Posted on September 9, 2013Filed Under Education, Sideblog | 4 Comments
Study: Tenured Professors Make Worse Teachers. I do wish more universities made actually teaching the students their highest priority.
Last decade there has been a huge shift in post-secondary institutions regarding their teaching enhancement programs. The scholarship of teaching and learning (ie. what teaching strategies work) is slowly gaining ground. Right now, in most situations, publishing research on how to teach an old or new concept is not counted toward your publishing quota. With old ideas, I can halfway see why one wouldn’t want to rehash the same thing year after year. However as new concepts are introduced, research into how to teach them seems pretty interesting and novel.
As good research publication now has to extend beyond what a journal article can contain, I see the novelty of new ideas being wrapped up in data driven ways concerning how people best learn those ideas. I believe Feynman was quite into that – how to most simply summarize a hard topic.
I was talking to one person about the problems of university costs and they said a lot of the higher expenses are due to students coming to college more ill prepared. That requires more administration resources effectively to give them what they should have had in high school. (He wasn’t clear about what exactly these resources were — I’m a bit dubious here)
And other interesting trend is the significant rise of part time teachers rather than tenured full professors. That should be dropping costs but it isn’t. It’s not clear to me that such part time staff are as good (or how they make up the “adjunct” category.
Feynman was really into summarizing a hard subject. I think a compelling case could be made that he simplified things in a way that gave insight to those already most apt to be able to understand. His three volume physics text are a must buy for physics students after they already complete their freshman physics. General consensus is that they aren’t a good way to teach new students.
Post-secondaries are under lots of competitive pressure to provide a full slew of services. A given institution just can’t afford to allow another place to significantly one-up them here. The PR is too easy to pull off.
I doubt the students are more ill-prepared: rather, I suspect, they know how to become more dependent. If one support dimension is covered, why shouldn’t another, and another…. etc. The net result is that mega-universities succeed on this front due to scale, small universities avoid the full support hole via niche status, while mid-sizers get sucked into an expansion trap for which they are under-capitalized. Mid-sizers just can’t sustain the support costs that require certain scales for sustainability. From my experience, you either end up over-stretching support staff with too many roles and portfolios, or you have to add a whole new layer of bureaucracy.
The book, Marketing of mega-churches and universities, is a very good read here – Basically power law frequency math explained from a non-mathematical economics perspective.
That’s interesting Chris. I don’t know enough about it. I do think problems are coming – at least in the US. I don’t think the funding issues are quite the same up in Canada.