Students enrolled in the master's program for education receive hands-on experience teaching during La Salle's Summer STEM Enrichment Camp.

National Constitution Center, La Salle partner to deliver Civil Discourse Summer Institute

Educators who participate in the seminar can receive three credits toward earning a Master of Arts degree in Education from La Salle. 

La Salle University and the Philadelphia-based National Constitution Center are partnering to help educators begin their journey to a master’s degree.

Teachers from across the U.S. can attend the National Constitution Center’s Civil Discourse Summer Institute and receive three credits toward a master’s degree in education at La Salle. The collaboration with La Salle’s School of Arts & Sciences began in the summer of 2022 and helps educators gain knowledge on bringing civil dialogue and constitutional topics into the classroom through a weeklong institute at the Center with workshops and a final project.

A statue of Benjamin Franklin at the National Constitution Center.

A statue of Benjamin Franklin at the National Constitution Center.

The National Constitution Center was seeking an educational partner that would provide its institute attendees with more than just its original workshops, said La Salle assistant professor of political science Mark Thomas, Ph.D. La Salle’s Departments of Political Science and Education expanded the educational components of the National Constitution Center’s Civil Discourse Summer Institute by creating extra class time and a final project—making the program the equivalent of a college course.

“It’s a great collaboration,” Thomas said. “Educators leave the program with more knowledge on civil discourse, but now also have the opportunity to pursue an additional degree.”

“We are so excited to have this partnership with the National Constitution Center,” said Graduate Director and Associate Professor of La Salle University’s Education Department Kimberly Lewinski, Ph.D. “It allows us to offer a unique opportunity for students to learn about civil discourse in an authentic setting. We are thrilled to provide college credits for the course and a direct path into our master’s degree program. We look forward to future course collaborations.”

Offering education on civil discourse and dialogue is engrained in the National Constitution Center’s work, said Sarah Harris, the NCC’s director of education.

“The need for civil dialogue has increased for all teachers, and this education spans disciplines and grade levels,” she said. Attendees walk away with a more thorough knowledge of the Constitution and are challenged by the work of their final project—which thrusts them to think constructively on how to apply the Constitution in their classrooms. Last summer’s project, Thomas said, consisted of a final written assignment and a lesson plan centered on recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

This summer’s programming will have similar elements. “Each year we have new participants, and many are just beginning to incorporate civil dialogue into their classrooms or districts,” said Sheila Edwards, one of the National Constitution Center’s institute facilitators. “We need to continue with the basic elements, such as investigating biases and positionality, that lead to the creation of norms. We will review Supreme Court cases that have high interest and impact students, teachers, and districts. The cases will be new, but our methods for analyzing and discussing the cases may remain the same.”

The results of the National Constitution Center’s Civil Discourse Summer Institute have been positive.

Educators who attended last summer’s institute reported back to the National Constitution Center with praise for how rewarding the programming was toward their pedagogy. Edwards said attendees commented on how the workshops helped them bring new tools and ways of thinking into their classrooms.

Now with the La Salle partnership, the National Constitution Center can bring in the University’s faculty to pair with its education staff and promote the attendees’ continued education.

“We shared information with (attendees) on La Salle and the Master of Arts in Education program to take that searching component out for them and eliminate obstacles to furthering education,” Harris said.

—Meg Ryan    

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