Jesse comments on “Aspiring Academics” – Part 2

In Part 1 of my comments on Aspiring Academics: A Resource Book for Graduate Students and Early Career Faculty from the AAG I focused on online resources to build on the concepts offered in the text. With Part 2, which covers chapters 6-10 on developing and enhancing teaching and advising skills I will just be offering up my personal comments. To go beyond what this section of the book has to offer you have to get into the education literature yourself.

Chapter 6 – Designing Significant Learning Experiences
-If you haven’t figured it out already, this is the key question for me and hopefully anyone teaching whether at a community college, teaching university or Research I institution. There is a simple suggestion that I can make to go along with this chapter…take teaching/education classes. Much as we have theory and methodologies to support our research in our domain area, educators have an existing literature on the ways in which to convey ideas, reinforce critical thinking, and even how to get students in the classroom on sunny days in Spring. I have taken three courses on using technology in the classroom and plan to continue to take classes now that my dissertation is coming to an end, not because it is required, but because there is so much more to know about being an effective instructor.

Chapter 7 – Active Learning
-Active Learning is one of those methodologies I referred to above from a teaching perspective. The goal of active learning is to focus on the student instead of the instructor and encourages learning through experience. The type experience of course varies based on subject matter and can range from a field trip to watch professionals at work, a role playing exercise in class where students reenact a situation, and, with tech, just sitting down and doing something. There is a wealth of information on active learning strategies online and in texts, so just give it a whirl in Google.

Chapter 8 – Advising Students
-Perhaps one of the things we as PhDs in a given domain area are least prepared for is the role of advisor. Somehow when we looked at our professors we never really saw the ‘Guidance Counselor’ sign on the door, but it is there and unlike Lucy we don’t get $.05 a session. Whether you are in class or in the hallway, or even the grocery store, you are on the job and your goal is to help students do their best. The upshot is to remember to go for Dr. Phil in Jerry Springer situations and you will make it to the next class.

Chapter 9 – Ethical Teaching in Practice
-This is one of those that for most faculty is a ‘go with your gut situations. Most faculty I know are just great folks anyway and generally do the right/ethical thing. That isn’t to say that they are infallible, just the opposite, but most faculty tend to strive for their best and learn from their mistakes and with a topic like ethics which is a fuzzy target to begin with, that is all you can ask.

Chapter 10 – Teaching for Inclusion
-This chapter is about diversity in the classroom. The issue of diversity ranges from our class roster, to content we cover, and even personal biases we bring from our own experience. The goal of course is to find a way to discuss and encourage diversity in a way that is supportive and sensitive at the same time. You will have issues, someone will be disgruntled at some point, but the aim is to focus on being inclusive of different perspectives.

Part 3 of my comments on Aspiring Academics will round up the text with the section on research/scholarly responsibilities covering chapters 11-14.