myTESOL Lounge

Expand all | Collapse all

Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

  • 1.  Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 18 days ago
    Hi everyone!
    I'm an English teacher in Vietnam who is currently looking for doctoral studies in the US. Being unfamiliar with American institutions, I had myself a headache scrolling through the US News website looking for a suitable school. One of my friends who has just finished his PhD from the University of South Florida advised me to aim for schools ranking from 100th to 200th. Another said that I should also consider the World Ranking as well (as I want to have a job at an international university after graduation). I personally felt exhausted comparing between those rankings and haven't finished making a list of potential universities.
    My main concern, however, is the project which I intend to work on, which is all about self-directed teacher professional development.
    I would really appreciate if anyone can advise me on some important criteria on choosing (and hopefully successful in being admitted to) a PhD program in the US.
    Thank you so much,
    Vu

    ------------------------------
    Vu Tran-Thanh
    Viet Nam
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 17 days ago
    Edited by Baiba Sedriks 10 days ago

    Hello Vu!

    Welcome to the headache of choosing a school. While rankings are important, just as important is the person who will be your adviser during your PhD program, for this person will help you get grants, fellowships, research teaching positions, and ultimately a job post graduation. So, I would narrow your list of schools (start with what you have) and look into their programs (exactly) and their teaching faculty. Just because a school has a high ranking doesn't mean that their school of ed is the best or that they have the capability to guide you in what you want to study. I teach at the University of Kansas, for example. We have an excellent School of Ed, but it is known for its special education programming first and foremost. 

    I wish you much success. I'm sorry I can't be of more help. Trying to google is like going down a rabbit hole. So, again, look at what you have and start narrowing your search from there. 

    BEST OF LUCK!

     

    Baiba




  • 3.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 13 days ago
    Hi Biaba,
    Thank you for your information and advice.
    What do you think about the other reasons besides unsuitability on which schools base to reject an applicant? Many people told me that this is also an important feature as universities usually receive many more applications that they can handle.
    Best,
    Vu

    ------------------------------
    Vu Tran-Thanh
    Viet Nam
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 13 days ago
    Hey Vu,

    Reasons to reject an application (besides unsuitability):

    - Poorly designed research proposal
    - Language (grammar) issues
    - Lack of funding
    - Disjointed/Unclear/Unfocused application
    - Application is too long
    - Not providing all required documents in application
    - Lack of foundation (this is particular to me - as my Masters is Medieval English Literatures, getting into a PhD in Education program is a challenge)
    - Not meeting language requirements for non-Native English speakers (TOEFL/IELTS)
    - In the US, GRE scores can have an impact on this
    - CGPA for Masters Degree
    - Type of Masters degree vs. the PhD program requirements
    - Limited space with better applicants

    Those are off the top of my head.

    Cheers,
    Rob

    ------------------------------
    Mr. Robin Dahling
    Lecturer, English Language Teaching Unit
    The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)
    Sha Tin, New Territories
    Hong Kong
    Phone: (852) 3943 5941
    Email: Robin.Dahling@cuhk.edu.hk
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 11 days ago
    I'd like to add a perspective to this discussion--from the side of the PhD admissions committee. We receive far more applications from highly qualified applicants than we can offer spaces in our program, so it's important to understand that sometimes it's not you, it's us. What I mean is that even the top scoring applicant who has publications and teaching experience and is clearly active in their field might not want to study something the professors in our department can support, based on their areas of expertise. Sometimes it's because the professor with whom you want to work does not want to take any new PhD students at the moment (advising PhD students is a lot of work), or because that person is planning to retire soon.

    Our admissions process works like this: first, a committee reviews all the applications and removes the ones that don't meet our minimum standards (such as not already holding an MA degree or wanting to study something outside what our department teaches). The committee then sends the applications to specific professors who might work with each applicant (so I would see applications related to language teacher education and qualitative studies of L2 writing, but not those related to language testing or quantitative studies of listening and speaking); each professor decides which of that group they would be interested in working with (sometimes just because someone mentions writing, they want to study writing in a way that I can't really help with). The committee then sets up video interviews with all the applicants the professors would be interested in (usually a pool of about 15 applications); during the interviews, the committee asks questions about what the applicant's interests and goals are, and applicants get to ask questions about the program. After all the interviews, then the committee has to rank all the interviewed applicants and decide which 4-5 to offer admissions to. Sometimes, some of the top ranked candidates decides to go somewhere else, so the committee can offer admission to the candidates farther down the list.

