Tabor master’s program retooled for effectiveness

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ALEEN RATZLAFF
What started as a bit of tweaking eventually evolved into a revamping of Tabor College’s 2-year-old master of education program.


“To make the program more manageable, I think we actually ended up strengthening the program,” said Donna Bagley, director of the graduate-level program.


Bagley and Bruce Anthony, assistant professor in education, teach the major courses in the program.


“I think we are a good blend,” she said of her eye for detail and Anthony’s pastor’s heart.


Students who currently enroll in the program will complete a core of four graduate courses, as well as choose from a range of electives.


This curriculum replaces the previous degree program, which focused on areas of concentration, such as educational software, special education, early childhood, physical education and Christian school leadership.


“Each of the concentrations had three courses underneath them,” said Bagley. “So from a management point, that was difficult.”


Now all student who enroll in the program will be required to take the following core courses: Technology in the Classroom, Theology of Education, Measurement and Evaluation, and Advanced Educational Psychology, plus 12 hours of electives.


A lot of the courses in the concentrations will be offered as electives, but the change gives more flexibility in scheduling, Bagley said.


Students also enroll in a seminar in their teaching field, such as early childhood and elementary. Those graduate students teaching at the middle school and secondary level will complete an independent study with a faculty member in the students’ specialty field.


“They’ll get some graduate content, which I think is really strong,” Bagley said.


An additional requirement is an advanced practicum.


“The student will identify a problem in his or her classroom, work with Dr. Anthony and myself to find solutions to that problem, and then we’ll actually come out to their school observe them a couple of times.”


The faculty will provide feedback in the students’ classrooms, an added benefit to the experience, Bagley said.


“Once you’ve done that, you’ll move right into graduate research and the master’s project, which we want you to do in your own classroom,” she said.


That distinction sets Tabor’s education graduate program apart from other available graduate programs.


“Unlike some programs that are around, they’re aimed to make administrators out of you,” Bagley said. “This is not. This program is meant for the classroom teacher.”


Currently, the graduate education program is marketed to primarily appeal to educators teaching in area schools.


“Now you can get your (master’s in education) degree in two or three years without leaving Marion

County,” Bagley said.


In the summer, two-week courses are offered in the mornings, while the classes offered during the school year usually meet from 5 to 8 one evening a week.


“It is possible to still have a life and tuck your kids into bed,” Bagley said about classes held during the school year.


Tabor College’s tuition, while higher than some programs, is competitive with others, Bagley said, adding that especially with gas prices rising, students from the area will save money on transportation as well as time spent commuting.


Teachers can bring in up to nine hours earned through recertification to the program.


“We’re not trying to be the largest, but I think we have a real ministry to offer to Marion County,” Bagley said. “Teachers can get practical graduate education right here.”


Graduate student Carisa Funk of Hillsboro appreciates both the convenience of attending classes on campus at Tabor as well as the rigor of the program.


“I can’t say enough about the program,” Funk said. “It’s been wonderful.”


Funk, who teaches elementary students in Florence with the OASIS program-Opportunity Achievement Survival in Society-said she finds the program to be tailored for practicality, adding that she readily incorporated information from several computer technology courses into her classroom teaching.


This summer Funk is taking a K-12 writing class as well as a course on different learning styles.


Asked about his experiences in Tabor’s graduate education program, Hillsboro High School music instructor Dave Clark said: “The Bible requirement helped put all of the master’s level information into perspective. I like the small class-size and working with the faculty. It’s a unique program.”


Bagley said the program does attract some students from the Wichita area, especially those specializing in early childhood. In addition, the program also accommodates coaches as well as classroom teachers.


“For example, with this program you could also get graduate level work in both social studies and coaching,” Bagley said.


With Karol Hunt, who teaches physical education courses at Tabor, Bagley said the program offers good support for those who coach or teach physical education.


The goal is not large numbers of students. The emphasis of the program is on quality.


“I would be happy if we could start a small cohort group every June,” Bagley said.


Six students will soon complete their coursework and will graduate in May 2002.


“When students come, they’ve liked what they’ve received,” Bagley said.


“I think we’ve found our niche, and I’m pretty excited about it.”

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