The Difference Between Teachers and Professors


First, I am your professor, not your teacher. There is a difference. Up to now your instruction has been in the hands of teachers, and a teacher’s job is to make sure that you learn… However, things are very different for a university professor. It is no part of my job to make you learn. At university, learning is your job — and yours alone. My job is to lead you to the fountain of knowledge. Whether you drink deeply or only gargle is entirely up to you.

That is Keith Parsons (University of Houston – Clear Lake), writing in the Huffington Post about a lesson he imparts to his first-year students. It’s a fun rant defending an “old-fashioned” approach to college education. He even uses the word “hogwash!” And he’s based in Texas. We’re talking true-grit, foot-stompin’, table-thumpin’, are-you-listenin’ professoratin’ here, folks.

I tease because I understand the appeal of this, I really do. And sometimes I talk to my students this way. Yet I can’t help but suspect that this kind of reaction is just too easy. Our students’ world is not the one we went to college in. We did not have the entire planet and all of our friends, always accessible at our fingertips, competing with our education. And more kinds of people are going to college, with a wider range of backgrounds, than in the past.  I agree with Parsons that there is a difference between college professors and high school teachers, and he is right that this needs to be explained to the students. Do you think he has hit upon the right differences?

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Arthur Ward
6 years ago

His essay isn’t wholly wrong: I like the bit about citations. But I deeply disagree with the main thrust of his letter. I think professors SHOULD see it as their job to reach out to students, not just offer wisdom to the students who are reaching out. His reaction IS too easy. Increasing piles of empirical research tell us that lecturing as a means of conveying information has a effective cap of 15-20 minutes for most students. That can be hard for us to believe, those of us that really enjoyed lectures, and went on to get PhDs. But I really hope none of us think our job is to only cater to the 10% minority who benefit from this style of teaching. We should be trying to inspire all our students, not just talk to those students who are already inspired. So, for Parsons to stick to the lecture format – with pride, no less – is either willfully ignoring the empirical research, or willfully ignoring the learning needs of the majority of his students.Report

bigbird
bigbird
6 years ago

It is sounding very close to being an excuse for doing a poor job.

Teachers may not be professors, but professors should be teachers, even if the form of teaching adults differs to that of teaching high schools students.Report

Anon7
Anon7
6 years ago

Like others, some of the specific arguments he makes are not wrong, but the thrust and the tone of the letter are way off base. In fact, it plays into every stereotype of the detached, uncaring tenured professor that politicians use to good effect in attacking universities. Statements to the effect that “professors don’t care if their students learn or not because we still get paid even if everyone fails” are not likely to encourage respect for college professors. I see it as part of my job to educate my students, and if they aren’t learning anything then that is my fault as much or more as it is theirs.

It’s almost like Parsons thinks that people learn by some sort of osmosis. “I’m smart and you are in close proximity to me, so you should be getting smarter, too! If not, I don’t care and it is not my problem!”Report

David Sobel
David Sobel
6 years ago

I would have thought that well before college that the student starts having some responsibility in the learning process. High school teachers are not responsible for ensuring that the student learn since it possible for the student to fail to learn and have this be the student’s fault and not at all the teacher’s fault. So I don’t see the college/high school distinction as having the implication the author suggests it has. Also there is a difference between saying the student has some responsibility in their own learning and suggesting the prof just needs indicate where the fountain of knowledge is and let the student take it from there–that suggests we don’t really have to bother ourselves with worrying about how to convey the information such that it is more likely to be understood and engaged with and I don’t think that is correct.Report

Grad Student
Grad Student
6 years ago

Perhaps shockingly I side with the students wanting their grade/credential. Okay (some) professors are from the “old school”…when my Dad went to college in the 1960’s at a major Big 10 University his entire tuition, room and board was several hundred dollars. Fast forward to 2010 when I was paying in-state $5000-per-semester, tuition only, which is relatively cheap at a relatively average institution. Say I want to be a doctor or graphic designer or high school shop teacher, now forced to take your class because of requirements and pay your salary to the tune of (in state, relatively average school) about 1500 dollars for this one class! So yah, for that price I think it matters what I want to get out of the class.

