If You Want Your Professors to Become Better Teachers, Here is What You Should Do

If you look at the curriculum of any teacher education program worth its salt, you will find that as early as freshmen year, teacher education majors are taking courses on essential topics like pedagogy, assessment, edtech, and classroom management. By the time they reach their Junior year, they have already had several chances to work with K-12 students and have even taught a lesson or entire unit under the supervision of an education professional.

When they the start student teaching phase of their matriculation they are already decent teachers, that’s if they received the necessary tutelage and guidance. When they enter their first year of teaching, they are ready to teach like their hair is on fire.

Now let’s look at the career progression of the typical assistant professor. Usually, they complete a bachelors, masters and doctoral degree without taking a course related to teaching. If they are lucky, they serve as a TA (teachers assistant) for a year or so, and may even get a chance to lead a few lectures.

The problem with that is that odds are, the professor that they are paired with, although brilliant, has no clue as to how to be a good teacher. So in essence, it is the blind leading the blind. Once they become assistant professors in their own right, they end up repeating the lousy teaching and assessment practices that they learned as a TA. Most spend the rest of their careers providing students with a subpar higher education.

So how do we fix this issue? I am glad you asked. In this article, I will discuss three innovative ways that universities can help their professors become better teachers.

  1. Most universities have a department titled “Center for Teaching Excellence” or something to this effect. If your university does, I would suggest that you have them develop a 5-day course that teaches proper pedagogical, assessment, and classroom management techniques. Make this course mandatory for first-year instructors and optional for all others. Department chairs can suggest that professors with poor teaching evaluations attend this professional development opportunity, as teaching is a critical factor in obtaining tenure. They may resist now, but will thank you later down the road, or once they earn tenure. I would offer this course at least three times a year, preferably before each semester begins. To maximize efficiency, it would be a good idea to design the course to culminate with the professors developing course syllabi and other artifacts which demonstrate the best practices that they have learned. Alternatively, you could offer professional development sessions throughout the school year. That way professors could attend sessions only in their area of need, instead of attending a 5-day course.
  2. What if your university does not have a “Center for Teacher Excellence”? Well, the Office of Academic Affairs could always partner with the School of Education to provide professors with professional development in the areas of pedagogy, assessment, edtech, classroom management, etc. They are the natural go-to experts, as they train teachers that are charged with the educating our country’s future citizens. Of course, the School of Education would have their education professors to teach these courses. This program could offer a 5-day course at the beginning of each semester or offer professional development sessions throughout the year. In the case of the later, professors could attend sessions only in their area of need, instead of attending a 5-day course.
  3. What if your university does not have a “Center of Teaching Excellence” or a School of Education? Believe it or not, a lot of universities do not have either of these departments. In that case, I would try a low or no cost solution. I would merely call the Superintendent of the local school district and ask if they would be interested in partnering with you. Their veteran teachers could provide professional development sessions to professors at your university in the areas of pedagogy, assessment, edtech, classroom management, etc. And your university could help them in areas where they need assistance. Some professors may be reluctant to receive help from a K-12 teacher, but once they attend a session, I think they will be pleasantly surprised. High school teachers would probably be best suited for the task of training professors, as there are similarities between educating a 16-year-old high school student and a 21-year-old college senior. You can primarily use the same teaching and curriculum methods, with some modifications.
  4. Task the deans from each school or college with being responsible for providing training to new or struggling professors in their areas. They could ask veteran professors who have proven themselves as master teachers, to lead a series of seminars on effective teaching, assessment, technology, etc. Like the previous suggestions that I have made, the configuration of these seminars could take several forms.

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