By Professor Doom
When I was at a fake community college, every semester someone with a Ph.D. in Education would come in and lecture us on “how to teach.” It was either basic advice that anyone with 3 months of experience would know (“Make sure more than 1 answer in a multiple choice question is at least reasonable,” and yes, that is a quote) or total garbage (“Put book reports in your math classes,” among many other examples) or a pure waste of time (“If you give more extra credit, your students will have higher grades”—I point out that admin paid real money for an Educationist to give us this advice).
“My Ph.D. thesis, the only thesis that was shown to be true, was that students who study tend to learn more in a measureable way.”
--the smartest Educationist to come and tell us how to teach. I still don’t believe this is a particularly strong thesis, however. Do note the implication: even a false thesis would still merit a Ph.D., because that’s how Education rolls. “Different ways of knowing” is their battle cry.
That’s how the teachers are trained at fake schools (if they’re trained at all). At a legitimate school, teacher training is handled far more intelligently. An actual specialist in the subject actually comes in an watches me teach the course, afterwards telling me ways to improve—it’s valid advice, and even after 30 years I still am monitored, and do the same, as well as watch grad students teach and help them.
I was told time and again how Education courses help with teaching, and I saw many mathematics positions being taken over by people with Math Education degrees. Wanting to learn their secrets, I sat in on their courses, only to learn they’re not good teachers, and in fact don’t even know what they’re talking about (for the most part); Educationists simply pass more students because they grade easy and remove all difficult material from the course.
“All I learned my last two years of Education courses was how not to get sued.”
--recent Bachelors in Education graduate explaining his teacher training.
Generally on campus, the Education students are cloistered from the other students. They don’t take “normal” classes like College Algebra, taught by mathematics professors. Instead, they take “Math for Education Majors” taught by Education professors, along with “Chemistry for Education Majors,” “Art for Education Majors,” and so on.
“We learn about social justice, racial inequality, stuff like that.”
--recent Master’s in Education graduate explaining her more advanced teacher training.
Now, it’s only natural for a person studying a subject to think everyone should know about it—I concede my own bias towards mathematics in this regard. So naturally I take the following type of article with a huge grain of salt:
People often think Education courses make better teachers, but one would think someone taking the courses would know better. I even took a graduate level Education course…my fake community college wouldn’t accept it as continuing education (and the course was offered at a state university, fully accredited). I didn’t press the point even as yet another Educationist took over yet another formerly legitimate faculty position.
While I have yet to take a class “on teaching,” the depth of understanding I have gained about the practices of teaching and learning in my education classes is immeasurable.
Gee whiz, you’ve yet to take a class on teaching, and yet you somehow think it’s a good idea for teachers to take these courses? Granted, considering other confusions of ideas I’ve seen from Educationists, this isn’t so bad, but it’s weird this sort of article is worthy of publication.
…the suggestion that I might need to improve my teaching somehow hits below the belt.
One of the weird things about Educationists is their amazing arrogance. I see the author here is fairly typical in that regard. Even after decades, I’m trying to find better ways to explain concepts…when a hardworking student misses exacty one question the whole semester, I ask myself long and hard how I failed to teach that one question properly.
Maybe it is this fear of perceived weakness that prevents many postsecondary faculty members from ever taking a class about teaching.
How feckless do you have to be in an Education department to think “fear of perceived weakness” is the reason other faculty avoid Education classes? How about “Education departments are viewed as a joke on many campuses” as a reason? How about “Education departments take classes away from your department and teach watered down versions of your subject to their own students” as a reason? How about “You guys condescend to us at every opportunity, and yet have failed to actually improve learning in human beings, and the evidence is very strong that you’re making things worse” as a reason? Yeah, “fear of weakness” is pretty low on the list of reasons we stay away.
Similarly, professors at a university are typically required to wear two hats: one hat as a researcher and another as a teacher. But only the researcher hat is fashionable. It brings in money for the university, it looks good on a curriculum vitae and it promotes the climb up the academic latter.
I’m quoting an article from Inside Higher Ed, here, a site that knows quite a bit about how higher education works. Yes, research brings in money for the university, but surely someone at the site could have pointed out the glaring, blindingly glaring, error in this article here.
On most campuses, tuition money (more accurately, student loan money) represents a huge income stream, far more than research money. That the author does not know this is forgivable, but why doesn’t Inside Higher Ed know? Student loan debt runs around 1.4 trillion dollars now…that comes from students, not research.
While the comments are generally supportive of this piece, one actually provides an intelligent answer to the question so abysmally answered by the article’s title:
I am a director of faculty development. My experience has been that many faculty do want to improve their teaching. The barrier is not lack of desire or interest. Rather, it is the faculty rewards system that acts as a disincentive for faculty… there are no incentives for improving your teaching.
As I said before, you get no credit for good teaching in higher education. What you do get credit for is handing out high grades, and passing everyone who signed up for the course. It’s why Educationists are considered such great teachers, after all, because they’ve figured out these two critical duties of the job, at least from an administrative point of view.
Since these are the two secrets of Education as a field, there’s no need to take any courses, as this knowledge can be taught in a matter of seconds.