Mike Rose’s recent opinion piece hits the nail on the head, clearly and succinctly: “Time to Help College Professors Be Better Teachers” (The Christian Science Monitor, March 22, 2013).
Mike Rose is one of the most important writers on teaching and learning in higher education of the past several decades. His articles and books have been hugely influential for many teachers, especially Lives on the Boundary. One of his main focuses has been addressing the needs and the potential of the academic underclass, non-traditional students, underprepared students, and so forth.
In this article, he urges colleges to work to improve the quality of teaching and learning, rather than merely working to make college easier to access and navigate.
He writes: “If we want more students to succeed in college, we have to turn full attention to the craft of university-level teaching. What’s at stake is not only increasing graduation rates but providing a quality education for those who, a generation or two ago, might not have seen college as possible.”
One problem, Rose notes, is the all-too-common notion that teaching means teachers simply “pass[ing] on their knowledge” about their subject rather than intentionally and directly attending to the “intellectual development” of their students.
Many professors pick up this notion in graduate school, Rose explains, where they learn a lot about their subjects but little about teaching and learning. Unfortunately, the colleges that they go on to teach at after graduate school generally do not do enough to help faculty develop their teaching.
Most teachers want to help students learn deeply, and many succeed. But the structures of higher education don’t adequately support them in this. As Rose writes, “The majority of new college faculty wants to teach well – and many do. But they won’t find on most college campuses an institutional culture that fosters teaching.”
His proposed solution? “We can begin by elevating the value of teaching and creating more opportunities to get better at it.”