Undergraduate Teaching and Training at Bing

By Emma O’Hanlon, Teacher

Most descriptions of Bing Nursery School would likely begin with a scene of 2- to 5-year-olds deeply engaged in play. However, these young children are not Bing’s only students. As a laboratory school for Stanford University, Bing serves more than 100 undergraduate and graduate students as well, offering three psychology courses, one human biology practicum course, observation labs for linguistics courses and opportunities for independent study and internships. “The undergraduate courses offered by Bing are a critical component of the overall mission of the school,” said Jennifer Winters, director of Bing and instructor of several of the courses. Bing was established not only to provide a sound educational environment for young children and a laboratory setting for research, but also to teach undergraduate and graduate students about children through observation and firsthand experience. “Our courses strive to link theory and practice and to provide a dynamic learning experience for Stanford students,” said Winters. “We really get to know our students and we keep in contact with some of them over the years as they move into the professional world and parenthood,” she added. “We are fortunate to have several current Bing parents who were once enrolled in our undergraduate courses.”

The undergraduate courses offered at Bing all focus on child development and education and offer ample one-to-one mentoring. One of these—Development in Early Childhood (Psychology 147)—is offered every quarter at Bing. Winters, head teacher Parul Chandra and teacher Emma O’Hanlon hold weekly seminars with students to discuss child development, educational philosophies, teaching practices and learning theories in the field of early childhood education. Currently, out of 18,951 courses offered at Stanford University, Psych 147 is one of the highest student-ranked courses offered, according to courserank.stanford.edu. The course places undergraduates in Bing’s classrooms to serve as student-teachers. They receive mentoring from Bing staff as they work with the children, fostering their development, planning curricula and participating in team teaching.

Another Bing course is the lab section for Introduction to Developmental Psychology (Psychology 60), taught by Susan Johnson, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology. Led by head teachers Beverley Hartman, Adrienne Lomangino and Karen Robinette, the lab (Psychology 60A) offers undergraduates opportunities for guided observation of children’s physical, social, emotional and cognitive growth. “Psychology 60A provides a complement to course readings on developmental theories and the dynamic growth observed in childhood,” said Lomangino. “It’s a means to enrich students’ understanding and bring book-learning to life.”

A third course, Observation of Children (Psychology 146), expands upon the learning and theories introduced in Psychology 60A. In this course, students explore topics related to children’s physical, cognitive, social and emotional development in depth, spending several hours a week observing children’s growth and behavior in the classroom and attending weekly seminars led by Hartman, Lomangino and Robinette. Hartman explains: “Students learn to look at child development closely and objectively; they learn to record behavior and interpret it. They become good observers, a skill that they will carry with them and will be of great use in many future professions.”

In addition to these psychology courses, Bing also offers Human Biology Practicum 3Y, taught by Winters; independent study on child-related topics (Psychology 194), also taught by Winters; observation opportunities for First Language Acquisition (Linguistics 140/240), with professor Eve Clark, Ph.D.; Language Acquisition: Exploring the Minds of Children (Psychology 7Q), with professor Anne Fernald, Ph.D.; and Research Methods and Experimental Design (Psychology 110). Each of these opportunities expands students’ knowledge of development by linking academic theory to practice and by providing experiences with growing children.

A close look at the adults in Bing’s classrooms will reveal the presence of university students working and studying in a variety of roles such as student-teacher, careful observer of child development, and feverish note-taker of language acquisition. Winters comments: “It is our hope that upon completion of the training and teaching experiences offered by Bing, undergraduate students will enter their future professions as advocates for young children. Many of our university students will go on to become teachers, physicians, lawyers and business people. They will find themselves in schools, governments, hospitals, non-profits and law firms and we hope that when presented with opportunities, that they will advocate for the importance of quality teachers, generous space, ample time and supportive environments for all children.”