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Lessons Learned from FIPSE Projects II - September 1993

Union College

Introducing Teacher Education to a Liberal Arts Campus: A Model for Integration with the Disciplines


Pre-professional programs at liberal arts colleges are frequently viewed as marginal to the institution's mission. This is especially true of teacher education programs, which seem to attract more than their share of suspicion and even outright hostility on the part of liberal arts faculty.

When Union College faculty and administrators set about planning the Educational Studies program, the need to integrate it into the liberal arts curriculum and to allay faculty apprehensions about "creeping pre-professionalism" was paramount in their minds. The resulting model of teacher education for a liberal arts campus endeavored to attract high ability students to teaching; to integrate the study of pedagogy into the liberal arts curriculum; to involve both faculty and secondary teachers in the design and teaching of the program; and to operate in a cost efficient manner.

Innovative Features

From the beginning, project planners decided not to create a small Education Department that would quickly become isolated in Union College's staunchly liberal arts campus. Instead, faculty from English, languages, mathematics, sciences and social sciences teamed up with secondary school teachers to create the Curriculum and Methods courses for these areas. The remainder of the faculty were asked to review their departmental curricula from the perspective of teacher preparation. They responded by enhancing the scope, rigor and coherence of the major, modifying requirements, eliminating gaps, and setting guidelines for acceptance into the Educational Studies program. (Before a student can be admitted to the program, he or she must obtain a departmental recommendation.)

To further ensure faculty commitment, individuals teaching Educational Studies were given a certain amount of discretion in the calculation of their teaching loads, and published articles related to pedagogy within a discipline were included in tenure and merit reviews. In an effort to raise the consciousness of the entire community regarding the importance of pedagogy, the College invited outside consultants and held special colloquia entitled "The Science And Art Of Teaching." The work of the individual departments is coordinated by a Director of Educational Studies, who holds a 12-month faculty appointment, performs some administrative duties, and reports directly to the Dean of the Faculty.

The project developed three options: an undergraduate program combining education courses with a regular academic major and yielding a BS/BA plus certification; a one-year graduate program leading to an M.A.T. degree and certification; and a combined-degree program consisting of five years of study and yielding a BS/BA, an M.A.T. and certification. The graduate curricula include a full-year, half-day teaching internship.

Educational Studies receives institutional funds through the regular academic budget and tuition income from the Office of Graduate and Continuing Studies. Thus, the College is able to offer the M.A.T. at low cost and to waive some tuition for undergraduates.


Efforts included collection of admissions data, pre- and post-surveys, portfolios, and interviews with faculty and teachers as well as with students at various points in their curricula and in their first year of teaching.

Although it is too early to judge the quality or retention rates of the new teachers, it has already become apparent that the program has succeeded in attracting liberal arts students of high caliber to teaching. In addition, unlike most education programs, which are made up of a majority of humanities majors, Union's Educational Studies obtains roughly half of its students from science and mathematics.

As beginning teachers, Union College graduates feel confident and well prepared, and are less concerned with salary than with taking on new responsibilities, becoming leaders in the schools, and continuing to develop professionally.

Project Impact

Not only did the faculty who were directly involved in the curriculum development teams find the experience professionally stimulating, but their colleagues in departments across the campus became aware of the paramount importance of proper pedagogy. As faculty collaborated with high school teachers, they developed a new regard for these colleagues and a commitment to encourage outstanding students to join and consider teaching as a profession.

Unanticipated Problems

Although the extensive involvement of liberal arts faculty constitutes the program's main strength, it also implies a number of problems, mainly related to faculty reluctance to engage in team teaching with high school teachers during the summers and to offer discipline-based courses for the M.A.T. Turning teachers into mentors for Union student interns has also brought its share of problems. Without special funding, most mentors have no incentive to attend summer training sessions, and even with the benefit of training, not all mentors are able to work adequately with their interns.

Initially, it was expected that school districts would pay their interns. That has proved unworkable, due to objections from teacher unions, budget difficulties, and an ample supply of teachers in the area. However, interns do receive substitute wages when the mentor is absent.

Major Insights and Lessons Learned

This project has demonstrated the wisdom of involving liberal arts departments in the development and instruction of teacher education curricula, as opposed to segregating the study of pedagogy in a small enclave of its own. Involvement of faculty across the board has also ensured that the program will remain an integral part of the College, as proven by its having already survived a number of significant personnel changes.

Bringing together faculty and teachers to develop the curriculum was an unquestionable strength of the project: it not only made faculty appreciative of their colleagues in the schools but fostered discussion of pedagogy and committed the College to collaboration with the schools, in efforts such as developing a comprehensive program for at-risk students with the Schenectady City Schools.


The project has been featured at the conference of New York's Confederated Organizations of Teacher Education, and showcased by the New York State Education Department in statewide meetings of teacher education schools. Project personnel have made presentations and served as consultants with a number of organizations and institutions.

Project Continuation

All aspects of the project--budget, faculty and administration--have been fully institutionalized.

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Last Modified: 02/22/2006