In his book Campus Confidential, author and professor Jacques Berlinerblau sounds the alarm over college professor training. Teachers, he says, are not being properly trained to instruct students.

This might surprise prospective students and their parents, as they consider shelling out tens of thousands of dollars a year in tuition. But for anyone who went to graduate school, it’s a woefully familiar idea.

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Teaching is simply not on the radar in grad school programs. There is no practical professor training of any kind on offer and no formal consideration given to how learning works. No value is placed on the skills required to succeed as an educator, nor is there any assistance or oversight given to graduate students for their compulsory teaching service. Worse, this long period of highly specialized and solitary research erodes many of the skills that support good teaching.

For tenured profs, teaching excellence is generally not rewarded and there is little incentive to improve. For those on the tenure track, the old adage “publish or perish” is still in practice, and only research and academic publishing will secure tenure and promotion.

Berlinerblau’s remedies require a sea change in academic culture, and perhaps an overhaul of the tenure system. But there are steps dedicated teachers can take right now to hasten the revolution.

First, lose your attitude towards the experts in your Center for Teaching and Learning. In-house education specialists are too often siloed or dismissed, when they should be consulted and collaborated with. Imagining the creation of a “Dean of Pedagogy,” Berlinerblau argues that this office could be given the authority to enforce teacher training and evaluate instructor performance using measurable and objective outcomes.

Second, you can assist in developing and promoting the use of outcome measurements. To be effective, metrics should not be forced on scholars without their buy-in. Nor should they be generated through student survey preferences, argues Berlinerblau. Surveys can turn teaching into a popularity contest where many instructors wind up inflating grades to try to “earn” high scores.

The most important thing, according to Berlinerblau? An objective measure to reward the “interesting” professors who are willing to “get in the dirt with their students.”

Jacques Berlinerblau covers professor training, class engagement and how to save the future of higher education in our webinar. Watch it on demand now.

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