Valuing Good Teaching

This week, I stumbled across a blog post in The Chronicle of Higher Education from May 2014. The post asked a pointed question in its title: “Can We Create a Culture That Values Good Teaching?” Instead of focusing on why colleges and universities ought to work on developing such a culture, author Leonard Cassuto offered a relatively simple How— Offer incentives.

The Whys of valuing good teaching are somewhat clear, and Cassuto offers them to us: good teachers have high market value; it’s a skill that works in numerous environments outside of higher ed; it encourages faculty to be reflective. But Cassuto misses something. Good teaching creates good learning. Or, it creates good learning environments.

Good teachers know their students needs and can draw out a desire to learn, to connect ideas together. Good teachers encourage learning and the development of ideas. Good teachers use the tools at their disposal to enhance learning. Learning does not come at the hands of the tools, but in the hands of the teacher using them.

To respond to Cassuto’s initial question, I desperately want to answer Yes, we can create such a culture. But how? Offering incentives to graduate students in pedagogy courses isn’t enough. Good teaching comes first as an ideal, wanting to develop students into better learners. The only way to it is to develop better pedagogies, more robust course designs, more attention to the students and not to a curriculum. When this happens–when learning steals teaching’s spotlight–then good teaching will have become a cultural value.

About j.d.grunert

Historian, Science and Technology Studier, Librarian, Academish
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5 Responses to Valuing Good Teaching

  1. Marian Alicea says:

    Incentives for graduate students in pedagogy courses? In what department are you in? Maybe that needs to be a university-wide incentive to begin with. This would definitely motivate my peers to want to become better future professors. I only know of 2 or 3 graduate students from my department who have taken or are currently taking pedagogy courses even though they wish to become university professors in the future.

  2. jgrun1 says:

    Incentives can come in the form of offering credit for teaching improvement courses, or making it part of the graduate program. Ignoring teaching completely does a disservice to students who hope to become teachers. Maybe all departments should have at least one course that deals with how to teach within that discipline, e.g. how to teach a chemistry course.

  3. Adam Phillips says:

    Yes, pedagogy courses should be required for students hoping to become future professors, but many departments value research over all. I’m taking pedagogy because I want to be a good instructor but I often get the feeling that if I want to devote serious time to instructing I can’t go to a R1 University. Big institutions want grant money because there will always be a market for Undergrads just looking for a good school name on their diploma (i.e. Stanford, Berkeley, GT). Something definitely needs to be done to create a better learning environment at Universities but I just don’t know what to do.

  4. Liz Liguori says:

    Yes and yes. Though I think any positive and constructive change is going to require a system overhaul. Unfortunately the reality of any change will wind up happening in small increments that stretch far into the future.

  5. Miko says:

    Great post. I think good teachers can leave deep impressions on their students. Actually a good teacher frequently becomes a mentor and a role model for future teachers as well. I think that if teachers were aware of this, this could be their incentive.

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