I believe in having skin in the game/eating your own cooking to make your opinions credible (like, every student who wants a credential has put their money or debt where their mouth is, and pay the ever-increasing tuition and fees.) This professor could cut down his own salary drastically, and perhaps start a fund that would make his philosophy class more available at a much cheaper price. At that point the argument that students need to only be focused on what he says has way more credibility. This issue comes up on student-eval threads as well…honestly, students are not that happy about the current state of college either! But when we are the ones paying for it our opinion, no matter how offensive, has more weight than this guy lets on. If college was cheaper, maybe we would feel differently about the value of what he says. The idea that someone should pay thousands and thousands of dollars because of rec centers and parking garages and (yes) salaries and then be told they should only care about learning is really offensive to me.

BTW my post was typed too quickly for my taste…I could argue this much better.Report

Jane Hudak
Jane Hudak
Reply to  Grad Student
4 years ago

I am a professor and paid for every cent of my education. It took me 20 years to pay off my education. I then was the lowest paid full professor for fifteen years at my public regional university. My, husband on the other hand, originally from a communist country, had everything paid for, including his graduate education. The answer is not for the professor to “drastically reduce” his salary. Do you even know his salary? Do you know the average beginning salary for a professor is about $42,000? In some states that is below the federal poverty level. Do you know what his personal story is/went through to get his job? I appreciate your passion and congratulate you on pursuing your education, but on your point about reducing a faculty members salary, please dig a bit deeper and you will see that it is not as simplistic as your post suggests.Report

Prof
Prof
Reply to  Grad Student
4 years ago

This is in part assuming that tuition prices are primarily for professors’ salaries.
They are not, by a long shot. Professors make competitive salaries when they bring grant money to their institutions, not when they teach well or heed the ideas/beliefs/wants of their students. Unless we are referring to teaching colleges, which would not be a Big 10. Most people think “professor” and assume that that person is a White man in his 60s, which is also not true. As someone who is not an old White man, I have recently been on both sides of this argument, and I did not find lecturing obsolete, and as early career faculty, I absolutely do not get paid enough money to account for prepping courses, teaching courses, grading assignments, holding office hours, attending committee meetings, and creating a program of research that will lead to tenure – maybe (since so many are arguing that tenure should also end). Meanwhile, most of us try our best to train our students for their futures, and encounter students who have been taught to the test their whole lives. I was never taught to a test, and being a college student is absolutely not synonymous with being taught to the test! So, while the above argument suggests that professors do not care about what their students think/want, what I believe it is really saying is that the latest generation of students does not understand what it means to be a college student. Being a college student is not sitting through a class while a professor entertains you so that you can then go on to make your six figure salary, it means wanting to learn, even needing to learn, and therefore actually doing your part to do so.Report

Prof MA
Prof MA
Reply to  Prof
4 years ago

I agree with you. I’ve taught freshman/sophomore level university mathematics and here’s my observation. 1. Students want to be entertained either by the professor and/or by things on their phones in class. 2. They think that just by showing up to class, they will automatically receive an A in the course. 3. There exists next to no motivation to learn math evidenced by the lack of note-taking, refusing to go to the board to work a problem, not completing online homework by the due dates, arriving late and/or not showing up at all—in spite of the classroom policies being clearly stated with a syllabus acknowledgment sheet having been signed. 4. They complain that the in-class multiple choice tests are too hard and too long, even though the study guide had the exact same questions.
My first semester, I taught real college algebra, and gave real tests. After all the complaints and low ratings on the student opinion surveys, I began teaching to the test and even letting them use notes. 3 out of 4 classes resulted in higher ratings, except for one—a math class for elementary education majors, and so the university did not renew my contract with the rationale that my performance was zero and claimed I was the worst professor at the whole university. Universities have adopted this customer service model, and it’s out of hand. If the students are going to run faculty out of the universities and literally destroy their tenure track careers like that, perhaps there is no need for post-secondary education. When I attended college, the professors had authority and the students listened. Not anymore. I’m in my mid 50’s and I have become too traumatized to return to academia, with the fear that a non-renewed contract can happen again during my 6 years of preparing for tenure. This is not what I envisioned when I wanted to become a professor, and frankly, I don’t want to go to work every day feeling like my goal is to please everyone, rather than teach them math. Everything a professor does is under scrutiny, and for the low salary, it’s not worth it. Report

