Secondary Teaching Curriculum

Secondary Teaching Curriculum

Candidates focused on Secondary Teaching will take a set of foundational courses designed to explore overlapping historical, political and social systems that make up the current educational context and, upon which, the practice of teaching is layered. Students investigate the social contexts of education, foundations of learning in a new language, neurodiversity in the inclusive classroom; and critical perspectives on learning and human development while also critically exploring their own identities and biases. Content area methods courses provide an understanding of the content knowledge, skills, and pedagogical approaches needed to become an effective classroom teacher while the Theory and Practice sequence allows students to reflect upon and process their clinical experiences with the insight and support of seasoned practitioners. The teacher-candidate experience culminates in an action research Master’s project that draws together theory, content area knowledge, and the student’s clinical experience.

The Master of Science in Education concentration in Secondary Teaching prepares students to qualify for the State of Illinois Professional Educator License (PEL) for both Middle grades 5-8 and high school grades 9-12. Courses are small, interactive, and include field work in remarkable K-12 schools in the Chicagoland area. All of this happens at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy, one of the top-rated schools of education in the United States.

Students admitted to the Secondary Teaching concentration are expected to have in-depth background in the specific area they will be licensed to teach. Students who do not already meet this requirement before entry into the program must complete additional coursework beyond the requirements listed below.

Degree Requirements

Core requirements

  • MS_ED 402 Social Contexts of Education
  • MS_ED 405 Child and Adolescent Development
  • MS_ED 410 Foundations of Learning in a New Language
  • MS_ED 422 Content Area Reading and Writing
  • MS_ED 427 Educating Exceptional Children
  • MS_ED 406 Research and Analysis in Teaching and Learning I
  • MS_ED 406-1 Research and Analysis Seminar (0 units)
  • MS_ED 407 Research and Analysis in Teaching and Learning II

English candidates will have 2 electives; all other candidates have 3 electives. Potential electives include:

  • MS_ED 409 Classroom Communication
  • MS_ED 413 Problems in the Philosophy of Education
  • MS_ED 428 Dynamics of Middle School
  • MS_ED 436 Instructional Design and Assessment
  • MS_ED 438 Teaching with Technology
  • MS_ED 451 Topics in Teaching and Learning
  • An approved graduate-level Weinberg course. In order to be considered graduate-level, a course must appear in the graduate course catalog. All 400-level courses are graduate-level. Many, but not all, 300-level courses can be considered graduate-level.

Additional requirements depending on content area

  • MS_ED 424 Critical Issues in Literacy
  • MS_ED 456 Secondary Methods and Techniques: English
  • MS_ED 466 Middle Grades Methods and Techniques: English
  • MS_ED 478 Theory and Practice of Teaching: Secondary Humanities
  • MS_ED 488 Secondary Humanities Student Teaching (2 units)
  • MS_ED 457 Secondary Methods and Techniques: Math
  • MS_ED 467 Middle Grades Methods and Techniques: Math
  • MS_ED 479 Theory and Practice of Teaching: Secondary Math/Science
  • MS_ED 489 Secondary Math/Science Student Teaching (2 units)
  • MS_ED 458 Secondary Methods and Techniques: Science
  • MS_ED 468 Middle Grades Methods and Techniques: Science
  • MS_ED 479 Theory and Practice of Teaching: Secondary Math/Science
  • MS_ED 489 Secondary Math/Science Student Teaching (2 units)
  • MS_ED 459 Secondary Methods and Techniques: Social Science
  • MS_ED 469 Middle Grades Methods and Techniques: Social Science
  • MS_ED 478 Theory and Practice of Teaching: Secondary Humanities
  • MS_ED 488 Secondary Humanities Student Teaching (2 units)
  • MS_ED 428 Dynamics of Middle School Curriculum
  • MS_ED 455 Secondary Methods and Techniques: World Languages
  • MS_ED 478 Theory and Practice of Teaching: Secondary Humanities
  • MS_ED 488 Secondary Humanities Student Teaching (2 units)

Descriptions of Required Courses

MS_ED 402 Social Contexts of Education

This course focuses on the social and contextual influences of education, from a learning, teaching, research and policy perspective. We will examine the role or race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality and identity in the ways individuals and groups influence and are influenced by our education system. In this class you will be asked to deeply evaluate your own beliefs, thoughts and assumptions about the influence of these socio-cultural factors and consider their implications for your own professional and personal development. This class must be taken prior to Theory and Practice of Teaching (MS_ED 478-479).


MS_ED 405 Childhood and Adolescent Development

The course provides an overview of developmental concepts from birth into adolescence. It also examines the interplay of biological factors, individual differences, cultural experiences and relationships among cognitive, social, emotional and cultural aspects of development and learning. Class participants will also explore the types of environments that best enhance growth and development during these stages of life. This class must be taken prior to Theory and Practice of Teaching (MS_ED 478-479).


MS_ED 406 Research and Analysis in Teaching and Learning I

This course aims to help students meet three goals that will advance the progress of the Master's Project and develop skills of questioning and discussion that are useful in many teaching-learning contexts. The three goals include the formation of a question that the Master's Project will address, a description of the rationale for the question and the start of a literature review on the topic.


