INSTEP program in English Education

| January 11, 2012

For three weeks each summer, Teachers College is home to a group of graduate students from across the country who come together for a three-week session in the Intensive Summer Teacher Education Program.

Pat Zumhagen lectures in the English Education program at Teachers College and has served as the INSTEP coordinator for three years. Her background as a high school English teacher enables Dr. Zumhagen to bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to classes such as Literature and Teaching, English Methods, and Feminist Perspectives and Literature. Having completed her last year as INSTEP coordinator over the summer, she will hand over the reins for next summer to English doctoral student Nicole Callahan, an experienced high school English teacher, who has taught Fieldwork and Teaching of Writing here at Teachers College.

INSTEP students create context for studying Hemingway

The English INSTEP program provides a theoretical and pedagogical approach to studying English Education with an arts-based undercurrent. It started back in 2002 when Lincoln Center was looking to establish an affiliation with the university and found that Maxine Greene’s philosophic writing on aesthetic education were in line with the principles they sought to advocate. A partnership was formed, and since then the TC/Lincoln Center connection has served as a foundational frame for the English INSTEP program.

It teaches students a methodology centered on a set of “Capacities for Imaginative Learning,” among them deep noticing, questioning, living with ambiguity, and taking action. The methodology encourages students to think about literature with an aesthetic point of view, looking back and forth from the arts, both visual and performing, to literature.  It emphasizes the role of literature and the arts in strengthening the capacity of students to think creatively and imagine.

Aside from its emphasis on aesthetic education, the English INSTEP program is unique among

INSTEP students Katie Ottaviani and Jenny Corroy

English education masters programs nationally by virtue of three additional features. The first of these is that it brings teachers together in cohorts, whereby they work with a small group of colleagues for three years, forming deep and professionally sustaining relationships with teachers of English who face comparable pedagogical challenges in all regions of the country and across the globe. Teachers in a typical INSTEP cohort come from 7 or 8 different states of the US and 3 or 4 different countries. Second, the INSTEP Program in English seeks to give classroom English teachers the opportunity to work closely with senior faculty members in TC’s English education program, which is widely recognized as the home of several of the nation’s leading specialists in English education.

Finally, the program acknowledges its distinctive role in seeking to help relatively new teachers navigate between the requirements of standardized tests and state mandates, and finding ways to teach that are philosophically and pedagogically consistent with the aims of aesthetic education and a commitment to active, engaged learning.

INSTEP student Drew Snow in a reenactment of Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron

Many exercises in such classes as Teaching of Writing, Cultural Perspectives in Literature, and Teaching of Reading include opportunities for INSTEP students to participate in the same assignments they could potentially use with their own students. Says incoming INSTEP coordinator Nicole Callahan, “Teachers should be going through the experience of the assignments that their students will do so they can then step back and reflect on the theory behind why we’re doing something and also so that they can remember what’s difficult about a particular writing assignment, reconnecting to themselves as writers before giving these experiences to their students.”

For more information about the English INSTEP program, check out TC’s English Education website.