Suggestion 8: Consider these broader principles for advising students

Or–What Is the Purpose of Different Degrees?

One of the most crucial issues in suggesting informal — or co-curricular — learning experiences for students is how the suggested activities and experiences integrate with the overall degree program.

To determine that, one needs to consider how  a bachelor’s degree differs from a master’s degree; and PhD from a master’s.   Each type of degree has a particular purpose but the understanding of these differences is rarely articulated, much less well understood.

Several years ago, I heard Georgia State University professor Verna Willis (now retired) offer a great model, which provides perspectives that are useful both for advising students (the purpose of this series of posts) as well as curriculum development.

Adapting it slightly, consider these explanations of the purposes of each degree:

  • Associates degrees (from community colleges) prepare students to serve in paraprofessional roles, such as training coordinators.
  • Bachelor’s degrees prepare students to do, such as writing user’s guides, designing basic courses, and teaching in a classroom
  • Master’s degrees prepare students to lead or manage, such as serving as the lead designer on a major educational software project, assuming the senior trainer role in a department, managing a training department, serving as the director of education for a museum, or running a consulting practice in instructional design.  Master’s degrees also prepare students to become PhD students.
  • PhDs prepare students to conduct research, either basic research that is used in academe or applied research used in consulting and policy development.

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