Course Descriptions

EPLS:5102  History of American Education          

This course explores the purposes of public education, diversity, and control of schooling in the United States from a historical perspective. 

We read primary and secondary sources to investigate topics including: varied localized approaches to education during the colonial period; the rise of “common” schools and the “feminization” of the teaching profession in the nineteenth century; “tracking” in the twentieth century; the meaning and fate of “progressive” education; how and why schooling has varied according to students’ religion, class, race, and gender; and tensions between local, state, and federal power in education.  Throughout, we explore the connection between educational policies and larger social, political, economic, and cultural developments–religious revivals, the end of slavery, waves of immigration, the Depression, the Cold War, the Civil Rights movement, and more. As a result, students gain a better understanding of the origins and evolution of various current educational practices, policies, issues and dilemmas. 

EPLS:5120  Teaching in a Culturally Diverse Society 

Racial, cultural, and linguistic differences between teachers and students can create educational environments that are intimidating to both groups. In efforts to promote equal educational opportunities for all students, this seminar provides an arena where teachers and future teachers can begin to explore how they might address cultural, racial, and linguistic differences in their classrooms and thus provide educational environments that are more responsive to students.

EPLS:5123  History of Ethnic and Minority Education

This course is an introduction to the educational histories of ethnic and minority groups in the United States. The primary focus will be on Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican American, and Asian/Pacific Americans. Events and perspectives will be primarily explored from the late nineteenth century to the twentieth century. All experiences will be set within the larger context of the general educational aims and activities of those periods. These experiences and perspectives not only provide a more comprehensive understanding of the history of American education, they also provide context for contemporary policy discussions about American education.

EPLS:5126: Twentieth Century Educational Movements

Numerous educational movements seeking equity and diversity mobilized during the twentieth century. As issues of equity and diversity continue to fuel current educational policy debates, this course examines the roots of equal educational opportunity movements from Brown V. Board of Education to the present. Topics for exploration include: segregation/desegregation; compensatory education; special education; gender equity; multicultural education; and bilingual education.

EPLS:5130  Sociology of Education

This course focuses on the effects of school and school organization on educational outcomes. We will cover topics such as course-taking patterns and tracking, desegregation, and differences in school sector. We will further explore the methodological challenges and substantive implications of stratification for understanding the effects of schools and school organization on outcomes. We will focus on the entire span of a student's academic career; that is, we will examine school and organizational effects at the primary, secondary, and postsecondary levels of education. The goal of this course is to expose students to a host of topics and areas of interest that relates school and school organization to educational outcomes. Although not required, I recommend that students have a moderate understanding of statistics and research methods in order to prepare adequately for this course.

EPLS:5131 Race, Class, and Gender Inequalities in Education

This sociology of education course concerns the role of ascribed characteristics (e.g., race, class, and gender) on education opportunities and outcomes. Sociologists of education espouse the ideal of meritocracy; that is, ascribed characteristics should have little influence on opportunities or outcomes. In this course, we will examine three ascriptive characteristics—race, gender, and social class—that affect both education opportunities and outcomes. In particular, we will cover topics such as achievement gaps, school desegregation, social and cultural capital, family attributes, the influence of significant others, course-taking patterns, and educational destinations.

EPLS:5142 Sociology of Higher Education

This course takes a sociological approach to the study of higher education. We will explore issues of inequality and stratification in higher education. We will also focus on the relation between higher education and larger economic and demographic processes. We will cover topics such as college access, college destinations, attainment, and returns to a college degree. The goal of this course is to expose students to a host of contemporary topics and to the latest research that relates sociology to higher education. I believe that students should read the same scholarly works that their future colleagues read. Although sociological in nature, students from other disciplines would benefit from this course. After taking this course, students would have a better understanding that an individual's college experience reflects social and educational issues that occur prior and during college, as well, as reflecting expectations after college. Although not required, I recommend that students have a moderate understanding of statistics and research methods in order to prepare adequately for this course.

EPLS:5153  American Contributions to Philosophy of Education  

This course serves as an introduction to Philosophy of Education.

Readings are eclectic, squarely on the lines that generally divide philosophy from history, religion, literature and politics. We follow the social development of ideas on the necessity and function of public education, reading selections from Emerson and Thoreau, from Jefferson and Mann and DuBois, and from Peirce, James and Dewey.   We read Counts and Dennis from the '30's, move on to philosophical controversies in the 1950's and '60's, and end with an examination of the controversies of the 80's and 90's.

EPLS:5154  Education, Race, and Ethnicity

This graduate course concerns the role of race and ethnicity in education opportunities and outcomes. We will cover topics such as achievement gaps, social and cultural capital, family attributes, the influence of significant others, course-taking patterns, and educational destinations. We will further explore the methodological challenges and substantive implications of opportunity for understanding the influence of race and ethnicity on outcomes.

