Reviews of Classes taught by Ann Renninger of the Education Department
|Name: Omitted||Year: 2001||Major: Omitted||Course: EDUC 014 - Introduction to Education||Taken Fall 1998||Recommends? yes|
Ed 14 is a great course for anyone interested in thinking, reading or writing about issues related to children, learning, teaching, school and community, or education policy. It also encourages students to become more reflective about decisions they make about their own educational paths, and about decisions they make at Swarthmore.
Ed 14 meets once a week and requires ~100pp reading a week. It's worth doing all the reading because it's interesting and fun, & because each class is really focused on engaging with the readings and comparing them with personal experience. There are at least 30 students in each section as it's very popular, but there is some small group work in every course. Large group discussions are also frequent but they never got monotonous. There are occasional lectures to cover new ideas, give more information about difficult readings, etc. There are frequent video showings and also required observations once a week in a classroom. You can observe elementary, middle or high school classes, ESL, special ed, and usually if you specify an age level and/or subject area you're interested in, you'll get what you requested. These are a lot of fun.
You should be prepared to talk and defend your views about issues of race, ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality as they relate to educational experience and the focus is on progressive education, with many ideas coming from the radical left. Personally, this is exactly the kind of class that excites me and makes me feel involved with what I'm learning. I felt comfortable talking in Ed 14 because of the positive class dynamic and because my personal views almost always lined up with the views taken in what we were reading.
In my opinion, students who have more conservative political and social views should be especially prepared to defend those views because they are less likely to be represented in the readings or class discussions. If you are more conservative definitely do not let this deter you from taking the course or from speaking up in class. Just be prepared to argue - the class dynamic encourages real discussion and Ann puts equal value and attention on all comments. And if you ever feel like your ideas are not being given attention or like you really disagree, you can always go talk to the professor during office hours if you are not comfortable talking in class.
I'd recommend the course for majors and non-majors alike, but not to anyone looking for a really easy PDC. If you're not planning to do the reading, you'll still get a lot out of the class personally, but not nearly as much - and discussion really suffers in education courses when people haven't done the reading. I would also not recommend taking Ed 14 when you are taking more than 4.5 credits in a semester. I did not find that papers were difficult to write or that papers were graded harshly. There is a final exam (essays) and the famous "curriculum project" -- both of these, especially the curriculum project, are actually a lot of fun and "good learning experiences" if you put careful thought into them.
Ann Renninger is a fantastic teacher. She's creative, interesting to listen to (and quirky at times) and makes a sincere effort to get to know the learning style and background of every student. She's extremely intense, which can feel overwhelming at times, but she is always trying to engage with students and get them to "own" their decisions, etc. Also, if you don't have a paper to hand in on a due date, she asks you to head back to Pearson w/her after class and work in the EMC until you're done! It sounds intimidating, but it's really a blessing in disguise because Ed 14 papers are due at midterm time and final time. So she's helping you not to let your work pile up, even if it feels like you're in detention. Her academic focus is educational psychology -- learning, motivation, achievement, interest, etc. She's really widely published and very serious about her research.
Before deciding which section of Ed 14 to take, you might want to consider how your own interests match up with professors' areas of study. Lisa Smulyan and Eva Travers, among others, also teach Ed 14 frequently. Lisa's professional interests include social and cultural issues in education, especially gender; adolescence; and the experiences of teachers and administrators (she just wrote a book on principals). Eva Travers is interested in education policy and urban education issues.
Overall, I would highly recommend Ed 14 (and any course in the Education department) to anyone -- it greatly changed the way I think about my own education and set me on the path to choosing a major and a career as well.