Last fall, the academic career coach Jennifer Polk conducted an informal Twitter poll: How many of you, she asked her followers, received any meaningful pedagogical training during graduate school?
Replies ranged from the encouraging to the mostly dispiriting, with one doctoral candidate noting that the only training the program had offered took the form of “trial by fire.” Just 19 percent of the 2,248 respondents said they had received at least “decent” training — a number that, however unscientific, is also symptomatic.
This statistic reflects something that many of us could confirm firsthand: Teaching remains undervalued in the context of doctoral training and the profession at large. The result, by this anecdotal reckoning, is that less than one-fifth of aspiring college teachers are effectively taught how to teach.
New Council of Graduate Schools publication highlights effective strategies and best practices
Washington, DC – The next generation of faculty will be better prepared to help their students learn, thanks to a new Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) report released today. Strategies to Prepare Future Faculty to Assess Student Learning is the product of a three-year project to identify models for infusing undergraduate learning assessment skills into existing Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) programs. With support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Teagle Foundation, and in collaboration with seven funded institutions and 19 affiliates, the project involved nearly 1,300 graduate students and 200 faculty across the humanities, social sciences, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
The goal of one of the longest-running professional-development programs for graduate students and postdocs is baked right into its name.
Preparing Future Faculty, which started in 1993, was designed to introduce Ph.D. students and postdocs on campuses nationwide to the realities of being a professor. The program exposes them to what faculty life looks like at the kinds of colleges where they’re most likely to be hired. One of the first institutions in the program was Duke University.
Its participants, known as fellows, visit nearby institutions that are starkly different from Duke, including private liberal-arts colleges, a historically black college, a community college, a women’s college, and a sprawling land-grant institution, where they sit in on undergraduate classes and talk with faculty members, administrators, and students. Faculty mentors on those campuses talk frankly to them about the demands of academic life, and provide insider tips on conducting academic job searches, among other things.
In the end, not every fellow becomes a professor, but that outcome is not unexpected.
The idea that a Ph.D. can prepare you for diverse careers — not just for the professoriate — is now firmly with us.
Most doctoral students in the arts and sciences start out with the desire to become professors. But that’s not where most of them end up. By now, most graduate advisers understand that their doctoral students will follow multiple career paths. And increasing numbers of professors and administrators are trying to help students do that.
It’s also about a better balance in your work life, says Lynn Talton.
One of the most enduring impressions of my graduate school and postdoctoral experience was a pervasive feeling of guilt whenever I wasn’t working on my research. I see evidence of similar feelings in the graduate students and postdocs with whom I interact now. Recently, I was talking with a graduate student about exploring the entrepreneurial side of research as a possible career path. After I explained the wide range of organizations and opportunities available on campus, he sighed and repeated a familiar refrain: “That all sounds great, but I just don’t have time.”
We’ve all been there — I bet you’ve uttered this very phrase in the last few days. The truth is that no matter your current position or your future career path, there will always be more work you can do. So now is the time to develop the skills to strategically balance your work priorities — and to do so in a way that improves your career prospects.