annon_@
6 years ago

Professor Parsons’ insistence that “universities are ancient and tend to do things the old-fashioned way” reconfirmed my impression that making improvements on pedagogical method is not so much of an interest for many philosophers, even when espousing “that universities are about education” themselves. In contrary, one of the main objective for many textbook authors in STEM fields is, to the best of my knowledge, to make the book easier than what they had to struggle against during their undergraduate years.

Yes, “chalk-and-talk” method have proved to be effective for last two millennia in philosophy, and canonical textbooks are not our stuffs; it might indeed be the only right way to teach philosophy. I am not so sure, however, any serious attempt to come out with an alternative has been made thus far.Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

“Teachers may not be professors, but professors should be teachers.” Some old dude called Socrates had something interesting to say about whether philosophers should be teachers…

I think the critics are relying on a straw man. The sense of “lecturing” he defends isn’t the sense they object to: “a good bit of lecture, some discussion” is compatible with a 15-20 minute attention cap of lecture alternating with discussion. The objection that professors are teachers defines “teacher” differently than in his contrast to “professor.” He doesn’t reject “worrying about how to convey the information.” His point is that *after* we’ve so worried , it’s *then* the student’s job to meet us halfway. This connects to another questionable criticism: he “thinks that people learn by some sort of osmosis.” On the contrary, he uses both lecture and discussion, and emphasizes that lecture is an active process of “critical listening.”

I find the “these are different times” argument perplexing. It’s often used in contradictory ways. On the one hand: “what with all these crazy economic hardships and technological distractions, it’s hard for the poor students to meet our old fashioned expectations!” On the other hand: “what with the superiority of their whiz bang, multitasking, hyperspeed forms of intelligence, it’s a waste of their time to meet your old fashioned expectations!”

We are either supposed to condescend to and pity them and do what they want or we’re supposed to worship and adore them and do what they want. But neither argument really make sense in isolation. If work and distractions make active concentration more difficult, isn’t that more reason to help them develop that capacity rather than helping to atrophy it? If new technology has, on the contrary, created a learning utopia where all knowledge is available in a variety of forms for a variety of styles of learning, making learning easier than ever, then isn’t that a reason to expect *more* from our students, be more demanding of their concentration, since they have it easier than we did?

Of course, the two arguments contradict each other. But If find them puzzling either way on their own. How are they intended to work? How do we get from “these are different times” to the view that the primary (if not sole) responsibility for the student’s learning and attention is on the professor rather than the student?Report

Marcus Arvan
6 years ago

I work on the intersection of ideal and non-ideal theory in moral and political philosophy–and one of my main messages is that it is mistake to try to straightforwardly extend ideals to a nonideal world, for however correct they may be as ideals, trying to implement them directly in the real world can undermine their own achievement.

This, I believe, directly relevant to Parsons’ article. I think that however correct his main points may be “in theory” (viz. it’s not our job to make students learn!)–something which I doubt as an ideal, but this is beside the point–this ideal is not one that we should pursue in practice. And for a very simple reason. It is simple fact, in higher-education today, that departmental funding/jobs/etc. is a function of “butts in seats.” At my school, the English department is enormous. Why? Because they put butts in seats. If we want a healthy, discipline–if we want more tenure-track jobs, more good philosophers, etc.–we need to put butts in seats. And telling students it is “their job to learn” won’t do this. I’ve seen it happen. Students will walk away…right to a discipline who teachers think it *is* their job to make students learn.

