Graduate Courses Open to Undergraduate Students

Art of Teaching

Emergent Curriculum I

Denisha Jones

Fall advanced 5-credit seminar

Emergent Curriculum is a yearlong course in which children’s interests and approaches to learning are at the forefront. During the fall semester, students are introduced to various approaches to curriculum development with a focus on the arts and social studies. In the spring students extend their understanding of curriculum development through an exploration of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Central to the course is understanding how to create a curriculum that is driven by ideas—striving for wholeness, integration, coherence, meaning—and focused on assisting children in applying knowledge and thinking to real-life problems. Classroom design and organization, media and materials, and approaches to teaching and learning across disciplines will be discussed, with an emphasis on the arts, sciences, and humanities. We will learn how to develop curricula with multiple entry points. We will reflect on ways of knowing in our own learning and that of the children and explore teaching strategies that expand children’s knowledge and modes of thinking and learning. We will discuss curriculum and teaching strategies for individual subject areas, with an emphasis on the connections among disciplines, building toward an interdisciplinary approach to curriculum and instruction. The roles of the teacher as an observer, provisioner, collaborator, and facilitator will be discussed. During the year, we will engage in hands-on inquiry in workshop settings and take multiple local field trips to environmental centers, historical sites, and art museums—reflecting on our own learning to draw implications for classroom practice. We will discuss how children’s interests and questions connect to the large ideas and questions at the core of the subject-matter disciplines. Value will be placed on enabling in-depth inquiry, experimentation, and discovery and on establishing classroom communities based on collaborative learning and rooted in social justice. National and state standards, including the New York State Standards for the Arts, Social Studies, and Sciences, will be critiqued and integrated into our work. By the end of the year, students will create their own multidisciplinary curriculum plan, which will become a resource for colleagues and Art of Teaching alumni.

Children With Special Needs

Emily Cullen-Dunn

Fall advanced 5-credit seminar

All children in early childhood settings and the elementary grades have strengths and weaknesses. All children have areas in which they excel and areas in which they feel insecure. All children have times when academic learning is difficult for them while, at the same time, all children have the capacity to learn. Understanding the individual differences of an entire class of students is a challenge; and in order to meet the needs of our students, we must observe their differences and individual patterns of behavior. This course will explore the concepts of inclusion; special-needs diagnostic categories; designing curriculum that is responsive to children; and differentiating curriculum to support skill development, keeping in mind that each child is unique. The goals of the course are to integrate our perspectives of children’s individual needs while planning classroom inquiry, to explore ways of working with parents of children who require special support, to understand how to access support and feedback for children that require additional assistance, and to consider implications for teaching in an inclusive classroom and school.

Emergent Curriculum II

Jerusha Beckerman

Spring advanced 5-credit seminar

Emergent Curriculum is a yearlong course in which children’s interests and approaches to learning are at the forefront. During the fall semester, students are introduced to various approaches to curriculum development with a focus on the arts and social studies. In the spring students extend their understanding of curriculum development through an exploration of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Central to the course is understanding how to create a curriculum that is driven by ideas—striving for wholeness, integration, coherence, meaning—and focused on assisting children in applying knowledge and thinking to real-life problems. Classroom design and organization, media and materials, and approaches to teaching and learning across disciplines will be discussed, with an emphasis on the arts, sciences, and humanities. We will learn how to develop curricula with multiple entry points. We will reflect on ways of knowing in our own learning and that of the children and explore teaching strategies that expand children’s knowledge and modes of thinking and learning. We will discuss curriculum and teaching strategies for individual subject areas, with an emphasis on the connections among disciplines, building toward an interdisciplinary approach to curriculum and instruction. The roles of the teacher as an observer, provisioner, collaborator, and facilitator will be discussed. During the year, we will engage in hands-on inquiry in workshop settings and take multiple local field trips to environmental centers, historical sites, and art museums—reflecting on our own learning to draw implications for classroom practice. We will discuss how children’s interests and questions connect to the large ideas and questions at the core of the subject-matter disciplines. Value will be placed on enabling in-depth inquiry, experimentation, and discovery and on establishing classroom communities based on collaborative learning and rooted in social justice. National and state standards, including the New York State Standards for the Arts, Social Studies, and Sciences, will be critiqued and integrated into our work. By the end of the year, students will create their own multidisciplinary curriculum plan, which will become a resource for colleagues and Art of Teaching alumni.

