Where for art thou ongoing doctoral program renewal and even wholesale revision of doctoral programs in Canada? Suites of optional professional development skills courses, more clerks to handle the paperwork in graduate programs, and the three-minute thesis contest swirl around too much inertia at the core. Doctoral programs lack real ongoing renewal to switch over to new conceptualizations of problems, of learning, and of scholarship.
Funders, politicians, and graduate students in Canada can find little evidence of effort to track, measure and change program designs, to ask and answer the question how’d we do and to contribute to graduate education conversations. Doctoral programs can not advertise their engagement with communities of practice in doctoral education, as almost none exists.
Teaching and learning exist in a dynamic yin yang relationship.
While doctoral learners can turn to shelves of self-help books, doctoral teachers have almost none. Where is the impetus for ongoing professional training for supervisors? How does a supervisor suddenly encourage students to tackle ‘wicked’ problems without participating in, following and contributing to a community of doctoral educators ? Where is the responsibility to keep abreast of the times?
Why don’t Canadian doctoral students and teachers know times to completion and attrition numbers for each program? Where are the bold initiatives to reduce times to completion and attrition in Canada? Where are the initiatives at gender parity and diversification? Where is the implementation of CAGS recommendations?
Where is the publication of program goals beyond the stock and evident goal to get students to fulfill the requirements of the program? When will doctoral program websites advertise new approaches to nudge doctoral training into the 21st century? When will programs say something like, “We are tracking and learning from an interdisciplinary cohort set to study a wicked problem using a networked and collaborative research program?”
Where is engagement with graduate students? High attrition tells a tale of indifferent, even impervious teachers. Tapping the experience, suggestions and observations of graduate students toward program renewal feeds forward improvements and sends a message to question unquestioned doctoral education practices.
When will Canadian universities hire doctoral studies specialists? One doctoral studies specialist can save not only student time, funder money, and wasteful drag in a program but can also go a long way to program renewal. One person in a university whose sole job is to move research training forward could create graduate student critiques , supervision training and renewal, program audits for (CAGS) recommendations, periodic revision schedules of programs, careful experiments or pilots to try out new formats in research training, track and adjust to graduate career paths, research methodology training via IdeaPuzzle or using extant data sets, attend conferences and publish articles and so on…
Graduate education specialists– could figure out reading assignments and advice for students. In Canada students read extensively, then the students write in completing the doctorate. Sometimes reading too much can mire down a novice researcher so they don’t know what they think.
Doctoral students need only read enough to make a contribution to the literature. If a doctoral student produces research intended as a critique of some part of the literature, of a caveat, contradiction or elaboration of it, they’ve succeeded. Students need to be encouraged to develop their own ideas and thinking. Reading too much may indoctrinate a student to turn away from their best instincts.
Instead of graduate education clerks, why are graduate schools hiring an education specialist to study and apply new ideas to teaching, learning, assessment and renewal to research training. Where for art thou program renewal? In graduate students who have a wealth of experience with the program and good ideas for changes, in graduate education specialists who are aware of dynamic new approaches, and in the will of program providers to step up.