From a Research-Focused R1 to a Teaching-Focused Master’s L
On Wednesday nights at 9 pm ET, twitter lights up with an hour-long chat categorized under the hashtag #FYCchat, with FYC short for first-year composition. Various higher ed stakeholders launch into topics on teaching, writing, and higher education.
The conversation on November 13 was on textbooks: why do we use them? how do we—or the Governing Bodies—determine which textbooks to use?
@ComPOSITIONblog wondered in writing “Were you ever taught how to use texts/textbooks, or were you just thrown into teaching and expected to know how? #fycchat”
@jmrifenburg’s (my) answer: @comPOSITIONblog I was never taught. Given a book and given a blessing.
@readywriting’s answer: @comPOSITIONblog Oh, goodness, no! Here’s a book, figure it out! This was before online “teacher guides” #FYCchat
@abbyandhercat’s answer: @comPOSITIONblog Nope. One week of training and a “Here’s a textbook. Good luck!” #Fycchat
As the conversation veered and took sharp turns—ever followed a hashtag convo? It’s whiplash inducing—my mind keep returning to a recent Chronicle piece written by Derek Bok, the former president of Harvard and author of Universities in the Marketplace and a other books on higher ed. In “We Must Prepare Ph.D. Students for the Complicated Art of Teaching,” Bok shines a spotlight on a prevalent issue, especially in R1 universities: producing sharp scholars and under-prepared teachers. Bok argues, “The most glaring defect of our [the United States’] graduate programs . . . is how little they do to prepare students to teach.”
Bok ultimately encourages deans and provosts to take initiative and “recruit instructors from across the university who are capable of teaching graduate students what they need to know [in terms of teaching].”
So what does this have to do with UNG, where we are not a classified as a Carnegie Foundation RU/VH, RU/H, or even a DRU? We are a Master’s L. Many of us are not working closely with graduate students, helping sketch general exam questions, offering feedback on theses and dissertations, coordinating lectures and grading with a TA.
But many of come from these places and remember (vividly? vaguely?) being tossed into our first classroom as a grad student with little experience, guidance, or assistance, and can relate to the twitter posts above.
Now at UNG, teaching is our focus. P & T guidelines stress teaching; my own position designates 60% of my role to teaching. When I applied to UNG, I sent in a teaching philosophy and when I had my campus visit I did a teaching demonstration.
I guess I performed well enough; I am here now, but I still don’t feel fully prepared, still feel I have much to learn and am intimidated when I step foot into the classroom and students turn their attention to me, poised to take notes.
During my short time at UNG, I have tried to take advantage of the numerous resources geared toward faculty teaching development. The Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership holds new faculty orientation and the new faculty institute; both touch on the nuts and bolts of teaching as well as theory behind these nuts and bolts.
DETI offers training in online teaching and provides assistance as faculty step from brick and mortar classroom to the wired classroom. CURCA offers grants for faculty and students to work together, a practice the National Survey of Student Engagement highlights in their most recent annual report.
President Jacobs announced the Presidential Academic Innovation Award winners, and CTLL announced winners for the Scholarship in Teaching and Learning Award, the Best Practices in Service-Learning, among others.
Additionally, CTLL offers UNG Faculty Academies, designed, again, for improving the quality of teaching offered to our students.
And there are many others.
Collectively, then, these efforts provide us with the opportunity to hone our teaching, to find better ways to convey information to our students, and to construct knowledge with our students. No matter if our graduate program equipped us or not to step into the classroom, we are surrounded by resources.
So I am not sure if deans and provosts at UNG necessarily need to take the initiative of better preparing freshly minted Ph.D.s to teach, as Bok suggests. But then again, it is always helpful to be marching to the same beat as your dean and our provost.
Luckily, the beat we are all marching to is one of teaching.
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