Reflecting on the first month of classes…

Hi all. I cannot believe September has come to an end, which means I have completed my first month in the IEDP! As we say in Spanish: ¡Guau!

I decided to only take 3 courses this semester (two core* classes and a quantitative elective) due to two reasons. First, I wanted to learn about the different focus areas within the educational development field through the core classes and then decide what topics I want to explore more through electives courses. Second, I wanted to adjust to the college life (not exactly how I initially envisioned it) since it’s been three years since I graduated from my bachelor’s.

Today I wanted to give a brief overview of the classes I am taking and offer some personal reflections:

*(EDUC 514) Education in Developing Countries with Dr. Wagner

To prepare for class, Dr. Wagner has pre-lesson recordings where he introduces the topic for the week, briefly discussing the readings and videos to complete. Then, students participate in a discussion board. In class we go over the readings through student presentations and break-out discussions. We do not focus on summarizing what we read (it is expected that we all read before class), but rather on analyzing how each topic is related to international educational development. We have distinct interpretations of the material and a limited amount of time, so reading groups outside of class help me digest the main points.

So far, we have learned many diverse perspectives on development and the complexities in the diverse approaches. There are those that see development from an overly optimistic point of view and others who are against the current efforts. Development can be analyzed through different lenses. Although governments often put a heavy emphasis on economics, it does not tell the whole story. I enjoy that we cover topics in education, anthropology, emotions (happiness), and the environment. The topics are challenging because there are no set answers. My main take away from the past few weeks is that development is a collaborative effort that involves a lot of people and many different disciplines that are equally important.

A picture of my study space

*(EDUC 695) International Educational Development In Practice: Tools, Tech And Ethics with Dr. Ghaffar-Kucher and Dr. Neuman

This class is taught by two instructors this semester. In this class, we have learned about the project cycle: starting with a basic definition of what a project is, how to identify a need that requires action, how to plan and manage a project, and how to collaborate with funders and beneficiaries. I enjoy that we have the opportunity to collaborate with classmates on shared notebooks and online murals to apply what we have learned to topics that are so crucial to our current situation (ex: reopening schools during the pandemic).

This class has also been a great introduction to technical proposals, something I had never come across. I am learning about the process behind applying for funding (such an important part of development work that I had not considered), including how to effectively present a project idea within a very limited word count.

(EDUC 638) Principles of Monitoring and Evaluation with Dr. Thapa (Quantitative Elective)

In this course, we have learned about the different components that go into planning and implementing successful educational programs with clear objectives, goals, and measurable outcomes. We have assigned readings that cover all of these topics in detail. Dr. Thapa discusses the main points during class while making a few jokes (which I honestly enjoy) and provides examples that we can relate to through our professional and personal experiences. As a result of this class, I have started to think about programs that I would like to design and implement in the future, and the steps I could take to ensure their success.

We also have a lab component where we practice statistical concepts by analyzing datasets in STATA. Although using a new software can be challenging, I look forward to learning more about the data-analysis tools and methods that help create better programs with impactful results.

In summary

Each class is unique, but there are a lot of overlaps. It is so interesting when I come across a topic I have learned in a different class, from a different perspective. Due to all of this, I am constantly reshaping the ideas I had about where I want to work and what I want to do. I am hoping that as the semester progresses, I have a better understanding of what I want to focus on so I can be strategic with my electives and get the most out my experience in the program.

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