For those of you who are new here, the hidden curriculum includes a set of things we’re expected to know how to do, from attending a conference for the first time to applying for funding to going on the job market, without actually being taught them. This month I’m talking the dissertation prospectus: what it is and how to write it.
Congratulations, you’re a PhD candidate! You might be either celebrating the fact that you are done with exams and coursework or tentatively wondering, “Now what?” (Or both.)
While you are definitely free from the constraints of courses and teaching, there still remains one final hurdle before you’re really free (aka ABD): the dissertation prospectus. In this post, I offer some general guidance for navigating this onerous and often inadequately explained requirement.
As with everything, the timeline for writing and submitting the dissertation prospectus may vary somewhat from department to department. However, in general, there are certain steps that you usually must follow before officially changing your email signature to include “ABD” (all but dissertation).
These steps are, roughly:
Assemble dissertation committee, including deciding on a chair or co-chairs, and submit through appropriate channels
Consult with committee members about dissertation topic and possible approaches
Draft dissertation prospectus
Defend prospectus (aka meet with your committee members to discuss your draft)
Complete revisions and submit prospectus to department for final approval
This post focuses primarily on writing the prospectus. If you want to know more about how to approach other steps in this process – such as how to choose who’s on your committee or how to prepare for and what to expect at a defense – let me know!
I have talked about antiracist teaching on here in the past. This week I want to delve deeper into why I think antiracist pedagogy (ARP) is important and some ways that we can implement it in our classrooms.
I’ve always been skeptical of diversity and inclusion initiatives that include offering more courses that might ‘appeal’ to people of color and draw them in. This manifests as offering or amplifying existing courses on ‘race and ethnicity,’ on ‘slavery in the ancient world,’ and on the relationship between ‘barbarians’ and Greeks and/or Romans.
In the absence of more structural reforms, I have always viewed such an approach as a trap.
Courses on these topics are absolutely necessary (although certain choices in vocabulary are not) for exposing students to alternate perspectives, ones which both challenge and complement dominant narratives about the ancient world. Without such perspectives, our understanding of the ancient world would be incomplete.
However, when implemented poorly, these courses reflect a persistent two-part illusion.
Something that I’ve found interesting is thinking about how common or popular techniques in academia can be applied to anti-racist pedagogy. In particular, I did this a few months ago when I talked about doing anti-racism work the SMART way. More recently, I read James Lang’s book Small Teaching.
While I found the book generally helpful and well-written, I found myself asking how could small teaching contribute to anti-racist pedagogy?
Every instructor, at one point or another, is faced with deciding how to deal with difficult subject matter and moments in the classroom. Ideally, such decisions should be made before anything difficult comes up, but often this is not the case.
For some, dealing with difficult topics and moments – including racism – in the classroom can seem like a Herculean task. Being expected to know when and how to intervene in such situations is a lot of pressure, especially when you’re faced with them for the first time. Plus, it can be emotionally and mentally draining for both you and your students, depending on your positionality in relation to the topic.
So, it should come as no surprise that often, when we’re asked to make changes to the way we teach, we don’t follow through. We are turned off by the idea of some great upheaval in the way we’ve always done things because it seems like such an onerous, time- and energy-consuming task.
I can guarantee that this is one of the driving factors in many instructors’ hesitation to actively reflect and adapt in the face of recent calls for more anti-racist curricula.
If there’s anything you know about me, it’s that I’m always thinking about teaching. It’s a wonder that this entire blog isn’t dedicated to the subject.
But since it’s August (!) and a new school year is suddenly right around the corner (!!) I figured now was the perfect time to share some thoughts about teaching.
Over the last year there have been tons of resources created and shared relating to pedagogy, including this recent workshop organized by the Women’s Classical Caucus. Many of these aimed to remedy the fact that pedagogical training is severely lacking in Classics, and provide support to instructors at all levels and stages in their teaching careers.
What all of these workshops and resources have taught me, at least, is just how much I was missing when I first started teaching. Here are just a few things I wish I’d known way back then.
Expecting ourselves and others to continue working as normal – and sometimes even harder than normal – is not only unrealistic, it’s unsustainable. It’s downright cruel. It’s the definition of toxic productivity.
Who is the work you’re doing for?
Is the work you’re doing (or that you’re asking others to do) really so important that it’s worth sacrificing your mental health and overall wellbeing? (Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka would say no, it isn’t.)
