Category Archives: Higher Ed/ Student Life
Education Then and Now
If you want to positively impact the future, you must have a thorough knowledge of the past.
One of the most interesting books that I’ve read in the past year is Henri Marrou’s A History of Education in Antiquity. It’s considered the standard treatment of what education looked like in ancient Greece – the fount from which education in the West and in America sprang forth.
In particular, there were 5 characteristics of ancient Greek education that struck me when reading Marrou. I’ll summarize them for you below:
1) It focused on the basics. Primary students learned the “three Rs.” Step-by-step, they would move from the alphabet to syllables, words, sentences, and continuous passages. When they were ready, students would move on to a grammar school and more complex literature. They were also taught enough math to function in everyday life and in a trade.
2) It focused on literature. The ancient Greeks believed that a literary education was the best way to establish a core knowledge among citizens and to form mature and virtuous human beings. Teachers spent most of their time introducing students to the great authors of the past. They had a more integrated view of knowledge and did not split up the curriculum into various subjects.
3) It rooted students in the past. The educational philosophy of ancient Greece is contained in the word paideia – a “training” that students underwent to be initiated into adulthood and the Greek way of life. Education was about introducing students to the great authors and ideas of the past. The ancient Greeks believed that this process was the only way to preserve the identity and greatness of their culture while effectively preparing students to contribute to that culture as adults.
4) Education and character formation went hand-in-hand. In 1947 Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” The ancient Greeks felt the same way. The Greeks believed that the family should play the primary role in character formation. But they also believed that the values the child learned at home should be reinforced in the schools.
5) There was no centralized education system. Throughout the tenure of their civilization, the Greeks were able to preserve a consistent ideal of education without a centralized system and curriculum. Schools were built and funded by local communities. Greek culture visibly reflected the ideals taught in schools, so there was no need for the imposition of a standard curriculum. Citizens were clear about what education was for, and what it should teach.
These same characteristics marked Western education for over 2,000 years. They marked the education of Americans during colonial times, when literacy rates among those who attended school were higher than they currently are. And they marked the education that was offered to Americans in the 19th century.
In the past 100 years, American education has gone down a different path in the name of “progress.” The characteristics of today’s system, however, make me question how much progress we have really achieved.
The current American education system seems mystified about how to adequately teach our students the basics, as evidenced by low test scores. It has lost a sense of the purpose of education – both for the human person and our culture. It cuts students off from the past by almost solely focusing on modern literature selected for its conformity to modern ideals. It has become increasingly centralized, taking away the ability of local communities and teachers to meet the unique needs of their students.
At the same time, many parents do not provide enough character formation to their children at home – a formation that is necessary if students are to succeed in school.
As C.S. Lewis said, “We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about turn and walking back to the right road.”
We may very well need to do an “about turn” with the American education system.
I don’t often write about my Doctoral Journey…But when I do… it’s no longer sprinkled with four letter words.
I don’t often write about my Doctoral Journey…But when I do… it’s no longer sprinkled with four letter words. I may have just found my rhythm, for the moment.
The dissertation process is one that I have become increasingly familiar with in my years as a doctoral student ( I just reached 3 years, 10 months and 22 days). What once was a vague image has become clearer and more relatable. Through my previous coursework, I have learned just how important time management is for someone who is working full time, going to school full time, and trying to maintain a happy family at home. My time management schedule has become routine to me, and should offer some stability when proceeding through the dissertation sequence. I have learned valuable skills related to organization as well. However, I do notice that in my organization, I still have a bit of chaos. When I believe I have my research organized by themes, I discover a new connection or find that what was once thought to be connected may indeed not be.
Two obstacles I must overcome through this arduous process is managing family time, and remaining organized through the accumulation of additional research. Since last spring, I have been reading a few books dedicated to doctoral student success in preparation for the dissertation phase. Three books I have found to be quite helpful are Dissertations and Theses from Start to Finish, Finish your Dissertation Once and For All, and The Smart Way to Your Ph.D.
