There are two questions that I am often asked by perspective students: the ones at the beginning of their careers generally ask “what jobs can you get when you’re done?” and the later career clinicians, researchers or healthcare professionals ask, how will this help me?” Inevitably, I answer with a question (or two) “what do you want to do? What are your goals?” Since this is often met with looks of bewilderment or frustration because some people want a direct and concrete answer, I feel I need try to explain.
I am not trying to be vague or noncommittal. But I’m also not trying to sell you anything.
The truth is that no program is right for everyone. And I don’t think that any program (outside of one-on-one mentorship, maybe) will be all things to all people—there are going to be compromises.
So, I think there are two key questions that you must ask:
- What am I looking for in a graduate education?
- Will this program allow me to get what I’m looking for?
What are you looking for?
There are several reasons (by no means exhaustive) why you might consider taking a graduate program. You may want:
- Credentials or accreditation.
- Access the resources or networks of a program or institution.
- Learn something new or different that you couldn’t (or wouldn’t) learn on your own.
- Find like minded people or learn with others.
- Get mentorship or facilitation that you couldn’t get in another forum.
If you are looking for specific credential or resources, you need to find the program(s) that offer you clear pathways to those outcomes. If you want to pursue Rehab Med, a master’s in cultural studies may not be your most direct route.
The TRP is not one of these programs. There is currently NO official profession of “Translator” in health science or medicine (although I suspect this may not be a long way off—though hopefully under a different label). TRP is designed to provide you with specific discrete bits of knowledge that you can memorize for a specific test. The consensus in health science innovation (aka translation) is that it is generally a complex emergent process that rarely follows a single predefine unwavering path. So being able to plan, adapt, abstract and problem-solve as processes unfold is definitely more useful than memorizing regulations that will likely change before you are done your education. The added bonus is that these competencies are not job, career, or domain specific. Learning how to learn, how to problem-solve and how to refine your approach over time, are life skills that really transcend a particular discipline or domain of knowledge.
At the TRP we believe that a graduate education should do precisely that: help you learn core life skills that will allow you to be a better learner, more adaptable, more creative and a better problem-solver. We just happen to do this in the context of health and care with the mission of challenging our students to think in ways and from perspectives that they normally would not or have not yet learned. We do this in a collaborative environment that generally you would not have access to our could not maintain on your own outside the context of a formalized academic program, and we do this within a framework or context that allows people to learn (and do) collaboratively.
So, although I can’t tell you whether the TRP is ‘right’ for you, you should come talk to us if you:
- if you are unsatisfied with the status quo
- if you want to take initiative and improve your community or context
- if you want to challenge yourself and move out of your comfort zone;
- f you want to be more creative and a better problem-solver;
- if you want to have more impact and feel like what you are doing matters;
- if you want to learn to learn, and want to do it with others;
- if you want to learn to better navigate uncertainty and complex situations;
- if you want to be part of a community;
- if you want to champion change;
- if you want to better understand and reflect on your purpose and motivations;
- if you want to better chart your goals and direction;
- if you want to be more open to different perspectives and points of view;
If any of the above are true for you, and you want to understand how the TRP might be able to facilitate your learning, and are interested in a ‘non-traditional’ graduate education, I want to hear from you.
Why? Why would I make such an offer when anyone that knows me will tell you how limited my time and resources are? Simply because a mentor of mine made me realize that my mission, may way of making a difference is:
“To empower learners who want to make a difference”
And at the TRP, all of the team strive “to challenge students to think differently so that they may champion change in their contexts”.
I believe in this and I am proud to be part of something so much bigger than myself. And I want to surround myself with like-minded people. So, if that might be you write me: Joseph.ferenbok(at)utoronto.ca.
The Translational Research Program is an innovative approach to ‘professional’ graduate education. Classes involve many different learning strategies and tools. Students range widely: from early career to late career, and from different professional or disciplinary backgrounds.
The program provides a great range of possibilities to students who what to be take initiative, be more creative, learn to be better problem-solvers, collaborators and communicators; and what to challenge their thinking and improve their career trajectories and satisfaction.
But the program is not for everyone. Over the years we have learned that there are good reasons and bad reasons to consider the TRP for a graduate education. It’s not a comprehensive or absolute list, but here it is.
