Educational Studies Department Adapts to Changes

Claire Jeantheau ’21, Staff Writer

Sarah Bair, the department chair of the Educational Studies department, stated that professors have been able to handle recent changes in department classes offered, addressing student observations that class sizes seemed to have increased.

Bair, who also serves as an associate professor within the department, said that while some classes indeed rose in numbers, these were not out of the ordinary, and were a result of scheduling practices.

Bair attributed the rise in students involved within the program — which currently stands at 77 majors and 15 minors — to changes within the structure of the Educational Studies Department. The program once only offered a minor, paired with a pathway to a teaching certificate. This year, the program will graduate its second class of senior majors, who had the option to pursue a major concentration in teaching and learning or education and society. 

Due to the shift in department structure, classes have been offered at an increased number of times throughout the academic year, according to Bair. Educational Psychology, an introductory class, is offered in both the fall and spring, and at least one other introductory level class must be offered per semester. For these classes, there are regularly more students interested than seats available, but demand levels for students who progress into the major. 

“Coursework-wise, there are just a couple of places where we get jammed up,” Bair said. “We get jammed up around 260 [Introduction to Educational Research, the major’s required writing in the discipline class], which is why we went to the double — we offer it every semester. Senior seminar…as long as we continue to have two sections of that — if we had to go to three, that would be a challenge,” she said. 

While the department recently finished the hiring process for a new faculty member, who will join in fall 2019, this was in response to the retirement of educational studies professor Pam Nesselrodt rather than an increase in class size. Bair added that she would not be unopposed to the hiring of additional faculty depending on which direction the program continues in.

“As our major has grown, I think it’s fair to say that if it continued to grow, we would love to have a fourth faculty member, but we’re certainly not the only department on campus to feel that way. Believe me, I’m not putting out in the public record that ‘[Educational Studies] department demands new colleague’… but clearly, given the size and number of majors… we’re on the edge…If the numbers leveled off, I think we could manage,” Bair said. 

The educational studies major consists of ten courses — eight taken in the department, and two extra-departmental choices based on a student’s interests — making it one of the majors at Dickinson with the fewest required courses. Special topics classes and cross-department collaborations are offered each semester as well, meaning that students in the major have multiple opportunities to satisfy those requirements.