With this assortment of books, I was able to see inside the time-frame and structure of a dissertation, common pain points for each section, coping techniques for one of the most stressful endeavors a person will go through, and practical personal and writing advice from those who have been through the process. Through these readings, I have found both support and motivation in what used to be one of the most daunting periods of my doctoral journey. I no longer feel as isolated as I once did. The authors of Finish your Dissertation Once and for All: How to overcome psychological barriers, get results, and move on with your life by Alison Miller and The Smart Way to Your Ph.D.: 200 secrets from 100 graduates by Dora Farkas ( @DoraFarkasPhD) made me feel as though I was working with my own dissertation coaches. Social media has also been instrumental to me as I gain momentum for the dissertation. I follow a few blogs written by students further ahead of me in the process, their experiences have helped me prepare and stay motivated. I also have joined a few online support groups and have made a few ‘friends’ on Twitter; I now know I am not alone in the journey.
One extraneous pain point I have not been able to address is dealing with my committee, as I have not been assigned one yet. This is an unknown hurdle that I look forward to checking off my list. I feel that if I can get the Concept Paper written and approved in the first dissertation sequence, the timeline I have established for myself will be attainable. I have worked hard to do as much research and writing before the dissertation phase specifically for that reason. I want to have as much feedback from course mentors as possible on as many section of the Concept Paper as possible. Acceptance of the CP on the first submission is a primary goal.
In preparation for this new phase of my journey, I have gathered some reading material to help guide, motivate, and prepare me in some areas I feel I can use some additional help. How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal by David Krathwol and Nick Smith is a highly recommended book that should offer the guidance I need to ensure timely acceptance of my Concept Paper and Dissertation Proposal. I find I struggle a bit in my critical thinking and evaluations of research, so I have two books I hope will help me hone these skills: Critical Thinking About Research by Julian Meltzoff and The Craft of Research by Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb, and Joseph Williams. I plan to read these three books before and during my Comprehensive Exam phase.
Learning is the process, not the product
Of course, all plans are subject to change; I know I need to be flexible and stay motivated regardless of outcomes. There will be times I may get discouraged with committee feedback, but all of their wisdom only makes my dissertation better. I also need to bear in mind that the dissertation is likely the worst research and writing I will ever do in my academic career, it will only get better after each ensuing writing project. With each course I have taken, I am one step closer to completion. Similarly, with each week of the dissertation process, I am closer to achieving the loftiest goal I have ever set for myself. Ultimately culminating with a Ph.D., an achievement I will be unreservedly proud of.
Next stop, Comprehensive exam and ‘dissertating’…
When talking to undergraduate students or even those in the workforce considering going back to school for their Master’s, I am always asked, “How is it different?” It is very different, and in a good way.
I waited close to three years between my bachelor’s and master’s. I chose to graduate with a double major in Business Administration and Marketing, continue working full time and make a dent in my student loans. When I was ready to start the process of applying to graduate school, I found out my employer would not pay for courses in “Marketing” because I was working in a technical department within the telecom industry (with the hopes of a marketing department transfer). Instead of getting a Masters in IT or being deterred, I went ahead and switched jobs and made my preparations for grad school. Looking back, this was a great thing. Not only did I get my Master’s, I avoided massive layoffs, seeing my employer investigated by the SEC and the collapse of one of the largest telecom companies in the United States. Gotta love the ‘90s!
The biggest concern I had about graduate school was the GMAT. I felt I never tested well. Once the test was taken, the results printed, I was on my way to two years of fun. Truly, I loved every minute of it. And here is why:
Level of Maturity
I was 25 and mature enough. By 25, you usually have your personality developed, aspirations in mind, goals set out and a picture for the future — what better time to devote about two years to bettering yourself? I had some professional experience under my belt, which would prove to be useful in my course work, and had a clear idea of what I wanted from my graduate program.
Career in Progress
I was not as concerned about hurrying and finishing my degree so I could get a “better job,” as I was during my undergrad years. I worked part time my freshman and sophomore years, and full time during my junior and senior years. I was so determined to graduate and get a better-paying job that I overloaded each term by taking 21 to 24 semester hours. This time around, I was making better money and was able to pay for each class as I took it. Not to mention, while in school, I could defer my previous student loans.
Probably the main reason I loved my Master’s program so much was that each course was directly related to my area of interest: Marketing. What’s not to love about Consumer Behavior, Global Marketing, Marketing Managements and Promotions? Graduate courses are focused on topics you may have experience with or will have experience with as you develop your desired career. These courses also make readings, case studies and projects more relevant and applicable. In contrast, my undergraduate courses varied and typically were dealt with subjects I had little interest in until I reached my junior and senior years.
