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Education 311: Field Work Seminar

Spring 2013

Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College


Jody Cohen

Bryn Mawr/Haverford Education Program

Office: Bettws-Y-Coed 303 (BMC)

Meetings by appointment

Phone: 610-526-5214 (office), 215-206-6832 (cell)


Course Overview

This is the culminating seminar for students completing the Minor at Bryn Mawr or Haverford Colleges, and is open only to students completing the minor.  Drawing on the diverse contexts in which participants complete their fieldwork, this seminar will explore how images and issues of practice emerging from students’ fieldwork inform and are informed by cross-cutting issues in the field of education. 


We begin by revisiting the work of Paulo Freire, whose text, Pedagogy of the Oppressed raises issues about identity, pedagogy, and curriculum that we will examine in relation to our individual and collective experiences of practice.  We then move to a focus on practitioner inquiry, during which we read others’ inquiries and apply an inquiry stance to our own field settings.  While this section of the courses emphasizes change at the classroom and school level, in the next section we examine macro-level questions of change, looking both at the specific, district-level reform, Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City, and at the school reform story over recent decades in Finland. 


Throughout, we address these three interconnected goals:


To facilitate multiple perspectives on and ways of learning from an ongoing field placement, including (where possible) gaining additional practical experience as an educator


To support students in exploring complex issues of educational policy and practice in meaningful contexts


To help students gather together and extend their learning across the courses and contexts that have comprised the minor for them in a variety of ways, including through the completion of a final portfolio or comparable final project


Assigned Texts

The following books are available in the Bryn Mawr College bookstore and are also on reserve at Canaday Library.  Other materials will be available on our course Serendip site. Film/Video may be assigned for outside viewing, with selections shown in class.


Freire, Paolo.  Pedagogy of the Oppressed

McEntee, Grace et. al.  At the Heart of Teaching: A Guide to Reflective Practice

Sahlberg, Pasi.  Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from education change in


Tough, Paul.  Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and             America


Course and Placement Responsibilities


Related to Class

  • You are expected to attend class unless there is an emergency or serious health issue that prevents you from doing so.  Please notify me immediately should such arise.  Missing more than 2 classes without a formal excuse will lower your final course grade.  Missing more than 4 class meetings may lead to failure of the course.
  • Please arrive in class on time and with the day’s reading. Everyone should prepare well for class, and engage fully with the course readings as well as class discussions and group work during class.  You should also come to class prepared to discuss the issues and questions that the week’s fieldwork has raised for you. 
  • All written work is due as scheduled.  Extensions are available only if you ask for them in advance of the due date.   Students are invited to revise written work and should discuss their plans for revision with me first.
  • If you have a learning difference that requires accommodation, please notify me early in the semester.  Also, if you have questions about this, please consider consulting with Rick Webb (HC) or Stephanie Bell (BMC) who oversee issues connected with students learning differences in the bi-co.


Related to Placement

  • Placement visits begin during the second or third weeks of class in January and end when classes finish in the spring.
  • Students must attend their placements weekly as scheduled, 5 hours per week (with accommodations for planning and cross-visitation, as needed). It is ESSENTIAL that you complete all of your field placement visits: many teachers, administrators, and students expect you to be present, and if you miss days or show up late, the relationships the Education Program has with these teachers and schools are jeopardized.
  • Please keep detailed notes of each visit to your placement in a field journal. These notes will help you to remember what you see and do, to focus more clearly on your observations and analysis, and to have sufficient and readily available data when you write papers for this class. I will collect and review the journal at the midpoint and the end of the semester, and may do so at other points as well.   See below for fuller explanation of the field log.
  • Feel free to ask me about questions arising at your placement at any time and please notify me immediately should any problems related to your placement arise. It is up to you and the teacher(s) with whom you are placed to negotiate your participation in your field placement setting.  Although you will no doubt make every effort to fit in and contribute to the classroom in which you are placed, you may find yourself in an unexpected position. You may or may not be able to be as active as you would like to be. You may or may not agree with what the teacher is doing. At any point, you might find your role shifting. All of these are inherent dimensions of the experience of being a visitor in another teacher’s classroom. Be prepared for them, and approach your placement with an open mind: you are there to learn whatever you can about teaching, learning, and schools.
  • Final Thank You Note and Placement Closure Activity:  At the end of the semester, please send a note or notes of thanks to your mentor(s), the students with whom you worked, and/or anyone else you feel has contributed to your experience at your placement.  In addition, if possible and appropriate, find a way during your last visit to say goodbye to those you have come to know through your time at your placement.  This can be especially important for children with whom you have worked closely.  You might consider sharing a poem or story or teaching a lesson or holding an activity that in some way marks the end of your time with them. At the end of each semester, we will ask your cooperating teacher at the field placement site to write an evaluation of your participation.
  • Students who submit the proper paperwork will be reimbursed for 10 round trips to your placement sites at the end of the semester through Ann Brown of the Education Program.  To facilitate this, save all receipts and ticket stubs if you commute using public transportation, and write down exact mileage if you drive.



