Education classes in collegeHow relevant were your education classes--those concerned solely with the process of education, not those which comprised your major area of study--to your actual...

Education classes in college

How relevant were your education classes--those concerned solely with the process of education, not those which comprised your major area of study--to your actual teaching experience?  I know nothing can totally prepare you for having your own classroom, but I'm confident some of us were better prepared than others. My theory is that teachers today will have a much different answer than those of us who got our degrees "back in the day."  I'm curious if that will hold true in this microcosm of teachers.

Expert Answers
clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think a similar question has been posted recently - but I'll answer now - I think my education classes were some of the biggest wastes of time in all of college.  Like you said, those in my minor (English) were fully worthwhile - but every curriculum class I took was a joke.  We had practicums with every education class (a few days a week in an elementary school working with small groups) which felt more like VBS than actual teaching.

I liked child psychology, but I can't say it did anything to prepare me to teach.  Most of my professors were great and the classes themselves were not what bothered me.

The main thing that was difficult for me was the lack of diversity within the major.  I was an elementary ed major (though I've only ever taught high school) and it seemed the majority of the students in this field were girls who wanted to teach simply because they "loved children" and wanted to have a compatible job schedule for raising a family one day.  Most were optimistic but not realistic and too many were too easily offended (or broken) by discussions that didn't jive with their quality world picture.

Most often I experienced an emotional approach to teaching rather than a practical one.

susan3smith eNotes educator| Certified Educator

My undergraduate education classes were a collosal waste of time.  But after teaching a little while and getting my masters in straight English, I went back to UGA for my specialist degree.   I had to take the majority of my coursework in English Ed.  Those proved to be some of the most practical courses I had taken.  The professors were very involved in secondary education, doing workshops, teaching classes in the nearby high schools.  These courses gave me ideas that I could implement the next day in my own classroom. 

But what I really think is lacking is teacher training in classroom management, engaging students, helping them to respect one another.  I didn't get much of this type of training.  Teaching is an art, and like most arts, there must be some mastery of the craft.  Knowledge of subject matter certainly is not enough; neither is creativity in developing lesson plans.  Simple techniques such as how to get students' attention, how to deal with students who are not paying attention or are disruptive, how to manage a room of 30+ students so that they all are engaged--much more training needs to be implemented here.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I will probably mirror many of those who posted here.  I think my education classes did a major disservice in not focusing on classroom management.  I cannot stress it enough that this is something that undermines all teachers to a certain extent, but most first years.  I think being able to start building that bag of tricks or backpack of resources that is needed in order to maintain the instructional atmosphere of the classroom is so vital.  My education classes sort of denigrated this idea in stressing that the pedagogical content of the courses as well as content was far more important.  That kind of screwed me over when I had the greatest lesson plan on the causes of the Civil War, but had no way to get the group of high school seniors quiet after one of them flipped another one out of a desk.  Yeah, classroom management would have helped.

One book that I had to investigate on my own and one that I come back to 11 years after my first read was Merrill Harmin's "Strategies to Inspire Active Learning.  Great book with strategies that help to build the backpack/ bag of tricks as well as inspire strong teaching.

ajmchugh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although I teach in NJ now, my first job was in PA, where teachers need 24 post-bac credits (within 5 years) in order to obtain a permanent certification.  Because I was right out of college and was completely overwhelmed with my new teaching position, I chose to enroll in a Masters in Secondary Education program that was offered right in my district through a cooperating university.  It was so convenient, and since the credits were required, my district paid for about 90% of my master's degree. 

The benefits: convenience, reimbursement, and the salary-scale bump.  (After all, I get the same raise as someone with a master's degree in English.)

The drawbacks: I can't remember anything earth-shattering or particularly meaningful from any of those courses.  I actually don't even really remember what they entailed.  I was, at times, resentful about how easy the program was.  (But again, who was I to complain?!  I was a new teacher and was completely overwhelmed with preparation/grading/etc!)


copelmat eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In terms of practicality, I can agree with most others here that education courses lacked a lot of the necessary real-world application for life in the classroom. Nothing can replicate the day-to-day realities that teachers must face.

