Tenure and Student Success

Should faculty tenure be tied to student success?  Accrediting bodies are increasingly requiring more of faculty, especially that faculty tenure should be tied to student learning success.  Unfortunately, PhD programs provide next to no training on how to help learners learn.  PhD programs train researchers, not teaching and learning experts.  Currently in Higher Ed there is a mismatch of accrediting agency expectations of faculty members and faculty members’ training.  So what are some possible options?  1. PhD programs could begin  provide more training on how to help others to learn.  This is an unlikely option.  That would lengthen PhD programs needlessly.  Longer PhD programs would benefit no one.  And the myth still persists that the more you know the better teacher you are.  Thus if PhD programs were to be expanded in length, they likely would include more content mastery courses instead of helping potential professors become teaching and learning experts.  Though, I do have a friend at the University of Texas at El Paso, Keith Ereckson, who is providing such courses on teaching and learning to his doctoral students.  2. Accrediting agencies could loosen their expectations.  This is also unlikely.  In fact, if anything, even more will be expected of faculty members as the years accumulate.  3. Provide more professional development opportunities and appropriately aligned career incentives for faculty members to meet the increasing demands of accrediting agencies.  The final reality is that faculty members, as amazing as they are, only have so many hours in each day to accomplish so many things.  If the structure of Higher Education cannot honor that reality then the frustrations of unattainable expectations will surely hurt everyone.

About Taylor Halverson

I love learning. I love connecting. I love interdisciplinarity.
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3 Responses to Tenure and Student Success

  1. Keith says:

    I’ll be teaching a doctoral course this fall (required) that tries to take the first step toward item 1. http://faculty.utep.edu/Default.aspx?tabid=68092

  2. I understand what you are trying to address here, but I see student success as an important mark of great teaching but a tricky metric. Since student volition (agency) plays such a large role it adds a seriously difficult dimension to the equation. Then there is pressure against grade inflation (which is just laziness in our system because we don’t really know how to define and thus measure or gather evidence of that success). So when we can define it better (and not just measure because it may not always boil down to a numerical value) and agree upon what the appropriate evidence of that success is then we will have better footing for making this kind of requirement. That doesn’t mean I don’t agree that we shouldn’t be preparing PhD students to be better teachers (or facilitator of or catalysts for learning). I am just trying to work through my own concerns. Thanks for letting me rant a little.

    On a related note, do you think students would purposefully fail a class to get a professor kicked out? They can be cruel on student ratings sometimes.

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