GSOE now offers pathway for future ethnic studies teachers

Program is the school’s first structured curriculum for ethnic studies

February 1, 2021
Author: Imran Ghori
February 1, 2021

UC Riverside’s Graduate School of Education is offering a new ethnic studies pathway as part of its teacher education program. 

The pathway is in its first year with the first group of students completing the process at the end of the spring quarter. The school launched the program to offer a structured curriculum for students seeking to teach ethnic studies courses.

Although the school already had ethnic studies courses available, they weren’t part of a structured curriculum, said Rita Kohli, an associate professor in the Education, Society, and Culture program, who developed the pathway.

“We had some of these classes for several years before we started this emphasis, but I think the growth of ethnic studies in the K-12 context and the interest and growth of that in the Inland Empire has also allowed this to flourish and come to fruition,” Kohli said.

Rita Kohli

The goal of the program is to expose students in the English and Social Studies credential and master’s program to the principles of ethnic studies and create educators who can teach the subject.

Ethnic studies is the interdisciplinary study of race, ethnicity, power, and oppression, with a focus on the history, experiences, and perspectives of communities of color in the United States. Ethnic studies emerged in universities in the 1960s as community-engaged curriculum on the experiences of communities of color, who have endured historical and systemic marginalization, Kohli said.

Research shows that exposure to ethnic studies has had positive impacts for students of color as well as students in general when it comes to understanding, engagement, college interest, and critical thinking, Kohli said.

The pathway consists of course work in ethnic studies, race and educational equality, and critical pedagogy. Participants are also placed with ethnic studies teachers in local classrooms where they are exposed to how it is taught in practice. Initially, it was planned as an in-person placement but due to the coronavirus, they transitioned to an online partnership as the school has with all its programs.

The third piece of the pathway is a speaker series featuring critical scholars, practitioners, and community activists with different perspectives enhancing the understanding of ethnic studies. The next event, “K-12 Ethnic Studies: Cultivating Spaces of Community, Healing, and Resilience for BIPOC Teachers and Students,” is scheduled for Feb.  18 at 4 p.m.

The school has 17 students enrolled in the pathway who began participating in the summer of 2020 and will continue with the program through the end of the spring quarter.

“The Ethnic Studies Pathway creates opportunities for future teachers to develop the skills and experiences to serve our students, schools, and communities across the region and beyond in the area of Ethnic Studies in the K-12 system,” said interim Dean Louie Rodriguez. “The community’s call for Ethnic Studies across the region, state, and country is an opportunity for the GSOE to capitalize on our faculty’s expertise, is in alignment with the goal of serving our communities, and has the potential to make a transformative difference in education.”