Schooling, Grad vs. Undergrad: An Interpretive Approach

by theadventuresofbeka

The interpretive approach: The idea that there are many subjective external realities influences this type of research. This research oftentimes involves anecdotes, stories, and conversations. This is not hard science, folks.

Translation from my nerd moment: This is my personal experience. I have gone from a B.S. in Biomedical Sciences (with a few art classes and a TEFL certificate) to an M.A. in Applied Linguistics: TESOL. These are the the differences I have noticed since I started grad school two weeks ago.

1. Orientation is no longer about safe drinking, free stuff and getting around campus.

Instead, there is an emphasis on how to graduate and get a job (which is what school is meant for, after all). The assumption is that we’re all adults, capable of making our own decisions and figuring out things like parking. love that I didn’t have to sit through a skit where everybody died of an STD, but I can’t find any of my classes, because I’m too stubborn to get a map and I’ve never been given a tour of the school. Honestly though, I’d be lost even if they did give me a tour.

2. I’m expected to be an independent learner.

I spend 7 1/2 hours a week in class as a full-time graduate student. It is expected that I have already read and understood all material BEFORE I come to class. I am also expected to contribute to discussions and activities, including leading some of them. Unlike my undergrad classes, I no longer take excessive notes in class, because I’ve already taken a ton of notes on the readings.

3. Research is integrated into all of my classes.

This is rather ironic to me. I went from a “real science” to a “fake science”, and in two weeks of grad school, I have read more research papers than I did in my first two years of undergrad classes (this does not include my research lab experience because that wasn’t a class requirement).  I will have read approximately 20 published articles in each of my classes by the end of the semester (I am in 3 classes).

4. My professor is my advisor. 

In my program, the professors split up advising duties. There is no individual who is hired to simply help students graduate and pick a career. Every professor in my department is well-versed in the requirements for graduation. My advisor is actually working in the field that I plan to enter someday and has ample time to meet with me.

5. My classes are directly tied to the real world.

I am learning theory, but my professors are really focused on making that theory relevant to what I’m being trained to do – teach English. One final project requires that I tutor someone and document the process; another requires that I design a teaching approach and syllabus for a “class” of my choice. In the end, a lot of this will go into my portfolio which I can then submit to potential employers.

Overall, it has been a fairly smooth transition. I am enjoying graduate school. I appreciate the relevance of my readings and projects. It helps that my professors are fantastic teachers.