Accelerated Learning: LJWL Department Offers New Four-Year Track

Photo courtesy of Andrew Hansen.

With registration for the spring semester underway, many PLNU students scramble to figure out which courses they need to take and stay on track for graduation. All students face challenges with scheduling, but students pursuing a teaching credential must factor in additional units for credential courses and observation hours.

What this looks like for most single-subject programs is approximately 30 additional units and a semester of clinical practice, also known as student teaching. Fitting this into four years poses quite the challenge. Many students may graduate in four years and then spend an extra year or two earning their teaching credentials.

However, PLNU now offers a four-year credential track for students majoring in Literature-English Education (LIT-EE). Literature professor Bettina Pedersen and Jen Lineback, chair of the cross-disciplinary studies program, worked together to create this opportunity, which will be the 10th credential program PLNU students can complete in four years.

“Essentially, the four-year credential track allows students to earn their credential alongside their major in LIT-EE,” Lineback said. “It integrates all of the credential courses (within EDU) into a four-year plan. However, because this plan adds additional units into the four years, this plan typically requires students for a full load most, if not all, semesters to get everything in.”

Pedersen added that students who bring in AP, dual-enrollment or transfer credits can lighten the load somewhat.

The biggest implication for students is the opportunity to graduate and begin teaching sooner at a much lower cost.

“Having a four-year track program available in [the] LJWL [department] makes this degree more affordable for students who want to do a LIT-EE degree at [PLNU] but cannot afford a five-to-six-year cost or debt-load to do so,” Pedersen said. “It also offers a pathway to get our PLNU-degreed alums into our public, charter and private schools sooner, earning incomes sooner and being able to reduce debt-loads sooner.” 

“While I cannot say how ‘rare’ this kind of program is at this time, I can tell you that several years ago, we were one of only a handful of institutions of higher education in the state of California to receive a state grant to develop these four-year credential tracks,” Lineback said.

Students may graduate with a LIT-EE degree with or without their credentials, but the financial benefits for students to finish with credentials in four years is huge. Both Lineback and Pedersen acknowledge that these accelerated tracks are not designed for everyone, but the faster path provides more options for students to choose what works best for them. If they are sure they want to pursue a teaching credential, they can finish in four years. However, if they want to pursue a minor or discover their interest in teaching later in college, the PLNU departments of education and literature can still accommodate them.

It is important for students who are interested to get involved in this accelerated credential track as soon as possible, so faculty can ensure that students balance EDU courses alongside their content area — in this case, literature — and take full course loads.

“This is very important, and LJWL will have recommendations for the ideal program schedule of course in place for incoming first-year and/or transfer students to help them get on this pathway right from entrance to Loma,” Pedersen said.

One of the benefits of getting into this program early is the opportunity to work in local classrooms. These experiences can reveal to students if they truly have a passion for teaching, or if teaching is not actually the best career for them.

“In my experience, these fieldwork experiences help to reinforce many students’ callings to be a teacher!” Lineback said.

Written By: Andrew Hansen