There’s a specialized program at Middle Tennessee State University that is preparing educators to learn more deeply about … learning.
It’s the Specialist in Education, or Ed.S., degree in curriculum and instruction that explores cultural diversity, mental processes, and cognitive neuroscience and their impact on the exciting world of teaching and learning.
Tabetha Sullens, a 2017 graduate of the program, is currently the Middle School Head at The Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee.
The program is one of nine graduate degrees offered completely online at MTSU. Sullens said that of her experiences with online learning — graduate and now her doctoral degree — MTSU was tops when it comes to fostering relationships even though the classes are not meeting in person.
“I always appreciated the opportunity to post on others’ thoughts, etc., within the platform,” Sullens said. “The ability to work on group projects really helps establish relationships in the form of a traditional classroom setting. I find it intriguing that of my college experiences, I am as close to my online cohorts as to real life ones due to the fact that we pull together and want each other to succeed.”
Sullens said she and her classmates exchanged textbooks, talked on the phone, and even had skype conversations to prepare for projects and presentations. The collaboration has definitely helped her in her current role as principal.
“I believe MTSU to be ahead of the curve as far as helping foster relationships,” Sullens said. “The validity of online experiences is just as real and tangible as in any classroom dynamic.”
The research Sullens chose to focus on was the role social media and technology play when it comes to bullying in schools. She said that research has helped shape her perspective as administrator at The Webb School.
“Technology and children change daily, so we must continue to explore and consistently investigate their practices for patterns of behavior to know how to best educate them, reach their interests, and keep them safe,” Sullens said. “I often find myself re-evaluating research I did then and even reassessing students now to see if their practices have changed in the past three years”
College of Education professor Barbara Young developed the Specialist in Education program and is heavily involved with the students while they are enrolled and even after they graduate. Sullens said her interaction with Young was better than anything she could have expected.
“The program was extremely organized and solidified. I knew the roadmap of the program from day one, where I was expected to go, and how to get there,” she said. “Dr. Young was consistently timely in any communications. She encouraged me, met with me, and propelled me to further my studies even past her program.”
Sullens is currently enrolled in the Leadership and Learning Doctor of Education program at Vanderbilt, Peabody College, which she hopes to complete in 2021.
“If someone is considering the (the Ed.S.) program, but on the fence, enroll,” Sullens said. “You will only reap further understanding, challenge and collaboration. The program definitely improved me as a student, researcher and as an administrator.”
For more information on the program, visit the program’s website.
— Hunter Patterson (Hunter.Patterson@mtsu.edu)