The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024
Instagram

Anemic teaching

PowerPoint does not a professor make

We’ve all been in one of those classes. The lights turned low, overhead projector on, PowerPoint presentation showing slide after sleep-inducing slide of information that you downloaded from the Internet weeks ago and a constant dull drone coming from somewhere near the front of the lecture hall. Between bleary-eyed head drops, you can just make out the fuzzy form of your professor at the front of the classroom. Every department on campus has classes like these where students spend less time jotting notes and more time jolting awake after nodding off.

A recent study conducted by the National Academies’ National Research Council found that professors of science, technology, engineering and mathematics receive little training in how to teach those subjects. But professors in all subjects could use some training.

While almost all professors spend time as teaching assistants during their years at graduate school, most universities do not require that they receive any formal training in teaching.

It might slip by in advanced courses where professors can get excited working with students that already have a background in the basics of the field. However, where deficiencies really show are in survey introductory courses.

It must be understandably maddening for a professor who spends his research hours on bushwhacking on the front lines of his field to try to teach the basics of chemistry to undergraduate English majors. But if these classes are going to be required, the university should take steps to ensure their students can learn in them.

Requiring teaching certificates or education degrees may not be the best solution. Studies have shown that the quality of education falls when professors major in education rather than the subject that they desire to teach.

However, there are things the university can do to promote the development of quality educators. Teaching ability should be just as much a factor in awarding tenure as research. Class evaluations should be merely the first step in a series of teaching evaluations that include reviews by colleagues, teaching portfolios and statistical study of the number of students who drop classes and those that go on to take more classes within the discipline.

By honoring professors who are the university’s best educators and hosting lectures and sessions on improving pedagogical techniques, SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence shows the university is willing to address this problem and encourage quality education. Now, the university must look at the way that faculty is managed in order to ensure its commitment to undergraduate education.

More to Discover