Each semester, students in the Education 201 course are expected to design and implement a program in schools throughout Adams County. Learning the foundations of a course in the classroom is vital, though professors at Gettysburg College believe in the importance of practical application and community service. This semester Professors Dave and Sally Powell are teaching a course that gives students opportunities to think through the complicated work of teaching. There are roughly 9-10 student-led programs that function like “mini-courses” implemented each semester through this course via the Gettysburg Area School District’s “ASAP” after-school program. The integration of Education 201 with the ASAP program was largely spearheaded by Professor Chloe Ruff, who normally teaches the course but is on sabbatical this semester.
Over six weeks, students of Psychology 201 put into the practice the skills they learned in the classroom, like scaffolding, classroom management, or pacing instruction. Gettysburg College students are expected to pick a theme for their mini-courses, create a title and description, and write lesson plans, assignments, and course goals. The projects focus on a range of concepts from teaching science to managing students’ emotions. The options are limitless. Apart from the practical application aspect of this course, it also is one prerequisite for the teacher certification program at Gettysburg College which is accredited by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Students have the opportunity to become certified in areas of English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, and World Languages for students ranging from kindergarten to twelfth grade.
“For me, ASAP is equally important for our college students and the elementary students they are working with. These programs add variety to the options and increase the number of students who can take part in the afterschool program,” said Prof. Ruff. “For example, during the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016, 57 Gettysburg College students taught 17 separate ASAP programs. Each program enrolled between 4 and 15 elementary school students – providing over 170 students with a free afterschool activity.”
This course offers students an early opportunity to take the reins and be the teacher instead of the student. “Teaching in an environment where academic stakes are low is important developmentally and this program is a place where our students can really focus on building relationships with their students,” reflected Prof. Dave Powell. “It’s an opportunity for them to gain confidence and a chance to build a solid foundation for the exploration of teaching they’ll do as they continue in our program.”
The after-school programs provide a breadth of knowledge for Gettysburg College students aspiring to be teachers, but also serves as a form of community service to local school districts throughout Adams County.
“The project is also valuable because it gives us an opportunity to do something for our local public schools. We want our students to be part of the local community, and we want to use their enthusiasm and expertise to give something to the Gettysburg community,” said Prof. Dave Powell. “Our students take an after-school program and turn it into an opportunity not only to learn about themselves but also to deliver these ‘mini-courses’ on interesting topics that draw out the creativity of local kids by engaging them in learning activities designed by our students. It’s a win-win all the way around.”
Charlotte Triebl ’17 took the Educational Psychology course as a first-year student with Prof. Ruff. Triebl says the course provided a foundation of structured teaching that will help her as she pursues certification in graduate school. Students are allotted time to plan lessons based around topics of their choice. “This course was the first experience within the Education Department where I became very aware of the fact that education was the right place for me,” said Triebl.
After taking Educational Psychology, Triebl served as the course Peer Learning Associate (PLA) which gave her the opportunity to help new educators gain the basic skills needed to be effective teachers. “As the PLA, I realized the value of providing a safe, supportive, and fun after-school program for students. Our main goal is to let them explore and have fun,” said Triebl.
This course is designed to give students the opportunity to get real-world experience in a low pressure, low stress classroom environment as well learn who they are as educators and understand the foundations of education.