EPLS:5155  Critical Thinking  

Students engage in a rigorous study of the various ways, good and bad, that statements are combined to create arguments.  Students learn fundamental criteria by which to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments.  The course includes deductive, inductive, and probabilistic arguments.

EPLS:5156  Philosophies of Education    

An introduction to Philosophy of Education, serving as a first course in the field for many students. 

Students undertake a wide-ranging survey of well-known philosophers' works, focusing on issues of particular significance to educators.  We begin with Socratic dialogues, Plato's Republic, and Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, and move on to selections from Locke's Essay on Human Understanding, Rousseau's Emile, from Marx, Peirce, Dewey's Democracy and Education, from L. Dennis, American proponent of Fascism, and from contemporary philosophers of education.

We discuss the proper role of education in transmitting and/or reforming social and/or personal values, and the possibilities and limitations of educational institutions

EPLS:5157  Ethics and Education   

Students survey and critique a variety of views of the nature of ethics. 

Readings include Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Ethics, Mill's Utilitarianism,  Dewey's Theory of the Moral Life, as well as selections from contemporary works, e.g., Nel Noddings' An Ethic of Caring and Mackie's Ethics:  Inventing Right and Wrong.  Students critically analyze and evaluate the strengths of the ethical arguments that bear on educational policy issues.

EPLS:5158  John Dewey and Education     

Students take an in-depth look at the philosophy of John Dewey. 

We begin with a  thorough critical reading of Dewey's Experience and Nature, examining the meaning of such terms as 'thinking,' 'ideas,' 'values,' 'ends and means,' 'growth,' 'communi-cation,' to name but a few.  Issues of practice in education are taken up with How We Think.  The final reading is Democracy and Education, Dewey's ultimate statement of his philosophy of education in its social significance. 

07B:159  Current Issues:  Educational Philosophy   

Readings are from current journals, selected in the first part of the course by the professor.  Later, student selections from peer-reviewed Philosophy of Education journals become the readings for the class as a whole.  Students thus can pursue selected topics in some depth, while bringing in fellow students as discussants.   Selections in the past have been in Epistemology, Ethics, Social/Political Philosophy, the philosophy of Dewey, of Peirce, and of  postmodern critics of contemporary education.

EPLS:4180:AAA  Human Relations for the Classroom Teacher

The State of Iowa requires a multicultural, nonsexist approach be utilized in all of its schools and school districts. This course offers future educators an opportunity to explore issues associated with fulfilling this mandate. Specifically, students examine social, political, and economic contexts of on-going efforts to provide equal educational opportunity to all students. This happens in two parts. First, the lecture portion of the class provides a historical backdrop and current perspectives on anti-discriminatory policies and legislation and current views on those policies. Second, the discussion sections provide students an arena to examine the impact of discriminatory behavior on human relations and educational access.

EPLS:6220  History of Higher Education          

This course analyzes the development of post-secondary education in the United States.  It traces, over four centuries, the evolution of higher education from a small enclave for white males, to a ubiquitous and stratified system that serves a wide variety of students.  We investigate topics including:  European influences; scholarship and student life in the early colleges; alternative forms of “higher” education during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; the rise of the university and the modern system; the role of athletics and youth culture in the university; and post-secondary education’s tremendous growth, along with its complex problems, during the last half-century.  Throughout, we analyze changes in higher education’s participants, content, and structure.  Thus, through the lens of history, we consider issues including: access to higher education; the undergraduate curriculum; academic freedom; the role of universities in society; and the balance of teaching, research and service.

EPLS:6237  History of the Teaching Profession        

In Schoolteacher (1975), Dan Lortie wrote, “teaching, from its inception in America, has occupied a special but shadowed social standing.”  Similarly, John Goodlad observed in Teachers for Our Nation’s Schools (1990), “The conditions necessary to a profession simply have not been a part of either teacher education or the teaching enterprise.”  In this advanced seminar, teaching’s “special but shadowed” standing and “not quite” professional status frame our wide-ranging examination of the history of teaching in the U.S.  We read a variety of books and articles on the history of public-school teaching in general, issues surrounding the education of teachers, and formation and activities of teachers unions.  The course is divided into three parts.  First, in “The Teaching Experience,” we take a more-or-less chronological look at who has taught, the conditions of teaching, the personal agency exercised by teachers to shape their experiences, and popular portrayals of teachers.  Then, we continue with units on teacher education and teacher unionism.