In my graduate career, I had some great instructors who took an active interest in me. The classes were smaller, and we were able to get to know one another better. Many of these instructors kept in touch after graduation, and ultimately it was one of my grad-school instructors (turned Department Head) who hired me for my first adjunct teaching assignment. These instructors see what you are capable of doing and can be a great source of information and guidance — they can also write killer letters of reference! Similarly, I was able to create friendships with my peers that transcended into valuable professional contacts. Now with social media, it is even easier to stay connected to instructors and peers, and explore networking beyond graduation.
Have you ever felt out of place with friends? Most of my friends had very little interest in business in the depth I did. Most had careers in different sectors or were married with children. In grad school, I was surrounded by like-minded folks who shared my respect for education, valued hard work and had the potential to be thought leaders in my field.
I am not saying obtaining a Master’s or an MBA is a piece of cake and one big social party. It is hard work, but when the end result is one you desire and the topic of study is one you love, it really can be enjoyable. And don’t forget: There are plenty of organizations that value an MBA.
Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from pursuing something so awesome! If someone you know if ‘thinking’ about a Masters/MBA, be sure to share this post with them.
Most college courses incorporate some form of social media into learning material (I have been known to go a little Social Media crazy), so most students are familiar with basic uses of the medium. Considering most students are already using such platforms as Facebook and YouTube, it only makes sense to utilize these tools for education. Students are using social media to view supplemental information pertaining to their courses via blogs, wikis, forums, YouTube and more. For example, Stanford Graduate School of Business has a YouTube channel that offers viewers lectures, interviews, and an insight into many of its graduate level courses. Similarly, blogs (such as this one) are introduced to students to offer additional resources for review in order to achieve an over all goal of comprehending course topics. Social offers various ways to present material. One of the most common and widely-used categorizations of the various types of learning styles is Fleming’s VARK model (sometimes VAK) which lists learners as:
1. visual learners: info-graphics, pictures, diagrams, video presentations.
2. auditory learners: lectures, discussions, podcasts, online videos.
3. kinesthetic learners or tactile learners: Physically “doing”.
Using social media can assist instructors in universities in catering to these needs.
Networking capabilities alone make the use of platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter a must for university students. Social allows the users (students for the sake of this discussion) to not only forge relationships with others in their field of study, but it also enhances the educational experience. Platforms such as discussion boards, Facebook, and individual blogs help to foster a feeling of community for those taking online/distance education courses (as well as those taking courses on campus). For example, I have a Facebook group for my present and past students. Via the page, students can network with each other, I post employment opportunities and Marketing related materials, and the students do the same. Students from both universities (thousands of miles away from each other) are utilizing this page. In addition, I use Twitter in the same fashion. Further, all of my level one students (those taking class one of three) have personal blogs as a requirement of the course. They ‘follow’ each other via Twitter and their blogs and give support and critique when needed.
I believe there is less emphasis on social for employment searches, career advancement, and personal branding than I would like to see in undergraduate courses. For example, the use of a LinkedIn profile and the groups found within could be utilized for job searches, industry specific news, networking with those in your field, or perhaps following an organization you hope to work for. A personal blog can highlight a student portfolio, and a Twitter feed may further enhance the students’ brand. Personal branding through social can help a student position themselves for success. Every undergraduate student should be able to utilize social in the following ways:
3. Job Searching
4. Personal Branding
Social Media as introduced in graduate courses go beyond the above mentioned basic use of social media platforms. (See my last article). The series of courses is introduced with the first week centered around students learning about the evolution of social media and comparison of the various social media tools. Often students do not realize how often they are using social media because they have never actually defined social media beyond Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter. Similarly, they may have never considered the business uses for social media or their benefits to consumers and businesses. Always an interesting topic for discussion for the first week of this first course is the state of current business practices using social media. It is a great way to get the students realizing what social media marketing is, and what it is not.
I am always surprised that one or two students each term questions if they ‘have’ to get a Twitter account and create a blog for the course. The answer is yes. Anyone wanting to learn about social media needs to be “in” social. I always look forward to seeing my students create their blogs. They have addressed various topics and I truly love watching them get creative with the design, layout, topics, and promotion of the blogs. Many of them choose to keep the blog private for only the class and myself to view, and that is completely acceptable. My main concern is having the student experience the creation and maintenance of a blog and understand the role it has within business.
Read the entire article on Maximizesocialbusiness.com