Academic journal article Education

A History of the Doctor of Arts Tradition in American Higher Education

Academic journal article Education

A History of the Doctor of Arts Tradition in American Higher Education

Article excerpt

The D.A. Degree: Advent of Interdisciplinary College Pedagogical Scholarship

Astonishingly, few academicians in American higher education are aware of a rich historical tradition of doctoral preparation of college teachers. The doctoral preparation of college teachers, with expertise in interdisciplinarity, is one of the truly unique contributions of the American academy to the international scholarly community. Yet, this important development in the history of higher education is more often than not an ignored fact or simply a silent phenomenon due to lack of information. This study addresses this deficiency of knowledge, within the context of college teaching as a profession, by presenting the history and philosophical foundations of the Doctor of Arts degree, "the college teaching doctorate."

In 1932, the Association of American Universities developed a proposal to initiate the Doctor of Arts degree with the primary objective to educate college teachers. The result of this proposal was thirty-years of intensive research regarding the curriculum for a college teaching preparation program. By the 1960s the blueprint for an interdisciplinary college teaching doctorate gained national academic approval and became a reality (Eastman 1970, Glazer 1993).

The Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching in Higher Education and Carnegie Mellon University collaborated on implementing the Doctor of Arts (D.A.) degree concept. The Endorsements by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and the National Faculty Association of Community and Junior Colleges soon followed. Throughout the late 1960s and into the 1970s the number of D.A granting institutions grew rapidly. The focus on interdisciplinary and content-based pedagogy was the cornerstone, in varied configurations, of all the degree programs (Paolucci 1993, Pulling 1989, White 1994).

At its zenith, the Doctor of Arts degree was offered in forty-four interdisciplinary fields at a total of thirty-one institutions of higher education. In a brief fifteen-year period, over 1,943 Doctor of Arts degrees were awarded. However, in recent years, some institutions have chosen to terminate their Doctor of Arts programs, most frequently citing waning funds for graduate programs, declining academic job market, and the growing emphasis on pedagogy in traditional research oriented Ph.D. programs as the cause. Strong D.A. programs remain vibrant with their unique doctoral interdisciplinary and pedagogical preparation. Many D.A scholars have achieved recognition in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and education (Glazer 1993).

The development of the Doctor of Arts degree has had an important impact on the direction of higher education's postmodern culture. Interdisciplinary research and pedagogical scholarship, once, solely distinctive to the Doctor of Arts degree, are now an academic priority nationally as Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree programs are being re-defined in this context. However, proponents of the D.A. argue that the D.A. degree, due to its interdisciplinarity and teaching concentration, is a distinctly differentiated agenda from all other American doctoral degree agendas. Therefore, the Doctor of Arts is likely to be the appropriate degree option for aspiring academicians who seek breadth interdisciplinarity scholarship integrated into pedagogical theory and teaching praxis.

Preparing College Level Scholar-teachers

Perhaps due in part to the D.A. experiment, American postmodern scholarship extends beyond highly specialized disciplinary research, strictly scientific discovery, and scholarly activity as an independent endeavor. Modern scholarship traces it's history back to the 17th century and is defined as a strict adherence to objective scientific "discovery" research (Lucas 1998). Postmodernist scholarship is interdisciplinary in scope and constructs "linkages" between the disciplines, scholars, research, field praxis, and teaching (Boyer 1990). …

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