Foundations of Education

Denisha Jones

Fall advanced 5-credit large seminar

This course will explore multiple lenses through which we view the concept of education, including theoretical, historical, political, sociological, and cultural perspectives. We will begin by considering the historical roots of contemporary education, with particular emphasis on the history of public education in the United States. Drawing on a variety of readings, films, and in-class projects, we will examine constructs of diversity—including race, class, culture, language, ability, gender, and sexual identity—and discover ways to create an inclusive learning environment for students and their families. The work of John Dewey and other progressive educators will provide a basis for looking at democratic ideals and “pendulum swings” in American education, including current debates concerning standards, testing practices, and political agendas. Throughout the course, students will be asked to reflect on their own school experiences and fieldwork observations in order to make connections between historical and current educational practices.

Language and Literacy I and II

Jerusha Beckerman

Year advanced 10-credit seminar

This two-semester course focuses on the making of meaning and knowledge through listening, speaking, reading, and writing in early childhood and childhood. All children—English speakers and English-language learners—are recognized as capable of learning and of becoming competent English-language and -literacy users. Emphasis is on teaching that takes into account each child’s approach to learning and pace in learning, valuing the complexity in developing instruction that builds upon what the child already knows and can do. Learning is a process by which each person actively constructs meaning from experience, including encounters with print and nonprint texts. Language and literacy are social acts. Language and literacy develop in the pursuit of real-life enterprise. Reading and writing, as with spoken language, are best learned in rich, interactive environments where they serve real purposes. Reading and writing do not develop in predefined stages; rather, literacy understanding is complex and unique to the individual. Language and literacy cannot be separated from the total expressiveness of the person. Literacy is power, and children must have every opportunity to know its power. Literacy teaching and learning must be re-envisioned to accommodate a multimodal, multilingual, multimedia world. We will build our knowledge of language and literacy learning upon these assumptions by reflecting on ourselves as readers, writers, and language users. We will explore how children learn to read and write by observing them as they use language and literacy for real purposes. We will consider new media and technologies as modes of communication and expression and consider how they are reshaping the future of literacy. Our observations of children and our own literacy stories will help us understand the range and complexity of meanings and approaches among any group of learners. Our observations and recollections also will provide an entry point for discussions regarding differences in race, class, ethnicity, gender, and learning style. The challenge for schools to be inclusive of the diversity—to enable each child to differ, yet belong to the community of learners—lies at the core of our work. We will—through our child studies, our recollections, and the readings—begin to develop a picture of inclusive classrooms and schools in which children have the “space to dance with others” and the “room to differ” (Patricia F. Carini). The course paper will be an in-depth inquiry focused on language and literacy teaching and learning and on classroom practice and work with children, as examined through the lens of your own philosophy, thought, values, and standards.

Children, Families, and Identity

Denisha Jones

Spring advanced 5-credit large seminar

Many factors contribute to the socialization of children. Teachers’ understandings of family culture and the interconnections between identity and learning are crucial to children’s success in the classroom and central to the content of this course. We will study how families affect the development of children, for no other unit of analysis more richly displays gender, social, and cultural factors and their influence on individual behavior and development. Today, children spend more time than ever before in early-childhood programs and grade schools. We will investigate how families and schools provide a framework for the exploration of the social world and socialize children according to cultural norms. Adverse childhood experiences, trauma, and learning are intertwined in the context of the child’s social, emotional, intellectual, and physical development. In order for teachers to be equipped to help their students in the areas of stress regulation and safety, we will review the impact of toxic stress as well as the range of environmental factors that inhibit children’s development and learning (including poverty and violence). We will also examine racial and gender identity development in young children. Through readings and case-study analyses, students will explore the importance of teachers’ understanding of the complexities of the lives of children and families in order to better prepare for the challenges of the classroom.


