathematics learning opportunities that exist within neighborhoods and communities. During the course, students will: (1) interrogate their preconceptions about mathematics and mathematics education, (2) develop understandings of frameworks for teaching math using contexts, and (3) become familiar with tools designed to help teachers plan and effectively implement mathematical tasks and lessons. Students will apply what they learn to design community-based mathematics instructional materials for their own classroom use. The final assignment asks students to reflect on how their experience in the course challenged or reinforced their philosophies about mathematics and mathematics instruction.

EDUC 531, Math Methods in the Elementary/Middle Level Classroom

Learning to teach mathematics in ways that foster mathematical understanding and enjoyment for every student requires that you develop and draw on different kinds of knowledge, skills, and dispositions. In addition to developing an understanding of central mathematical ideas, learning to teach math involves learning about learners (yourself included), the understandings and conceptions they hold, and the processes through which they learn. It also involves developing skill in teaching practices that engage students in mathematical exploration, creating an environment that facilitates reasoning, and finding ways to analyze and learn from your own teaching. The amount of time we will spend together working on these things will only allow us to begin. Our hope is that, through EDUC 531, you will develop ways of observing, thinking, and analyzing that will prepare you to continue learning as you teach.

Because good teaching decisions depend on the context, the central aim of the course is not to provide you with a "bag of tricks" to use in all circumstances. Rather, it is to help you develop necessary tools for thinking and working as a teacher. These tools include ways to explore mathematical content, assess your students' understanding on an ongoing basis, and help all your students develop as learners of mathematics.

EDUC 540, Teaching Diverse Learners

This course is intended to engage you in thoughtful discussion about working with diverse learners while presenting factual information about specific areas of need. Our work will be situated within a socio-cultural framework that sees our students as resources that enrich our classes. In this class, we will address content related to both Special Education and English Language Learners. As such, we use four major themes—Introduction to Special Education, Learning Categories, Issues in Special Education and Working with English Language Learners—to guide our learning. Over course of the year, you will have an opportunity to clarify and challenge your beliefs about working with students with diverse learning needs.

In particular, in all class meetings and through the course projects students will be challenged to think deeply and thoroughly about educating diverse students in inclusive classrooms, through the lens of the PennGSE TEP mission, which includes the following core elements: a) taking an inquiry stance; b) urban contexts of schools, c) supporting social justice & equity, d) integrating theory with practice. 

EDUC 544, School & Society

In this course, we will explore the ways in which American schools have been molded by the social, political, economic, cultural, and ideological forces in society at large, with a particular focus on the tensions between the promise of the American dream and the realities of urban public education. A particular focus will be on the question of justice – and what it would take to provide a just education for all. Through a variety of scholarly texts and learning experiences, this course will routinely require deliberate consideration of the following question: How should our work as urban educators take into account the histories, economies, politics, cultures, and people of the communities in which we teach? The purpose of this course is for all of us to become better teachers by understanding the reciprocal relationships between schools and the wider society, and by considering the roles that teachers can play to redress social inequities.

EDUC 554, Teaching & Learning in Urban Contexts

“Becoming a teacher” is in fact an ongoing, career-spanning enterprise. This course marks the beginning of your journey, and the start of your yearlong inquiry in pre-service teaching. We have designed this course to provide you with both the content basis and methodological foundations to support you in the coming year. The course follows three strands, and these are reflected weekly in the syllabus.

  • First, each class you will have an “essential” (critical, though unanswerable) question that allows you to engage with content material critical to urban teaching. These essential questions are listed on the syllabus, and topics range from learning theory to pedagogical models for urban settings, to inquiring about difference in the classroom.
  • Second, you will pursue an inquiry project over the course of the semester, and each week you will gain and practice inquiry skills (e.g. asking researchable questions, conducting observations, designing and executing interviews and surveys, analyzing data). These skills are listed as “research tasks” on the syllabus, and will culminate in a final inquiry project. Ultimately, these are the skills you will continue to cultivate and draw on to produce your final portfolio at the end of the program.
  • Third, the course is tied together with a focus on learning. Each week focuses on some aspect of learning that is critical for urban teaching. Through inquiry and foundational readings, we will be exploring, pushing, and evolving our own definitions of what it means to learn (and thus to teach).

EDUC 555.001, Advanced Field Methods in the Elementary/Middle Level Classroom

This seminar focuses on the development of integrated, inquiry-oriented curriculum frameworks during Term IV and explores praxis—the unity of reflection and practice—during Term V. In the first of these two terms, you will plan the “big picture” of the curriculum that you will implement later in the spring. Then you will complete your master’s portfolio, which will represent your inquiry into practice as a representation of your learning during this year.

