Flipping the School Day: A Win-Win for Grad Schools

Oh well now this is interesting food for thought for grad schools. Forbes published “Don’t Just Flip the Classroom, Flip the School Day” by Michael Horn. The article talks about rearranging the school day so that high schoolers could go to a workplace for the mornings, gaining real-world exposure to, knowledge of, and experience in the workplace.

Now what if we applied that model to grad and professional schools? You know: having part of the daytime “program” being dedicated to the students getting real-world externships and cooperative work placements, gaining real world work experience, using the remaining day / evenings to do the traditional disciplinary core curriculum?

Cynics will say: but students will quickly realize that there’s no point in them going to grad school. That their specialized degree does not serve any advantage, and thus would drop out of the program. To which I say: that might happen, sure. But really: it’s a win-win (or, actually, as you’ll see a win on three fronts)!

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Use an Annual Career Statement to Assess Your Career

Do you remember back when you were applying to grad school and you had to write a personal statement? In a personal statement, you have to explain why you want to pursue a graduate degree, what you want to specialize in (or in my case, what you pretended to want to specialize in because WHO REALLY KNOWS!), and how a graduate degree will get you on your career path.

Well, some graduate schools have started requiring their students to revisit and revise this statement at the end of each year. In the annual update, you revisit the original (or most recent version), and then revise to more accurately reflect your area of specialty, what you’ve accomplished in the year, and better align with your career aims, as all of those things may have changed.

Have you ever thought about writing an annual personal statement for your career?

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Permanently ABD

It is no secret that I ❤️ The Professor Is In. She is the Bee’s Knees. (See what I did there? Because I also heart puns? And Bees? Okay, I’ll show myself out now…) I read just about everything she puts out there.

Her most recent column: “A Few Good Reasons to Switch Graduate Programs” in The Chronicle of Higher Education only touched upon the question of “should I quit my PhD program?” but having been there – and done it – that one little aside gave me a lot to think about.

I quit for a whole host of reasons, none of which are uncommon.

First, I went into my PhD program largely because I didn’t know what else to do. I had a Master’s, and I loved higher ed, I loved learning, so why not? And my thinking was that a Master’s was better than a Bachelors when it came to competing for jobs, so obviously having a terminal degree would help me edge out even more competitors. So in large part, I exited my program with just as much “meh” as I had started with.

Except I had more cynicism.

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Bite-Sized Career Development

In my day job, I manage professional development programs. And in that field the trend has moved to offering bite-sized training. Appetizers, if you will. Rather than committing someone to a full three-course meal (or more!) of training, we know adults learn best when single-tasked and focused, and in smaller chunks, particularly as we get bombarded with more and more information.

This applies really well to graduate school training too.

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Campus Jobs as Graduate Assistantships Lead to Better Outcomes

One of the foremost thinkers in how we can overhaul the graduate school experience to address career planning is Leonard Cassuto. In addition to his excellent book The Graduate School Mess (which should be required reading for anyone interested in the topic), he also writes a series for the Chronicle of Higher Education called the Graduate Adviser. His latest post, “Outcomes-based Graduate School: The Humanities Edition” illustrates how one university – Lehigh – tackled overhauling its graduate curriculum in English.

There’s several things to note in how they went about this.

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Make Career Planning the First Set of Required Courses in Grad School

Yesterday I wrote a brain dump about grad school reform. I think that grad school in the 21st century needs to strike a balance. Right now it’s too immersive. It gives grad students the unrealistic luxury of focusing solely on their craft. It immerses students in a world where the only thing they do is their discipline.

When it comes to working, though, your job may have nothing to do with your craft. And even if it does, often the day-to-day tasks have little to do with your disciplinary expertise.

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