However, I do think education courses are important in at least one regard: educational philosophy and pedagogy. Although I probably would have answered differently at the time I was enrolled in those classes, so much of the good I do in the classroom now can be traced back to the learning theories and research I was exposed to in my education courses. Not a day goes by that I do not make some connection between what I do in the classroom and what I learned then.

Were there a few classes that I believed were pointless at the time? Sure. But I shutter to think what kind of teacher I might be had I not had the opportunity to study learning and pedagogy before stepping foot in the classroom. I'm sure my students are appreciative as well.

burbina eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't really think that education classes give you any idea of what to expect in the classroom.  Part of this is because most of the professors teaching them haven't been in a regular classroom in a long time...if ever.  The other part of this is because I really don't think these classes are designed to teach you what you need to know for the least not practically.  I think the education classes in college are designed to give you a basis for your beliefs and values as a classroom teacher, but actually being prepared comes from what you learn through observation and student teaching, and "teacher" instinct.  I've worked with a number of different teachers over the years, and everyone is different because they're different can't teach someone to be a teacher.  You can just give them the tools that will enhance their already existant skills.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I was trained in the British system so I don't know if my experience fits into the microcosm of experience in this survey. In addition, my teacher training  was far more generic than subject specific, so I had my teacher theory classes with other teachers teaching a massive range of topics from hairdressing to car engineering to Literature. I must admit, I found this really helpful as it made me think through teaching in a much broader context and it really helped us as students think about how the theory applied to our particular context. There were certain areas where we received very little teaching or where the teaching we received was useless: classroom management stands out massively in this category. But then I don't know if this is the kind of thing that you just have to learn how to do by yourself when you get into the classroom.

teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's interesting to see how people from different states and countries have such varied experiences.  I'm from NJ, and my education classes were so dreadful that I decided to drop out of the program.  New Jersey offers an "alternate route" program in which teachers work for accepting districts (most often in inner city areas) and receive their training during the first year of teaching.  Even these classes were pretty bad overall--my "favorite" were about classroom management (they leave out the part about how to survive in an inner city school).  Anyway, I've found that my most helpful and relevant training comes through workshops that I choose to suit my classroom experiences.  I'm just about to finish the Summer Institute with the National Writing Project and the course has been a blast.

dastice eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many of my education classes seemed to focus on designing a curriculum rather than ways to supplement whichever curriculum is already in place.  As an elementary school teacher, I was required to take classes like "Teaching Elementary School Reading" and "Teaching Elementary School Science" which taught how to choose materials and design a program, only to be assigned a scripted program once I actually began teaching.  For me, these classes had little value.  I got far more from courses that taught strategies for working with students on an individual or small group basis.

The courses I found most valuable were those that focused more on child development and learning styles, as they provided a context for what we as teachers encounter on a daily basis.

marbar57 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What we learned in classes was great, but the most learning has come from "hands on" in the classroom.  It's like swimming.  You can watch and watch from the sides, but until you actually get into the pool and try it, you'll never swim!  

The student teaching I did was good in a way, but it wasn't my class and I wasn't there for very long.  Now as a regular teacher, I'm permanently there for nine months and I get to know the material, curriculum, and my students very well!  In essense, I've learned not only the basic swimming strokes, but I'm now diving off the diving board into deeper water and going the full length of the pool!

Sorry about the analogy, but it seemed to be something everyone could relate to!


ktmagalia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I attended Arizona State University, and in Arizona there was no credentialing program.  We received a four-year degree, with education classes included, did some time in class observation, did our student teaching, all within the four-year time period.  My ed classes did little but frustrate me.  I remember taking hours trying to write up lesson plans before actually being in the real classroom.  That's like trying to explain how to take an engine apart without actually ever having touched one.  My real education came from working with students and struggling my first horrific year in the classroom.  Sad, but true, and I survived.  It must have been okay because I've been teaching for 26 years.

lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The classes that were related to my special ed degree were the most useful. By this I mean the ones that gave me an idea of what the other specialists were doing--the courses in speech/lang. path., counseling, how to score standardized tests leading to diagnoses...that kind of thing. As far as teaching itself, I was working as a special ed TA at the time, and my teaching classes were a specialized program for those of us already "in the field." I got way more from the on-the-job was a good way to become a teacher.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't know where I fit in the continuum of "back in the day" through "today."  I got my certificate in 1998.

