Tuesday, January 22, 2008

- Teaching how to teach

There was an article in APS News recently about a fictional story of a Nobel Laurate MIT professor applying for a job at a high school. He was rejected because he didn't have the state credentials to teach, i.e. he wasn't a licensed teacher.

This article has sparked several comments on both sides of the aisle. Some people argue that it is true that college/university professors are never taught how to teach and that reflects in the poor teaching skills seen in a lot of classrooms. These people can go as far as to say that those professors shouldn't be teaching at all. While I ocassionally agree with this scenario, I really don't think it is because they don't know how to teach, I think it's because they really don't care about teaching (I am talking about the ones that perform poorly in the classroom, not the ones that give remarkably good lectures). Some professors probably went into academia for the advantages of research (IP has a post on this) and not so much for the teaching, at least not the teaching by itself. This doesn't mean they suck at teaching. My point is just that probably a lot of university professors are there because of research and teaching then comes in second place. Is this an issue that requires attention? Absolutely, but I don't think requiring teacher's certification for all professors is going to solve the problem, it might not actually do anything since it is lack of willingness to teach as opposed to lack of preparation in teaching that's affecting college education in my opinion. High school now, has bigger issues.

The article also shows how probably a lot of very well prepared people (PhDs, reknowned university professors, excellent researchers, etc.) might be rejected from high school teaching jobs because they don't have that a piece of paper that in some unknown way (at least to me) shows someone can teach. Come on, it's not like high school education in the US is something to brag about, and all the teachers are certified. As far as I am aware, there are more underprepared high school teachers than college/university professors. You can argue that university professors could just go an get the certification which is a valid point assuming that the certification actually changes teaching. That is a BIG assumption.

Maybe university professors should be required to pass the state certification before teaching in college, they certainly need one right now to teach high school, maybe high school teachers should be required to have a PhD. I really don't know what can be done, but I'll take a university professor a million times over a high school teacher.

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