The course will be co-constructed from the issues and challenges that you find most compelling, and the ones that the faculty believes will prove most important in your future development as teachers. We have begun discussing and pulling together issues that we will address and some formats that we can use to bring your field experience into class.

By design, this course has less outside reading than your fall courses. We will ask you to delve more deeply into some of the readings from the fall as you relate them to your work. As you will see, the work to prepare your curriculum is fast-paced at the same time as we insist that it be thoughtful and authentic. The portfolio project should be in your mind daily as you continue to learn to teach and to reflect on all that you learned last semester.

EDUC 555.003, Advanced Field Seminar in the Secondary Classroom

The Advanced Fieldwork Seminar explores what it means to “take an inquiry stance” (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2001; 2009) as a framework for investigating and addressing issues in teaching. Building from the work of the Education 515, the fall Fieldwork Seminar, this course is intended to be a space for raising and examining a broad range of questions derived from practice, collecting and analyzing data drawn from fieldwork placements, and developing conceptual frameworks for exploring issues related to teaching in urban contexts.


In this course, we will investigate what it means to be a teacher researcher in urban middle and secondary schools. We will examine the possibilities of viewing classrooms as sites of ongoing learning for and with students. With this object in mind, we will explore how practitioner inquiry is useful as a framework for making problematic conventional or inherited school arrangements, for reimagining the ways knowledge is constructed, evaluated, and used in urban schools, and for encouraging teachers to envision and bring about change in their schools, classrooms, and communities. Ultimately, this work is intended to help us to learn from teaching with the goal of teaching better, and improving learning opportunities of our students.


The course is structured as a collaborative inquiry at multiple levels. As a class, we will read a variety of examples of teacher research, as well as a few select overviews of the field that examine characteristics and traditions of practitioner research. At the same time, this course is intended to support your individual inquiries and research into your teaching practice. This work will culminate in your final program portfolio. To support this, you will work in small groups formed around your plans for your portfolio projects. These inquiry groups will function as data analysis/research/writing groups, in which we will use systematic approaches to examining data, which have been developed and used by other teacher research communities. 



EDUC 560, Child Development

The course focuses on childhood. It presents some of the important cognitive and social developments that influence learning during this period. Although the course concentrates on what is currently known about these developments from the research literature, different theories and schools of thought for interpreting these findings will be introduced throughout the semester. Because members of the course will be currently working with or observing children, these observations can be used to make sense of the course readings and vice versa. The objectives of the course are to confront the problem of explaining development within different contexts, explore some of the major discoveries about young children's development, and consider how a developmental approach can best be employed to support teaching and learning.

EDUC 627.002, Math Methods in the Secondary Classroom



EDUC 627.003, Science Methods in the Secondary Classroom

This course is premised on the understanding that teachers, schools and educational systems are critical agents in producing a scientifically literate society, a STEM-ready workforce, and generations of students who can participate in 21st century activities. Based on current educational research and practice, this course focuses on developing pedagogical perspectives in teachers that will foster growth and development in all their students to enable them to move confidently and intelligently in a rapidly paced, knowledge-based and technology-mediated society. The following three foundational pedagogical elements guide the over-all course goals:

  1. Knowledge: This element includes current research on the nature of teaching and learning, e.g., scientific literacy, 21st century skills, international benchmarking, classroom management, multiple intelligences, and content knowledge and standards.

  2. Skills: This element includes a focus on inquiry, assessment, argumentation, educational technologies, collaborative learning, lesson construction and delivery and integrating technology in the curriculum.

  3. Attitudes/Habits of Mind: This element includes goals for science teaching, teaching in urban and underserved schools, and developing successful pedagogical strategies.

EDUC 627.004, Social Studies Methods in the Secondary Classroom

This course considers the importance of social studies teaching and learning in high schools and middle schools in the United States. It aims to prepare social science teachers for the important responsibility of ensuring that the content and practices of social science classes encourage and nurture the critical thinking of secondary students as they prepare to become active citizens in a democratic society. Rooted in the belief that there is a deep connection between how we understand the meaning, purpose and teaching of social studies and the practice of democracy, this course considers critically how to teach social studies in an age of “accountability,” globalization and rapid technological change.

The instructor will approach these and other issues from the stance of a critical pedagogy that requires us as educators to question our teaching purposes and practices through a process of critical inquiry, self-reflection, and student-teacher interaction. Using a variety of learning theories and perspectives as the foundation for interactive teaching strategies, the stories, questions and contradictions of social studies learning are examined from a variety of perspectives.