    Different PhD programs have slightly different processes for admissions, but there's always consideration of the applicant's fit with the department and with a specific advisor. I highly recommend contacting the professors you might want to work with at each university you want to apply to so that you can get a sense of whether they are taking new students and whether you would be able to do the research you want to do with that person as your advisor. I often video conference with potential applicants long before they send in their application, since I can suggest a colleague or other institutions if I realize they wouldn't be a good fit to work with me. Remember, if you wait until after you submit your applications to check, you might lose hundreds of dollars in application fees.

    So keep Robin's list in mind in terms of making sure YOU are prepared, but then also be aware that no matter how well qualified you are, the specific department might not be the right place for you at this moment.

    Good luck with your applications!

    Betsy

    ------------------------------
    Betsy Gilliland
    Associate Professor
    University of Hawai'i Manoa
    Chair, TESOL Second Language Writing Interest Section (2019-2020)
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 10 days ago
    Hi Betsy,

    Thanks so much for that - I don't know about Vu, but the insight into the flip side is always helpful, so thanks a heap for that detailed input. Very useful.

    Cheers,
    Rob

    PS: I'm looking for a supervisor for my PhD project on the outcomes of model writing samples on EFL critical thinking if you're looking for a project (sadly, the lady I wanted to supervise me at McGill passed on two months ago so ... yeah).

    ------------------------------
    Mr. Robin Dahling
    Lecturer, English Language Teaching Unit
    The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)
    Sha Tin, New Territories
    Hong Kong
    Phone: (852) 3943 5941
    Email: Robin.Dahling@cuhk.edu.hk
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 10 days ago
    I agree with most of these posts.  As someone entering my final doctoral year, I would like to mention that your passion might be the best way to choose a university. Look back at the articles that you have read.  What are you interested in researching? At what institution do the professors teach that authored the research you are interested in?  It is much more important to be excited and passionate about your study and have a committee willing to support and encourage you for three-five years than go to a world-class university and do something you have no interest in doing.

    ------------------------------
    Ann Bouma
    Programs in English as a Second Language
    College of Arts and Sciences
    University of Nebraska–Lincoln
    518F East Nebraska Hall 68588-0507
    USA
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted yesterday
    Hi Ann
    Thank you so much for your advice.

    ------------------------------
    Vu Tran-Thanh, M.Ed.
    thanhvu0304@gmail.com
    Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 10 days ago
    As someone who is considering further education, (EdM or PhD), I just want to say thanks. This has been very insightful!
    Best wishes to all

    ------------------------------
    Elizabeth Schade
    AEIS Co-Chair 2019-2020
    Adult Learning Center Hub Manager
    New York Public Library
    elizabethschade@nypl.org
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 10 days ago
    Aloha, Rob,

    I'd be happy to chat more about your research interests and potential PhD projects. Check out our department and the admissions requirements: https://www.hawaii.edu/sls/graduate/phd/ I know you said your MA is not in something related to language learning, so it's also possible you might want to do our advanced graduate certificate first (https://www.hawaii.edu/sls/graduate/agc/) in order to get some foundations in language development/acquisition. For our PhD, we offer admitted students funding packages; the AGC does not allow us to do that, so it would have to be paid out of personal funds or loans.

    Let me know if you want to talk more--my email is egillila@hawaii.edu

    Betsy Gilliland





  • 11.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted yesterday
    Hi Besty,
    Thank you very much for the information from the other side of the process.
    Is it true that applicants are also ranked according to their GRE, IELTS, TOEFL and the quality of the personal statement?
     Vu

    ------------------------------
    Vu Tran-Thanh, M.Ed.
    thanhvu0304@gmail.com
    Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted yesterday
    Dear Vu,

    How a department ranks applicants depends on that department's priorities.

    At UH, we do take standardized tests scores into account, but are much more concerned with the quality of the statement of purpose (note that this is different from a research proposal--at least in our department, as in most US universities, we don't expect applicants to come in with a clearly developed proposal yet as we want you to first take courses in theory and methodology before doing the final research project) and the recommendation letters. Our ranking is holistic, so someone with lower test scores might still rank high if they have a lot of other qualities, such as multiple publications or two masters degrees, whereas someone with high test scores but very little else would most likely rank quite low.

