Laura Wenk

Director of Assessment, Professor of Cognition and Education
Laura Wenk
Contact Laura

Mail Code CS
Laura Wenk
Adele Simmons Hall 136
413.559.5364

Laura Wenk, director of assessment and professor of cognition and education and dean of curriculum and assessment, is a founding faculty member of the Childhood, Youth, and Education Program at Hampshire College supporting college students in examining the relationships among cognition, development, and instruction.

She is also the curriculum director for the Collaboration for Excellence in Science Education at Hampshire College, an outreach program that assists high school faculty in teaching science conceptually. Professor Wenk taught high school biology and physical science for six years before pursuing her doctorate in curriculum studies. She teaches courses in cognition and instruction, curriculum and instruction, and educational research. Her current research interests include the connections among pedagogy, personal epistemology, and higher-order thinking.

Recent and Upcoming Courses

  • As a result of cognitive psychology and education research, we have excellent understanding of human learning, its social and cultural nature, and the varied approaches to teaching, testing and assessment that lead to success. There is strong evidence that implementing these ideas would improve learning for all, including those who are under- resourced. In this seminar we will work to understand the findings by reading, discussing, and evaluating a selection of theoretical works and primary research from cognitive psychology and examine their practical applications to education. We'll use theory to reflect on our own educational experiences and the experiences of others. We will critique video-recorded classroom teaching and learn how to change classroom environments so that they are inclusive, with high levels of achievement for all. Students will do a final project on a question of their own related to the course. For students pursuing teacher licensure, this course can be used to fulfill the educational psychology requirement. Keywords: Education, Learning, Educational Psychology

  • This course supports those who are new to rural settings and want to learn more about nature, as well as those who already know that they love spending time in the natural world. In addition to deepening our own knowledge and appreciation, the course can prepare you to teach summer camp or nature classes outdoors or put you on a path to becoming an environmental educator. We will spend time in nature, meet and observe expert environmental educators, design a class/activity, practice teaching, and collaborate with young environmental activists. In addition to the practical components of this course, we will read and discuss academic writing on the topics of instructional practices such as free-play and guided discovery, general learning theory, and how to design for learning. Interest in education and ecology is helpful. Students must be willing to spend time teaching and learning outdoors. Keywords: education, environment, environmental education

  • How do we create environments that lead to good learning? What is the relationship between curriculum and pedagogy? How do good educators promote deep learning despite the current political climate that emphasizes content mastery and efficient instruction? Should curriculum and instruction differ between school and non-school contexts? In this course, you will learn research-based curriculum design practices, how to focus on conceptual understanding and the development of higher order thinking (e.g. critical thinking, integrative thinking, innovative thinking) and create true learning communities in a number of domains and across multiple contexts. Each student develops a curriculum unit on a topic of their choice. In addition, students get some practice teaching their materials to one another. This course is designed for Division II and III students who are interested in teaching in formal or non-formal settings or who are developing curriculum as part of their independent work. Prerequisite: prior course in education (e.g. "How People Learn," "Environmental Education," educational psychology, or other education coursework.

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  • How do we include young people in making cities, towns, schools, and other spaces sustainable and healthy for them? This course uses a place-based approach to engage children and youth in exploring their environment (both natural and built), identifying issues of concern to them, developing potential solutions, and learning how to gain access to those with power to make decisions/enact change. We will read about the rights of children, examine case studies where children and youth have had an impact, and learn methods of knowing and transforming environments with children and youth. In addition to assigned readings and short papers, we will design a place-based-education intervention. As part of the Environments and Change Learning Collaborative, we will have the opportunity to engage in collaborative work and projects with a cohort of classes at Hampshire addressing similar questions from different perspectives to form a learning community. Keywords: Education, Place-Based

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  • In order to build a college campus that truly embraces diversity and inclusion, Hampshire needs to hear student voices, share data with appropriate stakeholders, and design solutions to increase belonging and achievement. In this course, students are research partners collaborating with institutional assessment, the teaching and learning initiative, and other offices to gather data and propose/develop new initiatives. Students in this course learn qualitative and quantitative methods including such methods as interview, focus group, content analysis, survey, storytelling, and/or classroom observation. This course is particularly helpful for students interested in higher education, education more broadly, or who are in their last semester of Div II and want to learn methods for their own Div III project. (keywords:educational research, mixed methods research, education)

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