Model Syllabi

One of the goals of Justice in Schools is to promote the use of normative case studies as a powerful tool for teaching about and reflecting on challenge ethical dilemmas in the practice of education. The following collection of syllabi come from professors - both in schools of education and in philosophy departments - who employ case studies in their teaching on education. They are meant to demonstrate the range of ways that educators can employ the case studies approach in both undergraduate and graduate level coursework. If you have a syllabus you would like to share with us, please feel free to get in touch with us.

Professor Meira Levinson, Harvard University - "Educational Justice"

Short description: "Educators and educational policy makers regularly face challenging ethical decisions. For example, what should be done about a student with diagnosed emotional issues who frequently disrupts class, but who benefits from being mainstreamed? Should teachers resist grade inflation even if it helps their students in the college and labor market? Is it just to expand a charter school that achieves outstanding academic outcomes at the cost of high attrition rates? When school closure or teacher evaluation policies disproportionately impact low-income communities of color, is that in itself evidence of an injustice that must be addressed? These kinds of questions are often addressed as technocratic challenges of leadership, legal compliance, or accountability. This course, by contrast, addresses the ethical dimensions of educational practice and policy, with justice as our primary focus. We will engage with philosophical, theoretical, and empirical readings from a wide variety of disciplines. We will also grapple with case studies of dilemmas of educational justice from classrooms, schools, districts, and organizations at both the K-12 and higher education levels in the United States. Many of these case studies also have close analogues abroad. Our goals will be to deepen our own understandings of educational justice, to engage with others about complex ethical judgments across multiple lines of difference, and to learn how to enhance educators' and policymakers’ capacities to make ethical decisions under challenging conditions."

[2016 Syllabus]

 

Professor Gina Schouten, Harvard University - "Educational Justice"

Short description: "This course will examine philosophical questions concerning social justice and distributive justice as they apply to education. Education acts as a gateway to vastly unequally-distributed social rewards: things like income and wealth, social status, leisure time, health, relationship success, and control over one’s environment. Some of the most important and perplexing questions in social and political philosophy concern who gets access to that gateway, at what cost, and what they experience while passing through. We’ll examine issues of justice in compulsory primary and secondary education, as well as issues of justice in higher education. To inform our exploration, we’ll read philosophical contributions to the conversations on such topics as the distribution of education, the aims of education, and the rights of parents concerning their children’s education. We’ll also read some empirical literature, which will provide a working understanding of the structure and consequences of schooling in the US. Finally, we’ll explore some case studies looking at specific choices that arise in real time for educational decisionmakers. These case studies have been developed by a team of educators and philosophers in the US, and include decisions about discipline, charter schools, special education, and school districting."

 

Professor Doris Santoro, Bowdoin College - "Teaching and Learning & Curriculum Development"

Short Description: "Curriculum Development and Teaching & Learning are taught as a single course and share one syllabus. The course integrates theory and practice thoroughly. We will be studying teaching and we will be teaching. We will be studying curriculum and we will be creating curriculum. We will study teaching and curriculum in schools, and we will spend significant time in schools. We will study community context matters as an educator. We will have in-depth experiences in two communities - an urban community (Portland, ME) and an island community (Deer Isle-Stonington). In addition to learning from the professor, you will learn from King and community experts. Most importantly, you will develop a professional learning community amongst your peers. You are expected to support, question, and challenge each other in order to produce the highest quality work and to best serve all students."

 

Professor Terri Wilson, University of Colorado Boulder - "Philosophy of Education"

Short Description: "This course is designed to explore philosophical dimensions of educational policy and practice. What, for instance, does it mean to be an educated person? What is the relationship between education and citizenship? What are the goals of schooling in a democratic society? These questions - while deeply connected to educational practice - focus on the aims of education. They are, in short, normative questions, or questions that ask we ought to do. While many researchers have focusd on assemnbling important evidence about the practical consequences and effects of different educational policies and reforms, evidence alone cannot resolve normative debates about the appropriate purposes, aims and values raised by such approaches. For example, how should education address issues of injustice, to what extent, and in what ways? How might school districts negotatiate their responsibilities to address inequality with demands posed by more privileged families? What values and principles might guide their decisions? We'll explore these and other issues through reading key philosophical texts (both classic and contemporary) and case studies that highligh the moral and ethical dimensions of education.

 

Jacob Fay, Harvard University - "Issues in American Schools" (Lesley University)

Short Description: "New teachers enter a profession characterized by the complex, imperfect, changing, political institution that is our nation's schools. They face challenging dilemmas on a daily basis. For example, what should a teacher do about a student with diagnosed emotional issues who frequently disrupts class, but who benefits from being mainstreamed? Should teachers resist grade inflation even if it helps their students in the college and labor market? Schools and school systems face challenging dilemmas as well. For example, does expanding a high-achieving "no-excuses" charter school that sends nearly all its graduates to college at the expense of a high attrition rate promote social justice? These kinds of questions are often addressed as technocratic challenges of leadership, legal compliance, or accountability. This course, by contrast, addresses the ethical dimensions of these challenges, emphasizing the role that values like justice, equality, and democracy play in both difficulty of educational dilemmas and in our responses to such dilemmas."