Our History, Culture, & Values | Teachers College Columbia University

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English Education

English Education

In the Department of Arts & Humanities

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Our History, Culture, & Values

No matter which of our sub-programs you consider, you will find that all of them share a number of features that are distinctive to the culture, values, and history of our English Education Program as the oldest and one of America’s most distinguished graduate programs in the Teaching of English at the nation’s first and most venerable Graduate School of Education. Those distinctive features include:

  • A commitment to diversity in recruiting and supporting graduate students and in our efforts to enhance the learning experience of the extraordinarily diverse population of middle school and high school students in New York City public schools, where we place student teachers, conduct enrichment programs for students, and provide professional development programs for teachers. This commitment also demands that we honor diverse opinions, diverse cultural orientations, entertain diverse philosophical positions, and maintain a faculty that represents and honors diversity in multiple contexts.    
  • Respect for the professionalism of teachers and the profession of teaching. Our program regards classroom teachers as resources for knowledge about teaching, and as our colleagues, even when they are also our students. It also demands of all of us active participation and contributions to the major professional associations of Teachers of English, including the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the Conference on English Education (CEE), and the National Writing Project. It is no accident that two senior members of the English Education faculty are former Presidents of NCTE, several are past members of the CEE Executive Committee) and nearly all of our faculty members have held leadership positions in the National Writing Project.
  • A focus on learning and learners in research and practice in teaching. This means understanding and evaluating teaching from the perspective of what happens cognitively and emotionally to the learners who are presumably the beneficiaries of teaching. It also entails an emphasis on defining learning and knowledge most crucially as the outcome of an experience that a learner undergoes, rather than as a body of inert declarative knowledge, though such knowledge is also important.  This represents the position and tradition of John Dewey, whose marble bust welcomes all visitors to Teachers College and whose educational philosophy remains vital, generative, and still developing in the English Education Program and in the Department of Arts and Humanities that is our departmental home.  
  • An emphasis on reflective practice and an inquiry stance for all classroom teachers and advanced scholars who receive degrees from our programs and for ourselves as teachers of teachers. Our principle commitment is to learning, which means learning as researchers and as teachers and as teacher-researchers in our own classrooms. It also means fostering approaches to teaching that ensure that teachers are continually learning. Every senior faculty member in English education is the author of influential articles and books and every one of them has won multiple national awards for contributions to research and to the improvement of practice in teaching.  
  • A respect for and commitment to the arts of language and to the disciplines of literary study and writing as aesthetic and creative disciplines, as well as subjects for teaching and learning. This means that while we are inclined to think about questions of learning and teaching in all of our courses, we nevertheless continue to offer a selection of courses that are more characteristic of English department courses than courses in education. Hence we offer courses that focus on classic authors such as Milton or Shakespeare, courses on literary theory, on postmodernism, on reading and writing poetry, on the literature of New York, on African-American literature, on literature and the other arts, and on adolescent literature.