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An overwhelming majority of faculty agreed that Harvard must develop a Ph.D. program in education to stay on par with its peer institutions at Tuesday’s meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
A proposal for the creation of a Standing Committee on Higher Degrees in Education “to admit and recommend candidates for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education” was presented by Richard J. Tarrant, interim dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, at the meeting.
Almost a dozen professors lauded the initiative in a lengthy discussion, but not everyone was content to accept the proposal as it was.
The Ph.D. proposal was followed by a review of the concentration declaration deadline and the College’s secondary field program by Jay M. Harris, dean of undergraduate education.
Both policies were changed in 2006 and came up for a five-year evaluation this year.
Harris also announced that starting next fall, classes will be in session on Veteran’s Day though it will remain a staff holiday—a change that aligns with the calendar of the Law School and most of Harvard’s peer institutions.
THE STUDY OF TEACHING
A Ph.D. program in education, which would be jointly offered by the Graduate School of Education and FAS, would represent FAS’ seventeenth inter-school partnership in degree offerings—a development Tarrant called “historic.”
The Ph.D. program would have three specific concentrations, each built on an interdisciplinary framework.
“We’re the only major school of education that doesn’t offer a Ph.D.,” History Chair James T. Kloppenberg said, in support of the proposal.
Kloppenberg also cited the advantages the program will bring to Harvard’s recent commitment to teaching and learning.
“I’m astonished by how little most of our colleagues think about what’s actually going on in their classrooms,” he said. “By cementing these ties, we will have access to more information about pedagogy and student learning that will make us more effective in our classrooms.”
“This proposal is to me, as we say, a no-brainer,” economics professor Claudia Goldin said.
Despite the near-unanimous support that the proposal received from attendees, some faculty members present voiced concern over the Anglo-centric nature of the new committee and called for the incorporation of a more global perspective.
“I saw very little in the proposal that suggested the sort of cosmopolitan concerns that should be the business of this University,” anthropology professor Michael Herzfeld said, suggesting to Ed School Dean Kathleen McCartney that the anthropology department, not included in the current proposal, could contribute positively to the program’s vision.
And according to classics professor Richard F. Thomas, the Ed School library does not support non-Anglophone research.
“Nowhere is the issue of increased [library] resources introduced,” Thomas said about the current proposal. “I think it’s our practice when we have incremental programs to build in the resources needed to support those programs.”
SECONDARY TIME AROUND
In a five-year review of the current system of concentration declaration and secondary fields, Harris and the Education Policy Committee proposed few changes to the existing procedures.
In 2006, the College changed the concentration deadline from the second to the third semester, as more than 30 percent of students were switching their concentrations and 5 percent more than once, Harris said.
“The idea was to give students more time to make well-informed decisions,” he said, adding that results from the senior surveys indicate that students are happier with the new schedule.
But according to one professor, some students are not as happy with guidelines on secondary fields. Although students cawn obtain more than one language citation, they are limited to a single secondary field.
“We wanted to preserve for students the flexibility to take a range of electives,” Harris said in defense of the policy, which the Education Policy Committee did not recommend to change. “[Students] are free to take all their electives in a certain field, but to certify this as an achievement worthy of another brownie point or ribbon to wear, we did not see as serving any intellectual goal.”
Multiple professors also argued in support of stricter, earlier deadlines for declaring secondary fields so that smaller departments especially would have a better idea of student interest.
As of this Monday—the deadline to declare a secondary field—46 percent of the class of 2012 has declared a secondary field, up 14 percent since the class of 2009.
—Staff writer Radhika Jain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Kevin J. Wu can be reached at email@example.com.
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