Course Assignments


Required format for all writing assignments except fieldnotes:

All writing for the course must be word-processed in a reasonably sized font and double-spaced.  All written assignments, including informal writing and drafts, should be carefully proofread before they are submitted.  Be sure to cite readings completely and appropriately using APA or MLA style guidelines. (For specific instruction in citation style, please consult  All course writing that refers to your field placement must use pseudonyms for the school and for all individuals


1.  Field log

In this handwritten or typed journal, keep records of observations, meetings, questions, ideas, information, and reflections on your field experience.  Make an entry after each visit to your placement site, date each entry, and include a sentence or two detailing the hours you attended and summarizing your activities there, as well as noting when and how you and your field placement mentor checked in about your involvement.  Draw on course readings, assignments, and discussions as analytic tools.  You may also experiment with other formats, such as the use of maps, diagrams, poetry, and other media to represent your observations and reflections.  We will discuss in class various ways to use the field notebooks to facilitate your learning.


Your field notebook is where you will describe what you see and do at your placement, and where you keep track of issues, events, and questions to pursue.  In this way, it is a record of what you’re learning.  This is also a space for your inquiry as a practitioner. Include ideas for ways to address issues that arise; draft assignments, lesson plans, notes toward curriculum, and so forth, as relevant to your situation. 


You may find that you are in a setting in which you can easily write about what you observe during your visit.  If this is the case, you will still need to read through and fill out your notes in greater detail after your visit as soon as possible to make sure you don’t forget anything.  If you are not able to write in the notebook during your visit, you should do so as soon as possible afterwards.


The journal does not need to be proofread or typed, and can be messy.  It is mostly a private document intended to help you keep track of your learning and to provide data for your research, although since I will read it, it is not, of course, completely private. You will submit your field log as part of your final portfolio.


2 (a, b, c). Writing for and about practice:

NOTE:  You will be part of an ongoing working group who will act as readers/respondents to this work; you will give each other critical feedback as a way of moving through and building on these assignments.  I will also read and respond to these pieces.

2a:  Post to your working group (by flagging the group name) your field notes from your first visit this semester.  Also, bring to class a hard copy or an e-copy that you can work with during class.


2b.  Post your field notes from your second visit.  Make sure to fully “cook” these notes, taking into account our class discussions of field notes.  Again, bring a copy to class.


2c.  Use your field notes as the basis for using the Guided Individual Reflection Protocol (McEntee, et. al, p. 52).  Again, post your responses and bring a copy to class.


3.  Serendip posts and comments:  On designated Wednesdays (see below), half the class posts responses to the readings and the other half posts comments. Group A or B will post comments under my comment for the week (specifying the reading we're commenting on) by Wed. at 5pm, the other group will respond to one of these comments by Thurs. at 9am.


4.  Cross-Visitation Analysis

For this assignment, you must arrange to visit another person’s placement with him or her once, and (if possible) arrange to host someone at your placement once as well.  We will plan for this well in advance.  You will need to seek permission from your field mentor to bring a visitor, and Ann Brown will also be in contact with someone at your site about this.  Please keep in mind that the time you spend at your classmate’s placement is deductible from your hours at your own placement for the week (although, of course, you need to inform your mentor about this).


Steps in completing the project:

Before your visits, develop one or several questions that you are bringing to the cross-visitation experience.  These questions should involve an issue relevant in some way to both sites, and can be developed separately or in collaboration with your partner.

Take field notes on both visits as soon as possible after completing them.

Arrange to meet with your partner for about 30 minutes to debrief your experiences.  As one aspect of your conversation, consider the questions you both brought to the experience.

Jot down some notes from your discussion to share informally in class and to use in your cross-visitation analysis paper.


Write a 5 page reflective essay on your learning from this experience.  Be as specific as possible in this paper as you push your thinking, form insights, and raise questions. 

