[EAS]Rethinking the PhD

pjk peter.kindlmann at yale.edu
Wed Feb 14 00:48:19 EST 2001

Mail*Link® SMTP               Rethinking the PhD

Dear Colleagues -

This item speaks to a number of PhD issues that are easy enough to
observe, such as narrowness of scholarship and inadequate attention
to teaching how to teach, the latter reinforcing the former in the
next generation of academics.

An earlier, related mailing is at

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All best,  --Peter Kindlmann


         "desk-top faculty development, one hundred times a year"



There have been a number of studies recently on the re-examination
of  the Ph.D. in the United States. The posting below announces a
very  interesting new initiative by the Woodrow Wilson National
Fellowship  Foundation to synthesize the results of these students
and to offer  specific recommendations for action in three areas;
new paradigms,  new practices, and new people. The study is funded
by a grant from  the Pew Charitable Trusts.  Further information
can be found at:


Rick Reis
reis at stanford.edu
UP NEXT: Discussant On 25 Years Of Efforts To Improve Teaching And 
Learning In Higher Education: A Retrospective And A Look Ahead

               Tomorrow's Graduate Students and Postdocs

            ------------------ 1,703 words ------------------


   An Initiative to Improve the Doctoral Experience
          in the Arts and Sciences

New paradigms, new practices, new people.

These are the major challenges - and opportunities - in a changing 
landscape for PhD education.  With a beginning grant from The Pew 
Charitable Trusts, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship
Foundation  is initiating an effort to sharpen the findings of
several recent  studies and projects on doctoral education, many of
which have been  sponsored by Pew, into recommendations for action.
With the  cooperation of ten major universities, these
recommendations will be  tested and innovations developed.

Because doctoral education spans many disciplines and because 
practice differs greatly even among programs within a single 
discipline, totalizing judgments concerning Ph.D. education in the 
United States are often too general to be helpful.  "A global model
attracting students worldwide," its defenders proclaim, with real 
justice.  "A bad fit between training and needs," its critics argue
with some reason. Both views are complacent, and complacency is no

Even so, several recent studies conducted from varying perspectives
reveal a surprising level of agreement concerning the strengths
and  challenges to doctoral education across the disciplines. Taken
together, the findings argue for achievable improvements in at
least  three aspects, which we have codified broadly as three
"P's":  paradigms, practices, and people.  As the shapers of
doctoral  education reflect on the enterprise of producing PhDs,
new questions  have surfaced:  Through what new paradigms can the
learning  associated with the highest degree in academic
disciplines inform  more fully the life of the nation?  By which
new practices can the  doctorate more perfectly represent
adventuresome research?  And how  can the increased involvement of
new people from a wide variety of  backgrounds aid in the
diversification of the American intellect?

New Paradigms

Interdisciplinarity:  Within the university, coexistence among 
disciplines can sometimes be uneasy, especially as the promise and 
praise of interdisciplinary learning and discovery challenges their
 status as discrete organizations of knowledge.  A clear
articulation  of disciplinary definitions and forms of
interdisciplinary work - for  instance, within a single individual
trained in multiple disciplines  or in a working group of experts
from different disciplines; among  arts-and-science disciplines or
between a liberal-arts discipline and  a professional school -
remains to be undertaken.  The project will  seek to define those
practices in doctoral education that encourage  adventuresome
research within and across disciplinary boundaries.

 Scholarly Citizenship:  If the goal of the doctorate is redefined
as  scholarly citizenship, rather than only to replenish the 
professoriate, its full potential for the educational and social
good  can be realized and students can contemplate their career
options  more creatively.  While the PhD is already a powerful
professional  credential within the academy, it deserves a broader
scope of  influence in the world.  For the scholar-citizen, the
doctorate's  real power consists in both rigorous scholarship and
creative action  throughout and beyond the educational realm.  This
new paradigm  recognizes the responsibility of doctoral education
to train a next  generation of scholar-teachers as a centrally
important role of  scholar-citizens; and it recognizes the need for
some  self-referentiality in the ongoing life of the disciplines. 
However,  it challenges academic inquiry that is too exclusively 
self-referential.  Specializations do need to be well honed, but
also  they need to understand more fully their value and potential
impact  in spheres beyond the academic department.

New Practices

Professional Development:  To build a culture supportive of a new 
generation of scholar-citizens, doctoral students require more 
thoughtful professional training, so as to consider more profoundly
the various opportunities for applying their learning in diverse 
careers within and outside higher education.  While intellectual 
autonomy and the centrality of scholarship remain crucial, these 
virtues become problematic when doctoral training fails to consider
real-world impacts.  A surprising lack of real-world relations in
the  physical sciences and engineering was emphasized in the 1995
COSEPUP  Report and these concerns are particularly acute at the
doctoral  level in the humanities and social sciences.  The project
will  encourage career planning offices and doctoral programs to
partner in  addressing a wider array of career outcomes for
doctoral students.  The project also will seek to promulgate
practices in doctoral  institutions that create opportunities for
students to learn about,  and test themselves in, a variety of
academic and non-academic  sectors.

