Dean of Curriculum and Assessment, Associate Professor of Cognition and Education
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.
How can we change learning environments so that they lead deep understanding for more learners? In recent years, as a result of interactions between cognitive psychology and education, we now have many ideas about human learning, the social and cultural nature of learning, and the varied approaches to teaching, testing and assessment that lead to deep understanding. We also have strong evidence that implementing these ideas could really improve learning for all children and youth, including those who are under-resourced. In this seminar, we will work to understand the findings by reading and discussing a selection of theoretical works from cognitive psychology and examine their practical applications to education. We will also learn how to evaluate educational claims. Everyone will contribute to a collaborative project, creating a web site for educators. (keywords: education, cognition, cognitive psychology, learning)
How do young people make sense of their environments and how can environmental exploration create opportunities for children and youth to become critical learners and actors? Important learning occurs both inside and outside classrooms and schools, yet there is often little coordination of activities that take place in these different venues. With thoughtful consideration, one can build learning opportunities for youth that encourage their active participation in local research and the creation of more vibrant, healthy and just communities. This course explores the theory and practice of engaging young people in community-based projects that provide opportunities to assess and improve their natural and built environments, address social justice issues, and better understand themselves and their worlds. The course includes theoretical and practical components that are integrated in a project that requires a commitment of time outside the classroom, work in small groups and collaboration with community organizations. (keywords: childhood, youth, education, environment)
Where does good curriculum design come from? 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 in a number of domains (e.g. critical thinking, integrative thinking, innovative thinking) and across multiple contexts. Each student or group 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.
This course will prepare students to be peer mentors in the Knowledge Commons in the library. We will meet weekly as a group to discuss some readings, make decisions about Commons staffing, hone our practice and debrief from our experiences. The bulk of the course and its assignments take place through work as peer mentors in the Knowledge Commons space and/or in the media labs as appropriate. Each student will select to work in one of these areas: Research and Technology, Holistic Learning Program, the Community Commons, Quantitative Resource Center, the Media Labs, or more generally in academic programming (e.g. supporting a college-wide program, organizing skill shares or writing jams, etc.). Students will develop an understanding of what it means to be in a mentoring role and hone their practice. In addition to functioning as Peer Mentors during this semester, there will be opportunities for continued work as a Peer Mentor in future semesters. Students should expect to work approximately 10 hours outside of class on readings, assignments, and work in the Knowledge Commons.