Wednesday, August 07, 2013
The Pros and Cons of Degree Creep
Looking at LMI, I have a feeling my region is not alone when we look at RN degree output vs. demand as in this recent EMSI report: http://www.economicmodeling.com/2013/07/31/in-the-spotlight-higher-ed-degree-output-by-field-and-metro/
We were fortunate in my state a few years ago to have training funds for RNs when the shortage seemed critical, but perhaps we went overboard and enticed many into this career pathway who didn't 100% understand what that job entailed. Turnover among new RNs can be a struggle for employers from what I hear, so the BSN might be better suited to existing employees who are ready to take more leadership roles in their current settings.
With demographics though, it does make sense that those resumes may be dusted off after a few years as the aging incumbent RN workforce retires and becomes a part of the ever increasing population who will need RN services. From how I see it in my small corner of the world, we're in a cycle and out of touch with employer/service need pumping out those degrees. If community colleges can help their unemployed and underemployed RNs climb a career ladder and please employers and patients, ready for when that next generation of RNs hit the floor, I'm all for it.
I also live in a health professional shortage area where we are questioning legislatively in many healthcare settings the roles and services that RNs can provide (for less cost as you noted than an MD)...My inclination is to believe that healthcare occupation definitions are going to continue to be in flux as we evolve with the implementation of PPACA, state choices with Medicare expansion, e-med records, etc. As community colleges, our role is to be flexible and responsive to help ensure that the employers, customers, students, and workforce are able to adjust.
As to teachers, we're also undergoing some reforms like many other states across the country. A MA does not produce a good or great teacher, in my opinion. We're looking at performance in new ways every day, and I agree that graduate studies professors in education should be concerned. Perhaps a study has been conducted (where? must be?) variances in student outcomes in K-12 based on teacher qualifications/degrees...Would like to see that before I form an opinion on that one...
I think there is proof that the more BSN nurses a hospital has are positively correlated to better patient outcomes. Why? I haven't read enough studies to know.
As to teachers: I don't know of any studies which show students benefit from teachers having higher degrees. Having been a teacher with a Masters degree, I can say from experience that the graduate courses which I took helped me be a better teacher. I gained more in depth knowledge in methods of teaching and subject matter. I also gained more understanding of psychology and learning theory. I felt this higher education helped me in working with my students to help them achieve success in class subjects.
I think teacher salaries are too easy for state legislatures to keep low since teachers' salaries come from a single pay. In some states, legislatures may use the "show us that we are getting more value from teachers for the money we are paying" argument as a display of fiscal responsibility and not "wasting" taxpayers' money.
Personally, I think teachers are underpaid and providing suitable teaching salaries contributes to excellence in education of students.
is the nursing study mentioned in Anonymous 9:48.
I enclosed the url in brackets and I think the brackets kept the url from being displayed.
Wilson, Floden & Ferrini-Mundi prepared a major report in 2001 (I don't know of any newer work, but I'm willing to be there is) available from the Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy from the University of Washington... They basically found that the only fields that even had studies directly looking at effects of content classes were reading, science and math. Thus, they can only talk about them.
A couple findings:
1) A math major vs. a math ed major doesn't show any benefit. In particular, both have rule-dominated knowledge of the school curriculum and little ability to do anything but present algorithms. A masters degree in mathematics had no value in terms of student achievement or the teacher's ability to present material.
2) In the two correlational studies, researchers contend that education coursework was a better predictor of teaching success than subject matter major or GPA prior to entering the teacher education program.
3) Science courses, past the BS, were positively correlated with increased student scores.
4) A subject-matter or STEM-ed degree was beneficial in comparison to an out-of-field degree in terms of student achievement.
**Also, the IHE piece has no actual research in it and the comments seem to have even less interest. How hard would it be to find just a bit?
Here are a couple of newer studies, but they're not much newer (2003-5):
One from 2010:
It should have said, "no effect in terms of their useful knowledge of the subject for school teaching."
My sister is a BSN nurse who is almost finished with her MSN. She wants to move off the floor and into teaching and having seen her fair share of doctors from intern to resident learning the ropes is...you'd really rather have a nurse work on you. So, I can understand those hospitals that are hiring more nurses and less docs.
If I'm coherent enough when in the hospital, I always ask my nurse if they have a BSN and if not, I talk about their plans for more education. Mostly to promote the great RN to BSN options my state has.
Do RN to BSN programs teach nurses how to find veins better or listen to heart beats better? No. They do teach communication skills and a larger understanding of policy and community health. All of those things do lead to improved patient care.
Nursing programs must adhere to far more demanding guidelines and oversight. And also keep in mind that the roles in nursing (as you noted) are diverse; roles in K-12 teaching vary by age level and by content, but not by the basic approach that is taken. It totally makes sense that some of those nursing roles require more education, especially roles that involve supervision and/or independent practice.
And, as noted above, there is research to support added value for patients if nurses have a BSN.
I'll second DD's comment about the differences being mostly theoretical, since we could convert our AS program to a BS program without having to add any non-nursing classes to our curriculum. We would just have to require higher-level STEM classes that are already in our science curriculum. My conclusion is that selectivity is an important factor in the quality of nursing outcomes.
