FDN 2400, Critical Perspectives on Learning and Teaching


FDN 2400, Critical Perspectives on Learning and Teaching, is an interdisciplinary class dedicated to the interpretive, critical, and normative examination of teaching and learning in schools and society in the United States. This foundational study introduces students to interpretive uses of knowledge, and promotes the establishment of habits of mind and heart critical to life-long engagement with education and educational institutions in a democratic society. Central to this engagement are normative and critical reflection on education within its historical, philosophical, cultural, and social contexts.

The content of this class is intimately connected to the manner in which it is taught. Reflective conversation and writing are integral components of students’ written and oral assignments, and to the nature and form of the evaluation of student learning. Through analysis and reflection, students and the teachers of the class all experience the sometimes painful, sometimes exhilaratingly joyful learning that accompanies a thoughtful analysis of both what teaching and learning are in schools today, and what they should and could be in the future. Such reflection requires a deep engagement with issues of power, emotion, race, class, gender, imagination, beauty, and wonder. Through this examination, students begin to make the phrase "a love of learning” a meaningful one. The course also requires students to engage in reflection on their own experience of learning in a University and College of Education.

The readings, classroom conversations focused on those readings, and students’ written reflections are intended to awaken and deepen insight into the nature of good learning and the kinds of teaching required to bring such learning into existence.

The course will also explore the idea that education reflects the wider society in which we live. We will examine schools and classrooms and try to understand how what goes on in schools is related to the values, beliefs, and structures of the world outside school walls. During the course we will consider why students succeed or fail at school; the process of tracking and labeling children; what it is that we learn in school—both explicitly and covertly; how factors such as gender, social class, race and ethnicity, and sexual orientation affect our educational experiences. We will also explore what function is played by schooling in American society, and how other forms of ‘education’ such as television and advertising influence us.

In looking at these issues, FDN 2400 will draw upon the findings and methods of philosophy, sociology, anthropology, history, economics, psychology and political science. The form and content of the class is intended to provide a basis for critical analysis of schools within the framework of a commitment to humanistic values. Since all of us are intimately familiar with the process of education and schooling, it is intended that the classes will move frequently between the theoretical and the personal. For this reason, students’ input in the form of questions, comments, and discussion is a vital part of the course. It is hoped that the experience will offer individuals an opportunity to stand back and take a broader look at a part of our world in which we invest so much time and energy.

The course will include lectures, class, and small group discussion. There will be ample room for discussion of readings and lecture materials. In addition, several videos will be shown

Central Questions


How do we as human beings decide how we should live, and what it is worthwhile to know? Where does curriculum come from? What is the difference between the hidden and the overt curriculum? What is it most important for us to know? What is most worthy of our deepest and fullest attention, as having most bearing not only on what we are and do, but also on what we might become? Why do we teach only certain things, and not others? What should education be in the service of? What is the difference between education and schooling? How is education as a process different from education as an outcome?

Power and Justice

What characterizes a just society, and what role, if any, must schools play in the pursuit of justice? What is the purpose of schooling in a democratic society? Why do we have public schools? How should we view the children, adolescents, teachers, and other school personnel whose lives come together in this place we call “school”? How might we make sense of conflict in society, and in educational institutions? How does social class impact educational outcomes? How do race and ethnicity impact educational outcomes? What connections are there between race and social class? What is “sexual identity”? How does schooling affect identity in general, and sexual identity in particular? What is the teacher’s responsibility for ethical behavior and the creation of meaning? What does it mean to behave ethically? How does the organization and administration of schools, and government policy, influence power and justice in schools?

Knowledge, Emotion, and Identity

How is the individual defined? How should one live? What characterizes a caring relationship? How do we know how to treat each other? What does it mean to claim that teachers should care for students? Is caring the same in the classroom as it is elsewhere in one’s life? How does one release the imagination? How should we think about the kind of education and the kinds of relationships that occur in schools and in society? How should we understand the emotional lives of children, adolescents, and adults both in schools and in their lives outside of schools? How should we understand the relationship between reason and emotion, the “head and the heart”? What are the relationships among “love,” “desire,” “imagination,” and teaching and learning? What were the high and low points of your own schooling?

And, please see below to find links to and information on ASU's detailed policies regarding academic integrity, disability services, attendance, and student engagement with courses:

Academic Integrity Code

Disability Services

Appalachian State University is committed to making reasonable accommodations for individuals with documented qualifying disabilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. If you have a disability and may need reasonable accommodations in order to have equal access to the University’s courses, programs and activities, please contact the Office of Disability Services (828.262.3056 or www.ods.appstate.edu).Once registration is complete, individuals will meet with ODS staff to discuss eligibility and appropriate accommodations.

Statement on Student Engagement with Courses

The following statement has been approved by the Faculty Senate and the Academic Policies and Procedures Committee. In its mission statement, Appalachian State University aims at “providing undergraduate students a rigorous liberal education that emphasizes transferable skills and preparation for professional careers” as well as “maintaining a faculty whose members serve as excellent teachers and scholarly mentors for their students.” Such rigor means that the foremost activity of Appalachian students is an intense engagement with their courses. In practical terms, students should expect to spend two to three hours of studying for every hour of class time. Hence, a fifteen hour academic load might reasonably require between 30 and 45 hours per week of out-of-class work.

Links to ASU and RCOE student resources on campus safety, suicide prevention, learning assistance, Praxis testing, and other relevant topics here.

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