Courses Outside of IEDP: Choices, choices, choices…

IEDP experience spills beyond IEDP – now that we have checked off a handful of prerequisite courses in fall semester, many of our cohort mates are expanding their horizons by enrolling courses outside of IEDP. Some of these outside-of-IEDP courses include refugee law, indigenous languages, global citizenship and ethnographic film-making. In this post, I will introduce the outside-of-IEDP courses that I’m enrolled for this semester and my experience in them thus far.

IEDP crew in the Child Development Class!

Developmental Theories and Applications with Children is a course offered by a professor from Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development (ISHD). As you can see from the course title, the course evolves around some of the core concepts in developmental psychology. (Domain specificity, multifinality, zone of proximal development… any of these familiar? 🙂 ) But the course has a very practical and hands-on turn to it. Students are assigned to preschools and K to 3rd grade classes across the city, where you spend two hours a week in the classrooms, directly interacting with the students and teachers. We are not there to make mere observations but we help facilitating the lessons and activities in class. You will identify a student that you would like to focus on and apply the theories and tools we cover in the course to help that student thrive in the class.

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Snack bar can’t be omitted in an encouraging learning environment!

Couple reasons I think this course is fabulous aside from the super passionate and compassionate (rhyme there) professor we have for this course. First, I think this course is the epitome of “hands-on experience through course work”! The concepts I read over the weekends and discuss with my classmates on Tuesdays, I will have an opportunity to see how they are applicable or at times, inapplicable to the reality when I come into the preschool class on Wednesdays. Though this is not an IEDP course, I think the organization of the class really aligns with the IEDP’s emphasis on translating knowledges into practices.

Secondly, engaging with the Philadelphia local community helps us better contextualize the space that we are in, which at times can feel a bit detached from the rest of the city. Even more enriching than other local outreach activities because students are assigned to four different schools so as you share your observations and thoughts with your classmates, you not only learn about the classroom and the school you are assigned to but other schools in the city.

Appendix page of one of the graphic novels I had to read for this class had these illustrations of the main character, who was a polar bear struggling to survive in the midst of melting icebergs.

Literacy and Illustrated Texts: Picturebooks, Comics, and Graphic Novels is a course taught by a professor and a PhD student from Reading Writing Literacy (RWL) department. However, it’s different from other literacy courses in that the course’s definition of literacy is expanded by including publications heavily evolving around visual components, such as comics, picture books and more. One might wonder how can you become “literate” in pictures and photos? This is what this course deconstructs! Are visual materials “innocent” and free from such factors? Definitely not. But we tend to assume that they do not carry as much of agenda as texts might. This class is challenging that notion of innocent visual materials. How do you analyze and interpret pictures and photos in a way conducive to critical thinking? How can we identify underlying power dynamics, historical contexts and assumptions in visual materials?

Class readings do include some theoretical explorations in visual literacy and hidden agenda in picturebooks and comics. But mostly, the class focuses on deconstructing an illustrated text through class discussions. We would have illustrated texts projected onto the screen in front of the classroom and discuss the use of colors, way the illustrations were split into different panels, font of the texts, and any other visual cues one could identify. Then we would go on to make connections to the message that we think this illustrated text is trying to convey. At some point in the class, we will create an illustrated autobiography, applying different mechanisms and tools that we’ve observed throughout classes to conveying our own messages.

YES you actually get to read books like this for class!

I am the only IEDPer in this class! (And that kind of explains why I do not have photos of the class in action…) It’s truly a different experience especially since this course was not structured to specifically cater to the topics in international education. Most students and the professor teaching this class specialize in literacy education in the U.S. context.

In fact, this is not an uncommon experience you will encounter at GSE as once you step outside of IEDP courses, many courses do have their bases in the context specific to the U.S.

I personally think that really should not discourage you from taking courses outside of IEDP. Sure, what the readings focus and classmates’ background do influence your learning experience but your classroom experience is also what you make out of it yourself. In that light, this course has got me thinking about ideas that could be adapted and modified to become applicable to international settings. For instance, racial dynamic and tensions are not confined to the U.S. They manifest in a specific manner in the U.S. but they also manifest in other countries in their own ways. In such context, how would illustrations reflect those tensions in different ways? Do we notice similar patterns or is it completely irrelevant? If completely irrelevant, why so? Asking these questions to yourself as you sit in the classroom help you make those contents relevant and applicable to your interest area in international educational development.

It is a big leap from being surrounded by your cohort mates in all the classes you are in to being the only IEDPer in a classroom. It can be intimidating at times but as with other parts of life, stepping out of your comfort zone does make you grow. I personally highly recommend others to take courses outside of IEDP (and in fact, it’s a requirement for the program!) because I feel like now I am having a more holistic perspective of GSE experience.

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