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Posts Tagged ‘challenging’

By Robin Henrikson

The coursework at SPU for my doctoral program has been quite fulfilling. To be perfectly honest, I have learned more than I thought I would and have been challenged to grow in many ways, including improvement in my knowledge about my specialization, growth in my writing skills and in my ability to understand statistics. Perhaps most important has been growth in my self-confidence and in my ability to critically examine new research, initiatives and programs to help advise and support educators in making decisions about programs for their schools.

My area of specialization is in professional development and pre-service teacher preparation. I have been able to design a doctoral program that met my needs with a combination of coursework, independent study and hands-on experiences that will enable me to be prepared to work in a variety of positions within my area of expertise once I have completed the program. One of the main reasons I wanted to pursue my Ph.D was to help support leaders in the improvement of their schools and to support pre-service, novice and experienced teachers so they are competent and prepared to be effective teachers.

This program has been challenging and I have had to learn how to be disciplined. Balancing school, part-time work as a math and professional development specialist as well as a wife and mother of three young children is no simple task, not to mention the more than two hour commute one way just to take classes. However, throughout my time in this program so far, I have had support from different professors, each offering me a different way to grow through their unique teaching styles. I have also built great relationships amongst other doctoral students. The flexibility of taking night, weekend and online classes has allowed me to pursue my degree whereas I would not have been able to without that type of coursework design.

I am happy with my experiences at SPU and once I am finished with my program I will be a stronger person in many ways including academically, emotionally and professionally. I thank God for the support He has given me throughout the past two years.

When I am finished with this program my goals are to pursue a career working at a university where I can continue to support teachers, whether they are at the beginning of their career or a veteran. I feel confident that this program has prepared me to do that.

Robin Henrikson is a student in SPU’s Ph.D. in Education program. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Western Washington University and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Seattle Pacific University. She holds Washington state certification in Special Education K-12, General Education K-8, and Building Principal. Robin served as a middle school special education and mathematics classroom teacher before becoming a teacher leader. She currently works as a Professional Development Specialist for the Olympic Educational Service District 114 in Bremerton, WA. She is married and the mother of three children.

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I initially began my doctoral journey solely for intrinsic reasons.  As a person who simply enjoys the process of learning, pursuing an advanced degree was a natural step in my life journey.  Well, that, and I also made a promise to my grandmother that no matter what it took, I would obtain my doctorate sometime during my adult life.  My doctoral journey was something that I was doing just for myself, just because I wanted to experience that particular level of challenge and engagement. 

I knew that I’d learn a lot during the course of my studies at SPU, and I knew that my studies would also further my understanding of theory and knowledge as it applies to education in general.  What I never really anticipated, however, was how useful and applicable my learning in doctoral program would be to my career.  I’m happy to report that I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I have put my learning to work in my day-to-day work life.  My doctorate has benefitted me in ways big and small in my professional pursuits, and for that I am doubly grateful that I persevered and completed the doctoral program at SPU.

Yes, it is true that having the letters “Ed.D.” after one’s name is a nice plus when you are a brand new building principal.  Staff, colleagues, parents, and even kids seem to hold a hefty respect for that level of educational pursuit.  That fact, in and of itself, has been a nice side benefit of my decision to complete the program.  There just seems to be an inherent respect for a person who undertakes and completes a rigorous course of study from a well-respected program such as the one offered by SPU’s School of Education.  However, the true professional benefit of having my doctorate runs deeper than just providing others with a positive perception of my ability. 

Prior to undertaking my doctorate, I had a basic knowledge of theory and relevant literature for the field of education, but now, I truly own the knowledge.  In talking with staff, parents, or colleagues, I have an extensive learned knowledge base that I can pull from at any time, because after the intensive degree of research offered by the program, I now just “know” the information.  Furthermore, I’m able to distill credible researchers and theorists from those who lack a basis for their conclusions.  Even more important, I am able to concisely and clearly articulate why one theorist has credence while another may not, and I can do so without jargon or confusion.  This has been enormously helpful as my building leadership team discusses pedagogical decisions for our team.  I also learned the art of staying current on research trends, which I know will pay enormous dividends as my career progresses. 

Another essential benefit to my work is the fact that the strong statistics emphasis provided in the SPU program has translated into my being able to guide my staff through assessment results in a way that I was not able to do previously.  In this era of growing accountability for student performance, understanding the way in which assessments are crafted and evaluated is of paramount importance.   Our discussions about state testing data and results were made more applicable and meaningful to our staff and students because I had the ability to clarify just what the results meant and how they translated into gains for student achievement.  I was also able to take complicated results and craft trend data that was eminently more useful in our building discussions.  Being able to handle staff questions about testing data, even highly detailed questions, felt very empowering to me and it clearly gave the staff confidence in my abilities as an instructional leader.    

I began my doctoral work with the goal of making myself a better person and offering myself the opportunity to engage in extended and meaningful discourse with like-minded students.  I concluded my doctoral work realizing thatthe experience transcended all of my expectations.  Yes, I became a better person, and yes, I ended the program with a wonderful cohort of intelligent and dedicated educators whom I now call my friends.  However, the journey transcended my expectations due to how it is benefitting not just me, but how it’s also benefitting my school community.  I am already witnessing the ripple effect of this on my staff and students.  It is my hope that I can continue to translate those small ripples into greater and greater effects on the achievement of my students.

Laurynn Evans, Ed.D.

Principal

Rose Hill Junior High School

Stella Schola Middle School

levans@lwsd.org / 425.881.2079

photo credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/catspyjamasnz/

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With good reason only a small percentage of people pursue and complete a doctoral degree. Earning a doctoral degree demonstrates attainment of the highest levels of knowledge and thinking available in formal education. The work is rigorous, challenging, and time consuming.

It’s best to chunk challenging tasks into doable parts. You can think of doctoral studies are a series of hoops to jump through… taking admissions tests, getting admitted, taking coursework, passing comprehensive exams, conducting dissertation research. But the pursuit of a doctoral degree is much more than jumping through hoops and completing products. While those earning a doctoral degree reap tangible benefits such as increased earning potential and professional opportunities, the processes involved can also be exceptionally rewarding in many other intangible ways.

The cognitive challenges presented during a rigorous doctoral program can drive students (along with faculty) to develop and grow. Synthesis, critical analysis of historical and current ideas, debate, application of ideas to professional contexts, and pursuit of new information are hallmarks of this level of learning. For many, these sorts of cognitive challenges are highly motivating. A love of learning and doctoral studies often goes hand in hand.

The professional and personal relationships built during doctoral studies will last a lifetime. Students and faculty spend time in the “trenches” together and the collaboration, support, and development of ideas cement relationships that pay multiple dividends. Many who earned degrees years ago remain in contact with professors and fellow students. The semi-cohort model employed in SPU’s doctoral programs, along with close interactions built with faculty members during mentoring and dissertation processes, ensures rewarding relationships for years to come.

Doctoral studies should be viewed holistically and the multiple rewards of the journey, along with the more tangible benefits, are to be cherished.

Andrew Lumpe, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Graduate Programs, Director of Doctoral Programs

Photo Credits-Creative Commons: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicmcphee/, http://www.flickr.com/photos/fncll/

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