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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

PhD students are not trained to be good teachers!

Even in top research schools professors spend a considerable portion of their working time teaching classes. Yet, from what I know, PhD programs typically do not require their students to take any courses on pedagogy. This seems to be a bit strange. But we all know why, right? Nobody cares about teaching in research schools - it's all about publishing. But students are paying big bucks for tuition. Don't they deserve to be taught by people who are well-trained on how to teach?


  1. excellent point - no prof in a research school
    gives a damn about teaching - pity the students who fork out the tuition money

  2. i'm so glad I went to a non-research school for undergrad. After going to a research university for graduate school, I was shocked how bad the education was at these "more prestigous" places.

    It's all about the money and these 18 kids can't really hold anyone accountable for the lack of education they are receiving in this country. The profs at these places get promoted and given raises for research alone.

    Sad really, because no 18 year old kid taking biology 1100 cares how many times his prof is published.

  3. It's ok to do research. But you shouldn't force students who don't care about your research to finance your research activities. Let research be financed by whoever is willing to pay money for it.

  4. I agree with Anonymous #2; I also went to a non-research school for undergrad, and I'm just now realizing how nice it was. Professors were committed to teaching students, and they didn't have to worry about writing grants every two weeks.
    I'm now doing grad school at a research-oriented university, and have sat through too many classes taught by faculty not interested in the teaching...

  5. yeah, it just goes back to being all about the money in this country. no action will be taken by most people unless there is a profit motive. unfortunately, in this country there isn't one for being a good teacher.

  6. I am actually doing my PhD to teach and there is a program at my school which provides PhD students with a certificate in university teaching. I enrolled for the fall and I think it is a great idea!

  7. I think that the sorry state of American public schools shows that if anything, the quality of education is REDUCED by "courses in pedagogy".

    Public school education was better when teachers just had a high school education and a year of teachers college. At least in those days, more children could read properly and do arithmetic without needing a calculator.

    "Service" classes should be taught by 3rd or 4th year undergraduates in the subject area, who have demonstrated public speaking skills and speak in a clear, coherent, logical, mid-Atlantic English. They should have to audition, it is a performance after all.

    On the otherhand if you believe Professor Nalini Ambady's research, publicized in Malcolm Galdwell's "Blink", they should be rated based on 30 secs of videotape with the sound off.

    Personally,I think this type of rating system is only valid for staffing courses for female, Harvard, psychology undergraduates (the raters in Amady's original paper). If ratings are driven by non-verbal characteristics, completely independent of content, then it tells you something vital about undergrads. They are getting what they deserve.

  8. When you go to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc. you are paying for the "Name" on a piece of paper, they should be thrilled to be pay what the pay and be taught by $10 an hour adjuncts (seems like too much, should be state minimum wage).

    If you wanted a "real" education you wouldn't be going to those places. If you need to be coddled you would go to a place which actually focussed on education.

    If you are real Science material, then you should have read and understood, by yourself, Richard Feynman's 1964 "The Feynman Lectures in Physics" by the time you were 16. If you haven't then why are you even going to university?

  9. can't agree more, in academic world, publish or perish, very few cares about students who pay for their tuitions... frustrated by the current higher education system, it seems to lose its mission of transforming lives of people, instead it becomes so ruthless and selfish...

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