Ideals are nice and all, but in order to realize any of our ideals as a profession, we need to actually *be* a viable profession–and, in the current environment, this means that in order to achieve our ideals, we must balance them against the nonideal reality. Not doing so is a recipe for disaster, for all of us and for our students.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
6 years ago

I’m not sure how much one can generalise here to all professors anywhere. What Keith Parsons describes has little in common with Oxford teaching, at least: I teach to an exam set according to a syllabus which I don’t unilaterally control (although I’m part of a democratic process that controls it collectively, and it might be my turn to set it sometimes); I see preparation for that test as an important (though not dominant) component of my teaching, because I want to help my students to understand how to avoid being tripped up by the artificialities of any exam process; I absolutely do care if my students get poor grades (more accurately, if they look as if they’re on course for poor grades); if they’re working hard I’ll work with them to help them sort whatever the problem is; if they’re just being lazy they’re wasting my time and I’ll communicate that to them forcefully; if they carry on wasting everyone’s time and won’t stop doing so they’ll be expelled. More teacher than professor? Very possibly, but if so, I’m not sure what’s so bad about that.Report

Anon7
Anon7
6 years ago

@#7
“This connects to another questionable criticism: he “thinks that people learn by some sort of osmosis.” On the contrary, he uses both lecture and discussion, and emphasizes that lecture is an active process of “critical listening.””

I am not criticizing the lecture/discussion model. I use it myself. But there are such things as good lectures and bad lectures. What I am criticizing is Parson’s stated belief that he doesn’t care if his students learn anything from his lectures. He seems to feel that the way he teaches and what he teaches has no connection to whether students learn anything — that’s what I meant by “learn by osmosis.”Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

David Wallace,

I’m no sure you’re position is so different from Parsons. You say, “If they’re working hard I’ll work with them to help them sort whatever the problem is; if they’re just being lazy they’re wasting my time and I’ll communicate that to them forcefully.” Isn’t Parsons saying that he’s not responsible for students’ failures in precisely those kinds of cases cases, where they’re wasting your time?

Anon7,

I don’t get the impression Parsons “doesn’t care if his students learn anything from his lectures.” His emphasis is on responsibility (“It is no part of my job to make you learn”), which in turn shows he believes students must be active participants in learning, not passive absorbers (“osmosis”). I think his metaphor of “leading” students to the fountain of knowledge is meant strongly: the professor is obligated to guide and help, but can’t do the activity of learning for them. (Again, the example of Socrates, another anti-teacher, comes to mind.) He even stresses that his view is based in his value commitment to education, so it seems uncharitable to say he doesn’t care if his students learn.

Marcus Arvan,

But in the same spirit of non-idealism, philosophy is an esoteric discipline, most students take it to satisfy some requirement, or out of curiosity, or because it fits their schedule, so no amount of teacherliness is going to magically make it a super seat-filler.

I’m always wary of non-ideal theory arguments, since they sometimes call into question one form of ideal theory while covertly protecting another. I suspect some critics have a very ideal vision of the professor as super-teacher in the Dead Poet’s Society vein, an ideal theory of another kind.Report

Clement Loo
Clement Loo
6 years ago

Anon in comment 11,
In response to your response to Anon7: While it’s clearly true that the professor can’t do the activity of learning for students, what a professor can – and I believe should – do is to make things as easy as realistically possible for the students to learn. Or, perhaps less strongly, should take reasonable steps to ensure that their students can be reasonably expected to learn. That, and the evidence appealed to above suggesting the limited effectiveness of lecture, suggests that professors should take time to think about and develop their pedagogy to so that their teaching can be as effective as possible.

