MA, Urban Schooling

Study Format Hybrid
Program Length 30 credits*, 20 months


*INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS: In addition to the base program curriculum listed below, international students attending face-to-face classes on the CUC campus are required to take the Seminar in Higher Education, a 3-credit course.


Foundations of American Education

This course helps you develop richer and more systematic interpretations of the historical, philosophical, and social foundations of American education and schooling. You will be challenged to examine the various aims, policies and practices of American education, as well as the ways in which schools have served as agents of socialization and social control. Through the lens of applied ethics, you will examine the ways in which contemporary educational debates often reflect long-standing historical and philosophical tensions. You will develop the ability to understand and describe how educational problems are often rooted in and symptomatic of social arrangements and broader social ills (such as poverty, discrimination, and segregation) that extend well beyond the classroom or school yard and impact families, communities, and local and national economics and politics. Throughout this course, you will be encouraged to craft a vision of what is possible and to articulate a plan for action in your own classroom, school, and educational context.

Education in the Popular Imagination

In this course, you will examine and critique mainstream conceptions of teaching and education, as well as the possibilities presented by alternative visions. How have popular depictions of teaching and schools helped to shape the public perception about education at various points in U.S. history? How are teachers and schools portrayed in the popular media–including news outlets, TV, and film–and how does this impact the public debate? How does the “average person”–your grandmother, your next-door neighbor–conceive of education, and on what do they base their ideas? In what ways do “new media” present opportunities for teachers and educators to help shape or reframe mainstream conceptions of education and schooling? You will have opportunities to interrogate current popular narratives and to amplify or challenge with your own contributions via original websites, YouTube videos, op-eds, social network creations, or other means.

Critical Pedagogy and Educational Theory

In this course, you will learn the language of critical pedagogy, examine the variety of intellectual and philosophical traditions from which critical pedagogy emerges, and explore and critique both the complementary and conflicting works of an array of critical educational theorists. You will be encouraged to engage in teaching and learning practices that lead to the development of critical consciousness for both self and students. This course equips you with the language and theory to challenge and seek to change hegemonic social and educational structures and to explicitly link your practices to principles of democracy and social action. You will be challenged to examine the pedagogical intersections of culture, ideology, economies and power, to contest assumptions, and to take action in the service of justice, equity and democratic practices.

Community Contexts of Schooling

Throughout this program, we will emphasize the importance of looking at the concentric circles of context in which schools and teachers are situated. While many teachers work in the isolation of their classroom, team, or department, in reality a complex web of relationships impacts their work. This course focuses on the micro-politics of schools, including power relationships, interactions, conflict, and collaboration among various stakeholders in school settings, including administrators, teachers, local school councils, parents, community groups, unions, school boards, businesses, and local government. You will explore possibilities for more genuine connections between schools and their surrounding communities, ways that parent involvement might be reconceptualized and made more meaningful, and ways teachers can become more actively involved in the political life of their schools and communities.

Politics, Policy and Reform

In this course, you will develop the knowledge and skills necessary to critically analyze school and system policies and practices within their historical, political and contemporary contexts. You will examine theoretical and practical aspects of policy development, adoption and implementation, power structures and relationships, school change and reform initiatives, and the influence of multiple stakeholders and interest groups on education and schools. You will develop an understanding of how politics and policy-making have overt and covert influences on teaching and learning in classrooms, how to use sound professional judgment to adapt policies and practices within classrooms and schools, and the significance of being an advocate and activist for positive change.

Urban Education in a Global Community

In this course, you will examine the commonalities, differences, challenges and innovations in schooling of major urban centers around the world and look at the pedagogical practices, organizational structures, student populations, and academic outcomes of schools in urban centers in a variety of countries. In an effort to better understand the current situation of urban schools in the United States, and to help develop a more sophisticated assessment of our own strengths and challenges, we will look outside the U.S. at how other countries respond to their unique challenges. You will be challenged to respond to how knowledge of other countries can and should be used to understand your local situation. You will be introduced to diverse theoretical perspectives from related fields–sociology, political science, urban planning, human rights, religion–and apply them to educational systems in the global contexts. The goal of the class is to provide you with diverse perspectives to better address the local challenges you may face.

Learning Inside and Outside the Classroom

In this class, you will examine and critique socio-cultural, cognitive, and behavioral theories of learning within the context of creating a more democratic and participatory classroom. You will be challenged to make connections between beliefs and theories of learning, past and current pedagogical trends, and your own classroom practice. You will critically examine the historical and social context of the different social theories. We will examine questions like: What do we know about how learning happens? Is our understanding of learning socially constructed? What impact has theories of learning had on classroom practice? What is the connection between our understanding of learning and how we teach? The class challenges you to think critically about the relationship between the individual and the multiple contexts in which learning takes place. How does learning occur in different social and cultural spaces? What insights into learning can we gain by looking at diverse settings? Can and should these insights inform how we understand learning to occur at school?

Reconceptualizing the Curriculum

In this course, you will be provoked to revisit the perennial curriculum question–“What is most valuable to know, understand, and experience?”–and to reimagine your answer to it in light of your growing critical perspectives. We will examine questions such as: How might we reconceptualize the curriculum in public schools? What might a grassroots, community-based curriculum look like? How can we involve students in the process of curriculum creation? What can we learn from the work of acknowledged curriculum scholars such as John Dewey and Elliot Eisner, as well as from current efforts to rethink curriculum? You will be encouraged to think outside the bounds of traditional conceptions of curriculum and to conceive of, and develop, curriculum for and with your students.

Teacher as Researcher

We will confront the power dynamics that often typify the relationship between university-based educational researchers and those who spend their days in schools (i.e., teachers, counselors, social workers, paraprofessionals). You will become familiar with the terminology, tools, and processes of various forms of teacher inquiry (including, but not limited to, action research and self-study) so that you can plan and carry out research projects designed to question the status quo in your schools, examine issues of equity, and/or imagine more democratic, social justice-focused classrooms. You will also develop the skills to critically examine, question, and “talk back” to published educational research, thus becoming part of the conversation rather than merely the “subject” of an outside researcher's gaze.


Capstone Experience

A master’s capstone is required for all master of arts candidates. This culminating project highlights the candidate’s mastery of content throughout his or her studies. Capstones are traditionally a summary of work demonstrating overall growth and specific understandings of the professional standards. The capstone serves as a performance-based evaluation and promotes reflective practice. It also demonstrates the professional’s proficiency in integrating technology and his or her ability to interpret theory into practice.

Seminar in Critical Praxis

You will explore teaching as a political practice and be challenged to develop an action plan that emphasizes your role as an agent of change in your professional setting and as an advocate for the students and the community it serves. The class will provide theoretical and philosophical frameworks for reflection on your own beliefs and assumptions as they relate to creating a personal advocacy statement. The statement will include a discussion of the ways in which individuals can create more a democratic, equitable, relevant, and engaging school experience for their students; a discussion of your role as an agent of change within an educational system that often encourages conformity and political passivity; and a discussion of the potential ways teachers can and should become advocates for their students, their families, and the communities they serve. The class is designed to allow you to synthesize, critique and add to the themes presented throughout the program within the context of your own experience. The course is designed to allow you to create a personal plan of action that can be carried out after you have completed the program.


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