New PhD Track Offered by HSE Doctoral School of Education Will Measure 21st Century Skills
A new English-taught PhD track in Educational Measurement and Testing has been launched by the HSE Institute of Education. It is the only programme of its kind in Russia and most European countries. International students can apply for Russian government full-tuition scholarships until March 31, 2018. General application round is from August 1 until September 14.
What is a Track?
Each doctoral school at HSE trains students in broad areas which are split into specialisations (tracks) belonging to a given research topic. According to the traditional doctoral school system, these tracks were decided upon by the Higher Attestation Commission, but now they are determined by the HSE doctoral schools themselves. This change was outlined by Elena Kobzar, Department Head at the Office of Doctoral Studies at HSE.
In order to launch a new track at a doctoral school it is necessary to have more than one professor working in this particular field. Of course, the academic supervisors continue to work with the students as before, but there are other researchers who are also involved in the work.
Measuring the Immeasurable
The track ‘Educational Measurement and Testing’ at the Doctoral School of Education appeared rather by accident. For several years, the Master's programme ‘Measurements in Psychology and Education’ has been offered at HSE, and a pool of researchers in this field has been formed. Measurements in education are becoming more and more important. In Russia, monitoring tools are continually being developed for school students, as well as subject Olympiads. In addition, Russia is participating in various comparative international studies (PISA, TIMSS, PIRLS, iPIPS). ‘The education system needs specialists who can develop sound tools and scientifically prove their quality. They need to be able to understand the context of education and analyze the data obtained in these studies. The knowledge and skills that can be obtained in our programme are applicable not only in education, but also in other spheres, for example, in HR and psychology,’ says Tatjana Kanonire, Assistant Professor at HSE’s Institute of Education and co-head of the new programme.
‘Experts do not have sufficient knowledge of the school subjects in order to correctly design questions for tests or examinations,’ explains Tatjana Kanonire. For example, the complexity of a mathematics question may be greater due to the volume of text, or the confusing way in which it is presented. ‘In this case, we don’t know what we really measured: whether it was mathematics skills or reading skills,’ she explains. ‘Sometimes the question is put together in such a way that it favours a certain group and disadvantages another. Here, knowledge of psychometrics is very useful. This helps us to guarantee the quality of tools of measurement, as well as to identify any problems with each individual question.’
Although the traditional question forms tend to be fair, they are not always suited to modern conditions, explains the programme co-head. In education, there is a growing need to measure complex constructs, for example, skills of the 21st
century such as creativity and communicative ability. IT technologies help to measure what was once immeasurable. They have enabled adaptive testing using computers and have created ways to design questions in the form of games or scenarios. ‘In developing such questions, a psychometric specialist becomes a play-wright or movie director,’ says Tatjana Kanonire.
Who is the Track Intended For?
The track, ‘Educational Measurement and Testing’ is intended for university graduates with a wide range of experience and backgrounds, for example, psychology, pedagogy, economics, sociology and statistics. The programme is designed to give students the opportunity to apply their diverse professional experience and knowledge, explains Tatjana Kanonire. As it is an international programme, they also need to have a good command of English.
Entrance examinations are held according to criteria set by the Doctoral School of Education. ‘The only difference is that we expect students applying for this track to write a letter of motivation and explain their motivations as related to their research proposal,’ says the co-head of the programme.
Backed by the World Bank's Russian Education Aid for Development, the doctoral programme was developed jointly with Boston College Lynch School of Education (USA). Professors Larry Ludlow, Michael Russell and Laura O'Dwyer helped to create a unique curriculum, according to Tatjana Kanonire.
‘Based on their advice, we decided to abandon the usual format, and all the educational material was organized in four thematic blocks: Research methodology and basic statistics, In-depth statistics, Development of tools and Advanced psychometrics,’ she says. ‘This format helps us to see the full picture when it comes to the development of evaluation tools. Our students will be able to work with colleagues from the US, as well as with other renowned psychometric researchers from across the world, as part of our programme.’
PhD or Candidate of Sciences?
The HSE has recently adopted a new system of awarding academic degrees. They will be recognized by the state and do not require further validation by other bodies. However, graduates of the IOE Doctoral School of Education will be able to choose how to defend their thesis- either in the traditional way, with the Higher Attestation Commission (the joint dissertation council at HSE and Herzen University continues to operate) – and receive a traditional Russian Candidate of Sciences degree, or with a dissertation council at the HSE.
‘There are no restrictions, but the second option is the better one’, says Tatjana Kanonire. ‘The HSE dissertation council is a specially created committee consisting of experts on the thesis topic. Another important advantage is that students can choose to defend several published academic papers on the same topic, instead of preparing a dissertation. Should the student choose our dissertation council, they are eligible to receive a PhD in the field of education, that is, a Philosophy doctor HSE, which adds to their standing in the professional community.’
International students can apply for the programme online.
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Doctoral schools provide an opportunity for international doctoral students to undertake part of their study or research at HSE. The university offers two types of traineeships – research and study. The study stay involves taking courses from the HSE doctoral schools. The research stay offers the opportunity to work with a particular academic advisor or at an international research laboratory or centre; gain access to international full-text and abstract databases, journals and books; and attend graduate seminars.
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Mikhail Matytsin has worked at the Moscow office of the World Bank for three years, and in autumn, he goes to its head office in Washington. For him, it all started from studying poverty and inequality on the HSE doctoral programme. Or perhaps it came even earlier, from his family, where both Mikhail’s grandfather and father were successful scholars and an inspiring example for the researcher.
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