MS_ED 407 Research and Analysis in Teaching and Learning II

This course helps course participants refine the reflective skills required of educators in complex social institutions such as schools, businesses and nonprofit organizations and develop effective problem-identification and -solving approaches. Intensive analysis and discussion of questions encountered in elementary and secondary schools, administrative, higher education and corporate settings. Students present their Master's Project in this course.


MS_ED 410 Foundations of Learning in a New Language

The course explores historical, political, sociocultural and educational practices that impact linguistically and culturally diverse learners in American schools. Topics include historical and current federal and state laws regarding the learning of English as a new language, foundations of first and second language acquisition, child development, sociocultural theory, and comparative international language instruction. Major instructional models are discussed, with a deepened appreciation for factors contributing to sustained student achievement. This course can be applied towards an endorsement in English as a Second Language on a Professional Educator License. It is recommended to take this class prior to Theory and Practice of Teaching (MS_ED 478-479).


MS_ED 422 Content Area Reading and Writing

The course is designed to help teachers develop an understanding of specific strategies that readers must use to achieve deep comprehension of content material with a focus on middle grades and high school grades. Students will explore cognitive foundations of reading comprehension and their influence on methods of instruction and assessment, as well as the interrelationships among reading processes and language learning. Theory and practice relationships will be explored as course participants experience and learn about text structure, use of background knowledge, comprehension connections, inferencing, strategies for active engagement, socio-cultural influences on reading, reading/writing relationships, text sets, and assessment of content reading. It is recommended to take this class prior to Theory and Practice of Teaching (MS_ED 478-479).


MS_ED 427 Educating Exceptional Children

Exceptional children have unique physiological, intellectual and social-emotional characteristics. This course examines the unique characteristics of exceptional children — physiological, intellectual and social-emotional — along with etiological factors. The course also examines trends in legislation, educational programming and approaches to instruction for students with disabilities. This class must be taken prior to Theory and Practice of Teaching (MS_ED 478-479).


MS_ED 455-459 High School Methods and Content

This course introduces teaching and learning strategies that aid students in becoming effective educators in the high school (9-12) setting. Emphasizing current research, each course is a comprehensive study of teaching methods in the following disciplines: English, mathematics, sciences, social sciences and world languages. Lesson and unit planning and assessment of student learning are elements of the course.


MS_ED 466-469 Middle Grades Methods and Content

This course introduces teaching and learning strategies that aid students in becoming effective educators in the middle grades (5-8) setting. Emphasizing current research, each course is a comprehensive study of teaching methods in the following disciplines: English, mathematics, sciences, and social sciences. Lesson and unit planning and assessment of student learning are elements of the course.


MS_ED 478-479 Theory and Practice of Teaching: Secondary

The course encompasses a 10-week period of part-time experience and observation under the direction of a classroom mentor designated by the cooperating school. It is performed at a Chicago or Chicago-area high school or middle school, is organized in conjunction with a subject-specific methods tutorial and is accompanied by a weekly seminar. The seminar portion of this course is designed to enrich the observation experience for secondary teaching candidates. Through whole class and small group discussion, students will have opportunities to share their observations, questions and reflections. Each week the course will address various topics of teaching and learning that will help prepare students for student teaching.  Prerequisites: MS_ED 402 Social Contexts of Education, MS_ED 405 Child and Adolescent Development, and MS_ED 427 Education Exceptional Children. If possible, it is also recommended to take MS_ED 410 Foundations of Learning in a New Language and MS_ED 422 Content Area Reading and Writing prior to Theory and Practice.


MS_ED 488-9 Student Teaching Seminar: Secondary (2 credits)

Student teaching helps teacher candidates develop skills essential for successful professional educators, including the use of theoretical knowledge to inform professional practice and the cultivation of questions rooted in practice to illuminate the meaning of theory. The seminar portion of this course is designed to enrich the student teaching experience for secondary math and science candidates through whole class and small group discussions. Readings, assignments and guest speakers will enrich this course and provide participants with opportunities for reflection, sharing and problem solving of issues encountered in the classroom.


MS_ED 424 Critical Issues in Literacy (required for English)

In the course, participants examine the cognitive foundations of reading comprehension, current theory and practice related to literacy, and their influence on methods of instruction and assessment. This includes an emphasis on the interrelationships between reading processes and language learning as well as personal writing experiences, writing in various genres, and management of writing workshops. This is a required course for students seeking licensure in English. Other students may take this course as an elective.


MS_ED 428 Dynamics of Middle School (required for Spanish)

In the course participants work to understand the dynamic environment of middle schools and young adolescents, and to consider the impact of middle school principles, structures and practices on classroom learning and instruction. Course participants will examine the unique characteristics of middle school learning and the educational needs of young adolescent learners, and they will compare and contrast a variety of middle school models, including policy statements, visions and reform proposals. This is a required course for students seeking licensure in Spanish. Other students may take this course as an elective.



Contact Us

Master of Science in Education School of Education & Social Policy

618 Garrett Place
Evanston, IL 60208
Northwestern University

Phone: 847/467-1458

Email: msedprogram@northwestern.edu