Master of Science in Elementary Education

The Arts

Did you know that sustained involvement in particular art forms, like music and theater, are highly correlated with success in mathematics and reading? Researchers have found that learners can attain higher levels of achievement through their engagement with the arts. Moreover, one of the critical research findings is that the learning in and through the arts can help “level the playing field” for youngsters from disadvantaged circumstances. And students with high levels of arts participation outperform  “arts-poor” students by virtually every measure. Engagement in the arts—whether the visual arts, dance, music, theatre or other disciplines—nurtures the development of cognitive, social, and personal competencies. In this specialization, students will become familiar with research studies using the arts in the elementary classroom and design a research study that focuses on integrating the arts to enhance learning.

Foreign Language

Students in the foreign language specialization will study:

  • Language acquisition theory (How do children acquire language skills?)
  • Methods and strategies for teaching foreign languages (What teaching methods are best for helping children to acquire language skills?)
  • Values of early foreign language learning
  • Program models for foreign language instruction in the elementary schools (FLES, FLEX, Immersion, Partial Immersion, Dual Immersion)
  • Design and implementation of thematic units that tie in foreign language instruction with general content area subjects


Literacy Across the Curriculum

  • Study the development of literacy skills and strategies at all elementary grade levels.
  • Study how reading and writing can facilitate learning in all subject areas.
  • More in-depth study of topics in language development and literacy instruction introduced in 371 and 373.
  • Become familiar with research studies on literacy teaching strategies to develop a better understanding of how these strategies can be applied in classrooms (e.g., use of “think-aloud” to model application of comprehension strategies).
  • Try our literacy teaching strategies in classrooms and reflect on implementation.
  • Design a research study that focuses on integrating literacy into a specific content area to support the development of literacy skills/strategies as well as the development of concepts and skills in the content area.


Students enrolled in the Mathematics specialization component will do the following.

  • Identify, observe and implement effective instructional strategies in teaching mathematics.
  • Become familiar with recommendations for curriculum and instruction in grades K-6, and examine a problem-solving approach to teaching mathematics.
  • Discuss current issues in mathematics education, including those raised by the NCTM Principles and Standards, and national and international comparisons of achievement in mathematics.
  • Read and report on research articles in mathematics education, especially those pertaining to their research project.


Students enrolled in the Science specialization area will gain experience in the following areas:

  • developing and teaching science teaching workshops for other elementary educators
  • use of hands-on methods in science instruction, at all levels
  • integration of technology into science teaching
  • developing school wide science education activities (science fairs)
  • current issues and trends in science education

Special Education

The 1997 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has a strong preference for students with disabilities to have access to the general education curriculum and to be educated in the general education classroom. Of the 139,506 students ages 6 – 12 receiving special education services in the regular public schools in Virginia, 102, 878 (71.46%) are being served in the general education classroom for more than 40% of their school day. Most of the students served under IDEA, 37%, are in the general education classroom for greater than 80% of their school day.
        Schools need general education teachers to have specific expertise in teaching these students in the general education classroom. This does not mean that these general education teachers are licensed in special education. It means that they have shown expertise in critical teaching areas (see competencies below) that facilitate effective inclusion of students with disabilities. Teachers who are able to show evidence of these competencies are highly desirable to schools.

Choosing to specialize in special education will help you to develop the following expert competencies.


  • Understanding of high incidence disabilities (LD, ED, and MR)
  • Effective collaboration and co-teaching skills
  • Ability to understand and write parts of the IEP
  • Ability to effectively and legally implement the IEP
  • Ability to contribute effectively to the IEP meeting and construction of IEP
  • Knowledge of and ability to implement effective inclusive instructional strategies
  • Whole class
  • Instructional differentiation
  • Individual accommodations

Areas of concern in inclusion, and thus relevant for teacher research, include the following.

Issues in special education:

  • Collaboration and co-teaching
  • Inclusive strategies
    • Cooperative learning
    • Discovery learning
    • Instructional Differentiation
    • Peer tutoring
    • Study skills
  • IEP implementation in the gen.ed. classroom
  • Gen. ed. Teacher’s participation in IEP development
  • Classroom discipline in inclusive classrooms
  • Students with disabilities inclusion on Virginia’s SOL tests

Other individualized interests of masters students, such as the following, could also be pursued.

Specialized areas:

  •  autism
  •  visually impaired
  •  hearing impaired

Social Studies

Students in the social studies specialization will:

  • Study the state and national standards for the social studies and become familiar with the content emphases in each of the elementary grade levels.
  • Meet with local people in order to become familiar with primary resources available to teachers in this area.
  • Study teaching strategies that encourage student involvement in learning all of the different areas of the social studies (e.g., economics, geography, government/civics, history).
  • Become familiar with literature appropriate for social studies instruction in the elementary grades.
  • Plan and try out various teaching strategies for social studies instruction and reflect on implementation.
  • Become familiar with issues related to the teaching of the social studies.
  • Read current research studies on social studies instruction.
  • Design a research study that focuses on effective social studies instruction.