College of Education > News and Publications > 2017: 10-12 news > Dual-title degrees provide students with multiple academic options

Dual-title degrees provide students with multiple academic options

Penn State is attempting to make its mark on what could be a signature program in the College of Education in which dual-title degrees are conferred upon its graduate students.

Penn State is attempting to make its mark on what could be a signature program in the College of Education in which dual-title degrees are conferred upon its graduate students.

The comparative and international education (CIED) program, for example, is a field devoted to the systematic analysis of the operation and effects of the world’s education systems, and the College offers a number of programs under that umbrella.

And while that program is well-established, another is in the works as the College is venturing into the realm of dual-title degrees in the Learning Sciences, which may be next to offer students the capability to graduate with two separate but related degrees. 

“The difference with the dual title is that there’s one main program; this is not stand-alone, and it’s added onto a major program and both of them appear on your diploma,” said Stephanie Knight, who served as associate dean in the College of Education since 2013 before departing Aug. 1 to become dean of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

“If we were doing this for the Learning Sciences, the programs that felt like this would be compatible,” Knight said. “We’ve pinpointed educational psychology, learning design and technology, science education and math education … the major programs that the Learning Sciences degree would be added to, but you couldn’t get a degree just in Learning Sciences.”

Pursuing a dual-title program in CIED offers a student an opportunity to earn a degree in CIED with a chance to pair it with majors such as higher education, educational leadership, educational theory and policy and curriculum and instruction as well as school psychology, educational psychology and counselor education. Also included are special education; adult education; learning, design and technology; workforce education and development; agricultural and extension education; and entomology.

Knight said the interdisciplinary approach is attractive to prospective graduate students. “That’s valuable in doing cutting-edge research, and it also makes them more marketable as far as positions because they’re able to do what would be traditionally their major program but also this overlay of an additional area that they have expertise in,” she said. 

Knight stressed that the CIED dual-title degree provides a student with global expertise that he or she might not get in an educational theory and policy doctorate. “What it does is provide evidence of the expertise globally that would be desirable if you were doing any kind of international work,” she said.

That can translate to a successful job search. “Yes, because it extends your expertise and makes a person more flexible in what they can teach and how they can collaborate with other researchers,” Knight said. “It builds in an interdisciplinary approach to what they’re doing that is highly desirable today.

“We’ve decided what we know from new approaches to learning that we can’t look at these subject areas in isolation. The interface is what is most interesting to people.”

Part of the inquiry about the Learning Sciences approach is how digital media can be used to create environments conducive to learning in a particular area, or what the best instructional strategies are for students learning complex science concepts.

“There’s a focus on assessment and how technology can provide assessment that enables us not just to do the summative kind of evaluation but can help us with instruction and zero in on what kind of instruction someone needs to bring them to the next level,” Knight said.

“It’s more precise and there are many assessment programs that have been developed that are not assessing what you know, they’re assessing what you could do with a little additional scaffolding or instruction. Then you can provide that or more precisely move people to higher levels of understanding than was possible with the kind of blanket, standardized assessment that has typically been done; it’s tailored to individuals.”

Overall, Knight said, the dual-focus approach is expanding. “I think this could be a signature program for Penn State that brings together a number of collaborators,” she said. “The field is still young and we can make our mark very early and become known for it.”

By Jim Carlson (October 2017)