Taming the Ink-Squirting Monster

Major change in doctoral pedagogy gathers force now to push down the giant squid of the doctoral research project. Learned associations in the humanities convene with a message that Four Years is Enough for a Ph. D. in the humanities. But what about the equation of time to quality…will Ph. D.s and Ed. D.s suffer?

What tames the ink-squirting monster in Canada now?

A new kind of Ed D informed by the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) which aims to graduate and grant an Ed. D within three-years. The Western University Faculty of Education mostly distance education program works with learners working full-time around professional practice issues of educational leadership. The course –based program of continuous enrolment ends in a capstone dissertation project and an oral exam. Supports for students completing the dissertation project are designed to expedite completion of the dissertation within the three year time allotment.

Ten Things Doctoral Programs Fail to Disclose

If you were examining a doctoral program on its worthiness, would you be able to find Information regarding:

  1. Its Quality Standards: What does the program want in terms of a first research project from a doctoral researcher? How does the program uphold these standards? What steps has the program taken to ensure that assessments are transparent? are valid? are reliable? are relevant?
  2. Its Criticality, Self-Assessment and Plans for Change: Does the program disclose its own self-assessment criteria on how it’s doing? Does the program even try to evolve or better align its self to achieve mission critical in any way? Does the program criticize its self, gather evidence, make changes, study changes, evolve over time etc.? Does it look ?the same today as it did 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, only now it has a web site.
  3. Its Activity in the Research of Doctoral Pedagogy: Does the program and its practitioners engage with research or discussions into doctoral pedagogy? Would administrators be aware of trends, new ideas, and the evaluation of same in doctoral pedagogy? Do academics in the program publish regarding their engagement with doctoral programs, doctoral pedagogy and doctoral innovations? Would academics be able to discuss differences in a doctoral program that is a one-stage or two-stage model, that has mode 1 or mode 2 knowledge production focus, that aims to produce a scholar-practitioner as opposed to a disciplinary-focused academic for example?
  4. Its Openness to Innovation: How is the program adapting to the infusion and penetration of ICT in scholarship? For example, the vast majority of academics can now work with other academics in other institutions and locations thanks to communications technologies and yet the vast majority of doctoral programs require solitary work on archaic document formats like the dissertation as monograph. Collaboration now defines academia, yet doctoral programs fail to reflect this.
  5. Its Awareness of Dysfunction in Academic Cultures: How does the program create and sustain a vibrant intellectual community for students? How does the program monitor its own culture to avoid the excessive isolation of scholars from each other in the past? How well can the program stretch its culture to diversify its student body?
  6. Its industrialized features or lack thereof: Not all features of industrialized educational packaging were bad: guidelines for supervision, for the oral exam, for editing/editorial assistance and some attempt at internal consistency for same would all be good for students and for the program quality for example.
  7. How it provides Experience with the Work of Academics: Most programs would like students to publish, but how is this incorporated into the program beyond a would–be-nice? Ditto for conference presentations, for collaboration, for inter-disciplinary experience, for the three minute thesis challenge etc.,
  8. Its Important Statistics: Time to completion, attrition, and exit interview data concerning early departers, the experience of graduates, or students in the program would be nice..
  9. Its Plan for Student Involvement with Doctoral Pedagogy: Do students blindly follow the footsteps of the program with little understanding or engagement? For example are students sent into an oral exam without any information or help with preparation? (Is the exam its self an assessment instrument worthy of a lengthy research process?) Where is student voice in the program and how is it heeded?


  10. What do you think? Please nominate #10


    Considering the failure to disclose this information, how serious are these omissions for the public or a potential supplicant oops applicant, and how can the world of doctoral study be changed so that important features of doctoral pedagogy and doctoral program success are disclosed?

What’s in a Name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…

A name changes everything. . Something I read yesterday changed everything.

In my research proposal, I was describing the type of program I want to investigate as an ONLINE doctoral program. Luckily I read Distance Education in the United States: Past, Present and Future (Saba, 2011) yesterday and learned that the use of the word online is off base and ignorant. The word
Online fails even the most perfunctory of face validity tests. Online does not smell so sweet now, so I’m glad I found out, save what word would be appropriate?

Saba underlines the problem with descriptors based on a technology or mode of delivery, such as mLearning, eLearning or online learning. Distance education fits as it refers to a physical or temporal separation between learners and instructor. Whew!

Yet, at least for library-based doctoral researchers, ‘distance education’ describes the nature of their learning. Even if some attend a cubicle in a department in a campus, as they are separated by space and time from the supervisor and committee members for which they labour, distance education fits the nature of the learning. I wonder how many doctoral researchers stay home, or in the library or live in a different city and communicate with the supervisor via email, phone, etc. If you are a doctoral student in a program tied to a brick and mortar setting, do tell. How do you communicate with your supervisor, is it usually in the same room at the same time?

If any instance of temporal or physical separation between teacher and student, as in ‘homework,’ equals ‘distance education,’ then distance education pops up frequently in traditional same place, same time education. So how helpful is the label distance education to my study?

“Distance education,” while all the rage now, as it frees the student, teacher, and institution from so many constraints garners an unfair degree of suspicion and mistrust. The worry is that students get away with cheating when the teacher is in a different place. Cheating happens in the face to face world of education too, but somehow it’s a fatal flaw of the distance education world. Maybe cheating is a bigger problem in distance education. I don’t know. If distance education invites cheating, then distance educators can plug that gap by doing different kinds of assessments that betray a cheater and of course distance education spins off work for invigilators now more than ever. Then too diploma mills bring down distance education, but diploma mills are also a phenomenon of the face to face world of education. All of these concerns reflect quality. Quality is a function of successful learning not of space and time separation between teacher and learner.

Be gone the terms online program, eLearning, Internet-based education. Be gone the term distance education too. It’s all learning. ( it’s ironic that the Ed. D., should I complete it, will be in distance education.) We need a better nomenclature.

What do you think? What word should I use to describe a doctoral program where no brick and mortar building houses students and teachers for the purpose of attending face to face classes?