Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Demands Heavy on Doctoral Students UNF Professor Strict on Attendance

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Demands Heavy on Doctoral Students UNF Professor Strict on Attendance

Article excerpt

Doctoral candidates are not timid.

When a professor at the University of North Florida set a high standard for student attendance in his required course -- a maximum of two missed classes -- the dean of the College of Education started hearing the complaints.

As it turned out, the professor wanted only to talk to students after that threshold. And no student was on the cusp. But the reaction reflects the dynamic of the doctoral program, where students are working professionals faced with demands from all sides, and where discussions, not lectures, dominate class time.

Two missed classes may have been a bit stringent, said College of Education Dean Kathy Kasten, but the bottom line is the course requirements are set by the professors. The philosophy of the program, she said: "We will make reasonable accommodations for working professionals. But we also expect people to come to class."

Jon Wiles, the professor whose policy was questioned, said last week he understands the pressures students encounter. But in his doctoral class -- The Study of Change -- students will learn as much from discussions with classmates as from his expertise, Wiles said.

"I am an author of 15 textbooks," Wiles said. "You can say, `Here, read all of these textbooks,' or [we can talk about], `In a school system, how does this work?"'

The program in educational leadership, UNF's only doctoral degree, is a pipeline for professional advancement for career educators. But it is not a simple progression.

Since the first class of 19 entered in 1990, 45 people have graduated, university records show.

Another 92 are trying to complete the degree, many of them enrolled in courses that meet for six hours on alternate Saturdays, and for a shorter time each Thursday night. Students are accepted once a year, and join a cohort to progress through the coursework together.

The conflict between attendance and family and work commitments, is real, said many current and former students. But the rigor is what makes the degree worthwhile, they say.

Linda Sparks, chairwoman of the Duval County School Board, entered the program two months ago and already has missed one of her classes. …

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