Those who can teach, those who can’t teach in college
That’s of course an entirely unfair overgeneralisation, but I guess I have your attention now, right? I recently took part in a scientific conference on the latest research in Spanish (more about the content in a different post) and what struck me was the bad quality of some of presentations done by people who are top notch research professors in their colleges. It is something I’ve seen before and which I don’t think is a problem of the individual teachers.
While my experience is limited to the German university system, I had this problem with instructors who got their education in many different countries and I’ve heard similar things from people with different national backgrounds.
In Germany, when you sign up for your degree, you have to make the broad choice of whether you want to go for a teaching degree in, say, English and Biology, or whether you want to study English with the prospect of a career in university. While the bulk of the classes are the same, the teacher candidates get education science and didactics on top in order to prepare us for our jobs. The “pure” BA/MA people don’t get those, and as a result often enter teaching at the highest educational level with a solid education in their subject matter and no knowledge at all about teaching and testing.
What’s a Tyler Matrix? Bloom’s taxonomy? Objectivity, reliability, validity*? Aims, objectives? How do I set up a test and grade it? Many of my fellow students and sadly instructors have no clue about those things, resulting in horrible teaching and horrible tests, especially in the small classes where individual instructors rule with absolute authority. This is highly unfair. Not only can students not be sure that they learn the skills they need for central examinations, they also don’t know if the test resembles the course material in any way. I remember one test that consisted of three questions that could all be answered with 1 sentence, but since the test was 2 hours long and the sole source of our grades it was clear that the professor wanted more, but it was complete guesswork what that more was.
There is progress being made. Now my university offers optional classes for people who realise that a PhD doesn’t make you a competent teacher, but to me those baby steps are too late, too few. It relies on people voluntarily getting those qualifications and in no way guarantees that students are getting good instructions and fair grading, which is especially problematic since those grades are later treated like an objective evaluation of a student’s skills.
What are your experiences? If you teach in college, did you get information on how to actually teach? Did you experience the badly trained college instructor as well?
*Though the science majors might be better off in that aspect than the arts majors