Some colleges offer graduate certificates in elementary education as an alternative route to obtaining an initial teaching license. Programs vary in length, but some can be completed in as little as one academic year and prepare graduates to teach kindergarten through sixth or eighth grade. Some colleges even count the credits earned in the certificate program toward a master's degree in elementary education.
Typical Courses in a Graduate Certificate in Elementary Education Program
Program requirements differ by college for a graduate certificate in elementary education, including the number of credit hours needed to complete the program. However, there are some similarities across schools, and one might expect to see the following courses in a program of study.
Students could learn various ways to manage classroom behavior while still maintaining efficient instruction. They may also examine how individuals react to different methods of behavioral change. Current issues facing teachers as well as constructive discipline techniques also might be discussed.
Diversity in Education
In this course, students might look at ways to appreciate and support the differences among people. They could examine diversity issues that relate to a changing society. They also may explore how to implement a multicultural curriculum.
The best practices for supporting students with exceptional needs in a general education setting may be presented in this type of course. The class may also look at ways to collaborate with special education teachers to best meet the needs of their students. In addition, this class could examine state and federal guidelines and mandates related to special education.
Teaching Reading/Language Arts
Students may learn different theories related to reading instruction as well as how to assess reading skills in the classroom. They might explore methods for teaching fluency, reading comprehension, and phonemic awareness. Students also could look at the most effective strategies for teaching speaking, listening, and writing skills.
Students taking this course may explore instructional and assessment methods that will accommodate various types of learners in a classroom. They might look at activities that can be used in individual or group settings and ways to use manipulatives for hands-on math instruction. In addition, students may learn how to create a math curriculum that is aligned to state standards.
In this course, students could investigate the most current science curricula and materials to use in their classrooms. They may examine how different teaching strategies, such as a hands-on approach, affect learning outcomes. Students also might explore how to best plan for teaching science and how to integrate it with other subjects.
Teaching Social Studies
Students may review different social studies curricula as well as the most effective strategies for teaching it. In addition, they could learn how to implement social studies units or themes into long-term planning. They also might learn ways to incorporate social studies lessons into other subjects.
Students taking this course might look at the best ways to design instruction so it correlates with assessments. They may also explore how to design different types of assessments, such as formal and informal, depending on the needs of the students. In addition, they may learn about standardized testing procedures and examine the importance of creating test questions that are valid and reliable.
In this course, future teachers might spend time in an elementary school classroom observing instruction, classroom management strategies, and student behavior. In addition, they might work closely with a mentor teacher to help prepare lessons and work with students. They also may apply what they have learned in previous coursework by teaching lessons independently in a supervised setting.
Near the end of the certificate program, students typically spend an entire semester teaching full time in a classroom under the supervision of a mentor teacher in order to develop effective practices as an independent teacher. They can be evaluated on how well they design lessons, instruct, and assess students. In addition, a passing score on the Praxis II is often required before students can begin this phase of the program.
Program Admission Requirements for a Graduate Certificate in Elementary Education
Admission to a program for a graduate certificate in elementary education requires a bachelor's degree and, depending on the college, this can be in a field outside of education. However, applicants might need to take several prerequisite courses based on transcripts before being fully accepted into a program. Colleges vary on their grade point average requirement for undergraduate work, with some accepting a 2.50 and others a 3.0. A background check is also part of the application process, although some schools might accept a substitute teaching license instead. In addition, colleges typically require references, interviews, proof of time spent working with children, and writing samples.
In as little as one year, individuals with a bachelor's degree who are interested in teaching can obtain an initial teaching license through a graduate certificate in elementary education program. In addition, the coursework in some programs serves a dual purpose since it can also be applied toward a master's degree.