    Other PhD programs don't require applicants to hold a masters, so they may have different expectations or priorities for admission.

    Betsy





  • 13.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 17 days ago
    Hello, Vu!

    You have done some great thinking about your options, and I agree with what has been said. Don't worry so much about rank. I would look at the research of various scholars whose interests most closely match your own, find out where they work, and email them and begin a conversation. Those are people you can learn much from, where interests and passions are aligned. It takes a lot of passion and a burning question to follow through on a dissertation and the requisite study, research and writing to come. Efficacy in professional development can cross sectors, so you may want to explore strong schools of education and education leadership to determine the best fit for you. For example, I enjoyed Organizational Development studies during my own Ph.D. journey, and it added a lot to my understanding and capabilities as a leader.

    Thanks for reaching out! You are not alone out here. Wishing you all the best on your journey!

    Linda

    ------------------------------
    Linda F. Jacobsen, PhD
    K-12 ESL Teacher
    Riverview Gardens School District
    St. Louis, Missouri, USA
    ljacobsen@rgsd.k12.mo.us
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 13 days ago
    Hi Linda!
    Thank you very much for your advice. It is great if I can find a place where my interest is aligned with one/some of the faculty members there. What do you think are the other criteria? One professor from the University of Florida advised me that high score in GRE and IELTS also plays a vital role in admission.
    Hope to hear from you soon!
    Vu

    ------------------------------
    Vu Tran-Thanh
    Viet Nam
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 17 days ago

    I want to add to what Baiba Šedriks said. The faculty you'll be working with is most important. Who has written about "teacher professional development?" Who has experience in working in international universities?



    ------------------------------
    Kitty Purgason
    Biola University
    ------------------------------



  • 16.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 13 days ago
    Hi Kitty,
    Thank you very much!

    ------------------------------
    Vu Tran-Thanh
    Viet Nam
    ------------------------------



  • 17.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 17 days ago
    Edited by Robin Dahling 17 days ago
    Hello Vu,

    In addition to what others say, you need to be careful when viewing rankings as these tend to be "general" rankings, not necessarily program specific. Take me for example - I did my Masters in Medieval English Literatures at The University of York in the UK, which is generally ranked around 148 in the world (according to QS rankings), but is roundly considered #1/#2 in the field of Medieval Studies (The University of Toronto is the other top one, and depending on the year, they alternate). The point is, an education program can be ranked higher (or lower) than a given University's general ranking, so do keep that in mind.

    Second, rankings vary from source to source, and aren't necessarily legitimate. There are so many sources that provide rankings for Universities and their criteria depend on their interpretation of different content. Having taught in China for as long as I have, I cringe when I see Chinese Universities in the upper echelon (notably Peking University, where their "English" program is generally taught/discussed in Chinese, not English) because anyone attending a Chinese University is essentially guaranteed a passing mark and a degree just for enrolling​ because of the unwritten no-fail policy that exists there (and ranking bodies may not be aware of or factor in these cultural elements).

    Third, you should keep in mind where you want to work as well - for example, if you want to work in China, then graduating from a top 100 University would be better for you as it has an impact on perceptions, but also foreign expert classification (so if you wish to be international, then you may want to look at the sort of places you'd want to teach at and what sort of qualifications make them buzz with anticipation).

    Fourth, I am going to tell you what I tell all my students - applying to lower ranking schools to give yourself a better opportunity is bollocks - you apply to top programs as well - it's their job to reject you, not yours, so make them do their job.

    Finally, I would recommend that along with US Universities, you consider the following Canadian:

    - The University of Toronto
    - McGill
    - The University of British Columbia (UBC).

    All three have top world rankings and all have strong education programs. For McGill, you need to make contact with a supervisor in advance - I suggest you reach out to Caroline Riches or Jim Howden (both are interested in professional development and teacher education) to discuss your project with them and see if they'd be willing to supervise you. The same principle is in place in Stanford in the US (connect with a supervisor and then apply), but not so much at Columbia.

