Should Philosophers Train Graduate Students to Teach? How? (Guest Post by David W. Concepción)

The following is a guest post* by David W. Concepción, professor of philosophy at Ball State University, which summarizes some of the findings presented in “The State of Teacher Training in Philosophy” (Teaching Philosophy 2016), a systematic look at the training in teaching graduate students in philosophy get (alternative link). In the paper, authors Concepción, Melinda Messineo (Ball State), Sarah Wieten (Durham), and Catherine Homan (Siena) argue that we should better prepare philosophy graduate students for the teaching aspects of being a professor.

Should Philosophers Train Graduate Students to Teach? How?
by David W. Concepción

In “The State of Teacher Training in Philosophy,” my co-authors and I provide data regarding the state of teacher training in philosophy graduate programs in the English-speaking world. Do philosophy graduate programs offer training regarding teaching? If so, what is the nature of the training? Who offers it? How valuable is it?

Our data suggests that the field of philosophy isn’t offering very much high quality teacher training even though philosophers want more and better teacher training and, collectively, we know how to deliver and support it.

Among the interesting data in this paper are:

  • 87.4% of emerging philosophers do not get tenure-track positions at predominantly research-oriented institutions
  • 84.6% of graduate students and early career philosophers “agree” or “strongly agree” that their graduate program should offer more teacher training
  • 89.2% of faculty in graduate programs believe their students receive fewer than twenty hours of formal teacher training
  • Only 10% of philosophy faculty leading teaching workshops for graduate students have expertise in teaching and learning
  • Only 21.7% of graduate students experiencing trainings report that their participation led to what they perceived to be significant improvement in their teaching.
  • In only 2.5% of all trainings were participants expected to produce products to be used in future teaching
  • On the up side, many survey participants singled out the teaching workshops offered by the American Association of Philosophy Teachers as extremely valuable

We note:

  • “What the field of philosophy needs are for-credit, semester-long teacher training courses, led by philosophy faculty with expertise in teaching and learning who guide graduate students through demanding assignments that move beyond introductory teaching topics.”

The paper also discusses the potential incongruity among three findings:

  • A majority of philosophers (i) know little about best practices in teaching and learning, (ii) receive fewer than twenty hours of formal teacher training during graduate school (although most get teaching experience), and yet (iii) believe they are well prepared for the teaching aspects of the professoriate.

Perhaps the survey missed something. What initiatives regarding teacher training are happening in your graduate department? What could your department do right now to meet the desire for better teacher training?

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