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New FIU master’s degree track focuses on diversity, inclusion and social justice in the K-6 classroom

by Monica Smith

Jul 10, 2020, 9:00 AM.

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Master of science in curriculum and instruction: Elementary education track launches online to help broaden teacher’s perspectives and improve education.

The continuing protests across the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s death have spotlighted the need for social justice. In response, many school districts are fielding petitions for curricula with more diversity and inclusion in K-6 classrooms. Diversity, inclusion and social justice are at the heart of FIU’s new curriculum and instruction master’s degree track in elementary education, set to launch spring 2021.

Relevant, applicable

The elementary education track offers graduate students the tools needed to create growth, resilience, creativity and innovation in K-6, says Maria Tsalikis, program chair and senior instructor at the College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Delivered completely online, the track can be completed in 12 months. Teachers enrolled in the program will be able to transfer relevant and applicable methods to their classrooms, immediately, she asserts.

“A diverse curriculum benefits teachers in the elementary classroom in public, charter, or private settings,” says Sarah Mathews, chair for the Department of Teaching and Learning and associate professor at the College of Arts, Sciences & Education. “This new curriculum and instruction track is designed to broaden teacher perspectives and understanding of education issues and needs in the K-6 classroom.”

Addresses urban communities

“Our comprehensive master's program is highly ranked and prepares teachers for the changing demands of the field,” insists Mathews.

The curriculum and instruction master’s degree has garnered several top rankings. TheBestSchools.org ranks the online degree program as the No. 6 Best Online Master's in Curriculum and Instruction in 2020. Similarly, OnlineMasters.com listed the program as a Top 25 Best Online Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction Programs in 2019.

“We’re instructing teachers to meet the needs of the growing minorities of students in urban settings,” Mathews confirms.

Hands-on program

“FIU’s students are solving issues within their communities,” discusses Tsalikis.

Tsalikis underscores that many courses include hands-on assignments. Teachers are encouraged to use their own classrooms to put research into action. The program culminates with a course where students tie everything together with a focus on elementary school issues that include diversity, equity and social justice. The aim is to identify and solve issues both fundamental and complex in an inclusive way. While not the focus, the program also incorporates assistive methods to help children with special needs. 

“The program stresses family literacy,” states Tsalikis. “Coursework within the program provides our graduates with the skills needed to engage K-6 students. It also focuses on current issues and trends in elementary schools and their communities. This is especially important today in areas like Miami with linguistically and culturally diverse learners.”

Future progress

Methods for teaching are continually progressing with research and technology. This new track equips today’s teachers with the ability to adapt curriculum and instruction to keep pace with the shifting environment within education and our nation, explains Mathews. She adds that the program uses research-based learning and experiences to improve student achievement. 

“Our future depends on education. What that education contains and encourages will shape future generations. There is a critical need to create equal access to opportunity and to help students thrive with programs that address diversity, inclusion and social justice,” Mathews emphasizes.

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