    Best of luck - I'm hoping to get into McGill myself for next year, so if you apply there and we both get accepted, we can do our PhDs together! :-)

    Cheers,
    Rob

    ------------------------------
    Mr. Robin Dahling
    Lecturer, English Language Teaching Unit
    The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)
    Sha Tin, New Territories
    Hong Kong
    Phone: (852) 3943 5941
    Email: Robin.Dahling@cuhk.edu.hk
    ------------------------------



  • 18.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 13 days ago
    Hello Robin!
    Thank you very much for your precious and detailed advice. I will surely consider all the points that you mentioned.
    There is one thing that I have kept in my mind for long. I was once rejected by a Canadian university because I did a Masters by coursework (without a dissertation). I wonder whether this is a norm in Canada or it varies from one to another.
    One other question is about the possibility of getting funding or assistantship at Canadian institutions.
    Hope to hear from you again.
    Vu

    P.S. I also hope to meet you at McGill if we both get admitted.

    ------------------------------
    Vu Tran-Thanh
    Viet Nam
    ------------------------------



  • 19.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 13 days ago
    Hello Vu,

    I cannot say whether this is the norm actually - which University did you apply to? My suggestion would be to get in touch with the various Universities and ask them directly if this will be an issue and if so, how can you remedy it in advance of applying to the program.

    As far as funding goes - if you have a solid research proposal that is of interest, you will likely be able to obtain direct funding, but Canada also has generous scholarship and bursary programs and you just need to learn to navigate the systems - open bursaries (those provided from organizations outside the University) can be time consuming but fiscally rewarding (the thing is they are smaller amounts of money which requires a greater number of applications, which means more time, but once you learn the ropes, you can do them very quickly later). Bursaries are often in amounts of $100, $250, $500, $1000, $1500, or $2500 (those are the most common amounts I've seen), but again, it adds up.

    You can check out Scholarship opportunities at Scholarships Canada, Scholarship Portal, and Find My Scholarships. There is also the Study in Canada website that allows you to search for awards based on type and University. These are just a handful of sites, and Universities themselves often have links in their Financial Aid webpages.

    Hope this is helpful.

    Cheers,
    Rob

    ------------------------------
    Mr. Robin Dahling
    Lecturer, English Language Teaching Unit
    The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)
    Sha Tin, New Territories
    Hong Kong
    Phone: (852) 3943 5941
    Email: Robin.Dahling@cuhk.edu.hk
    ------------------------------



  • 20.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 16 days ago
    Hi Vu,

    I did a global search a few years ago and ended up with my first choice: Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). They have an outstanding PhD program in Composition and Applied Linguistics. For me, just completed year two, it's perfect. I also agree with what others have said about reading the teacher statements on the program websites. I narrowed my search down to three based on the teacher statements and a few other things. Gloria Park, the Director of the program, has a background in teacher training; I recommend you reach out to her. Chapman University, my second choice, has a great PhD program in Education, but I chose IUP because the Composition and Applied Linguistics specialty aligned better with my TESOL/Comp background/interest.

    It's an adventurous journey but worth it.

    ------------------------------
    Debbie Goss
    ------------------------------



  • 21.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 15 days ago
    Greetings from South Texas.

    Undoubtedly, by virtue of your likely academic prowess, you can choose any doctoral program. You may wish to find a program with a famous name &/or in a big city. Or, you might consider somewhere out if the ordinary: Kingsville, Texas.

    Texas A&M University is located just 120 miles north of the TX-MX border, yet 220 miles from Houston, where the 3rd most common first language is Vietnamese. TAMUK offers an EDD in Bilingual Education, and the opportunities for assistantships are great. You can design your focus however you wish, & you will have support and encouragement.

    Check out: www.tamuk.edu then academics... EDBL. I have several colleagues/friends who can discuss the possibilities. And the cost of living is much less here. People are down to earth and friendly.

    All the best from an EDBL student who has taken a sabbatical (halfway through the program) but still interested.

    My email is
    elizabeth.laurence@hotmail.com

    All the best & good luck in your endeavors!

    Elizabeth Laurence, MA
    TESOL



    Sent from my iPhone




  • 22.  RE: Choosing a PhD program in Teacher Education in the US

    Posted 12 days ago
    Vu, in addition to what everybody else has said, it might be good to visit the American Center (under US Embassy) in your country for additional advice, resources, and tips re studies in the US.

    ------------------------------
    Gabriela Kleckova
    University of West Bohemia
    Plzen, Czech Republic
    ------------------------------