Please include the following elements in your papers:

What were your questions going into the experience, and how did the cross-visitation address those questions or not?

Both describe and analyze the most important things you learned about your own placement from this assignment (whether or not these were related to your initial questions).  This must include visiting a classmate’s placement and may include hosting your classmate.

Discuss what you learned from your post-visit discussion with your partner.


5. Policy and Practice: Changing Schools and Systems

Over the course of the Education minor you have examined a number of ways in which education in our current context is powerful as well as ways in which it is flawed or problematic.  In this senior seminar we focus on educators’ theories and strategies for addressing the shortcomings of schools and school systems via reform at the national, state, local, school-wide, and/or classroom or program levels.  This assignment asks you to identify and analyze what you see as one or several closely related “critical issues in education” that must be addressed immediately, and to draw on our texts, as well as your placements if/as relevant, to help you articulate a strategy and a path for making this change. Consider the promise and the challenge of implementing true reform:  What do you envision as the content of the change—that is, what must change, and why?  Who are the key agents or players and what are the levers for moving this reform forward?  What challenges and pitfalls do you foresee, and how should we meet them?  Think as both an educator and a change agent:  Be realistic and also honor your vision. (5-7 pp.)

**Note:  You may also choose to approach this "change paper" in terms of a dimension of schools or school systems that we haven't focused on this semester, such as special education or educating English language learners.


6.  Working Group Problem of Practice Teaching Presentations

You will collaborate with your working group to teach a class (half of our class, so an hour and fifteen minutes) in which you address an issue of practice arising from your learning in your field placements and in the context of a more academic understanding of the topic.  This project will include several written components as well.  We will discuss this project more fully in class.


7.  Final Project Options

The senior seminar final project serves as an ongoing and summative expression of what education students do and learn in preparation for their futures as educators.  Whichever option you select should be constructed as evidence that as an education student you have explored and developed informed and meaningful relationships to (1) the self, (2) learners, (3) educational contexts, (4) subject matter, and (5) pedagogy. The project should highlight instances of active participation/decision and what education students learned from those.


The faculty and administrators of the Education Program want to see evidence that students have engaged with the issues explored in education courses and how those issues have shaped each student’s ideas of educational philosophy-into-practice. Therefore, each education student's portfolio must address the following questions in some way.


  • How have I explored issues of social change and social justice?
  • How do I demonstrate an attitude that is constructively skeptical/critical/questioning?
  • How do I demonstrate an attitude that is engaged/passionate/caring?
  • How do I demonstrate recognition of and struggle with complexity/real dilemmas?
  • How do I demonstrate openness to change/learning/future growth?


 (a) Portfolio:  There are two distinct pieces to each selection included in the portfolio: the artifact and the reflection on it. The artifact is a visual representation of a particular experience. It can be a photograph, a page from a syllabus, a flyer from a camp, a collection of key selections from an important paper, a lesson plan, a test, a note from a student or administrator or colleague.


A focused, precise, and substantive reflection should accompany each artifact. This reflection should appear on the page facing the artifact. Like the artifact, the reflection should occupy only a single page. The reflection should include a title, a brief explanation of the context from which the artifact comes, and most important, a thoughtful, critical analysis of the significance of the artifact. Answer this question about the artifact: "In what way did this [experience or interaction or activity] contribute to my evolution as an educator?" Be specific.


The portfolio should include a frame at the beginning and/or end that situates the artifact-reflection pairs in the larger conceptual framework of the author’s educational philosophy-into-practice.


(b) The relationship between theory and practice:  Reconsider your experiences as an Education minor over the years as these have culminated in your philosophy of education, drafted last semester and/or earlier this semester.  Now review your field notes and memos with an eye to tracking the relationship between your philosophy of education and your placement experiences.  Where are the overlaps and the gaps between theory and practice?  Develop a project that examines/explores the rich, complex relationship between theory and practice, using your own philosophy and practice experiences as the foundation. This may take the form of a portfolio (see above), a practitioner inquiry, or another format that you see as suited to this investigation.


(c) Dialogues across difference:  Collaborate with one or two peers who bring different lenses from yours to the field of education (e.g. in terms of discipline, identity…).  Select one or several key texts (these can include media of your choice) to read/view through your different lenses.  Engage in an extended dialogue about those texts and what you learn from them that impacts your understanding of education—in terms of philosophy, policy, and/or practice, in relation to yourself and to students, teachers, administrators, and/or parents.  The dialogue itself is the project, and should be represented as written text and, if you choose, in other media as well.


