Saturday, July 31, 2010

What's happening in the ivory tower?

I came across a blog post on InsideHigherEd recently about PhD programs and the disappearing tenure-track job market and how PhD programs should help their students to do something more than research and specialization in an area that has a focus on tenure-track professorial jobs (because as we all know adjunct instructor pay stinks).

The main point of the author here is that PhD programs should include:
  • Teacher education because simply knowing your subject matter does not make you a great teacher of said subject matter
  • Higher Ed. Management - so you know the inner workings of your environment
  • Leadership Development
  • Media Training

Now off the bat, I don't get the media training piece - perhaps someone could explain this to me.  Leadership development - well, shouldn't you have had this when you were working on a Master's degree?  As part of my MBA, MSIT and MEd I've worked in teams for projects, even as an upper level undergrad taking grad level science courses I did some teamwork based projects.  A PhD program is not where you do this - perhaps it's a professional development thing.

Teacher Education I kind of get.  I think that all PhDs that DO plan on teaching should be required to put in at least 12 credits worth of teaching undergraduates and graduates (12 credits = teaching 4 courses) before they can be vetted as a PhD recipient. As part of this 4 course teaching tour they should be required to go to non-credit seminars on teaching, instructional design and education technology.

As far as Higher Education Management goes - there are MA, MEd and EdD degrees on the subject matter! If you are going to get your PhD in Education or Chemistry for example, why spend extra semesters taking Higher Ed. Admin courses?  Will you use them right away? No you won't!  And you if do need it right away...I hate to tell you, but you are in the wrong PhD program :-)

I also came across this post where the author wrote the following:

Research in your field is king. You get a PhD in your subject area, be it biology, literature, nursing or music. Because we are not rewarded for improving our teaching, we don't do it. Our time is spent on administrative duties, our research and, yes, teaching.  But we have been told, you need to do research to get tenure. So we make research our priority. Our PD [Professional Development]? Going to conferences in our field, to learn about the latest research and findings. We are expected to stay on top of what's going on in the field we teach.  Ed tech? What's that? Will it help me get tenure? No? No, thanks!

This is what I've been saying for quite some time - perhaps not on the blog, but at least I've been saying it in person :-)  Tenure-track faculty and tenured faculty get evaluated on the quantity and quality of the scholarly work that they produce (i.e. articles and books they write AND get published).  Sure they get a tick-mark for teaching a course and not sucking at it, but for every tick they get for teaching a course decently they probably get three, or four or five ticks for the research they do.  If your carrot is research and publishing and not teaching, why would you do that?

Then again, if PhD programs are meant to prepare you for the wonderful world of tenure-track-dom, where research and publishing is values ûber alles, why would you spend time in non-research and publishing activities?  I was also under the impression that the Master's Degree was the professional-go-get-a-job-out-of-academia degree, so why would you retool a PhD to do that?

I feel strongly about the need for teacher education in a PhD program, but I am flexible on the other aspects mentioned - feel free to convince me either way :-)
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