For those of you who are new here, the hidden curriculum includes a set of things we’re expected to know how to do, from attending a conference for the first time to applying for funding to going on the job market, without actually being taught them. This month I’m talking professional development and why it’s so important, especially for grad students.
Professional development and academics have always been at odds.
Either you write your thesis or you take workshops and courses that make you a better job candidate.
Either you spend your summer working on a field project or you participate in an internship that gives you first-hand experience in the field you want to work in.
But you can never do both. Or so it seems.
The truth is that you can and shouldbe able to do both. But there are structural constraints which make it difficult.
The hidden curriculum series is back! For those of you who are new here, the hidden curriculum includes a set of things we’re expected to know how to do, from attending a conference for the first time to applying for funding to going on the job market, without actually being taught them. Since I signed up for a Dissertation ECoach last term, I thought I’d share a few tips that I found most helpful from it.
Dissertation ECoach – What is it?
The Dissertation ECoach is an interactive digital messaging tool that draws on dissertation writing strategies to affect graduate students’ writing practice. It was developed by several teaching and writing centers at the University of Michigan, and ran weekly for the duration of the Winter term (Jan-Apr).
Through the ECoach portal, graduate students who are starting to write their dissertation receive personalized messages that influence a positive writing process. The personalized feedback that students receive helps them engage with more effective writing practices.
This morning I participated in a plenary session for a workshop on anti-racist and decolonial curricula in archaeology hosted by the Columbia Center for Archaeology. In my talk, I framed the topic of anti-racist curricula in terms of mentorship, and the ways in which good mentorship could help alleviate the pressures placed on first-gen, marginalized, and underrepresented students in Classical Studies and archaeology by the hidden curriculum.
The Hidden Curriculum
The hidden curriculum is a set of skills or norms that individuals are expected to know, particularly in academia, without being formally taught them.
On this blog, I have taken a particular interest in the hidden curriculum, and have made several blog posts illuminating different aspects of it.
Skills and norms which are part of the hidden curriculum include:
What to wear and how to act when attending a conference
How to interview for a (usually academic) job
These range from seemingly simple skills to more complex ones. However, our assumptions about individuals’ knowledge of these skills and norms disproportionately harm students from marginalized backgrounds. These students feel they must put in twice the work to keep up with their peers.
Here are some ways that we can better support students throughout their academic careers.
It should be unsurprising to anyone who knows me when I say that fieldwork plays a big role in my success as an academic. This is because I’m an archaeologist who specializes in ancient Greece. My fieldwork requires me to travel abroad for several weeks to months at a time each year, usually in the summer.
I am very sad that I haven’t gone to Greece in nearly two years. The reluctance of some of my colleagues to cancel field projects and research trips in light of the ever-changing COVID situation has also been surprising.
I get it, I do. The last year was a total setback for many archaeological projects, including my own. My dissertation has taken a new path thanks to the fact that I couldn’t do fieldwork last summer, despite my best laid plans.
But is getting that dissertation done or that excavation going more important than the lives of the people who live in your destination country?
The answer should be simple: no, it’s not.
The challenges to admitting this are many. It’s no secret that many programs and departments have grappled with how to deal with funding and time to degree for those of us whose research got derailed by the pandemic.
Some places, such as at Michigan, have found ways to support students needing extra time to finish, which lessens the burden on students scrambling to secure support elsewhere. However, I know this isn’t the case everywhere.
The concept of the “hidden curriculum” isn’t new. However, it becomes more and more problematic everyday. The hidden curriculum includes a set of things we’re expected to know how to do, from attending a conference for the first time to applying for funding to going on the job market, without actually being taught them (this handout by Amy Pistone lays out several of these).
As a first generation, Black graduate student, I think about the things I was never taught how to do a lot. This is because they’ve come up frequently in my academic journey and because they aren’t exactly things that I could’ve learned growing up.
After several months of obsessing over funding applications, I thought that sharing some tips for applying for funding would be a good place to start. It’s actually amazing how I’ve made it this far in my academic career without ever being taught how to do this.
Here are just a few pointers for those of you embarking on the harrowing journey of completing funding applications for the first time. It might be helpful for some of the more seasoned of you, too, since I feel like I’m learning new strategies every time funding season rolls back around.