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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Tufts 4+1 degrees, Part 2: Master’s Degrees in Education

Program directors provide insight into master’s programs in Museum Studies, Middle and High School Education and Art Education.

A classroom is pictured.

Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Science hosts many master’s degree programs that are continuations of their respective undergraduate majors and programs of study. For current undergraduates pursuing a career in education, Tufts offers a few notable 4+1 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.

The Master of Arts in Museum Education spans two years with the aim of preparing students to enter the field of museum education. Tufts Professor Cynthia Robinson, is both the Director of Museum Studies and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Education.

Robinson quickly realized that she was not interested in the traditional classroom setting.  

“I took a semester off and started working in a museum and I loved [it], and so that’s how I became a museum educator,” Robinson said.

She went on to work in a variety of Massachusetts museums in the Greater Boston area for 25 years. During this time, Robinson was asked to co-teach the foundational course for the Museum Education degree titled Museums Today: Mission and Function, marking the beginning of her Tufts career.

“Someone who was teaching … Museums Today: Mission and Function asked me if I wanted to co-teach with her,” Robinson said. “I loved [teaching the course] and then gradually over time [I] expanded my participation and ended up leaving the museum world to do this full time.”

Robinson teaches an additional course in the fall called Teaching and Learning in the Museum. She emphasized the value of this course for museum studies students.

“[The students] learn how to read objects, they learn how to interpret objects and they learn how to involve others in thinking about the object,” Robinson said.

Students can apply to take one to two courses from the program during their final semester of senior year. The degree usually takes one year and a summer to complete due to the museum practicum, a 135 hour commitment.

“We try to make sure it’s mutually beneficial [in] that the student brings something to the museum and that they walk away with a really good, strong learning experience,” Robinson said. “We’ve been able to forge that [relationship] with many museums.”

In terms of the best applicants for the Museum Education degree, there is no set standard for applicants to the program. For Robinson, the most important aspect of an application is showing past experience working in museums and an understanding of how they function.

The best [applicants] know something about the challenges and opportunities facing museums,” Robinson said. “There’s a lot of turmoil in the museum world and things are changing quickly. We try [to] help students understand where the impetus for those changes are coming from and how they can participate in finding solutions. So we really look for students … who are ready to do that.”

Students who emerge from the program leave with strategic social skills that are applicable in education and beyond.

“[The museum studies faculty members are] involved on the ground all the time in museum issues, and they bring their real life experience into the classroom. And that’s a real strength of the program,” Robinson said.

Current Tufts undergraduates interested in this program are encouraged to contact Cynthia Robinson.

The Master of Arts in Teaching in Middle and High School Education is another master’s program in the Department of Education. Professor Ryan Redmond is the program director and a senior lecturer in the Department of Education.

As an undergrad, Redmond spent a semester studying abroad in Nepal, inspiring him to teach English there after he graduated. Eventually, he returned to the United States where worked as a history and anthropology teacher in Vermont. After three years, Redmond came to Tufts to pursue the MAT in Middle and High School Education program, the same program he is currently the director of.

During his degree program, he taught at Malden High School in a ninth-grade history classroom. While he enjoyed this experience, he ultimately decided to return to Tufts to facilitate the MAT program.

“I increasingly found, as much as I loved working with 13 and 14 year olds, that I was really interested in this space of bringing colleagues together to have time and space to talk about their teaching,” Redmond said.

The 12–15-month program prepares students for a career in education by providing an opportunity for field work in a Greater Boston public school. While holders of a bachelor’s degree can only pursue a terminal five-year licensure in the state of Massachusetts, individuals that complete the MAT program are able to graduate with the necessary requirements for a renewable licensure.

We have had … a lot of great [and] continued success in attracting students, both from Tufts in the 4+1, but also just others who want to become history teachers,” Redmond said.

The MAT is another one of Tufts’ Department of Education master’s programs. This 12-month degree program is composed of core classes and a field placement in a local Boston area school. Susan Barahal, director of the Art Education Program, emphasized that the overall goal of the program is to help students develop the skills to enter the field of teaching as an educator and artist.

“We really stress the interdisciplinarity of our program,” Barahal said. “We encourage our students to think … in a broader way so that [their art education] really touches on many, many subjects.”

The program is located at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts building in Fenway, meaning that the students frequently partner with the Museum of Fine Arts located nearby.

“Our MAT students do an assistantship at the [MFA’s Children’s Saturday Studio Art classes],” Barahal said. “[The] students have the benefit of not only doing an internship at an area school, but they also have the benefit of seeing art education in a museum setting.”

The program receives applications from students with a variety of backgrounds in art, and some from those who have worked in the art field and would like to make a career change.

“We require that the student who comes to our program has either their BFA … or the equivalent,” Barahal said. “They have to come to our program with a background so that they can do their student teaching in studio art.”

Students who complete the program get licensed to teach visual art. Most graduates of the program stay in public education.

“We have had students being offered positions where they did their student teaching, but again, that requires that there is an opening,” Barahal said. “Unlike [Ryan Redmond’s] students, where there are … maybe multiple math teachers or multiple English teachers or multiple history teachers in one school, that’s not always the case for art.”

However, with the global shortage of teachers, this may be favorable for students coming out of the program.

“There are no guarantees, but we’ve had a pretty good track record of our students getting positions,” Barahal said. “There is a need for teachers and also for art teachers. So, hopefully that will continue.”

The 4+1 program “can really shorten the amount of time that [students are] in our program, or at least lighten their course load,” Barahal said. “It’s probably still going to take them the 12 months because they have to do their student teaching, but they might be able to eliminate some of the summer classes.”

Students who are not yet enrolled in the 4+1 degree program are still able to take the same classes, which Barahal encourages.

“It’s good for those students who think they may be interested in education to enroll in one of those required MAT programs, … and whether they go ahead and apply to the fifth year program or not, they have that course that counts as an elective for the undergraduate course,” Barahal said. “It’s really a win-win.”

For all those interested in pursuing careers in education, Tufts’ 4+1 master’s degrees in education offer an accelerated path. Whether it be in a social studies or an art classroom, teachers provide a vital role by helping youth grow.

“I think that we have the opportunity in the art room … to really encourage the children from kindergarten through 12th grade to find a universal language to express themselves and to communicate … and to be imaginative,” Barahal said. “And it’s so enjoyable.”