EPLS:6238  Gender and Education in Historical Perspective       

In this advanced seminar, we engage in a wide-ranging examination of gender in the context of the history of education in the United States.  Most scholarship on gender and education focused until recently on the experiences of women and girls; therefore, we begin by examining early works that have become classics on the history of women’s education.  We then focus on gender in nineteenth- and twentieth-century common (elementary) schools, academies, and high schools, paying special attention to the shift in conceptions of science as a subject for girls to the natural domain of boys.  Next, we turn to the voluminous scholarship published in the last few decades on women’s arrival and early experiences as college students, as well as new work on masculinity and higher education.  We consider the spread of coeducation and survival of women’s colleges, as well as the impact of Title IX.  Finally, we turn to the history of gender in K-12 and college teaching.

EPLS:5240  Topics in Education:  Philosophy of John Dewey   

An advanced course in the philosophy of John Dewey. 

The course was developed in response to strong student (and faculty) interest in Dewey's philosophy.   We examine Dewey's epistemology, his theories of knowledge, of truth and justification, as well as his theories of meaning, and  his ontological positions.  Readings are from the Journal of Philosophy, in Dewey and His Critics, and Dewey's Essays in Experimental Logic and.Reconstruction in Philosophy. We also take up Dewey's moral philosophy, via Theory of the Moral Life, Theory of Valuation, and other selected readings.  Later, students select readings from Dewey's works to serve as class readings.

EPLS:5240  Topics in Education:  Racial, Gender and Class Inequalities in Education

This sociology of education course concerns the role of ascribed characteristics (e.g., race, class, and gender) on educational opportunities and outcomes. Sociologists of education espouse the ideal of meritocracy; that is, ascribed characteristics should have little influence on opportunities or outcomes. In this course, we will examine three ascriptive characteristics that affect both educational opportunities and outcomes: race, gender, and social class. In particular, we will cover topics such as achievement gaps, school desegregation, social and cultural capital, peer influence, family attributes, neighborhood influence, the influence of significant others, course-taking patterns, and educational destinations. We will further explore the methodological challenges and substantive implications of opportunity for understanding the influence of ascription on outcomes. Although not required, I recommend that students have a moderate understanding of statistics and research methods in order to prepare adequately for this course.

EPLS:5240  Topics in Education: Advanced Readings in History of Education        

This advanced seminar builds on previous coursework in history of education to familiarize the student with current research and developments in the field.  The main focus of the course is reading and discussion of a dozen or so recent books that reflect new research and historical interpretations in the field as a whole.  We also examine new directions in historiography, or analysis and synthesis of the work of historical research in various areas of education.  In addition, each student completes an independent unit on current research and developments in an area of educational history corresponding to his or her academic and professional interests.  (This course is offered only when there is sufficient student interest.)

EPLS:5240:01  Introduction to Historical Research Methodologies 

This course is an introduction to historical methodologies. The primary focus is on locating  primary sources, analyzing sources, and presenting results. Topics for exploration include archival research, oral history, online resources, problems in historical thinking, problems of interpretation, and current issues in historical research.

07B:259  Political Philosophy and Education

An advanced seminar.

Students examine the philosophical issues that underlie contemporary political debates as to the purposes and structure of the social institution of Education.  Fundamental "classic" readings in political philosophy are coupled with contemporary commentaries on Education that revisit the basic philosophical issues. 

We examine "liberalism" and "conservatism" as political philosophies, as well as libertarianism, communitarianism, socialism, pluralism, and totalitarianism, and examine complex political concepts, e.g., "democracy," "rights" and "justice."

EPLS:6275  Diversity and Equity in Higher Education

U.S. post-secondary education faces a number of critical concerns and issues raised by many forms of diversity.  While the American higher education system offers a degree of access and institutional variety unparalleled in the world, access is not equal for all groups and degrees from different types of institutions carry different levels of prestige.  This system has long grappled with questions of equity as well as claims that it either is or should be “meritocratic.”  Good educational practice and effective policy decisions will reflect a thorough understanding of these issues and concerns regarding diversity and equity.

This graduate seminar therefore focuses on the experiences of different groups in the American system of higher education within a framework of competing purposes of education.  This course addresses historical, contemporary, theoretical, and empirical aspects of diversity and equity in terms of race and ethnicity, social class, gender and sexual orientation, and disability.  We focus on access, participation, campus climate, and outcomes for students as well as faculty and administrators.  The objectives of this course are to: (1) familiarize students with many of the unique experiences and problems that have faced and continue to face members of historically under-represented groups; (2) provide a comparative historical and contemporary view of issues that affect different groups; (3) decipher the many levels of discourse on diversity; (4) understand the challenges involved in efforts to transform institutions to make them more responsive to the experiences of diverse groups in higher education.  This course fosters critical thinking about diversity and equity in post-secondary education, preparing students to make thoughtful contributions to research, policy and practice.