Sarah Licon

Staff Writer

Often labeled as a “four-year liberal arts university”, Whittier College’s graduate program rarely gets acknowledged. Described by the institution as “selective” and by others, “accessible,” several undergrads remain uninformed about Whittier’s graduate program, unless they plan on applying. As a small-scale school, Whittier College focuses its attention on education by offering a credential program and a Master of Arts in teaching– which students can take simultaneously, designed to prepare prospective teachers for the classroom.

Aspiring students have an option to receive a teaching credential in either single or multiple-subjects. Incoming students to this program are required to complete a Bachelor’s degree, have a minimum grade point average of 2.8, and pass the California issued California Basic Education Skills Test and California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) tests respectively. However, a student, who has asked to remain anonymous, explains these requirements have shifted since the COVID-19 pandemic. The CSET is a state-issued exam that tests competency in a specific subject for teaching. For example, aspiring English teachers are required to pass the English portion of the CSET exam to be a likely candidate. However, given recent legislative action, this requirement was removed. Governor Newsom has issued the AB-130 law, a mandate that requires schools to offer independent study programs in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The law also allows prospective teachers the option to major in their preferred teaching subject of interest, or take coursework in this subject to qualify for a Subject Waiver . The Subject Waiver exempts an individual from taking the CSET exam. One can acquire a Bachelor of Arts in English, or take the appropriate unit amount of English courses to qualify for the program as an alternative route. Whittier College complies with these guidelines, as they are noted on its website

Despite having to adhere to state requirements, the program is unique in pushing a narrative that values inclusivity. Whittier requires all students to complete Education 501- ‘Teaching Diverse Learners’, a course that gives individuals the resources they need to make learning accessible to all students, including those with learning and physical disabilities. This goal of equity in the classroom is what drew a first-year credential student to the program. “What attracted me to [the program] so much”, the student explains, “was [that] not only was I getting the toolkit to become a teacher within my content area, but to also understand learners from more broader points of view…and those who might be marginalized or maybe suppressed within the classroom.” Another course the student is required to take is, ‘Introduction to Exceptional Learners’, which prepares students for teaching special education, even if they do not plan on earning this credential. 

The student also shared polarizing views about the credential program, praising its mission for social inclusion in the classroom, but having issues with its conduct of working. The College holds specific guidelines for what category certain subjects constitute as. For instance, Whittier College does not recognize a history major eligible for a social science credential, according to the anonymous student, because of its “own terms of labeling.” This has made it difficult for students to be accepted into programs, especially students from other schools whose majors qualify under a different category. Therefore, some students are not exempt from the CSET exam. 

There were also some issues arising within Whittier College’s field study program. Along with engaging in student teaching, students must complete 10 hours of subject-oriented “fieldwork” for each course. According to the unnamed student, fieldwork consists of observing a classroom being taught the curriculum of a course (in this case, a student taking a class in content literacy for mathematics could observe a high school Algebra I course) to receive appropriate hours of field study. The problem, however, arises with how fieldwork is operated at Whittier College. The first-year student claims the field study sub-program is heavily understaffed and was not compliant with their education plan. The student explains they were placed in a field study course that focused on a subject completely different from the credential program they were pursuing. When the student questioned this decision, administration argued that the student was in the right fieldwork course. This, the student claims, is “unacceptable” as this course would have not counted towards their credential. 

Another situation that needs to be addressed is how field study courses are accessed. In response to COVID-19, Whittier has allowed field study to be observed through watching pre-recorded classroom lectures. Students can select their subject area and watch Mathematics or English courses being taught non-personally. The core of the problem lies within Whittier College’s variety of pre-recorded lectures to choose from. These recordings are accessible in the Wardman Library, but their selection could be scarce according to the popularity of the subject. 

And the credential program is not the only program under fire. A recent survey about mental health at Whittier College garnered a consensus that most graduate students are feeling “stressed.” One student in the survey criticized the availability of classes for the master’s program (from 5pm to 9pm) and their inability to drink or eat during this time, while others weighed in on the preparedness of their professors. One anonymous student even claimed their professor in the masters program “read off of the  PowerPoint slides of previous professors” and showed up to one class without a mask. The same student also reports feeling unprepared to conduct research papers. Another student reported that “learning alongside your professor is not fun.”

Regardless, hopefully Whittier College combats these issues and creates an environment that caters to the needs of students, so that they may find success beyond the classroom. If you have any questions regarding the Masters’ and Credential Program at Whittier College, you can contact the Office of Admissions at admission@whittier.edu

Photo Courtesy of Sage Amdahl / Quaker Campus

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