Dr. John Holland and creating paths of scholarship for teachers

Hey John, First, let me congratulate you on your getting your PhD. You’ve obviously earned it, and you continue to be an invaluable asset to all your different communities, especially in the early childhood arena so in need of advocacy in a major way. While the title “PhD” has often been reserved for those in […]

Hey John,

First, let me congratulate you on your getting your PhD. You’ve obviously earned it, and you continue to be an invaluable asset to all your different communities, especially in the early childhood arena so in need of advocacy in a major way.

While the title “PhD” has often been reserved for those in the field of medicine, a friend told me that it originally meant that, no matter what the field, the person was a master teacher. Sure enough, I look on Wikipedia and see:

In the universities of Medieval Europe, study was organized in four faculties: the basic faculty of arts, and the three higher faculties of theology, medicine and law (canonical and civil). All of these faculties awarded intermediate degrees (bachelor of arts, of theology, of laws, of medicine) and final degrees. Initially, the titles of master and doctor were used interchangeably for the final degrees, but by the late Middle Ages the terms Master of Arts and Doctor of Theology/Divinity, Doctor of Laws and Doctor of Medicine had become standard in most places (though in the German and Italian universities the term Doctor was used for all faculties). The doctorates in the higher faculties were quite different from the current Ph.D. degree in that they were awarded for advanced scholarship, not original research.

Understanding this history made me think that, as teachers, our practice constantly pushes us to do better, understand more, and broaden our scope as the children in front of us change. In a way, this is our “advanced scholarship.”

In New York State, teachers are generally required to get a masters in education to continue teaching. Many of the complaints coming from teachers who go through the program have to do with the heavy dependency on philosophy and not enough on practice. What does real classroom management look like? How do I explain why we have negative exponents? What’s the most effective way to show kids the scientific method?

We would do well to discuss the future of education schools in the vein of necessity.

For instance, a masters’ in education can lean more towards practice, and, in certain situations, localize the message so teachers can start using the best practices they’ve learned immediately. They can get some of the philosophy, but let that philosophy stay embedded in practice. As we become veterans, some of us stay curious about the “why,” meaning we want to either pursue positions that let us teach other teachers or broaden our scope. For those of us who are extra-curious, we can have PhD programs (as we do now) that address this population.

I also believe that, because we already engage in advanced scholarship, we would already have built-in tracks for following up with a PhD while teaching. That is, without breaking the bank or getting a fellowship, thus pulling us out of the classroom.

What do you think, good doctor?

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