Child Development

Clinical Perspectives: Challenges to Child and Adolescent Development

Emma Forrester

Spring advanced 5-credit seminar

How do varying childhood experiences impact children’s mental health and wellbeing? What happens when the course of development is affected by trauma or depression? This seminar will focus on challenges that arise in child and adolescent development, drawing upon approaches in clinical psychology, developmental psychology, and cultural psychology/clinical ethnography. We will analyze how particular psychological experiences and behaviors have been typically understood as abnormal or pathological and how they are intertwined with the experience of child development. We will also explore critical commentaries on clinical diagnosis and treatment in order to analyze the merits and drawbacks of the common approaches to these issues. Students will learn about the clinical categories of conditions such as ADHD, autism, depression, and anxiety, as compiled in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). We will look at case examples to illuminate the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, course, and treatment of such psychological conditions in childhood and adolescence. Through readings and course discussion, students will be invited to question the universal applicability of Western clinical approaches that rest on particular assumptions about normality, behavior, social relations, human rights, and health. We will also explore how diagnostic processes and psychological and psychiatric care are, at times, differentially applied in the United States according to the client’s race/ethnicity, class, and gender and how clinicians might effectively address such disparities in diagnosis and care. Students will complete conference projects related to the central themes of our course and may opt to work at the Early Childhood Center or a local community program that serves children or adolescents.

Theories of Development

Linwood J. Lewis

Fall advanced 5-credit seminar

“There’s nothing so practical as a good theory,” suggested Kurt Lewin almost 100 years ago. Since then, the competing theoretical models of Freud, Skinner, Piaget, Vygotsky, and others have shaped the field of developmental psychology and have been used by parents and educators to determine child-care practice and education. In this course, we will study the classic theories—psychoanalytic, behaviorist, and cognitive-developmental—as they were originally formulated and in light of subsequent critiques and revisions. Questions that we will consider include: Are there patterns in our emotional thinking or social lives that can be seen as universal, or are these patterns always culture-specific? Can life experiences be conceptualized in a series of stages? How else can we understand change over time? We will use theoretical perspectives as lenses through which to view different aspects of experience—the origins of wishes and desires, early parent-child attachments, intersubjectivity in the emergence of self, symbolic and imaginative thinking, and the role of play in learning. For conference work, students will be encouraged to do fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or in another setting with children, as one goal of the course is to bridge theory and practice.

Early Intervention Approaches for Young Children and Their Families

Cindy Puccio

Spring advanced 5-credit small seminar

This small seminar will explore several early-intervention approaches for young children and their families, with a particular emphasis on the theory and technique of play therapy. While this course will focus mostly on child-centered play therapy (CCPT), we will also look at the methodology of other types of approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and DIR/Floortime. In addition, course material will highlight cultural considerations, therapeutic work with parents and caregivers, challenges in therapeutic treatment, self-reflection, self-regulation, and interoception. Readings, class discussions, group play-based activities, and video illustrations will provide students with both a theoretical and introductory clinical basis for play-based therapeutic work with young children in early intervention.


Dance/Movement Therapy

Movement Observation I

Elise Risher

Fall advanced 3-credit seminar

This course is an introduction to Bartenieff Fundamentals and Laban Movement Analysis (LMA), with a primary focus on dance/movement therapy. The relationship of Bartenieff Fundamentals, development, and Effort-Space-Shape will be introduced. Concepts of anatomy and kinesiology will support these frameworks. The class is the first in a series of three on movement observation and assessment skills and is designed to familiarize the student with the Laban concepts and principles for the observation and description of movement, integrating other relevant perspectives for understanding human movement. Students will learn to embody and observe foundational components of physical action by exploring concepts in the categories of body, effort, space, and shape. Students also will discover how to vary movement dynamics and investigate the ways in which the body can organize parts into a whole and project into space. LMA provides insight into one’s personal movement preferences and increases awareness of what and how movement communicates and expresses. Rigorous inquiry and exploration of contextual, and historical factors related to Rudolf von Laban’s era will be examined—both conceptually and in embodied ways.


