The Value of a Cohort Model in Graduate Education Programs
Working Together: Cohorts Help Grad Students in Education Excel
Imagine embarking on your graduate education as a member of a team of dedicated professionals with similar goals and interests. Imagine that you’ll know that these are people you’ll work alongside throughout your program, beginning to end, supporting and challenging one another, learning from each other and becoming invested in each other’s success. This is the vision behind the cohort model in our graduate education programs.
The grad school journey can be a lonely one. Students may be working full-time while taking classes, maybe taking care of a family as well. The demands of advanced education are many, and expectations are high. It can feel overwhelming and isolating, especially for students who aren’t surrounded by other students in their non-school life.
That’s why we’ve designed our cohort model to address the needs of our graduate education students, not just socially but logistically. A cohort graduate program offers structure, consistency, and support that provides advantages over traditional individual study.
What Exactly Is a Cohort in Graduate Education Programs?
First, it’s important to know that no two institutions define “cohort” exactly the same way. The general idea is that students are grouped together at the beginning of their program, with each cohort usually consisting of 12-25 graduate students, and those groups will take the same classes and work together all the way through to receiving their degree.
The expectation is that having a smaller group of students engaged in learning together creates a more proactive, interactive, supportive experience for everyone. When the program is partly or entirely online, a cohort model can also fill in the gaps of connection that can feel like they’re missing in a distance or asynchronous learning environment.
Loyola School of Education’s Cohort Model: What It Is
Let’s talk about what the cohort graduate education program looks like specifically here at the School of Education. We offer cohorts for the following programs:
Our programs include fully-online cohorts as well as hybrid ones that mix distance learning with on-site work at locations within the cohort’s county or city in Maryland (Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County, Howard County, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County). Most programs are completed within two years, and they’re accredited within the Maryland State Department of Education.
Picture a new graduate student named Pia who has just entered the Literacy - Reading Specialist program. (Pia’s fictional, but her situation is common to many of our students, some of whose stories you can see in our Community page.) She’s currently an elementary school teacher with Prince George’s County Public Schools and sees an opportunity to focus her career on working with remedial readers. She’s chosen Loyola’s program because it’s a part-time one that allows her to keep working, and because the program’s partnership with Prince George’s County Public Schools means that her in-person classes will take place just 1 night a week at the school where she already works. She’s also receiving a 15% tuition discount for joining a cohort program.
Pia will be matched with a group of students who are also based and working in Prince George’s County-- in fact, she even knows a couple of them professionally. Because they’re working in the same system, they understand each other’s work lives and how to navigate their county’s education requirements. They have similar goals and each brings their own perspective to the needs and opportunities they see in the school system for reading specialists.
With this cohort model, Pia feels like she’s not out there on her own. There’s a great bond among her fellow cohort members, and she knows she can turn to them when she’s struggling-- just as she can help them out when they need it. Everyone looks out for one another, and everyone’s work is stronger for their constant engagement with each other.
Why Did We Design a Cohort Model for Educators at Loyola?
We believe that education is always a team effort. Every child is supported by multiple people invested in their success-- parents or caregivers, teachers, specialists, administrators, counselors. Adult students have just as much need for community, connection, and investment in their achievements, and the cohort model provides that. Students’ work is enriched by sharing perspectives and insights among trusted fellows.
Cohorts build leadership skills as each member is called on to actively contribute to the group, and the close bonds formed by working together result in a professional network that can last throughout their careers. The program is mission-driven and allows every member of the cohort to become part of something bigger than themselves by sharing that mission.
What Graduate Students Need—and How We Meet Those Needs
Our cohort programs for graduate education studies are specifically designed with the needs of our prospective students in mind. We know there can be many hurdles to completing advanced education, and our cohort model removed or minimizes as many as possible.
For someone like Pia, the convenience of having classes in or near the schools where they teach may be the thing that makes joining the program possible at all. It means they don’t have to worry about transportation or long evenings away from home with work the next day. Online programs, too, make classes accessible to working teachers.
Other features of our cohorts include:
- Lockstep programs keep everyone progressing at the same level and remove the guesswork of choosing classes and schedules
- The part-time schedule takes into consideration the busy lives of working educators to keep them from getting overwhelmed
- The ongoing support and growing relationships of a cohort mean it’s never “sink or swim”-- everyone is there to help each other succeed
- The 15% tuition discount for enrolling in a cohort program makes it more financially accessible-- and of course financial aid and scholarships are available
- Partnerships between Loyola and local school systems give administrators an active interest and role in their teachers’ continuing education
- Our programs’ renowned reputation and approved standing with the Maryland State Department of Education open future career doors for our cohort graduates.
Once she graduates, Pia finds that she has many new career opportunities-- and she’s able to create a new job for herself at her school by making a case for how her reading specialist skills can address a long-standing need. Other members of her cohort are now qualified for their dream jobs, able to command better salaries, and-- most importantly-- have an even bigger impact on the lives of the children they teach.
If you’re considering a Loyola cohort graduate program for your graduate education studies, you can apply online, request more information, email a recruiter, register for a virtual information session, or schedule a virtual one-on-one with a member of our recruitment team. We hope we’ll see you in a cohort with us one day!