Emphasis will be placed on learning and practicing effective teaching strategies in order to address the learning needs, cultural understandings and prior knowledge each student brings to the classroom. Students will learn to scaffold individual lessons and to create a unit plan that encourages the development of the critical and creative thinking skills required of active citizens in a democratic nation. Further, students will gain proficiency in using the National and Pennsylvania Curriculum standards as a guide to effective lesson planning.

A significant portion of the course emphasizes learning by doing in order to ensure that students develop a repertoire of effective teaching strategies in the social sciences. Reflective teaching is a cornerstone of the course; students will be continually encouraged through discussions and reflective writing to analyze their experiences in the classroom. Thus, students become teacher-researchers in their own classrooms.

EDUC 629.003, Literacy Methods in the Secondary Classroom

This course will focus on current theories and practices of reading and writing with adolescents. Students will further their knowledge of theoretical beliefs, young adult literature, teaching strategies, and classroom-based assessments for readers and writers who are fluent and those who are striving/struggling/disinterested. Attention will also be given to the teaching of native speakers of other languages. 

Many of the readings for this course urge us to emphasize student motivation, self-attitude, and misconceptions about reading and writing; teacher expectations; and literacy strategies over an assumption of innate "ability." The latter underlies much of “teacher-talk” about students. This course will reconsider this assumption, as you find ways to help middle and high school students engage meaningfully with language and literacy. In order to achieve this goal, we will look at the links among race, class, culture, language and literacy acquisition.

We will also look at how youth, typically viewed as academically apathetic, are creating and advocating for models of change in their schools. Another focus will be on the ways in which families and communities are serving as leaders in public school change.

EDUC 657.002, Advanced Math Methods in the Middle Level and Secondary Classroom

What makes a good math teacher? We know a lot more about this question than we did a few short years ago: new ways of thinking about instruction abound, and there’s new understanding of the complexity of learning and teaching mathematics. In this course you’ll look at some of these new understandings, explore how they apply in specific mathematical contexts and reflect on how they play out in your own classroom.

         We’ll do a mathematical activity every week, and consider how the mathematical activity relates to what we know about instructional strategies and about how students learn.

You’ll reflect on your own teaching, concentrating on mathematical tasks you have planned with colleagues and implemented in your own classes.

The session agendas listed below describe assigned readings for the session, the mathematics we’ll address, and other special items appropriate for that week. Every session will include discussion of the readings, and every session after Session 1 will include small-group time to present and discuss your experiences planning and implementing student mathematical tasks.

EDUC 657.003, Advanced Science Methods in the Middle Level and Secondary Classroom

This course is the second course in the two-course series that addresses teaching and learning in secondary science classrooms. The advanced methods topics have been carefully selected to represent current and relevant areas in science education research and are geared toward understanding issues impacting students, teachers and schools in the modern urban society. The course is premised on several organizing themes in education. 

Skills: topics investigated under this theme include: literacy, questioning, visualizations, direct instruction strategies, and teaching SPED and gifted students.

Teaching Science in Urban Schools: topics investigated under this theme include: culturally relevant pedagogies, English language learning, gender, and workforce development.

21st Century Learning: topics investigated under this theme include: Problem-based learning, information technologies, educational technologies, current STEM fields of research, citizenship science, and ethical decision-making.

EDUC 657.004, Advanced Social Studies Methods in the Middle Level and Secondary Classroom

Formal teaching and learning are on-going processes that require us to question our practice and purpose through self-reflection, self-evaluation, collegial and student/teacher interaction, and personal and professional growth. This course is the second half of a secondary social studies methods course geared toward teaching middle and high school social studies in an urban setting. We will focus on social studies content, pedagogical strategies as well as specific skills and Pennsylvania and national standards. We will work together as teacher-researchers to combine theory with practice to increase our understanding and utilization of an inquiry based, multiple perspective, constructivist approach to the teaching of social studies.

Since you are student teaching full time, I will be sensitive to time constraints. You will not have the usual reading course load for a graduate level class. We will focus on “best practices,” reflective teaching, developing constructivists lessons, expanding our awareness of the profession, and meshing pedagogy and content. We will use a “learning-by-doing” workshop approach to help us acquire effective strategies. Via Canvas and in class, we will continue to build our professional community by sharing concerns, questions, successes, and other issues related to your student teaching experience and teaching of social studies. 

EDUC 657.005, Advanced English Methods in the Middle Level and Secondary Classrooms