Rowan University Offers New Degree in Inclusive Education
Rowan University’s College of Education is the founding college on campus but that doesn’t stop it from continually innovating its practice and creating forward-thinking opportunities for teaching and learning. And so, this year, the oldest college on campus is offering an innovative new degree: the Bachelor of Arts in Inclusive Education.
The concept of inclusive education is simple, yet profound: teachers must be prepared to meet the needs of ALL the learners in their classroom, regardless of differences in race, language, culture, and physical ability.
Despite the simplicity of the idea, conversations with its P-12 school-based partners and other area stakeholders revealed a need for a program directly focused on inclusive education. In response, Rowan’s College of Education faculty members across three disciplines (early childhood education, elementary education, and special education) worked collaboratively to craft a four-year degree with curricula, clinical components, and assessment of student learning grounded in an inclusive education approach.
The result of their efforts is a BA program in Inclusive Education allowing students to choose from two specialization options: early childhood education or elementary education. The program, consisting of approximately 60 semester hours of liberal arts course work and 60 semester hours of inclusive education course work, was originally designed as a straightforward 2+2 pathway program but has evolved and taken on new life as a 3+1 program. Through partnerships with community colleges, specifically Rowan College at Burlington County and Rowan College at Gloucester County, the 3+1 format provides greater affordability and accessibility for community college and transfer students.
“Our College of Education at Rowan is committed to developing innovative programs like the 3+1 that reflect the changing landscape of educator preparation,” said Dean Monika Williams Shealey.
Students will graduate from the program with two certifications: an initial teaching certification in either P-3 or K-6 and a teacher of students with disabilities certification (K-12). Program graduates will then have the opportunity to work in a number of different educational settings and in a multitude of instructional roles:
- Inclusive education teacher (P-3 or K-6)
- General education teacher (P-3 or K-6)
- Lead Teacher in Resource Room or specialized support class (P-12)
- Optional Middle School Certification (5-8) to serve as a content area teacher (English as a Second Language, Mathematics, Bilingual Education, and more)
- Co-teacher in either inclusive, general, or special education classroom
The clinical components of this degree are unique. For five consecutive semesters, candidates are assigned to specific types of clinical classrooms and at various grade levels so they can directly apply their university-level learning in real world settings. In each of these clinically-based semesters, there is a specific set of professional expectations, teaching and learning objectives, and required outcomes based on the standards from our respective accrediting agencies. For example, during the semester students are enrolled in the course “Differentiated Literacy, Assistive Technology and Transition Planning and Specialized Instruction,” the clinical component is an inclusive setting with students who have moderate to severe special needs.
Teacher candidates are supported in this program through two defining features:
- Candidates are cohorted into learning teams with course sections co-taught by faculty in order to create a community-based approach to teaching and learning.
- The entire focus is on integrated instruction with curricula that intentionally crosses disciplines in special education, early childhood, elementary, English as a second language, urban, and bilingual education, to name a few.
The BA in Inclusive Education is the embodiment of the College of Education’s tagline – Access, Success, and Equity…Turning Research into Practice. We have gathered empirical research, identified evidenced-based practices, and surveyed the market needs of our region’s employers to create a degree program, which will effectively prepare today’s teachers for tomorrow’s classrooms.
Cori Meredith Brown is the associate dean for faculty and student affairs at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ.
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Assistant Professor, Rowan University