We’re trying to help people understand the purpose of education in a democracy … it’s not a technical approach. It’s a liberal arts approach.

Abe Feuerstein

“Preparing teachers is an important part of our work, but we also have a broader view of what we’re trying to accomplish,” says Professor Abe Feuerstein, education. “We’re trying to develop thoughtful practitioners and informed members of society.”

Bucknell’s Department of Education offers 16 programs leading to teacher certification, but it also provides a strong foundation for students who want to work in the field but aren’t necessarily interested in teaching at the K-12 level.

“We’re also trying to help people understand the purpose of education in a democracy — what is education supposed to do for our society, how does education impact equality, social justice, diversity…It’s not a technical approach. It’s a liberal arts approach,” he says.

Feuerstein, a former high school chemistry teacher, has been studying educational leadership and policy for the better part of three decades, including the past 20 years at Bucknell. His research into educational politics and, more recently, charter school reform gives him a critical perspective on the field, which he uses to help students analyze the education system in this country and how their own experience compares.

“It’s fun to take a course on education where the professor’s asking you to take a step back and think about the purpose of schooling, why we do it and what constitutes a positive educational experience, and then apply that thinking to the experience you had,” he says. “Then they can step back and get a metacognitive perspective, which can be eye opening.”

If students are planning on going into teaching, Feuerstein works with them to be flexible in approach, adaptable to change and thoughtful in their use of data.

“It’s enormously challenging, I think, to be an authentic educator, as opposed to being a cog in the machine. It’s really hard to be someone who is actually making choices instead of just enacting the will of others in the classroom,” says Feuerstein, who recently spent five years as associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and is now director of the Writing Program.

“That’s always been the ethos of our department. We’re trying not just to teach people skills, but also to teach them how to approach problems or how to think about things in critical ways,” he says. “That’s our hope — that you become someone who is able to constantly be assessing and evaluating, developing new approaches and adjusting to changing circumstances so that you can continue to be effective and thoughtful in the way that you approach your work. Truly, that’s what a professional does.”

Posted Sept. 23, 2016

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