Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"Clear the Way for More Good Teachers" (Chronicle of Higher Ed article written by Doug Anderson)

An excellent read, and definitely worth reading through the whole way.  Some particularly good parts, though:
Higher education has become an industry of meeting-holders whose task is to "solve" problems — real or imagined. And in my tenure as a teacher at three different colleges, the actual problems in educating our young people and older students have deepened, while the number of people hired — not to teach but to hold meetings to solve problems — has increased significantly. Every new problem creates a new job for an administrative fixer. 
I offer a simple hypothesis in response: Many of our problems — retention, class attendance, educational success, student happiness and well-being, faculty morale — might be ameliorated by ratcheting down the bureaucratic mechanisms and meetings and hiring an army of good teachers. If we replaced half of our administrative staff with classroom teachers, we might actually get a majority of our classes back to 20 or fewer students per teacher. This would be an environment in which teachers and students actually knew each other.
The teachers in this experiment must be free to teach in their own way — the curriculum should be generic enough so that they can use their individual talents to achieve the goals of the course. Additionally, they should be allowed to teach, and be rewarded for doing it well. Teachers are not people who are great at and consumed by research and happen to appear in a classroom. Good teaching and research are not exclusive, but they are also not automatic companions. Teaching is an art and a craft, talent and practice; it is not something that just anyone can be good at. It is utterly confounding to me that people do not recognize this, despite the fact that pretty much anyone who has been a student can tell the difference between their best and worst teachers.
Just one college should cut its administrative staff in half and hire an army of good teachers and see what 10 years of such an experiment might yield. The teachers are available — the so-called business model of education has been a disaster and has left us with more qualified teachers than jobs. It is time to see what serious, hard-core teaching can do for a college — and its students.
As an aside, Anderson was the director of my doctoral dissertation.  He has since moved on from Southern Illinois University Carbondale to join the University of North Texas, from concentrating on Peirce to concentrating on environmental philosophy and the philosophy of nature (hmmm, sound familiar?) Anderson has a remarkably clear way of writing which reads enjoyably and well.

Link to the full article HERE.  Pointer to Charles Klayman for the pointer to both the article and letting me know about Anderson's move.