Redesign the Doctoral Program

Departments should review their programs to align them with the learning needs and career goals of current and future students and to bring degree requirements in line with the ever evolving character of our fields. When departments redesign programs, we urge them to consider the following:

  • the forms, pacing, and amount of course work (e.g., courses sequenced during the dissertation phase, practica, small-credit modules)
  • the possible forms of non-course-based activities designed to expand the repertoire of student competencies, literacies, and experiences (e.g., workshops on turning seminar papers into public presentations or on the methodologies for data mining)
  • the modes of evaluation that equip students to participate in scholarly discourse (e.g., alternatives to the traditional seminar paper, portfolios)
  • the scope, shape, media, and function of, as well as the audiences for, qualifying exercises such as exams
  • the character, purpose, and timing of the prospectus for the dissertation project

Expectations regarding doctoral degree requirements should be adjusted in accordance with the evolving field. Departments should rewrite requirements, abandoning expectations of comprehensive coverage to facilitate alternative modes of knowledge, including interdisciplinary inquiry. Instead of placing primary emphasis on traditional literary-historical coverage, departments should encourage new forms of scholarship and require new models of preparation. In support of this reconfiguring of doctoral education, departmental colleagues will have a variety of experiences to draw on, in areas such as collaboration, innovation in classroom practices, and course requirements. It can also prove invaluable to look beyond the borders of language and literature departments to learn how colleagues in fields outside the humanities undertake doctoral education and to rethink practices in the light of their experience. Second language acquisition, crucial to doctoral education, must be given sufficient support. In addition, the structure of doctoral program requirements should reflect judicious estimations of what doctoral students can complete within a reasonable frame of time.

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