Consider a Masters at the Translational Research Program in Health Science:
- To enhance knowledge your knowledge:
- Better understand the Health Innovation landscape
- Learn more effective ways to translate knowledge into impact
- Learn to develop and assess ventures and interventions
- Learn important problem-solving and analytical skills
- For personal development
- Acquire new skills and competencies
- Approach problems in new ways
- Work better in groups and teams
- Improve your communication skills
- Increase confidence
- To gain hands on experience
- Learn by doing
- Develop your own strategies and methods
- Understand the complexity of real-world contexts
- Improve how you navigate uncertainty
- To Network and expand your professional circles
- Learn to manage partnerships & connections
- Gain access to Academics, Researchers, Hospital and Industry key opinion leaders
- To take initiative and responsibility over your learning
- To have input into their learning objectives, outcomes and projects.
- To accommodate your obligations outside of school: careers, families and others
- To have flexibility in Career Paths & options
- To focus on transferable core abilities for multiple roles and paths
- To discover and launch and a range of career options
- To explore interests and push your boundaries in an educational sandbox
- Acquire career management tools that allow you to focus on your Individual development plan
- To work towards greater career satisfaction (reflection and professionalism)
- To leverage institutional expertise and resources
- To improve your credibility
You should question whether the TRP is right for you if:
- You need something to do while you try (again) to get into Medical School
- You want a concrete and linear educational experience
- You prefer to learn in classrooms through lecture based information delivery
- You like to have one way or a correct way of doing something;
- You want to write tests and examples that assess your knowledge
- You like to have routine and clear direction
- You don’t have a lot of time
- You need information presented and summarized for you
- You prefer not to work in groups or collaborate with others
- You are looking for a graduate degree for your resume
- You can translate knowledge into ventures yourself–you don’t need a formal program or certificate
- You don’t like discussion-based peer learning;
The bottom-line is that the TRP is both an expense and an investment that is not for everyone. There are other options and the benefits of the program are proportional to your intellectual investment and hot your financial one. There are other ways of learning and there are otherwise to expand your understandings. However, if you think a self-directed, flexible learning by doing approach may be right for you, you should come sit down with someone from the program to learn more.
Joseph Ferenbok, Director
We are building a cohort.
It may be summer, but things haven’t slowed down at the TRP. While students attend modules on privacy and procurement, economics of health, or grant writing; other are busy with developing Capstone proposals; and still others are doing research assistantships or community work (like the Ride to conquer Cancer); the TRP Team, in addition to working on curriculum development and a couple big projects we are hoping to announce soon, are also working on building next year’s cohort.
Building a cohort is surprisingly difficult. For one, we are limited to only people who apply–every year there are some potentially interesting inquiries from people who, for one reason or another, do not submit applications. Still, for spot, we have approximately four applications, so we spend a lot of time on the selection process.
Although we are only entering the fourth round of selection, we have learned that the TRP and its unconventional curriculum is not for everyone. The most successful students in the previous cohorts have been ones who take initiative, who are self-directed and driven. We look for people who want to learn, and are willing and open to change; who demonstrate intellectual flexibility and an openness to trying to understand problems from multiple points of view. We are looking for diverse backgrounds and experiences, and a genuine desire to improve both themselves as learners and advance health and well-being.
But within this subset of people we also try to consider how the composition of the cohort may contribute to each others’ learning, how interests may overlap, complement or diverge. It is part art, part systematic learning. And it is all work. Since we conduct tandem interviews (two people per interview) Just the interviews alone, for twenty people take forty work-hours–not including reviewing the documents or the scheduling or the discussions before and after.
This is not gruelling work, and I am not writing this to whine or complain–this is actually probably one of the best aspects of trying to build a community of translators; meeting new people and getting to know their stories is important work. I’m writing this because I want people to know, that if by accident or omission, we miss an email or an inquiry, it is not because we are away on vacation or somehow delinquent, it is because, despite it being summer, the TRP, school, education, admissions, recruitment, selection, graduation, proposals, development, etc., still go on.
And those of us who are zealously committed to our mission: ‘to challenge students to think differently so that they may champion change in their communities and contexts’, wouldn’t have it any other way!
