A hallmark of the professional graduate programs in Chapman University’s Attallah College of Educational Studies has always been hands-on learning. Future teachers, school counselors, and school psychologists have early access to fieldwork and are given frequent opportunities to make connections in the communities they will serve.
Like all instruction nationwide, Chapman University courses moved online in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since Chapman students could no longer venture out into the community, Attallah College faculty took quick action, rapidly adapting their courses to bring the community to them. By bringing in guest speakers and utilizing technology, they’ve been able to deliver a shared experience and connect theory to practice.
Beyond the Classroom
Last summer, using a grant from the Museum of Tolerance the entire Attallah College Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) 2019–2020 cohort attended a full-day workshop.
This summer Attallah College students from four teacher education (TE) courses took part in a two-week virtual event with Clear the Air, a nonprofit developed by an international group of educators committed to addressing issues of equity, equality, and educational injustice in schools. The two-week event consisted of a series of activities designed to examine the intersections of disability and race.
The MAT classes first came together for a Netflix viewing party of “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution.” The next week the Chapman students and faculty participated in an intimate Zoom conversation and Q&A with disability activists Debra Jennings and Judith Huemann, who was featured in the Crip Camp documentary.
Cathery Yeh, Ph.D., one of the MAT faculty who coordinated in the Clear the Air program, explains it was important to continue the tradition of shared field experiences this summer, even in a distance learning format.
“At the start of our program, we want our first semester cohort students to develop a sense of shared vision and shared experience,” said Dr. Yeh. “Pursuing these connections for students sets them up to be able to develop as culturally aware and social-justice informed teachers.”
Following both the Netflix viewing party and Zoom discussion, each Attallah class debriefed together to connect the content to their work as teachers and how it plays out in classrooms and schools.
In an effort to replicate part of the in-class experience, Tara Barhart, Ph.D., another of the TE faculty even mailed some microwave popcorn to her students so they could all eat together while watching the film.
“Bringing out the popcorn in little brown paper baggies always made my students smile during class,” said. Dr. Barnhart. “This was fun way to maintain some joy and connection during all this.”
Richelle Acebedo, a first semester student in Attallah’s MAT and Multiple Subject teaching credential program, said the Clear the Air two-week program has helped build that sense of community: “I know that we are in the midst of a pandemic right now, but I truly feel like my experience here at Chapman, in only one semester and through remote learning, has been one of the best educational experiences in my pursuit of higher learning. Although I have not been able to physically meet my professors and cohort, I believe this experience has made us grow closer together as a community of educators.”
When Chapman moved to online instruction in March, another Attallah faculty member, Annmary Abdou, Ph.D., found ways to incorporate experiential learning in her spring graduate-level School Counseling and School Psychology (CSP) course. The course, “Cultural and Community Issues in Counseling and School Psychology,” covers issues of systemic educational and mental health inequities and helps students develop the perspectives and skills to become culturally responsive practitioners in school counseling and psychology.
Julie Vue, the director of the Restorative Schools and Bridges programs from OC Human Relations, served as a co-instructor in Dr. Abdou’s course throughout the spring semester, during which they utilized restorative circles to facilitate the class. Julie Vue’s contributions helped students study the implementation of restorative justice in local schools and OC Human Relations’ advocacy work in local schools and communities.
The course topics became even more relevant following widespread K-12 school closures, which have disproportionately affected underrepresented students and communities of color, and recent Black Live Matter protests. Dr. Abdou and Julie worked together to create and facilitate “virtual circles” for the transition to distance learning.
“Using restorative practices to facilitate this class before and after the online transition helped us to continue building community while engaging in reflective dialogue around these important issues,” said Dr. Abdou. “They also served as a form of experiential training, showing students how to incorporate restorative practices into their future roles.“
As a class assignment, the students were given the option to participate in one of OC Human Relations’ kNOw Hate campaign challenges. kNOw Hate is an education and awareness campaign seeking to promote the importance of diversity and eliminate prejudice, intolerance, and discrimination. The challenge encouraged participants to create public displays such as window decorations or sidewalk art and share them on social media using campaign hashtags #kNOwHATE #SpreadCompassionNotCOVID #CloseTheDoorOnHate. The combined real-world and social media program showed students how they might share their voice at home and amplify it using digital tools.
Dr. Abdou said the kNOw Hate campaign provided a nice opportunity that linked to the course material to current events and created some small waves of community activism.
For both the graduate TE and CSP programs, the ultimate goal is to broaden the students’ perspectives so they develop as professionals who act in ways consistent with the mission of our college and our university. Throughout their programs, Attallah College faculty seek to connect their students to organizations and communities that they can continue to rely on as school-based professionals.
Dr. Yeh believes learning doesn’t just happen in the few months of any credential or graduate program; it is a career-long endeavor. By fostering such connections, we set our graduates up to be able to continue the hard work after they finish their program.
Dr. Barnhart explained the Clear the Air program make those connections tangible. Her class debrief on the struggles facing individuals with disabilities focused on how educators and society as whole can better serve this community. The class discussion was then able to connect to events going on our country right now.
“The parallels to other civil rights movements were very apparent to me,” she said.
Dr. Abdou’s class was also able to tie course material to local and national community efforts.
Maria Reyes, a student in Attallah’s MA in School Counseling & PPSC (Pupil Personnel Services Credential) program, said learning about OC Human Relations and its mission in Dr. Abdou’s class was extremely moving.
“Professor Abdou and Julie Vue brought light to perspectives and matters that we, as a society, may often overlook or subconsciously choose to ignore,” said Maria. “Having the opportunity to explore these meaningful topics through productive discussions during this unparalleled time made our experience much more fruitful.”
For more about Chapman’s Attallah College of Educational Studies, read more about its undergraduate programs