Teachers College has long recognized that the family is a fundamental educational institution. Those concerned with education will benefit from considering how education proceeds within families and how families are linked with other educational institutions in the community: e.g., schools, daycare centers, healthcare and social service agencies, the media, libraries and museums, parks, and religious institutions.
Values, attitudes, norms, self-concepts, and expectations are formed, sustained, and modified in families as different generations teach and learn from each other through observation, participation, and instruction.
Families also mediate and thereby transform the influences of other educational institutions on their members. Since education takes place in a broad range of institutional and interpersonal settings, it is also important to understand how individuals engage in, move through, and combine these various educational experiences over a lifetime. Moreover, efforts to improve education often entail attempts to change families or their connections with other institutions. Thus, an understanding of families is significant for educational policy, practice, and research. Families are subject to numerous sources of change. The household composition, interpersonal relationships, and kin networks of the same family may change significantly from one stage of the life-cycle to another and in connection with geographic and social mobility. During periods of rapid demographic, economic, and technological change, it becomes especially important for educators to examine families and to consider such issues as how new forms of transportation and communication technology are modifying information processing in family settings.
Given the complex connections of families with other institutions in the community, the variety of forms of the family in modern societies, and the numerous teaching and learning activities that take place in family settings, insights from a wide range of scholarly disciplines can be utilized in attempting to understand and help shape the educational role of modern families. Teachers College has a distinguished tradition of study and research on families and communities as educators.
The Elbenwood Center for the Study of the Family as Educator (Professor Hope Jensen Leichter, Director), The Institute for Urban and Minority Education, The Rita Gold Early Childhood Center, the Center for Children and Families (Professors Sharon Lynn Kagan and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Co-Directors), and several departments within the College offer opportunities for study and research related to families. Additional opportunities for the interdisciplinary study of families and communities as educators can be arranged with advisors.
Students interested in including elective studies in Family and Community Education in their degree programs should talk with Professor Hope Jensen Leichter.
Other interested faculty members include: