Pace for Completing Courses of Study in the IEDP

The pace of program completion IEDPers choose can in some ways influence the design of their course of study. There are many configurations for finishing the IEDP, but for simplicity there are two main paces for completion. The traditional pace (~1.5 years) would be taking 3.5 credit units (CUs) in the fall and 3.5 CUs in the spring. In the traditional pace, students typically go on their internship (1 CU) in the summer and/or fall semester, then return to Penn’s campus the following semester to take their final 2 CUs required of the program. The accelerated pace (1 year) would be taking 4.5 CUs in the fall, 4.5 CUs in the spring, and going on internship (1 CU) in the summer.

Each student has their own reasons for choosing one pace or the other. I chose the traditional pace because I know that the accelerated pace would be too much for me. I have two part-time graduate assistantships on campus, and I like to take advantage of all of the lectures and conferences that Penn has to offer. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance to decompress from everything that’s going on is extremely important to me, and I know that an accelerated pace would not allow this. Also, I wanted to have an opportunity to take courses after my internship. By doing this, I can see what areas I need to explore further before entering my career. A drawback to doing the traditional pace is only having one elective in my first semester, which dictated how I formed my course of study.

Multilingual Context Lens

In the first semester, all IEDPers have to take the first half of the IEDP Proseminar (0.5 CU) and one of two strains of Basic Education in Developing Countries (1 CU). It’s also recommended to complete one of the two methods course requirements (1 CU). Since I’m doing the traditional pace, this only leaves room to take one more class. This also frames the way I build my course of study, as I want to choose a class that can form the foundations of how I approach international educational development. With my interest in multilingual contexts in mind, I chose “Language Diversity and Education” with Dr. Nancy Hornberger. At first, I almost didn’t take the class because its intense reading requirements (at least one book every other week on top of hundreds of pages of articles) and weekly writing assignments intimidated me. However, I knew that this would provide the foundational understandings with which to view development. After taking it, I can verify that it did, and my ability to read and synthesize material has dramatically improved because of the intensity of the class.

Areas to Inform and be Informed by Multilingual Contexts

After situating development in multilingual contexts, I had to decide if I wanted to build depth in language and education with more classes on this topic or expand into other areas that could lend themselves to my interest in educational spaces with a large diversity of languages. I opted for the latter as I wanted to broaden my knowledge and skillset and see how other areas of study could inform and be informed by multilingual contexts.

For the spring semester at the traditional pace, each student in the IEDP cohort must take the second class of the Proseminar series (0.5 CU). IEDPers typically finish their other required methods course, but I chose not to do this because 1) I wanted to deepen my knowledge of the quantitative method I took in the fall and 2) I felt that there were other areas I needed to understand before my internship. Here are my remaining classes (3 CUs) I decided to take for my second semester and how they connect to my interested in language and education.

Curriculum & Pedagogy in International Contexts

Even though I had experience designing curricula and implementing pedagogies as a teacher, I wanted to figure out how to work with multitiered stakeholders to design curricula and pedagogies for achieving their goals. This course with Dr. Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher, an IEDP co-director and my advisor, provides me exactly what I was looking for. We discuss curricular ideologies that different educators have about purposes of school, definitions of terms like ‘learning’ and ‘knowledge’, and ways to achieve student outcomes. Then, we go through different aspects in the classroom (e.g., learning materials, textbooks, language of instruction) that relate to curriculum and pedagogy. The class allows me to apply these concepts to a semester-long project for a real client. My group’s project requires a manual revision for an after-school reading club with lesson plans, teaching strategies, and created stories. I can bring in my understanding of language education since the reading clubs take place in English, which is not the home language of many of the students or teachers.

Information and Communication Technology 4 Development (ICT4D)

In the fall semester Proseminar class, we had to complete a technical proposal that included a mother tongue-based technological innovation that would improve literacy outcomes in early grades. During this project I realized that there is a high demand for information and communication technologies (ICTs) in international educational development projects, and yet I didn’t know enough about what could or couldn’t work for the context of my group’s proposal. This lack of understanding and recognition of the importance of ICTs led me to take ICT4D with Dr. Dan Wagner, an IEDP co-director. We discuss articles around big themes in ICTs throughout the semester and use these insights to critique projects and programs in educational development. For the class, we have to create a project design proposal for a new ICT4D solution that addresses a specific system, project, or program. I haven’t decided what I will do for this project, but I am thinking about professional development and instructional feedback for teachers in multilingual contexts.

Monitoring & Evaluation

I initially took principles of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) to fulfill my quantitative method requirement because many people in the field of international development have underscored the importance of studying M&E. After taking the class with Dr. Amrit Thapa, who makes a quant class extremely digestible for anyone who’s scared of math, I can say that I agree with them; in fact, I agree with them so much that I decided to push my qualitative method requirement until after returning from my internship so that I could take the advanced M&E class. The first semester helps students to design appropriate ways of assessing progress and impact of an educational program. The second semester focuses more on advanced statistical analyses of program data and critiquing randomized and natural experimental designs. Through M&E, I think about how programmatic design appropriately takes into consideration different linguistic and sociocultural learners.

Future Classes and Careers

For my course of study, I’ve actually modified the traditional pace slightly to take a longer internship and return to Penn in Spring 2021. I have to take 2 CUs, one of which must be my qualitative methods requirement. I have ideas about classes that interest me, but I’m really allowing my interests and recognized needs throughout my internship inform my decision. After graduation, I want a position that would allow me to focus on inclusive and quality education, incorporating the areas of interest and skillsets I’ve developed. This could be working for a multilateral agency or even a regional NGO. At some point, I’m also considering pursuing a doctorate to become a professor in a teacher education program. Even though I have ideas of classes and careers I want to pursue, I think the best method is to let my interests and opportunities guide me–that is, as long as they are situated in multilingual contexts.