Theatre MFA Program

Puppet, Spectacle, and Parade MFA Studio

Lake Simons

advanced component

Drawing from various puppetry techniques alongside the practices of Jacques Lecoq, this graduate studio explores and experiments with puppetry and performance. Throughout the course, we will work in collaborative groups to create puppetry performance, including building the puppets and devising works that utilize puppets and objects. We will explore large-scale processional-style puppets, puppet as objects and materials, puppeteering the performance space, and the role/relationship of the puppeteer/performer to puppet.

Creative Impulse MFA Studio: The Process of Writing for the Stage

Sibyl Kempson

advanced component

In this graduate studio, the vectors of pure creative impulse hold sway over the process of writing for the stage—and we write ourselves into unknown territory. Students are encouraged to set aside received and preconceived notions of what it means to write plays or to be a writer, along with ideas of what a play is “supposed to” or “should” look like, in order to locate their own authentic ways of seeing and making. In other words, disarming the rational, the judgmental thinking that is rooted in a concept of a final product and empowering the chaotic, spatial, associative processes that put us in immediate formal contact with our direct experience, impressions, and perceptions of reality. Emphasis on detail, texture, and contiguity will be favored over the more widely accepted, reliable, yet sometimes limiting Aristotelian virtues of structure and continuity in the making of meaningful live performance. Readings will be tailored to fit the thinking of the class. We will likely look at theoretical and creative writings of Gertrude Stein, George Steiner, Mac Wellman, Maria Irene Fornes, Adrienne Kennedy, Mircea Eliade, Kristen Kosmas, Richard Maxwell, and Roland Barthes, as well as work that crosses into visual-art realms and radical scientific thought from physicists David Bohm and F. David Peat. The course will be conducted in workshop fashion, with strong emphasis on the tracking and documenting of process.

Interactive Media MFA Studio

Sadah Espii Proctor

advanced component

This is a graduate studio in interactive media, VR, XR, and 3D for live performance that is open to graduate students and advanced undergraduate students who have taken video design or sound design.

Expanded Video MFA Studio: Cameras, Bodies, and Spaces

Itziar Barrio

advanced component

You begin with the possibilities of the material. —Robert Rauschenberg

This is a graduate studio in advanced scenography. The component focuses on the design materials for performance through the practices of sculpture and installation. What do objects do when we don’t ask them to pretend? How does an object’s materiality affect others? How do objects act on politics and through their history? How are objects stories unto themselves?

Musical Theatre MFA Studio: Sound, Storytelling, and Society

Storm Thomas

advanced component

This is a graduate studio focused on interrogating the link between music and storytelling traditions in and beyond the musical theatre industry. Special attention will be paid to how these forms intersect with wider social structures, such as labor and economy and identity and oppression. Black and queer musical theatre with be essential to our research and inquiry. In-class lectures will range, for example, from hands-on experimentation with instruments and music-making technologies to an in-depth analysis of current trends within the industry. Our approach will blend theory, practice, and theatre history. This course is suited for students who are interested in sound as essential to their work or who are drawing connections between their sound-based theatre practice through broader academic disciplines such as theatre studies or musicology. Students will develop and share a portfolio of work that is unique to their own interests and skills based on assignments.

Advanced Acting MFA Studio: Contemporary Scene Study

K. Lorrel Manning

advanced component

In the graduate studio, we will explore scenes and monologues from contemporary playwrights. Along with an intense focus on script analysis, story structure, and character work, students will learn a set of acting tools that will assist them in making their work incredibly loose, spontaneous, and authentic. Scenes and monologues will be chosen by the instructor in collaboration with the students. 

Advanced Directing MFA Studio

advanced component

This graduate studio in advanced directing is a component that changes yearly. It is focused on the role of a director, techniques in script analysis, strategies to conceive and present production concepts, approaches to coaching actors and staging elements, as well as learning to facilitate design teams and conversations with designers.