Principles of Graduate Study

Graduate Education is designed to be a qualitatively different experience from undergraduate education. Coursework at the graduate level is not just different classes than at the undergraduate level, nor is it simply more information on a particular topic. The following principles serve as the practical styles and approaches through which graduate education is delivered at Concordia University St. Paul.


  1. Graduate coursework is more creative. Students learn to create systems of thinking and acting that will help them to be more effective professionals.
  2. Graduate coursework is more self-directed. Students often decide how to fashion an assignment to help them apply and synthesize the material more appropriately.
  3. Graduate coursework is more rigorous. More is expected of the graduate student (in the way of research, thought and productivity) than of the certificate or undergraduate student.
  4. Graduate coursework is more attentive to epistemological issues. More attention is given to “how we know what we know,” and to how we prove and support what we know. Skills of discernment and critical thinking are developed deliberately.
  5. Graduate coursework is more attentive to research. Students will be exploring (and conducting) new research. They will read, critique, and may contribute to original research.
  6. Graduate coursework is more a community of learners, than merely a teacher-student relationship. Graduate students are assumed to have reached an intellectual maturity that puts them at a place where the role of the instructor is different. Instructors do not have to spoon-feed or hand-hold; instructors need to guide and mentor the mature student in the direction that the student has identified.  Problem-based and/or team-based pedagogies may be used.
  7. Graduate learning is not just remembering information, it is constructing knowledge. As they engage, the community of learners opens new insights and creates new knowledge in the field.
  8. Graduate students give careful consideration to information skills and bibliographic references. The skills of knowledge navigation will be increasingly important in the years ahead, and graduate students learn how to find the knowledge they need.
  9. Graduate professors actively participate in research, professional engagement, and learning. This helps them maintain a cutting edge in their profession and bring the most up-to-date information to their students.


“It is the role of graduate education to explore and advance the limits of knowledge and to define the state of the art in every field.  Its purpose is to serve society’s needs in specific technical and professional ways, but also to serve the need for intellectual expansion.  Graduate education is a major source of future intellectual leaders of society…”


Adapted from Organization and Administration of Graduate Education: A Policy Statement, Council of Graduate Schools

Last modified: January 25, 2018