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Author Topic: Educational Policy Studies  (Read 3666 times)
ithica
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« on: May 12, 2012, 10:37:30 PM »

Hello,

I am going into my fifth year teaching high school history, and plan on graduating with my masters in history next May.  I did not really have an area of interest until I started my thesis on rural school organization.  I suppose it never occurred to me to take my love of education and history and bring them together.  Anyway, while I love teaching I am pretty unhappy at the moment, and I have found doing my masters coursework turns out to be what really gets me going.  I especially enjoy working on my thesis (though as you all understand it is a love/hate relationship).  It gives me a level of satisfaction I do not get a lot of in education, because they do not really support a teachers work outside teaching/babysitting.

I am now 26 and I figure if I want to continue my education now would be the time.  I have considered a Ph.D in Curriculum & Instruction, however I feel my real desire is towards History of Ed., or some combination of Foundations of Education including Philosophy.  I really like the idea of being able to teach history courses, foundations courses, and with my background in teaching, being involved in teacher education. 

My first question is: what are some good history of ed programs?  I have looked at a number of different ones, including one that has a joint degree in history and educational policy studies.  My second question is: in your experience how important is the GRE in education? My verbal and writing scores were good, my quantitative not so much.  I would rather not take that awful test again if at all possible, but of course I would if needed.  My last question: am I completely out of my mind leaving a guaranteed job to go get a Ph.D. in history of ed, or is my teaching experience and ability to wear multiple hats increase my chances of getting a job afterwards?

Side note, I have pretty much made up my mind to try and pursue a Ph.D., I suppose I am just looking for input from those who understand the whole mind-numbing process of completely turning your life upside down to do something you want to do.   
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msparticularity
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« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2012, 11:38:55 PM »

My background is a lot like yours, ithica: I had a BA and an MA in history and taught high school social studies (and English, actually) for four years, along with three years of college instruction experience in a humanities program. I have both a love of educational philosophy/history (my dissertation topic) and an interest in teaching/mentoring future teachers. My doctoral program was actually nothing special at all, and I have done just fine on the job market, as have others with background like mine, even in the midst of a major downturn in academic hiring. While educational foundations programs are being eliminated, there very definitely are jobs out there for those of us who can both teach the foundations/policy topics and do traditional teacher ed. IOW, your combination of interests really will serve you well, supposing that you can gain good teaching experience as a doc student, and also that you can publish.

On the issue of GREs: you need to get through the stats courses that you'll face in any decent grad program. Still, though, I was on something like the 37th percentile for the quant GRE and did survive--and, in fact, discovered an unexpected affinity for stats. (My verbal GRE was in the 99th percentile, and that truly is my strength.)

You will want to look for a doc program that will give you an assistantship and tuition/fee waiver, and that also provide substantial teaching opportunities and mentoring for publication. Please feel free to PM me if you'd like to talk about specific institutions or regions.
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"Once admit that the sole verifiable or fruitful object of knowledge is the particular set of changes that generate the object of study...and no intelligible question can be asked about what, by assumption, lies outside." John Dewey

"Be particular." Jill Conner Browne
bash217
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« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2012, 12:37:42 AM »

Having formal teaching experience is crucial for the job market in these fields, so I am happy to see that you have a good five years. The jobs in these fields increasingly require or prefer people who have been classroom teachers, and this background will also help you plan research projects which are relevant and practical.

However none of this means that you'll necessarily get a job you like better than the job you currently have when all is said and done, as you may have limited or no choice of location, university, etc., should you be so lucky as to get a decent job when you are finished. I'm not sure how this compares to your experience with high school teaching. It's also hard to say whether your earning power will increase significantly in the short-term and long-term, compared to the costs of time, energy, and money spent/sacrificed on the PhD. There are some people who in fact look to high school teaching after going straight through history/liberal arts PhD programs, with the idea (however false it may be) that the whole package of benefits, community, work conditions, and pay may be better on that side, depending on the specifics. (You can find some CHE articles on this if you search around.)

I'm not sure how much different programs use GRE scores to evaluate applicants. At one point Illinois (strong for history/philosophy of education) didn't require the GRE--not sure if it does today. If you are focusing on philosophy and history, you may not be required to do stats. There are programs which offer qualitative research specializations. But this depends on the types of research questions you have.
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baleful_regards
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« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2012, 12:55:46 AM »

Chiming in to say Yes to the great advice offered so far.

GRE's - I never took them and my schools didn't require them. My doctoral program is in Canada, so I did leave the US for my studies.

In every TT position for which I applied, classroom teaching was required as a pre-requisite. They wanted ( rightly) people who had classroom teaching experience.

I am a qualitative researcher, so obviously things like teacher action research and other collaborative based research are foundational to my philosophy anyway. Your experience in the classroom will be invaluable as you seek partner classrooms/teachers with whom to conduct research. Sell that, hard. You will find that even great teachers can be hesitant about having a "researcher" in the classroom. Connecting as a teacher makes that research possible.

I would advise you to have your "speciality" but also be able and willing to be a generalist, as MsP pointed out.  At my new position, I am teaching one course that is around my dissertation "topic" area, but am also teaching two others that are more general in nature ( as well as supervision of student teachers). My broader background in my Master's program (Ed Admin and Policy and Child Development) , as well as my own teaching history (ECE and Elem Ed) made me a pretty attractive candidate to departments looking for as much bang for their  buck as possible.

MsP and bash217 have noted that the field still seems slightly less awful than other disciplines. There are jobs, but you may have to relocate to get them. I have noted that highly saturated areas (like the Northeast) seem much harder to break into as newly minted PhD's.
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Trouble comes to everyone who dares to be a muse.
ithica
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« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2012, 2:05:45 PM »

Thank you all for your advice.  When it comes to where I end up getting a job, I am unattached and actually find the idea of experiencing a new place something I would enjoy since I have been in my current location for more than a decade.  The area I find the most interesting is the history of rural education.  For one I come from a rural area and attended a rural school, and I find in current literature rural schools are not covered very well.  I do understand making sure I am general as well to put myself in a good position to be attractive to a number of institutions.

Thank you all again.
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