My point is: one can complain that students are not taking enough responsibility in their learning or one can think about how to teach in a style that students are more apt to respond well to (of course one can do any number of other things but I haven’t seen other suggestions presented so far). Of those two options I would suspect only the second would likely result in improved educational outcomes for students. Though the first might be easier and more satisfying for those of us who face heavy teaching loads along with research and service responsibilities.Report

Arthur Ward
6 years ago

I don’t think these criticisms are straw men. Parsons may be a great lecturer, and he may care about his students’ learning more than he lets on in the article. But the gist of his message, and the source of my main complaint, is revealed in his sixth paragraph. In an act of (apparently) a priori education research, He dismisses “guide on the side” pedagogy in favor of the “sage on a stage” (buzzwords that signal that he is familiar with the existence of active learning techniques). He provides no evidence that “sage on a stage” pedagogy is worthy of defense, and dismisses an educational movement with a very strong body of data showing that he is mistaken. To apply a priori reasoning to empirical matters is a quirky trap that philosophers fall into far too often. If he is not making this error, then I think the best interpretation of his article is the one his critics are pointing to: he does not seem to see it as his job to optimize learning opportunities in the classroom (preferring osmosis). I have plenty of sympathy for those of us that are great lecturers, and find more active learning techniques a teaching challenge that we were ill-prepared to utilize, never having had proper teacher training. But since student learning is open to empirical research, and since that work is being done by very talented researchers who are telling us that lecture should be minimized, and even “class discussion” is a blunt tool easily replaced by more effective methods, I think all of us should be trying to trying to improve our teaching by lessening the “sage on a stage” model wherever we can.Report

Avi
Avi
6 years ago

Parsons’ little speech seems intended to explain to students the reality of a situation that he believes students don’t currently understand and to serve the purpose of realigning their priorities and expectations. I suspect that such a speech would fail in numerous ways. Some students will simply hear it as a rant (which it is). Some students will be offended. Some students will feel that it verifies their assumptions about over-paid useless academics. Some students will start to see Parsons as their enemy. Very few or no students will think they need to get more serious about learning. Many students will remember the part where Parsons says he doesn’t care whether they learn anything and they will repeat that on his evaluations. Ironically, some perceptive students will notice that Parsons’ attitude is similar to that of their worst teachers in high school and they will drop his course and seek out a professor who cares about their success.Report

Marcus Arvan
6 years ago

Anon: You write, “philosophy is an esoteric discipline.” I disagree. I would say that far too much philosophy is esoteric, and that philosophy should–as far as possible–engage with questions human *beings* care about (not primarily philosophers) in terms they can understand, appreciate, and feel the force of. This is admittedly my own idiosyncratic view, but one that I do not think should be quickly dismissed. If anything should be relevant to everyday life–the lives of our students and fellow citizens–philosophy should be it; and it is unfortunate it has become esoteric that ordinary people fail to find much of interest in it. In any case, I try my darnedness to break down difficult philosophy to simple, down-to-earth notions that make sense to my students–and while I do not always succeed (by any means), I have found that to the extent that I can do it, it works wonders in terms of “putting butts in the seats.”Report

Tom
Tom
6 years ago

Why are we concerned with teaching at all? The chief benefit of universities is not to be found in their education of the masses, but in the research they produce. Educating the masses is something we do to (a) pay the bills and (b) help ourselves better understand our own work. Provided your teaching accomplishes those two aims — that is, that you teach well enough that people keep paying to come to your classes, and that your teaching material relevant to your actual research in some way — you’ve done good enough. I buy completely the idea that, after that, it’s up to the student — if she wants to learn, find a way to do so. If she doesn’t, and is just there for the degree and the social status that comes with it, cool. If neither of these apply, then, well, meh. Not really something I’m going to concern myself with.Report

James Lee
6 years ago

In terms of its social role, college is the new high school, it is the gateway to meaningful employment. It is likely because of its current social role that we observe the proliferation of colleges and universities across the country. It ls likely the case that most students attend colleges not to pursue knowledge for its own sake, but out of economic necessity. The kind of stand-offish attitude expressed by Parsons doesn’t really help to address the prevailing view among many that philosophy has nothing useful to offer to society. If people see philosophy as a means unrelated to their economic ends, and if they also see college education as an unavoidable means to the same end, then why, according to their lights, should philosophy be even included as part of college curriculum?

