The Teacher as Student: Graduate Degrees For a New Educational Era

The Teacher as Student: Graduate Degrees
An graduate from Goddard’s Dual Language Early Childhood Education program and her students

by Bernard Bull, President of Goddard College

Something new is happening in classrooms around the country.

Project-based learning schools, Montessori schools, Waldorf schools, schools where every student has a personalized learning plan, and schools that are committed to creating more space for learner voice, choice, ownership, and agency are all popping up. 

There are more student-centered and self-directed learning schools in the United States now than at any time in history. 

But what happens when educators and school leaders wish to pursue a graduate degree that deepens their knowledge and sharpens their skills to help student-centered learning communities thrive? Are they able to find college graduate degree programs in education that embody the same commitment to student-centered learning?

They might read Twitter posts, blogs, books and articles about student-centered learning, but the graduate degree program itself is usually far from student-centered. Courses and workshops are prescribed or required. The professors pre-develop the syllabus, often with little or no direct input from the students. For many online degree programs, even the instructor doesn’t always have full say on what to learn and how to learn it. Even assignments are often prescribed, often not taking into account the fact that the background, needs, interests, and goals of each learner is entirely different with varying backgrounds and goals. Perhaps there is a project in each course that allows for more student voice and choice, but even then, most of the time the grading and assessment is almost entirely teacher-led and determined by the professor. 

A graduate student looking to build up their skills in student-centered learning will find that they may be fighting the current instead of having the wind filling their sails.

The question is: How does someone passionate about the field of education learn the principles of Student-Centered teaching? 

The answer is by becoming a student at Goddard College, a community that embodies this method.

Goddard’s long history of student-centered and learner-driven education includes a broad array of philosophies and practices, but they all have a common focus upon what is happening with and for the learner. A learner-driven education is a more specific type of student-centered community. It is one where the student actually has the freedom and responsibility to be a co-creator of what is learned and how it is learned. Students get to determine some of their own learning goals. They get to decide how to reach those learning goals. They even get to decide how to get feedback and what evidence of learning to provide. 

This happens in every degree program at Goddard College. 

Each semester, every student begins by creating personal learning plan. The student gets feedback from a faculty member who guides, challenges, offers thought-provoking questions, and ultimately offers support and encouragement as the student moves forward with a refined plan for the semester. In the absence of letter grades, students receive rich written feedback on their work. Instead of the path to a graduate degree being a series of prescribed academic hoops, it is an authentic and personally devised plan and pathway. 

Being student-centered and supporting many adult learners, we also recognize that forcing students to attend courses on set days and times each week doesn’t fit the needs of everyone. So, our dominant model today is for students to come to campus for an inspiring and intensive 10-day residency experience each semester. From there, students return home and continue their study independently, with feedback and mentoring from a faculty member. Students can even blend their studies with their work, efforts in their local community or collaborate on projects with fellow students. 

At Goddard, your study is entirely personalized, merging one’s life circumstances with your educational goals. A student at Goddard does not just follow the guidelines until they have fulfilled the minimum requirements of a course, they set their path toward a lifetime of inquiry and the pursuit of the values that brought them to education in the first place.

Why shouldn’t your graduate degree education methods align as closely as possible with your most deeply held convictions about learner-driven education?

At Goddard College, we don’t just talk about student-centered learning, we have made it our central guiding principle for 150 years. 

There are many track to become the teacher you want to be, but only a few where you can be the student of the method you will practice for the rest of your life.  

That’s the Goddard difference.

If you are an advocate for student-centered or learner-driven education, and you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree, the Goddard College admissions team would love to talk with you. 

Find out more about Goddard’s unique student-centered, low-residency graduate degree programs in Education. The BA and MA in Education programs offer teaching certification as well.

Our 2020 residencies are entirely virtual due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This blog was written in Fall 2019, prior to the outbreak.

Important Announcement

The Board of Directors for Goddard College have made the difficult decision to close the college at the end of the 2024 Spring term.  


Current Goddard students will have the opportunity to complete their degrees at the same tuition rate through a teach-out with like-minded institution, Prescott College. Updates and scholarship funds will be available in the coming weeks and months. Information will be posted to

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