d i g i t a l   a d v i s o r . . .

Welcome to the MSU Doctoral Program
in Teacher Education

I am your digital advisor.   Call me DA (pronounced "duh.") I am designed to help you develop a course through MSU's PhD program in Teacher Education.  The reason I exist is because human advisors are busy and unreliable, so use me to make sure you are covered. Use me to make list of things you need to do, experiences you need to get, and people you need to learn from.

My pages are organized according to three major hurdles you have to overcome while you are here: Developing yourself personally and professionally, surviving, learning to conduct research and learning academic writing. Below I offer a brief introductory paragraph to each of these tasks. But if you are in a hurry, let me give you a couple of shortcuts to get you started.

Highest Priority: There is a university policy requiring that each doctoral student undergo an annual review. Take advantage of this. It gives you an opportunity to think about where you are, where you are going, what is missing, how you are doing. You get to write this out for yourself and have a conversation with your advisor about it. Don't let your advisor off the hook on this. Use these annual meetings to review your progress and re-think your plans.

Here is a bit on each of the three hurdles.

1. Develop yourself personally and professionally

The links on the career development page offer several tools to help you redefine yourself. For sure you should look at the page entitled Yearly Steps to a New Identity, which gives you ideas about things you should do during your first year, second year and so forth. The other pages listed on the right offer other helpful tools and guidelines.

One big part of your task is to take ownership of a field of study.  You have to internalize ideas and evidence to such an extent that you can draw on it flexibly to solve new problems and to think through new dilemmas. I have a page that talks more about that. At some point, you will need to prove that you have done this by taking a comprehensive exams.

(Incidentally, if you have just arrived here from another country, you might find it helpful to visit my Orientation to the US Education System page. This will give you an overview of our system, focusing on how it differs from other countries.)

2. Learn how to engage in academic writing

You will discover that a great deal of your time will be spent writing, and another big chunk of time will be spent reading criticisms of your writing.  You are entering a specialized community, with it's own approach to communicating.  It relies more heavily on reasoning, argumentation, and evidence, far less on anecdotes and chatty tone.  It is a difficult style to learn.  I have some pages on academic writing to help you with that task.

3. Make your own original contributions to the field

Generating new knowledge in your field may be the most difficult thing to learn. Everyone acquires a great deal of knowledge in life, but most of this knowledge has not been tested and has not been scrutinized by anyone else for its validity. In a field of scholarship, people regularly scrutinize new ideas and evidence for their plausibility, credibility, validity, and relevance. People don't look at evidence as guaranteeing anything, but rather they view evidence as merely providing clues that need to be interpreted for what they really tell us. The Department will not grant you a Ph.D. until you have demonstrated your ability to generate new knowledge in your field. The dissertation is the primary evidence of your ability to do this. But in addition to the dissertation, the Department requires you to take a research practicum, often through a course called "TE 995," which is intended to give you experience in this process before you embark on your dissertation. My pages on research aim to guide you through this process.

© Mary Kennedy, 2006


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