It seems to me, and I am wildly speculating, that many professional philosophers (Parsons included) have a job only because college is the new high school. As reported here at the Nous, some of these colleges have become convinced of the superfluity of philosophy in higher learning. I don’t see how Parsons pedagogy is doing anything but exacerbating matters.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
6 years ago

@Anon: because if they’re wasting my time by not working, it’s part of my job to make sure they stop wasting my time, either because they sort themselves out or because they get expelled. (That is: participating in an academic disciplinary process, potentially leading to a student’s expulsion, is part of my job.)Report

Out of work young PhD
Out of work young PhD
6 years ago

And meanwhile, many of those of us who do take the empirical research on learning seriously, who ceaselessly try to find effective ways to facilitate learning (note: not teach), struggle to find employment and probably will give up on the job search. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it–the bad job market is driving highly effective teachers out of the field and, pretty soon, every undergraduate philosophy student will have to find ways to learn IN SPITE OF these professors, like Parsons, who continue to adopt the sage on the stage methodology or, as Marcus points out, will just avoid such classes. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that we are seeing the gradual collapse of philosophy as a discipline in non-prestigious colleges and universities, albeit in slow motion, which makes it hard to detect for anyone other than for those who are paying attentionReport

Alan White
6 years ago

I’m mostly a teaching professor with a few good enough pubs to matter, whatever that mattering is. I’ve taught around 7000 students over 30 years–and that matters to me a lot. One of my students wrote a satirical lambasting of Rush Limbaugh that got him on Olbermann, another that cast her into Eastern spiritual teachings in DC, another who became a lawyer and who did my divorce, another who is the present mayor of my city, etc. etc. We teach those who will be that next generation who matter. We need to treat them as those who might matter, both for mattering to themselves and mattering to that next generation and our own future. It is finally a great responsibility for us in the classroom. To invert the philosopher Stan Lee, with great responsibility, comes great power. That inversion and its reverse explains why the proper truth function to insert between power and responsibility is indeed the biconditional; true whether each entailment is in combination true or false. That’s a final pronouncement on the power of the entailment itself. We have power; we have responsibility. They are inseparable.Report

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

Okay, this is not longer about straw men. This is just blatantly uncharitable, dishonest, and reprehensible.

Poster after poster keeps claiming or implying that Parsons doesn’t care about his students, doesn’t think teaching matters, doesn’t think his students matter, doesn’t care if they fail, doesn’t make any efforts to help his students. I’ve looked and cannot find anywhere the supposed claim ([email protected] and others) that Parson’s doesn’t care if his students learn. As a professor, I’d find that accusation *extremely* offensive, so the fact that so many are claiming he *explicitly says so* is deeply disturbing to me.

Let’s try a thought experiment. Parson’s speech, counterproductive as it might be (I agree with [email protected] about that), tells us very little about how Parsons actually teaches. We know only that he uses *some* lecture and *some* discussion. That’s it about praxis, and only hints at theory.

So: it is entirely possible that Parson’s actual teaching practice is almost identical to many of the critics here. So, the thought experiment: pretend his practice turned out to be very similar to your own or to professors whose practices are different but still good, since you don’t have enough evidence to strongly deny the possibility.

What becomes of the argument? It turns out to be entirely about style not content. It’s about ideology. The critics don’t like the way Parsons *talks about* his teaching. They don’t like the way he makes fun of their “sage on a stage” stereotypes or his unapologetic appeal to cliches about “old fashioned” methods. So they pretend he in practice embodies all the things they disapprove of, when the only evidence they have is he won’t talk their talk. It’s a non-debate with a non-existent enemy.Report

