A Template for Coursework and Specialization

A Template for Coursework and Specialization

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2656-9.ch012

Abstract

This chapter begins to offer a template for developing new doctoral programs in education or revamping existing programs. This chapter uses the proposed framework to define critical aspects of coursework and specialization to be considered in the design of such programs. It is not offered as a one-size-fits-all program. The intent is to offer a starting point for the structure of coursework while leaving lots of flexibility for innovative approaches and attributes of the program specific to the specialized field.
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A Template For Core Coursework (9-12 Credit Hours)

The core coursework should represent the major philosophic underpinnings and practical knowledge of the field. Done well, each course in the core will be based in the historical development of the concepts but spend a good portion of the course addressing the major dilemmas in the modern era. To be very specific, this recommendation includes:

  • Philosophy - A critical examination of philosophy of education writings from 1900 to present

  • Current Issues - Readings and research on current issues within the last five years

  • Learning Theories - A critical examination of learning theories from 1900 to present

  • Leadership - Readings and research on effective leadership in preK-16 and other education-related fields, including teacher education and professional development

On a personal note, I have a list of items that I believe to be absolutely critical in each of these four areas. I have chosen to avoid the temptation of sharing my list because of the advice given above which is worthy of repetition:

In the end, however, your working group developing the doctoral program should employ your own adaptive expertise to make the program that fits the needs of the educational research community, your own goals for your students, and will be accepted for both approval at your university and approval of your accrediting body.

The doctoral faculty creating or revising your program should come up with the specifics within each of the four goals. I recommend that each faculty member makes a list individually before meeting to discuss the core. In this way, the core represents the important topics, but does so in a way that reflects your faculty members’ experiences and values. This is what makes your doctoral program of unique value.

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A Template For The Research Core (9-15 Hours)

There are a few basic truths about research to which most doctoral programs in education adhere.

  • There are far more research methodologies than can possibly be taught in the confines of a few courses.

  • Most of these methodologies can be classified as either quantitative or qualitative

  • Both of quantitative and qualitative methodologies have intricate technical aspects that require both knowledge and experience.

There are a few points of disagreement that become obvious when examining multiple doctoral programs within the field of education:

  • Some programs clearly value either qualitative or quantitative methodologies, as represented by which courses are required and which are elective, but many have a balanced approach

  • Many programs teach these as stand-alone courses, but several programs embed the research learning goals in the context of specialization

Maintaining a balanced approach to coursework dedicated to both quantitative and qualitative is ideal. This statement is firmly grounded in the framework for coursework laid out is earlier:

  • The specialized field in education for which you are preparing them values both to some degree. They must at least be able to make good professional judgements about the research they read regardless of the branch of methodology.

  • The doctoral students often change their career goals during the program and even during the dissertation process. The methodologies valued in their potential jobs can change when their career goals change. Prepare them for both quantitative and qualitative methodologies.

  • Educational research is predominantly a collaborative effort. Each member of the community of practice addressing an issue will have a unique balance of beliefs and practices with regards to research methodologies. In order to initiate or join collaborative research enterprises, they must develop adaptive expertise. Innovation is not enough. Adaptive expertise in this context requires a basic level of flexible and efficient knowledge of research methodologies.

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