Kirsten Edwards

MA in Educational Studies: Teaching and Learning

Student status: Alum, graduated June 2016

Geographic region of origin: Western North Carolina

Previous education: Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a Bachelors of Arts in Secondary Education, with a focus on English and English as a Second Language.

Prior to joining the program: After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill, I taught 6th and 7th grade math and science for two years at a public magnet Montessori middle school in North Carolina. While teaching, I completed a program to earn credentials as a secondary Montessori teacher. I loved teaching in a Montessori school, because a focus on supporting the development of students both academically and personally was woven into the culture of the school. I had the opportunity to create interdisciplinary units of study that challenged students to make connections between typically separate subject areas and between school and their community. Following two years at the Montessori school, I taught for a year at a traditional middle school in North Carolina that was closer to my family. The transition made me acutely aware of how fortunate I had been to teach in an environment where students were valued and supported. It was this awareness of the differences between schools that made me want to learn more about education.

Why the Teaching & Learning program? 

When I decided to pursue a master’s, I was specifically interested in curriculum development. I was drawn to the University of Michigan because of the number of professors in the School of Education who are actively developing and researching curriculum, and the range of related courses offered. The structure of the Teaching and Learning program allows for some choice in the courses taken, so I was able to take the courses that most aligned with my interests. When I visited after being admitted, I immediately knew I wanted to be at the University of Michigan because of the atmosphere and the commitment of the professors to not only the field, but also to the students.

Internship: For my internship, I worked as a research assistant for Dr. Annemarie Palincsar on the Multiple Literacies in Project-Based Learning research project. The project is developing 3 rd and 4 th grade project-based science units that incorporate literacy and mathematics. As an assistant on the project, I contributed to the development of curriculum materials, attended research meetings, and did classroom observations and data collection in the classroom of a teacher implementing the units. The internship allowed me to see what is involved in educational research and allowed me to develop research skills.

Individualized course of study:

Courses I chose included:

Given I completed the program in three semesters, I had to choose my courses carefully. My advisor was very helpful in providing information on courses and in putting together a cohesive course plan. I had the opportunity to take two doctoral level courses, the Historical and Philosophical Roots of Science Education and Research on Teaching, which served to deepen my theoretical understanding of education and led me to want to pursue a doctorate.

Highlights of the Michigan experience

One highlight of my experience is the relationships I developed with professors, especially my advisor. Each of my professors took time to get to know me and were willing to offer support as needed. I am continuing contact with many of the professors and they continue to be interested in what I am doing and to offer guidance! Another highlight was my work at the University of Michigan Botanical Gardens and Arboretum. I acted as coordinator of the Wild about Nature program, which offers nature-related programs at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital for patients and their siblings. The work allowed me to use what I was learning about in my coursework and to contribute to the Ann Arbor community.

Diversity, equity and inclusion:

I decided to pursue a Master’s degree upon seeing the inequity between the two schools I taught at in my home state. Throughout my coursework, I was challenged to consider what it means to develop curriculum and to teach so that all students can learn. I was also challenged to consider what it means to value and build on the wealth of knowledge students bring to school from their homes and communities. The work of the professors at UM, who are deeply committed to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, gave me hope in seeing many ways that progress is being made in schools and communities.

Life after U-M:

I am currently a doctoral student at Michigan State University studying Curriculum, Instruction, and Teacher Education. The program at U-M provided a strong foundation for my current studies. I am drawing from what I learned in the coursework and in my internship at U-M in my current coursework and research work. I have confidence in completing assignments and papers for my courses, because of the feedback and support I received on my writing while at U-M. Also, the professors I formed relationships during the master’s program continue to offer guidance.

Kirsten invites prospective students to contact her with any questions about the program, including questions about completing a master’s degree en route to doctoral student, working part-time while completing the program, or about focusing on curriculum or science education within the program.

Edwards’s program of study: