EDF 582 – Seminar in the History of Problems of Education

Summer 1 2017

Professor:              Dr. David I. Backer            Phone:  203-917-7416

Email:                     dbacker@wcupa.edu                    Office:  Anderson 319

Office Hours:         Tuesday, 230-430pm

*MonTuesWed 4:25PM – 7:10PM


Any student with a disability who believes he/she needs accommodation(s) in order to complete this course should contact the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities as soon as possible.  The staff in the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities will determine what accommodations are appropriate and reasonable under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The Office of Services for Students with Disabilities is located in Lawrence Center – Room 105, and can be reached by phone at 610-436-2564

Required Materials:

All readings generated by students.

Short Course Description:

Historical study of the recurrent problems of education and their solutions. Implications of these solutions for contemporary American educational problems.

Course Description:

Our aim will be to situate your identified educational problems or challenges within a historical and contemporary context of other educational problems. We will also consider the purposes and context of change, the sources of pressure for educational change, and the assumptions underlying current reform movements and recent curriculum innovation in schools.

Tentative Course Outline

Day Due Location
5/30 50 sources using search terms, properly cited (APA)

15 good sources from the previous list, annotated and grouped by history, theory, and practice.

In class
6/4 *First Draft of History Paper  

*Comment on a peer’s paper

Posted online in D2L
6/5 (At-home work on draft)
6/6  History Paper Conference

*Final draft of History Paper, with comments from a peer

*Presentation of History Paper

In class (required)
6/12 Theory Paper Studio 1

First Draft of Theory Paper

*Comment on a peer’s paper

In class (required) Posted online in D2L
6/13 Theory Paper Studio 2 (required)
6/14 Theory Paper Conference

*Final draft of Theory Paper, with comments from a peer

*Presentation of Theory Paper

In class (required)
6/19 Practice Paper Studio 1

First Draft of Practice Paper

*Comment on a peer’s paper

In-class, (required) Posted online in D2L
6/20 Practice Paper Studio 2 In class (required)
6/21 Practice Paper Conference

*Final draft of Practice Paper

*Presentation of Practice Paper

*Read two articles on the history of School Reform by Larry Cuban for a class discussion: Cuban2 + Cuban1

In class (required)
6/26 Final Paper Studio 1

First Draft of Final Paper

In class required Posted online in D2L
6/27 Final Paper Studio 2 In class (required)
6/28 Final Paper Conference

*Turn in Final Paper

*Presentation of Final Paper

Sandia Report (group reading – I would recommend skimming for the important parts)

*Final grade survey (FILL OUT)

In class (required)



Annotated and grouped source list – Using the 50 sources from your source list, choose 15 of the most interesting sources you want/need to read for your project. Annotate these sources by writing 50 words summarizing each one after skimming them. Then, group these sources into three categories: history, theory, and practice.

Short Papers (3) – A short paper is 1500 words summarizing the important arguments and ideas of 3-5 key sources and 2-3 peripheral sources within a single area (history, theory, or practice). This paper should be succinct and well-written, with a thesis, several paragraphs (1-2 devoted to each source) and a conclusion. There should be many in-text citations written in proper form. In these short papers you will mix your voice with the authors of your research project–using their words to craft understandings of key points. In a short paper, you will focus on how several authors agree or disagree with respect to an issue in your research; compare/contrast authors’ viewpoints on an issue or term; show how authors’ research has built on one another to form a coherent picture or understanding; and/or provide a linear account of accumulated knowledge on an issue. Think of it like a memo, or preparation for your final paper.

History Paper will focus on the change in your research interest over time. Detailed history will include important moments, events, figures, and influences that shaped your research interest into what it is today. You can look at policy, politics, educational ideas over time and/or other influences on your research interest…

Theory paper will focus on the ideas, philosophies, and concepts behind your research interest. This paper will be abstract, dealing with notions like equality, difference, justice, goodness, truth, mind or others. Theory has to do with thinking, analysis, and critique. It can create the possibility for practice and is very “meta” and “deep.”

Practice paper will focus on the concrete techniques, processes, and/or procedures that actual people use, do, or are trying in actual places and times regarding your research interest, or what your research interest implies for practitioners. Practice has to do with doing, action, and implementation (metaphors include: brass tacks, when the rubber meets the road, walking the walk).  

Conference Presentations (3)  – Most academics and professors pursue their research by going to “conferences.” At these conferences, we present research we’re currently working on and get feedback from our colleagues about their thoughts. We’ll be using this academic conference model in our class. Conferences in this case will not be individual meetings, but academic events. Typically, conferences include panels where participants read or present their research to the group, who ask them questions, critique them, and generally help expand their knowledge about the topic. We will have conferences on history, theory, and practice throughout this semester where you will present on one short paper you’ve written during the last week. For your presentation, you will only read your paper out loud to the group, after which there will be time for questions and comments.

The Final Paper will be a 6,000 word document that collects, summarizes, and critically analyzes the educational problem or challenge that you have decided to pursue and study. It will be organized into three sections: (1) the historical context and background of your educational problem, (2) current theories and scholarship that you have selected to address the educational problem, and (3) a critical analysis of (1) and (2) as it relates to practice in your research context that will be recorded within your thesis. You may use writing from your short papers to compose your final paper.


Dr. Backer will not “give” students grades. Rather, students will propose a grade based on their own standards of quality and negotiate with Dr. Backer. Students will take the measure of their own learning with course surveys which Dr. Backer will send out and then respond with prose feedback. While there will be no formal calculation of averages since evaluation is wholistic and negotiated, the percentages below are a suggestion to help you think about self-evaluation.

  1. 3 Short Papers 35%
  2. 1 Annotated Source List 15%
  3. 1 Final Paper 50%


This is a summer course with a flexible meeting schedule. Please make sure to be here for all required days. I cannot guarantee agreement with your grade proposal if you miss one of these days.


Again, you’ll have to propose a grade to me. If work is late it’ll be harder to make a case for a good grade. I decide lateness policies on a case-by-case basis.


All students have a right to expect that the University will reasonably accommodate their religious observances, practices and beliefs.  In accordance with this policy, I expect you to notify me in writing if you intend to be absent for a class or announced examination.


I encourage collaboration among students when reading, studying, and thinking about the course. However, I am evaluating written work in this course as an individual’s product, and I expect all students to do their own work on class assignments.  I also expect students to acknowledge in writing the intellectual work of others, whether from readings or ideas learned from your classmates.  Students must use APA style when citing in papers for this course, as described in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.  In cases of plagiarism students will receive a failing grade in this course.

The acid test for citation mechanics:

A citation is sufficient if it would allow a stranger to find the source in a library.  

How to avoid plagiarism

Dangerous habits that can lead to plagiarism:

  • Copying sections of readings (or overheads) directly into notes
  • Waiting until the last minute before starting an assignment
  • Not understanding the intellectual principle behind citations
  • Not understanding the differences between quoting and paraphrasing