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Online Graduate Course Helps Teachers Become Education Advocates

UL Online -- Mon, 05/17/2021 - 8:33am

Dr. Matthew Green teaches EDCI 572: Current Events in K-12 EducationDr. Matthew Green teaches education students to think about the big picture — the big, historic, and systemic picture — when considering the small world of their classes and schools.

Dr. Green is an assistant professor in the College of Education at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Students in the online M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with an Instructional Specialist concentration know Dr. Green from EDCI 572: Current Events in K-12 Education.

This course is designed for teachers who want to serve in instructional coaching roles in their schools and districts. The objective is for teachers to develop an awareness of social issues and historical context and then to build more equitable classes and policies.

Student discussions delve into issues such as systemic inequality, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the role modern education plays in perpetuating these problems rather than solving them.

“The big narrative across the United States is ‘You do well in school and school creates the opportunity,’” Dr. Green says. “But in reality, school does not create opportunity for everybody. School ends up being a sorting machine that creates opportunity for some and not for others.”

Path to online learning

Dr. Green completed his undergraduate degree at Elon University in North Carolina. He taught third grade for two years before pursuing his master’s and doctoral degrees in education at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Dr. Green’s move to UL Lafayette in Fall 2017 marked a new chapter in his career and his instruction. Because the M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with an Instructional Specialist concentration program is completely online, the veteran educator had to undergo training and adapt to the online environment.

He says it was a “growth process.”

“The online component can be challenging,” Dr. Green says, “but it also allows for a lot of opportunities.”

Dr. Green’s online students are almost all full-time teachers, which means they can implement what they are learning into their practices immediately. 

“A big goal for me is to get teachers thinking and reimagining what educational spaces look like and can be,” he says.

To make the course material feel personally relevant, students engage in what Dr. Green calls critical reflection. 

“It means taking the readings, and then reflecting on your own practices as an educator in order to reconstruct or reimagine what is happening in your own practice or in your own school and look at your context through a new lens,” he says.

Advancing toward equity

By encouraging online graduate students to deploy that critical lens, Dr. Green says, they’re identifying pain points within their schools and making real change. 

One teacher responded to students’ social-emotional learning needs after she observed classes during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“A student noticed a need for teachers to adapt to social-emotional needs of students as related to stressors of online learning and COVID,” Dr. Green says. “So, she created a professional development project that would change how SEL (social-emotional learning) happens in her classroom and school." 

The final project students tackle is an equity audit of their schools. 

“Essentially, you evaluate your school through different equity criteria to see what areas of improvement you can find in your school or in your classroom,” Dr. Green says. “People really enjoy doing that project because they end up taking on an advocacy and leadership role in their school.”

“That's really what we want people who come into the program to do — go out into the world and affect change and be advocates for education and be advocates for equity-based work,” he says.

Take the first step toward becoming an advocate and leader among your peers. Request information today about the online M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, Instructional Specialist, degree program.