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New degree option to better prepare aspiring teachers

May 01, 2013

The Department of English at Arizona State University has set forth a new mission to better prepare aspiring teachers and provide additional opportunities for field experience training.

The academic unit is expanding upon an existing partnership with the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College to offer undergraduate and doctoral degrees in English with a special focus on secondary education.

While the two have always worked in tandem on field experience, teaching and job placement, the new option through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences allows the Department of English to offer more specialized classes and tailor hands-on learning.

“This is an opportunity to allow students to take more courses surrounding the application of teaching English," said James Blasingame, director of the English Education program in the Department of English. "Whether they want to teach in urban Phoenix or an Indigenous Nation, they can tailor their curriculum to those needs.” 

As part of the required three semesters of field experience, students will spend a full semester working in a Phoenix Union High School District writing center. The result will be knowledge of how to interact with students on a one-on-one basis and teach students to write effectively.

When deciding on the new curriculum, Blasingame says it was important to remove generic education courses that were not required by the Arizona Department of Education in order to accommodate new courses that meet National Common Core Standards.

A new course titled “Teaching Texts” is part of an instructional shift designed to emphasize critical thinking and analysis. Although the literary canon is a major part of the curriculum, the coursework focuses less on personal narrative and more on reading and writing informational texts.

Students also will learn to adapt to emerging technologies with a new “Digital Tools” course that calls for the use of web-based tools such as instaGrock, VoiceThread and Weebly in educational instruction.

To embrace the rich cultural heritage of Arizona, the department has added a class titled “Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy” to instruct future teachers on how to use diverse cultural heritages that students bring to the classroom. In this class they will design and implement a unit of study in collaboration with an Arizona secondary school. Similarly, students may enroll in an indigenous and rhetoric first year composition course.

The programs launched in February and are already popular with students and faculty members.

“The faculty are able to teach what they really love with students who are interested in those areas,” said Blasingame.

To learn more about the degree, visit