My education classes were pointless for most of the reasons that other people have laid out here.  I really don't think that talking over book examples of classroom management can be of any serious use.  I believe that the only useful classes are the ones where you actually get to go and be in the classroom.  And even those are only really useful if you have someone to talk to about the experiences.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I received my certificate in 1992, when it was both easier and more meaningless to do so in my home state of Washington.  Today's standards are tougher, but that doesn't always make the classes more valuable.  Often it just means there are more hoops to jump through.  I'd say about 1/5 of my education classes were worthwhile.  They were mostly based on theory instead of practicality.  Student teaching was much, much more influential in my preparation.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the best classes relating to education that I had in college were those that had real life experience. In other words, we were placed right in the classroom. Overall, I had some classes that were great but I have to admit that I did have some that were a total waste of time and money.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I never understood how a class can discuss how well theories of education work without having field experience, yet this was the method we were involved with years ago.  This is probably why studies show that teachers do not become truly effective until they have at least five years experience.

czski | Student

So true. The classes in educational theory remained just that: theory. They neither prepared me nor affected my classroom approach. The strongest courses were application those that were taught by teachers alongside professors. Our college offered a unique pairing of courses in which local school instructors taught with our professors. That partnership afforded us relationships, opportunities and frequent classroom experiences prior to student teaching itself.

Additionally, the teachers themselves had gone through enough "theory classes" in their preparations. They were our advocates in keeping our coursework practical and applicable.



desousam | Student

Most of the classes I took in University were beneficial to my teaching career. I agree that nothing can prepare you fully until you receive your own classroom. However, classes such as, classroom management were helpful tome. My professor would do role playing activities with us where one person who would be the teacher would be sent out of the classroom and then, he would explain a scenario to the class. He would pick a couple people in the class to be the "problem" students. The whole process was helpful. The other classes I took definitely aided me in lesson planning. Before I took any education classes I had no clue how to plan a lesson let alone teach it.

bwylie1 | Student

It saddens me to read that most of the education courses taken by members in this forum have been deemed "colossal waste of time" or "pointless".  Currently, I teach in a teacher preparatory program at a community college in Indianapolis, IN.  We require all students in Intro to Education and in Educational Psychology to complete service learning hours (20 hours in each class) in a classroom in an inner city school.  We also require students to create realistic lesson plans to implement in their Health and P.E. course through yet another service learning opportunity in an inner city school.  Students are required to take the knowledge they are learning in the classroom and apply it in the "real world" with "real kids".  Personally, I attended college in central Nebraska and graduated with my degree in Elementary Education in 1997.  The most beneficial courses I had during my entire degree plan were those in the Education department.  I still use much of what I learned to this day.

Personally, I do not believe that just because you know and understand content, you can or should be allowed to teach children.  I firmly believe you must have a strong background of Education theory to inform your practice as well as a strong foundation in methods and classroom management.  It is no doubt that hands on experience is the best means to learn; however, you have to have the general knowledge on which to build in order to make your experiential learning beneficial.

keefeville | Student

I think that many of my education classes were beneficial, but I could not completely rely on what I learned to be a successful teacher. My terms as a student teacher provided me with more information than any of the classes that I had taken. Watching other teachers and getting teaching tips from them, I think are the most helpful when looking for things to aide you in the classroom. After I had been a teacher for 5 years, I went back to school and completed my masters in elementary education. I learned a lot of background information as to how and why we teach subjects and mechanics and how the grade levels are built upon. This gave me more a great basis on which to base my own teaching philosphies and techniques.

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