AU to Launch Revised Graduate Program Focused on ‘Teaching & Learning for 21st Century’

4/26/12 ASHLAND, Ohio -- The field of teacher education is undergoing some dramatic changes and Ashland University, an institution that has been recognized as a leader in the field for more than 30 years, has taken steps to refocus its graduate education program.

“We see the changes taking place in education now and we recognize we need to make changes and develop new graduate programs that will allow us to offer more relevant programming for teachers,” said Dr. James Van Keuren, dean of Ashland University’s Schar College of Education.

Van Keuren said the Schar College of Education faculty and administrators worked to develop a new certificate program that will begin in the fall of 2012. These changes have been approved by the College of Education as well as the University’s graduate council and faculty senate, and some are now awaiting approval from the Higher Learning Commission and Board of Regents.

“It was clear to us that something needed to change,” Van Keuren said. “We established a graduate redesign committee that included faculty, local educators and center directors and we looked at all aspects of the program and figured out where we should be going.”

Dr. David Kommer, professor of education and one of the faculty members spearheading the program changes, said that Schar College of Education is entering a new era in its graduate program as the College begins to issue certificates that spell out exactly what knowledge and skills graduate students have acquired.

“To our knowledge no other competitor has this type of a certificate program in place. We are at the cutting edge and this idea is fresh and new,” Kommer said. “We see a real shift to a hybrid and online program, with students spending less time in a college seat.”

Some of the major changes to the graduate programs include:

  • The University’s original classroom instruction master of education degree in curriculum and instruction will now be titled Teaching and Learning for the 21st Century (TL21).
  • A reduction in the number of classroom instruction hours for the TL21 program from 35 hours to 30 hours. This will reduce the cost of the program by 15 percent.
  • The TL21 master’s program will now be restructured into three main areas: Cognates, Certificate Program and Endorsement.

Dr. James Rycik, professor of education and one of the leaders in developing the changes, said those in the College of Education are excited about Ashland’s new graduate structure. “The certificate program adds breadth and depth to what the graduate students are already doing, while the endorsement can take the student to another area. And the TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) can make them employable,” he said.

“The exciting thing about certificates is the different kinds of concentrations and it becomes a contract between us and them -- we promise them they will have these skills after taking this certificate program,” Rycik said. “Then, they can take this to their employer and show that they have a definite set of skills.”

Rycik called this new structure a “big bonus” for school districts. “The school districts can encourage their teachers to get certificates and they will know what skills their teachers will have and that has a lot of advantages over the old M.Ed. model. We are giving them an opportunity to choose,” he said.

Both Kommer and Rycik believe a key element of the certificate program is that a candidate does not need an entire master of education degree. “We can market this certificate program to both candidates – those who do not want the master’s degree and those who already have a master’s degree,” Kommer said.

They also believe that the new certificate structure will make Ashland University much more able to react quickly to situations. “We don’t have to change the whole program to add a certificate – the pace will remain fast and it will allow us to meet needs without sacrificing quality,” Rycik said.

“We have turned the old master’s degree program on its head. Before, we started with the core courses that would apply to any master’s degree and work toward an area of particular interest,” Rycik said. “Now, we will first teach the things you want to know and then broaden the interest. It is a big change to the way we have always done it but it is a much better approach and much more flexible.”

Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2012, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.
4/26/12