That mix of results in those ed studies (some of which seem contradictory) probably result from mixing K-8 and secondary ed in the same list. Math Ed (secondary) is pretty solid on the content side. Ed Ed is not and IMO the failure to teach fractions (one prime example) is due to teachers who don't know them very well themselves and who might actually hate math. An Ed masters will not help this problem.
NC might want some administrative input in that process, but failing that, eliminating the extra pay for graduate degrees is a ham-handed way to regain control.
What I strongly suspect is happening in the nursing programs is that the Province would like to be much more reliant on nurses and less on doctors; nurse practitioners are becoming much more popular to "lighten" the workload for doctors. Personally, I think the Province is just kicking the can down the road since labour is being replaced with a cheaper labour, and public sector labour costs seem to invariably increase over time. Be that as it may, there are short and medium-term cost savings to be had by replacing some doctors with nurse practitioners, and that requires more education (or so I'm told).
In my area, degree creep is being helped by lacklustre hiring in the economy. As opposed to a few years ago, there are now numerous applicants for every position, making it easier for employers to not only demand extra education, but experience to boot. That scrutiny places a premium on extra education, so degree creep is boosted.
Ed Ed is not and IMO the failure to teach fractions (one prime example) is due to teachers who don't know them very well themselves and who might actually hate math. An Ed masters will not help this problem.
But, neither will a math major!
I'd suggest that if you were interview a bunch of math majors they'd all have problematic understandings of fractions, maybe the top 10% could talk to you in terms of the language of groups, rings and fields, but I'd rather have elem ed folks take a crap-ton of classes about elementary grades mathematics (just what it is), and how to teach it. But, a math department would (probably) not want to call this a math degree (because we are math snobs), so you're stuck with some sort of Ed degree.
Math Ed (secondary) is pretty solid on the content side.
I agree that they typically take a decent amount of content, but much of it appears to have little value. I would much rather have them take 2 classes where they really explore school mathematics than a semester of abstract algebra. They don't get anything out of algebra... (They assign it to "it doesn't relate to my future work," and treat it as, "pass and forget." Moreover, really, the content is questionably related to the way that 9-12 math treats numbers, polynomials and the like).
I would rather have them spend a lot of time getting smart about functions, quantitative reasoning, and how kids think about those idea than what they do now, many of them don't see logs from the end of the calc sequence til they return to the classroom (except maybe as an isomorphism) and, as a result, have no additional knowledge about them than when they were high school students.
1. The questioning of the masters degree in teaching is not just a USA phenomenon.
Example here, NY Times story from India:
2. Measuring teacher performance based, in part, on test growth in scores (controlled for student demographics) is a fairly new one.
Just a few years old in some districts; still in planning phases in most. Hotly contested, of course. "Stickiness" of this effort remains up for grabs.
The idea of measuring teacher prep programs based, in part, on outcomes (how their alumni fare with real kids) closely follows.
As a result, we may see a shift:
a) less gov't investment for "any credential" per your North Carolina story, but
b) greater willingness to pay for degrees which do seem to correlate with measurably better teachers...
I'll say this: when I started a small grad school of ed here in Massachusetts, even some very liberal elected officials were very interested in the notion that we wanted to be held accountable entirely based on outcomes (how our teacher alumni fared), and needed some freedom on inputs...
But that last detail is my main point, reinforced by what museyme says about the importance of teachers actually knowing the content. The problem isn't whether someone has a "problematic understanding" of fractions, the problem is that someone cannot tell if an answer is correct without a calculator, a test bank, or an "instructor edition" and teacher's guide. [This is exacerbated by algorithm-free curricula akin to "look say" reading instruction, which depends even more on having a teacher who has a deep understanding and can also make up examples on the fly and know the right answer.] I've met someone who is the math expert at a K-6 school solely on the basis of being the only teacher in the school who is not afraid of math.
Finally, remember that some of them are teaching an AP class based on only a few upper division undergrad math classes, nowhere near the qualifications required to teach the calculus course that a test will say their students have passed.
While in nursing one could argue that medical advances require nurses to handle more complex procedures, I find it astonishing that human resource professional need to be "recertified".
In the institution where I teach, folks are given no credit for out-of-field master's degrees, but the decision is made by whomever is in power at the time and favoritism or nepotism is known to occur.
We are now in a rather odd situation where the present Kahuna believes that one who does not possess an Ed degree is not worth its salt, and exerts undue--and illegal-- pressure for folks to obtain an Ed degree.
At the center of this storm is this differentiation and data-driven instruction, which to us are unproven theories and therefore we do not want to implement them or even train teachers to implement them.
We want to present these as theories among theories and to discuss pros and cons, while the present administration believes it's gospel and we are stupid not to accept it because we dod not have Ed degrees.
Sorry to say, but in my many years of teaching I have met very few people who make good use of Ed degrees.
Very frustrating being forced to avoid using better methods because a hot-shot with a non-subject degree is playing politics.