**  Final portfolio:  Please turn back in your Theory and Practice assignments, Cross-Visitation Analysis, and Policy and Practice paper (all with my comments) along with your field log for the semester and your final project—all together as your final portfolio of work in Ed 311.


Course Schedule                                 


Week 1: Orienting to the course

Thurs. Jan. 24

            Discuss the course aims, materials, requirements, responsibilities, and schedule

Going to placements, negotiating field agreements


Week 2:  Philosophies of education


**By Wed. @ 5 pm, Group A posts responses to the reading; by Thurs. @ 9 am, Group B posts comments.


Thurs. Jan. 31

Reading due: 

            Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

            Dewey (Moodle)


Turn in field agreement after discussing with your site supervisor


Writing due by Tues. at 5pm; flag your working group, and read others' notes by class:

             2a:  Post (to your working group) your field notes from your first visit or another recent education-related experience.  Also, bring to class a copy to work on.  Your group will work with these field notes during class.


Week 3: Thurs. Feb. 7


**By Wed. @ 5 pm, Group B posts responses to the reading; by Thurs. @ 9 am, Group A posts comments.


Reading due: 

            Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed


Week 4: Practitioner inquiry


**By Wed. @ 5 pm, Group A posts responses to the reading; by Thurs. @ 9 am, Group B posts comments.


Thurs. Feb. 14

Reading due:

            McEntee et. al, At the Heart of Teaching

            Barahal, “Thinking about Thinking” (Moodle)


Writing due by Tues. at 5pm; flag your working group, and read others' notes by class:

            2b.  Post your field notes from your second or third visit.  Make sure to fully “cook” these notes, taking into account our class discussions of field notes. Again, post your notes and bring a copy to class.


Week 5: Practitioner inquiry


**By Wed. @ 5 pm, Group B posts responses to the reading; by Thurs. @ 9 am, Group A posts comments.


Thurs. Feb. 21

Reading due:

            McEntee et. al, At the Heart of Teaching

            Campano (Moodle)

 Plan for cross-visitation

Writing due by Tues. at 5pm; flag your working group, and read others' notes by class:

            2c.  Use your field notes as the basis for using the Guided Individual Reflection Protocol (McEntee, et. al, p. 52).  Again, post your responses and bring a copy to class.


Week 6: Changing schools and systems:  Challenges and possibilities


**By Wed. @ 5 pm, Group A posts responses to the reading; by Thurs. @ 9 am, Group B posts comments.


Thurs. Feb. 28

Reading due:

            Tough, Whatever It Takes

 Do cross-visitation this week or next.

Week 7: Changing schools and systems: Challenges and possibilities


**By Wed. @ 5 pm, Group B posts responses to the reading; by Thurs. @ 9 am, Group A posts comments.


Thurs. March 7

Reading due:

            Tough, Whatever It Takes           


Writing due Fri. March 8 by 5 pm 

Cross-visitation paper (See Course Assignments for full description).

Spring break!


Week 8: Changing schools and systems:  Policy and practice


**By Wed. @ 5 pm, Group A posts responses to the reading; by Thurs. @ 9 am, Group B posts comments.


Thurs. March 21

Reading due:

            Finnish Lessons


Week 9: Changing schools and systems:  Policy and practice


**By Wed. @ 5 pm, Group B posts responses to the reading; by Thurs. @ 9 am, Group A posts comments.


Thurs. March 28

Reading due:

            Finnish Lessons


Week 10: Contemporary issues in education


**By Wed. @ 5 pm, Group A posts responses to the reading; by Thurs. @ 9 am, Group B posts comments.


Thurs. April 4

Reading due:

            Travers, “Complicated Choices”; Cook, A. “The Transformation of One Large Urban High School” (Moodle)

Due Sun. by 5 pm: Policy and Practice:  Changing Schools and Systems (See Course Assignments for full description)


Working Group Problem of Practice Teaching Presentations


Week 11:  Thurs. April 11


Week 12:  Thurs. April 18


Week 13:  Thurs. April 25


Week 14:  Thurs. May 2



**  Final portfolio:  Please turn in all of your work for this class:  your “cooked” field notes and Guided Individual Reflection, Cross-Visitation Paper, Policy and Practice paper (with my comments), Problem of Practice Teaching Presentation reflection, and your final project—along with your field log--all together as your final portfolio of work in Ed 311.  We will discuss the due date in class.