Avi
Avi
6 years ago

@Anon 21 You cannot really believe that students will hear the following and not take this to mean that Parsons doesn’t care: “I am not held responsible for your failures. On the contrary, I get paid the same whether you get an “F” or an “A.” My dean will not call me in… Neither will I have to document how often I offered you tutoring or extra credit assignments. I have no obligation whatsoever to make sure that you pass or make any particular grade at all. ” He doesn’t explicitly say the words “I don’t care,” but the passage I just quoted reeks of that sentiment expressed with the message “I got no skin in this game.” Students will not see the distinction between caring and being accountable. That Parsons seems to take pride in being unaccountable is what they will remember. For all I know, he may care, but that’s not what his students will hear.Report

John Dewey
John Dewey
6 years ago

Totally agree with the article. The suggested rationalisation supplied above concerning “different circumstances” is wafer thin. I was the first in my family to ever attend a university, and in no way did I require the kind of hand-holding that is expected of professors nowadays, or should I say, in American universities. Stop infantalising the students, they’re legally adults, and need to take responsibility for their own learning. Indeed, acquiring this vital skill is precisely the point of third-level education. The emphasis on pastoral care feeds right into the neo-liberal university paradigm. If you must politicise learning, focus on something concrete like tuition fees, not some vague identity-politic “outreach”.Report

Professor X*
Professor X*
6 years ago

To what extent is students reading and otherwise preparing for class a feature of the ‘guide on the side’ approach? As a recidivist sager, I have some sympathy for the active learning model but in my experience it works best when students do not have to have done any preparation at all in order to participate. My experience is that the guide approach does indeed get bums on seats but it doesn’t get students to read or otherwise engage with the texts. The outcome of ‘guide’ teaching is a philosophy grad of a different order to what we are used to. Rather than philosophy dying in the less prestigious schools, perhaps a useful rear guard action would be to create a new kind of degree better suited to ‘post-literacy’ cohorts.Report

Anand
Anand
5 years ago

I think, if he had the capacity to lead the students to the fountain of knowledge he would have had an understanding of his “responsibility”!
Report

Rich Murray
Rich Murray
4 years ago

The author’s quote is close but not quite spot on. As professors our directive is to lead higher education students by example to “wisdom” not just “knowledge”. Real education goes far beyond the constructs of university class rooms and just knowing (i.e. knowledge).Report

DeptChair11
DeptChair11
3 years ago

Some excellent comments on professors role as ‘teacher’. What is lacking throughout is that, still at tier1 and most tier2, teaching is not even 50% of the job. While a professor could be let go for being a poor teacher; most will certainly be let go for not being an, let’s say, adequate researcher. I believe too few professors find ways to engage undergraduates in their research. Perhaps a major reason students and much of the public believe we do nothing but perhaps teach 2-3 lectures a week. Good professors are some of the busiest people I know. What has made them good is that as well as developing their expertise in their chosen field; they have developed the people skills to excite the undergraduate student, immerse the graduate student, entice the granting agency, develop real skill at research, and successfully explain (publish) what they have discovered. This impossibly diverse skill set is so extremely rare, that it must be nurtured and developed in each faculty member I have ever known, myself near the top with that need. Most Ph.d. students graduate having started to develop their skills at research but having had little experience at teaching. That experience was more from observation than from practice or pedagogy. As I recall, my early attempts strove mostly to be sure I was better than some of what I had experienced and were supported more by enthusiastic energy than by any pedagogical tools or skills. Put into this background the fact that junior faculty have to do all of this while collegially building a research program; one that garners research $, supports graduate students, and results in peer-reviewed publications. All of these are generally more important than teaching, unless 1) it was a teaching position, 2) they failed at collegiality, when nearly anything will be used at tenure decision time.
I will address more in a later comment my thoughts about the post-tenure faculty issues.Report

Mark Watson
Mark Watson
2 years ago

The difference is competence over capability, teachers need to instruct to a point where the knowledge can be regugitated at a specific point in (exam) time in the present model. Vocational education also swims in the competency sea. Higher Ed is for building capability, not specifically how to operate a machine, more to work strategically in the organisation of work.Report