Featured Post

Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Student Affairs Mission Creep

I have problems with articles like this one:
Many, if not most, faculty members and those who employ them still seem to believe their primary mission is to disseminate "expert" information. Colleges hire professors and instructors who have no pedagogical education or training and who are often profoundly lacking in knowledge of human development as well. Ironically, the further one advances in the academic hierarchy, the less one is expected to know about teaching and those who are taught.

Take your dirty scare-quotes off my expertise. So we believe our primary role as teachers is to teach. Imagine that. We lack pedagogical training, so maybe we should take courses in the education school, right? The same courses our students tell us are worthless bullshit busywork courses. Our years of experience in the classroom count for nothing, by this logic.

A substantial expansion in the role of student affairs bureaucracy means that even less attention will be paid to the primary mission, the dissemination of expert knowledge. Every time there is a new perceived problem (in this case developmental delay, or the well-known fact that 18 and 19 year-old freshman are not particularly mature), there is an opportunity for student affairs mission creep. This drives the cost of higher education up without improving actual EDUCATION.

5 comments:

Bob Basil said...

At Stanford we actually got some thoroughgoing pedagogical training, in our first and second years of grad school, headed up by the admirably plain-speaking Nancy Packer. I remember finding it practical and useful. When I went back to Stanford in the early nineties, I became one of the mentors in that training of new grad students. *That* was fun.

Jonathan said...

Right. Training does occur. We train our grad students very well as language teachers, for example. And by "we" I mean someone else in the department more qualified than I am.

Andrew Shields said...

Now even the Chronicle is suspicious of expertise ...

Mike said...

Not only does training occur, but most graduate students are actively working on their teaching skills on top of their research training. I started my Ph.D. program in 2008, right before the economic tumble that fall, and I think more and more of us in the midst of our Ph.D. training are taking teaching more seriously. We know that we'll have to prove our teaching abilities to get a job in the current market. At my school, the department and the graduate school each have their own pedagogical training programs and requirements led by faculty. The major message in these programs is that you need to teach well to get a good job. Contrary to the article, I think we're seeing a new emphasis on pedagogical training in Ph.D. programs because of the current economic and job market situation.

Jonathan said...

Good points, Mike. Grad students now are even better trained teachers than in the past. Teaching, though, is still the dissemination of expertise. That should be the primary mission of education.