Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Whattya Know!?! The People At Forbes Have Just Caught Up.

College Professors: Before You Teach, Learn How!

A dirty little secret of higher education is that faculty members at most American colleges and universities have never taken a course on how to teach. This is true of faculty at elite institutions like Yale University as well as those at broad-access campuses like those in the California State University System.

This troubling reality is compounded by four additional problems that make the matter worse for students who are seeking to learn.

First, a majority of courses at many campuses across the country are taught by part-time—or “adjunct”—faculty, who are paid per course and may teach at three or four different institutions over the course of a week. Because they are not tied to a particular school, adjunct faculty are unlikely to have participated in even a workshop on improving their teaching.

MORE STARTLING INSIGHT!

15 comments:

  1. A dirty little secret of higher education is that students at most American colleges and universities have never taken a course on how to learn. This is true of students at elite institutions like Yale University as well as those at broad-access campuses like those in the California State University System.

    This troubling reality is compounded by four additional problems that make the matter worse for faculty who are seeking to teach.

    First, a majority of courses at many campuses across the country are taken by part-time studuents, who pay by the course and may learn at three or four different institutions over the course of a year. Because they are not tied to a particular school, students are unlikely to have participated in even a workshop on improving their learning.

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    1. This sounds like a great beginning to a CM manifesto.

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  2. A dirty little secret of education is that there is very little evidence that education courses make students learn better. In fact, given the actual performance of many high school graduates, the evidence points the other direction.

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  3. Regular folks don't know anything about the misery of higher ed, except student debt. These revelations that occasionally come up might in some way make folks wonder what the hell is going on.

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  4. The suggestion that parents ask/demand that faculty learn to teach is worth sharing to readers.

    The article mentions that some faculty could reuse their old class notes which they wrote as a student when they teach the class. I've never heard of such a thing. Does that happen?

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    1. Peter, Paul and Mary on a tandem bicycle. I thought reusing ancient class notes was the sign of a bad teacher.

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    2. The ONLY stuff I have thought of recycling were some great activities from my excellent undergrad Genetics course. Granted once I find the old notes, I will surely decide they are outdated and toss'em!

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  5. Because clearly, students are a testament to how well one can master material by taking a course in it. Of course, anyone who has taken a course in "how to teach" (EDUC 101) will be a MASTER teacher.

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  6. Workshops...

    Don't fucking get me started about workshops. I'm sure there are some good ones, but for the most part they are a joke.

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  7. Mad libs!

    A dirty little secret of higher education is that administrators at most American colleges and universities have never set foot in an actual classroom, and most don't give a flying fuck about the quality of education at any given institution. This is true of administrators at elite institutions like Yale University as well as those at broad-access campuses like those in the California State University System, but felt most keenly at Big Dick State U's where corporate money flows from the pockets of whatever contractor or politician is looking to feel altruistic.

    This troubling reality is compounded by four additional problems that make the matter worse for actual teachers who are trying to do the big-boy big-girl work of getting students to learn something.

    First, the administrators have a hard-on for hiring part-time or "adjunct" faculty, who are the equivalent of a $5 hand job. Because administrators are getting paid the big bucks to whore out adjuncts, they're unlikely to do anything that might compromise their big pimpin' status. Would you?

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  8. By the "logic" of this article, I shouldn't be teaching most of what I teach since I never learned it in any class. This is because it didn't exist when I was a student. Much of what we do in universities is that way, particularly ideas from which Forbes readers want to make profits. Poor Malcolm no doubt is rolling over in his grave.

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    1. P.S. This isn't to say that ancient things that haven't changed much are not worth learning about, but of course what we think of them does change, and it can still have commercial value.

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  9. While I do think that Ph.D. candidates and junior professors should get more support during their apprentice years, I, like others, am troubled by the misconception that teaching is something that you can take a class or two in, and be ready to go. That misconception somehow goes along with some of the other edupreneurial ideas out there, such as that classes can be created and sold as packages (rather than being organic entities constantly under revision).

    Mind you, I'd be happy to see TAs required to enroll in a concurrent pedagogical course their first few semesters in the classroom. But I'm envisioning a small seminar, probably with the same professor for whom they're TAing, and at least as much sharing of notes as information transfer from professor to student. The professor would serve more as a model of reflective teaching than as a fount of timeless wisdom/expertise/best practices. I also like this idea because it would disrupt (see, I can use that word, too!) the current grad school funding model, which makes using TAs cheap (if the professor using TAs also gets credit for teaching them how to teach, and so isn't available to teach another class instead, using TAs suddenly gets more expensive).

    Finally, I have to note that Forbes isn't suggesting one approach that seems obvious, given how often it's invoked in business (and in the hiring/compensation of CEO-like creatures such as college presidents and coaches): raise salaries, and you'll attract and keep the best and brightest. Real talent, whether inborn, cultivated, or a combination of both, doesn't come cheap.

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    1. YES!
      I taught for many years as a Grad student and not once did I get guidance from a professor! I went out of my way to take a class called "College Teaching." It gave me some new/fresh ideas to use in the classroom.

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    2. I'm actually really surprised that people aren't getting guidance as TAs. This must differ by institution. Both of my programs (large flagship universities) were overbearing about TA training. We had to take entire classes about pedagogy along with workshops to become certified to teach certain classes. We also had to "shadow" faculty in order to teach classes in our specific area. My evaluations are constantly monitored by faculty and I have to be observed every so often.

      None of this matters on the job market, of course.

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