It has been a really long time since I last posted, but I do want to become more consistent with it.
The beginning of this semester marked some changes for me. I recognized that working with my current advisor was a bad decision.This also meant that I would need to change the concentration of my degree. However, when I came to the decision that if I remained where I was the degree might have my concentration's name on it, but I would not have truly learned anything. That's is absolutely not why I came back to school.
My decision to make this change was in part due to the lack of satisfaction I had with the courses taught in my concentration. Books were reassigned in different classes, and I did not feel we were focusing on key texts in International and Comparative Education. I was not learning anything about the education in other countries, at least not to the extent that I had expected to. In addition, the opportunity to give honest feedback about the courses was taken away by the instructor with the knowledge we had that our evaluations were not confidential (we believe she was looking at them before they were turned into to the department and we were told by her to give her a good evaluation because she wanted to teach the class again. Regardless of whether or not she actually looked at the evaluations, we all had the belief that we could not respond honestly. Apparently, this has been the case for several years. Thus, courses taught previously continue to be taught below (my) standard.
In addition, as our advisors courses suffer from low enrollment, some students were asked to re register and retake courses they have already taken or take an independent study with my advisor and sit in her class again (so at least it looks like there are more people in her classes). I did not want to face this kind of problem in my future either. My advisor had asked me to be a TA for one of her classes, and then because of low enrollment to also be a student in the class (with what I did for a course grade to be negotiated later). I was bothered by this concept.... How can I be assisting with the teaching of a course while at the same time be a student. I see these as very conflicting roles. I need to be one or the other.
Finally, I was under great pressure to take my qualifying exams next semester (given that you are supposed to finish coursework before taking qualifying exams, this did not make any sense to me). I resisted, but was often asked to take them. I was told that I was ready to take them and that I should take them. I said I wanted to finish my coursework first, but even after I switched advisors (and before my previous advisor found out) I was still being asked to take the QE.
For these reasons and the belief that 80% of the rumor you hear is true, I decided that continuing to work with this advisor for the next 4-6 years would be a mistake. I probably would have quit the program. So I made a decision to change. Making the change involved (but did not require) making a formal complaint to the Department. I was not the only student to do this and there were a few others who changed at the same time with me. The department had been very supportive of the students who had the problem with the instructor. Thus far, our complaints did result in the instructor returning our papers to us with feedback. It was so strange to get them. One student commented that she had not got any feedback for 3 years. Unfortunately, most of the feedback was glowingly positive, and I felt that I wanted to have more harsh criticism. The previous comment I had got from her was that my papers were too long, and yet this was not mentioned again nor did she mention what I should cut out of the papers.
It was a big struggle with figuring out what I should do, but I after I came to realize that a change was necessary, it made the task easier. I would not have changed if I was happy with my program, but I am not unhappy with the change I made. Now I am in Sociology of Education. It matches my background quite well. I really like the two instructors who teach courses in this area and they are very good. They have great classes and they do great work. I am happy to be working under them, and I think I will learn much from that experience.