Campus, News

Wheelock changes undergraduate degree, teacher licensing requirements

Boston University’s Wheelock College of Education & Human Development. Students who had enrolled in the college in Fall 2020 but deferred a year were unaware that it had changed its degree program requirements and teacher licensing. BAILEY SHEN/ DFP FILE

Boston University’s Wheelock College of Education and Human Development announced it will now continue its subject-specialized teaching programs for the freshmen class during a mandatory Zoom call Nov. 12 — two days before freshmen were scheduled to register for classes for the Spring semester. 

Before this year, students had the option to choose from a variety of specialized majors. However, Wheelock eliminated most of these specialized majors this Fall and only offered undergraduates the education and human development major. 

Several freshmen reported being unaware of the changes to the program requirements and teacher licensing, some until the Nov. 12 meeting. In response to the miscommunication, the college announced it will offer only current freshmen the option to choose between the re-opened specialized majors or continue with the education and human development major. 

The education and human development is a two-year program focused on learning about different teaching professions and fields of study. For the third and fourth year, students can choose from five specialized pathways — Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Deaf Studies, Educational Design for Transformative Futures, Teaching & Learning and Youth Development and Justice. 

The college ultimately plans to create a combined five-year bachelor and master’s degree program. The fifth year would consist of three semesters, with students obtaining their teaching license during this time. Previously, students could receive their license during their undergraduate study, but in the new undergraduate major they cannot. 

Wheelock Dean David Chard said the new program was not initially communicated to students who were at first enrolled for Fall 2020 due to miscommunication on the Wheelock Bulletin, a website updated annually with information about Wheelock-specific programs, policies and courses.

“There is one group of students who I believe may have a valid concern and that was students who deferred for a year because of COVID,” he said. “They were admitted for Fall of [2020]. They did not start their first year until Fall of [2021] because of the pandemic. They applied to a different program than the one that was offered starting this Fall.” 

The college helped students meet with advisors to make informed decisions about which program they wanted to continue with, Chard said. 

Chard added that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts encouraged the University to eliminate almost all of the current undergraduate teaching programs.

“Many school districts now require a master’s degree before they will hire people to be teachers,” he said. “So what we’re attempting to do is to create pathways that will then result in a plus one graduate program or a combined degree program, undergrad and graduate, that will prepare them to step into a professional position.” 

Ellie Friedland, a clinical associate professor of early childhood education at Wheelock, said the new major will provide students with a “viable” career path.

“What it is opening the door for is five-year programs for licensure. And that’s one of the things that we’re in the process of creating in early childhood education,” she said. 

Friedland added that pursuing licensure while completing coursework as an undergrad can be very difficult.

“To do a licensure program undergraduate is really difficult,” she said. “You also have to take a bunch of MTEL’s [which are] exams for the state licensure and students were trying to do all that before they graduated undergrad, and it was very, very onerous.”   

Wheelock freshman Joel Hostetler said when enrolled for Fall of 2021 the Wheelock Bulletin was not updated with information on the new major, nor did the school advertise the program. 

“In other words, as far as I can tell, none of us knew this new program existed until we got here,” he said. 

Hostetler said he switched from the education and human development major to his original intended major, social studies education, after the college opened up the previously offered programs. 

“[The new major] would have also been a lot less history, which is what I came for, a primary emphasis on history education … rather than what they’re offering, which is essentially education with a tiny bit of coursework,” he said.“I didn’t feel like I’d be qualified enough to teach history if I didn’t take more courses.”  

He added that in the Zoom meeting he felt “pressure” to continue with the new program.

Renata Feinstein, a freshman in Wheelock, said she applied to BU because of the new major after hearing about it from a friend who attended an informational session. 

“I actually wasn’t looking for a teaching licensure. I wanted an education program that would allow me to study education without necessarily leading to becoming a teacher,” she said. 

Molly French, a freshman in Wheelock, said information about the new program was on the homepage of the Wheelock Bulletin and explained thoroughly during orientation.  

“I thought I wanted to be a teacher and I applied to BU but then I changed my mind over the summer,” she said. “I was not sure. So I was really, really excited to get to explore a bunch of other options but still work with kids.” 

French said she liked the idea of a combined master’s program since it would reduce overlap in material. 

“I really like the idea of cutting out the overlap and building off of what we’ve already learned and being able to get the master’s in one year,” she said. 

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