EdD program helps develop friendship during pandemic

September 24, 2021

Jay Goodman, left, and Nicholas Spring-Peers in Shanghai. (Submitted photo)

While the Doctor of Education (EdD) program can be done anywhere in the world – even during a pandemic – classmates Jay Goodman and Nicholas Spring-Peers had the unique experience of meeting face-to-face and becoming friends during their online program.

Both students live and work in Shanghai, China. Unlike much of the world, Goodman said Shanghai has been open throughout most of the pandemic, which meant they’ve been able to meet and work in coffee shops, restaurants and bars.

For them, it’s made the program feel more collaborative and alive.

“There's a big difference between discussing things over a screen and discussing the same things over a basket of wings,” said Goodman. “Sharing this journey with a fellow student who became a friend was an experience I'm not sure anyone else in our program had, but was such a meaningful part of my own experience.” 

COVID creates different perceptions

At the start of the pandemic, Spring-Peers had good memories in Thailand where he wrote papers in a café overlooking the ocean and taking periodic breaks of swimming and catching sunshine to rejuvenate.

“I will always look back fondly on my experience doing this program while being abroad,” Spring-Peers said. 

In contrast, Goodman found COVID challenging because he had chosen to live abroad for travel and adventure. Due to border closures and visa restrictions, he hasn’t been home in nearly two years.

“This was not part of my ‘living abroad’ plan and it has taken its toll,” said Goodman.

However, the EdD program offered Goodman solace. Although he lacked control of other aspects of his life, it gave him purpose. In addition, connecting with colleagues in the program created a sense of community.

Taking similar but different paths to the EdD  

Spring-Peers is from Toronto and has been living overseas for 12 years. He began teaching in 2008 in Seoul, South Korea and he has also taught in Kuwait and Dubai.

“I love international life, being immersed in different cultures, and meeting people who share the same passion,” Spring-Peers said.

On the other hand, Goodman began his teaching career in Mississauga, Ontario. After four years teaching as a long-term occasional teacher, he needed something new and began his international teaching career in Honduras in 2010.

He thought his adventure would last two years. Instead, he also taught internationally in Colombia and Dalian in northern China. Currently in Shanghai, he spends half his time teaching in a traditional classroom while the other half is spent in a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) program. 

Important lessons from online learning

Spring-Peers enjoys the online learning that the EdD program offers because he can work full-time and set his own schedule. While the pandemic made balancing work life and academic life very challenging, it made him realize the importance of protecting his time, Spring-Peers said.

While Goodman agreed online learning isn’t always easy, it has prepared him for a pandemic world. While he’s used online modules previously for professional development courses, online learning is challenging because conversations are more structured through discussion board interactions instead of talking to classmates in person.

While ‘live’ contact with classmates increased during the last half of the program, Goodman said online education provides flexibility, especially for their international cohort. Students were in at least 10 countries and separated by many time zones. He said the ability to switch between synchronous and asynchronous learning was important. 

EdD a hands-on approach to organizational change

Currently, Spring-Peers and Goodman have successful defended their Organizational Improvement Plan (OIP). Spring Peers’ OIP is about teacher attrition in international schools and the impact that induction practices have on this issue. Teachers who work at international schools leave their family and friends to work abroad, and a lot of international schools fail to welcome them appropriately, said Spring-Peers.

He added the OIP addresses this issue by creating a purposeful and intentional induction process that seeks to address the myriad of challenges that expatriate teachers face.  

“I hope my OIP can help guide international school leaders in creating an effective, instructive, and intentional induction process that focuses on benevolence and care,” Spring-Peers said. “By following the framework that is embedded in my OIP, international school leaders may be more successful in retaining expatriate teachers, which has been shown to produce a plethora of positive organizational outcomes.”

Goodman’s OIP provides a "blueprint" for the implementation of innovative PBL-programming in grades 11-12. He said fifty years of research shows that this style of education improves student academic outcomes as well as collaboration and critical thinking skills.

“I believe that a program that values, teaches and assesses these skills will bring our student experience into greater alignment with our school's mission and long-term goals,” said Goodman.

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