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We Need More Teachers
March 10, 2010 - 10:07pm

I'm a huge believer that as many people as possible involved in higher education should teach. Administrators should teach. Librarians should teach. Technologists should teach. People who work in companies should teach. Journalists, editors, and publishers covering higher education should teach. I think more companies should follow Wimba's lead in encouraging their employees to teach.


Getting more of us into the classroom will result in a better understanding of the challenges faced by our faculty and students. For technologists, our tools and platforms (and how we support them) will improve through the process of "eating our own dog food".


Students will also benefit from a great range of instructors. They will get to learn from people who have other full-time jobs beyond faculty members, seeing that the facts, concepts, and ideas covered in our courses are applicable to a range of jobs. More instructors also means smaller courses and more experimentation. This approach also has an economic logic, as I'm betting that for many people the professional development opportunities that would come with teaching would amount to equitable compensation. As long as teaching was built into their regular jobs, and not structured as extra work, than I don't think there would be a need to pay them.


The thing is, good teaching can be synthesized. As we learned in Menand's The Marketplace of Ideas, the median time to receive a doctorate in the humanities is 9 years. Nobody needs 9 years of graduate training to teach a course. What is needed is faculty development, mentoring, peer review, assessment, and continuos improvement. Bringing administrators into the ranks of instructors would have the side benefit that this group is likely to be amenable to being required to participate in structured training, supervision and evaluation.


It is also true that people should teach only in areas in which they are qualified. A graduate degree is a necessity. Demonstrated expertise in the subject matter that they would be teaching is a prerequisite. This means someone who is participating in adding value to the knowledge in whatever discipline they would teach. This could take the form of writing professional articles and presenting at professional conferences. Participation in social media around the discipline should also count. Good teaching and research are bound together - we just need to expand our conception of research to include actively participated in the conversations in various disciplines.


Schools should also be open to expanding the types of courses are offered. Perhaps not all courses need to have a theoretical foundation, but can be more practically oriented. This does not mean that we are moving towards vocational approach, only that there should be room for courses connected to professional jobs beyond the professoriate. Learning design, project management, and mobile application development are three examples that come quickly to mind.


Is anyone experimenting in offering 1 credit courses, or hybrid courses, some other format that can accommodate an expanded instructor base and a more diverse set of course offerings? Are there any examples of institutions that have developed programs to train, supervise and support a wider range of instructors drawn from professionals throughout the university?


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