Pedagogical Training:  While the research component of doctoral 
education is strong, the quality of pedagogical training is uneven. 
Data on the development of graduate students suggest they get little 
help in learning to be educators - not only learning effective 
classroom teaching, but putting together a course curriculum, 
thinking strategically about introducing a discipline or making 
connections among disciplines, or teaching to varied audiences.  In 
many disciplines, doctoral students teach what the faculty does not 
want to teach.  In others, teaching is the final resort for funding 
if a student is not appointed to a research position in a faculty 
lab.  Finally, doctoral students often end up with little 
understanding of the fuller higher education landscape, much less of 
education in the schools, from which college students come.  A 
broader, more systematic approach to the preparation of doctoral 
students as educators would respond to a national interest in 
improving the quality of teaching and learning at all levels of 

New People

Diverse Populations:  Graduate study in the arts and sciences lags 
behind other professional pathways in attracting and developing the 
full potential of a healthy number of people of color.  Although the 
percentage of minorities making up the nation's population and 
entering our colleges and universities as undergraduates is on the 
rise, professors standing at the front of the class remain largely 
white and, in some disciplines, predominantly male. In English, as 
one example, the number of African American PhD graduates seems 
frozen at about 3.5%, no greater than 30 years ago.  The number rises 
slightly in the social sciences and falls again in the physical and 
life sciences and mathematics.  The lack of role models for students 
often means that lack of diversity perpetuates itself, and ultimately 
renders learning provincial, as new studies on the intellectual 
benefits of diversity have shown.  Student retention at earlier 
stages of education is of course a crucial part of the solution, but 
doctoral programs must do their part to develop new recruitment and 
retention strategies to ensure role models for future students, and a 
cosmopolitan vibrancy for their disciplines.

Diversifying the American Intellect:  Many students of color have 
expressed interest in bringing their learning to bear upon social 
realities. Now, unfortunately, they frequently perceive they can 
achieve their goals better by pursuing an advanced degree in one of 
the professional schools or by entering directly into a career after 
college.  To attract more students of color to the doctoral degree, 
graduate education must not seem a closed club, but instead an open 
door to new influences in method, knowledge base, and outcome.

Engaging with new paradigms, new practices, and new people cannot 
happen successfully without developing truly synergistic partnerships 
among people from a broad array of institutions and sectors within 
and beyond the academy.  To make a more public outcome for doctoral 
learning viable, the circle for decision-making on the PhD needs to 
involve more active partnerships - a fourth "P" in the overall 
framework - to supply perspectives on the doctorate from all relevant 
constituencies, in other words, from the producers of PhDs as well as 
from the various consumer groups that utilize PhDs:  two- and 
four-year colleges, educational associations, K-12 education, 
corporations, cultural institutions, government agencies, nonprofits, 
and private foundations.

For The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, these 
challenges represent excellent opportunities for framing a richer 
purpose and a richer population for the doctorate.  With initial 
funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts, Woodrow Wilson is launching 
an 18-month initiative as a planning stage for longer-term efforts to 
help doctoral programs create a more responsive PhD.  In 
collaboration with a distinguished group of leaders in graduate 
education, including an Advisory Council and a Task Force, 
approximately 10 research universities will be selected as pilot 
sites for a series of retreats and public forums on creating a more 
responsive PhD. These and other activities will give doctoral 
students, faculty and administrators in the arts and sciences a means 
of engaging with diverse leaders of the PhD consumer sectors on 
implementing the most recent recommendations for improving the 

The Foundation program will benefit greatly from the Preparing Future 
Faculty programs organized by the Council of Graduate Schools and the 
American Association of Colleges and Universities; they have begun 
the work of exposing graduate students to differing faculty roles 
across colleges and universities.  Woodrow Wilson will also 
collaborate with the complementary and timely Carnegie Foundation for 
the Advancement of Teaching initiative on doctoral education, led by 
George Walker under the general guidance of Lee Shulman.  We expect 
as well major collaborations with the Council of Graduate Schools, 
the Association of Graduate Schools, and the Association of American 
Universities, whose leaders are playing a major role in shaping our 

In undertaking this initiative, the Foundation inherits a
significant  amount of progress from the Re-envisioning the PhD
Project (http://depts.washington.edu/envision) led by Jody Nyquist
at the  University of Washington, which culminated in a national
conference  in April, 2000. That landmark conversation featured
several of the  most recent studies on doctoral education and
invited representatives  from all sectors of society to articulate
their concerns and their willingness to engage in  partnerships. 
The conference also pointed the way to a new future  for the PhD by
showcasing promising practices in doctoral education,  examples of
innovative experiments ranging from cross-disciplinary 
dissertation retreats, doctoral internships in businesses and civic
 organizations, multiple mentoring strategies, instructional
exchanges  between different kinds of educational institutions, and
more - all  aimed at creating more versatility for the doctorate.

These practices and other changes in the landscape of the doctorate 
invite us to rethink educational policy at the core. Through an 
initial stage of Woodrow Wilson Roundtables and Regional Retreats, 
the Foundation will help to bring the national conversation begun at 
the Re-envisioning conference to an individual, institutional level 
of creative planning and translation of ideas into bold actions.  Our 
goal is to create collaboratively a set of guidelines for improving 
doctoral education, to help PhD programs make these promising 
practices - especially those that enable the doctorate a richer 
purpose and population - regular features of A More Responsive PhD.

Check back periodically for more developments, including active links 
to informative resources for faculty, administrators, doctoral 
and others.  We welcome your suggestions.  Please email Bettina 
Woodford, Program Officer for the initiative, at Bettina at woodrow.org
The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation  webmaster at woodrow.org
CN 5281, Princeton NJ 08543-5281  Tel: (609) 452-7007  Fax: (609) 452-0066

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