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October 18, 2004

Grad School

I just read another blog on UThink by a grad student who was writing about the irony that grad school seems to be about training us all to be good graduate students, not good faculty. There is some odd irony there. And, of course, it's also true that we won't fully realize the extent of our preparation until we get there.

It does seem to me that so much of graduate school is about initiation into the profession, and that we never truly get past the initiation stage until we go through that final initiation ceremony--the dissertation defense. I don't know if this model is working that well anymore. John Guillory points out that once upon a time, graduate school wasn't so much about publishing and other professional activities, but it certainly is now. With so few jobs out there and so much competition, how else are we going to get hired? I've heard it said that the focus should be changed, but changed to what? Someone told me recently that she thinks the purpose of doctoral school is to develop professional, scholarly writing. seems to me that faculty think we should already have professional writing.

Anyway, I'd like to see a new model, with more mentoring. But, I'll probably have to wait until I'm faculty until I can make that kind of change. And maybe then I'll find out the "secrets on the other side."

Posted by chri1010 at October 18, 2004 12:35 AM


What I found most appalling when I was in graduate school was the lack of pedagogical training. I was expected to be able to teach students (my degrees are in English, so no lab work for me...) without having received any teacher-training myself. It wasn't even until I began my position as an academic adviser that I met colleagues in the College Student Personnel program and learned anything about student development theory.

Now, as an adviser, I hear student reports on a daily basis about how professors can or cannot teach in their classrooms. Yes, students can misunderstand and misinterpret. But the frequencey with which I have heard the same thing about professors in a certain department is unconscionable. The only response I can give them is that the professors are so far into their advanced work that they are a little rusty on the basics. Maintaing the balance between research and teaching seems to be one of the fundamental flaws of a large research university that has no end in sight, especially in light of budgets and other political factors beyond the U's control.

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