Time to Help College Professors Be Better Teachers

By Rose, Mike | The Christian Science Monitor, March 22, 2013 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Time to Help College Professors Be Better Teachers


Rose, Mike, The Christian Science Monitor


Right after I gave my opening lecture on Oedipus the King to the 30 employees of Los Angeless criminal justice system, I handed out a few pages of notes I would have taken if I were sitting in their seats listening to the likes of me.

They were taking my course, Introduction to Humanities, as part a special program leading to a college degree, and I knew from a survey I gave them that many hadnt been in a classroom in a long time and some didnt get such great educations when they were. So we spent the last half hour of the class comparing my notes with the ones they had just taken, talking about the way I signaled that something was important, how they could separate out a big idea from specific facts, how to ask a question without looking like a dummy.

I taught that humanities course more than 30 years ago, but I was thinking about it as I read the new report from the National Commission on Higher Education Attainment, College Completion Must Be Our Priority. The report is a call to leaders in higher education to increase graduation rates by scheduling courses and services to accommodate working adults, developing more on-line learning, easing the ability of students to transfer, and implementing a host of other sensible solutions to the many barriers that are contributing to Americas stagnating college graduation rates.

But if we want more students to succeed in college, then colleges have to turn full attention to teaching.

To their credit, the authors of the college completion report call for better professional development for college faculty; however, most reports of this type have little to say about teaching, focusing instead on structural and administrative reforms outside the classroom. It is a glaring omission.

Perhaps the authors of these reports believe that teaching is such an individual activity that not much can be done to affect it.

Another reason has to do with the way college teaching gets defined in practice. Faculty become experts in a field, and then they pass on their knowledge to others through college courses. Some teachers get very good at this delivery compelling lectures, creative demonstrations, engaging discussions, and useful assignments. But professors dont usually think beyond their subjects to the general intellectual development of the undergraduates before them, to enhancing the way they learn and make sense of the world.

Finally, I dont see much evidence at the policy level of a deep understanding of college-level teaching or a respect for its craft.

The problem starts in the graduate programs where college instructors are minted. Students learn a great deal about, lets say, astrophysics or political science, but not how to teach it. They might assist in courses and pay attention to how their professors teach, but none of this is systematic or a focus of study or mentoring.

And there is rarely a place in the curriculum to consider the difficulties students might have as they learn how to think like an astrophysicist or political scientist. And then there are the reading and writing difficulties that can emerge when encountering a discipline for the first time.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Time to Help College Professors Be Better Teachers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?