–Written by: Joseph Ferenbok, TRP Director
Over the years I have on many occasions heard students say “We need something more concrete” or “If you give us a check-list and your expectations, then we will know what to do”; and I have often heard myself trying to explain that the goal of an assignment is to get students to think critically and or differently about a complex problem. I have on many occasions had to explain that the directions are intentionally vague or ambiguous and that the expectations is that students adapt assignments to their learning interests and contexts. I have found it frustrating that, when trying to teach students to think differently, inventively and creatively that they so often continue to place emphasis on the grade of an assignment rather than on the learning process or on their own individual development.
As many others have been increasingly stating, this is a fundamental problem with an out-dated approach to education that permeates most classrooms and levels of education, but in a program intended to help people be innovative and creative focused on self-directed and experiential learning, where the problems of health and care are rarely simple or straightforward, I guess I assumed that students selected and who self-selected for the graduate program would understand that there is (currently) no concrete and absolute formula for innovation.
But telling students that concrete and rigid approaches to learning to abstract where absolutely antithetical to the purposes and goals of the program they had signed up for, wasn’t working. So, I decided to do something that is somewhat antithetical to my approach, I turned to the literature. Self-directed experiential and integrative learning are based on the idea that students achieve deep learning by reflecting and abstracting from experiences. Kolb (2001), includes abstraction and integration as key steps in the learning cycle. Knowles (1972), in his seminal work on adult self-directed learning discusses how adult learners are interested in problem-based learning that has immediate implications for their life or work experience.
It seems that these two concepts have actually capture a tension that permeates most approaches to higher-level education and is particularly true for adult education. On the one side is a desire to understand the forms and rules of a domain, skill or competency: “teach me what to do.” On the other hand, is the notion of how do I use this: “let me do it.” It is an old tension. The tension between form and function; between standardization and independence; between the establishment and the path-less traveled; the difference between following instructions and learning how to develop your own instructions; between being given a fish, and being taught how to fish. This is not a new problem.
Unfortunately, many students have been educated in a system that prioritizes the standardization of processes towards a harmonized assessment process for purposes of credentialing and certification of basic levels of competence over the focus on individual development. Most students have learned to prioritize external evaluations and metrics over individual interests, strengths and development. In essence, ‘good students’ have learned how to play the educational game well.
This makes them ‘good students’ but bad independent thinkers. In an age where memorization, repetition and following a predetermined formula is increasingly the role of intelligent algorithms, creativity, collaboration, abductive thinking, navigating complexity are becoming increasingly important for human agents. To become better independent thinkers, creative thinkers and innovators, we must first un-teach what has been taught. Without this step, the people who are currently in the system, the young and the experienced (though particularly the ‘experienced’) continue mapping everything ‘new’ being taught into their established mental models. They frame new learning in terms of their established understandings. For andragogy, this is a particularly difficult challenge. It’s harder to mobilize people with lower neuroplasticity out of their cognitive biases, but to push people to be more creative, more innovative and better problem solvers, we have to break-down old patterns and challenge established assumptions, we must get learners to learn to “UNLEARN”. This must be the priority before we can start to think differently.
But the question remains, how? Or maybe not how—since there are ways that do seem to work—maybe the question is: how do we do it better? This is the question that keeps me up at night.
Knowles, M. S., Holton, E., & Swanson, R. (1972). Andragogy. NETCHE
Kolb, D. A., Boyatzis, R. E., & Mainemelis, C. (2001). Experiential learning theory: Previous research and new directions. Perspectives on thinking, learning, and cognitive styles, 1(8), 227-247.
Successful applicants who complete applications on or before February 28th, 2020 will be automatically considered for merit-basede entrance awards of $5,000 CDN towards their Fall 2020 tuition.
- Applicants must have completed their online application visa the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) Application system on or before February 28th, 2020 and supporting documentation must be submitted by March 15, 2020;
- Selection will be based on a combination of merit and need;
- The funds will be applied towards Fall 2020 tuition;
- Recipients must be registered to start the program in September 2020;
- Award recipients will be informed in writing during the 2020 admission process; and
- Funds will be disbursed after the official registration deadline in Fall 2020.
*Note: Students who have already completed their applications (by the early deadline) will also be considered for these awards.