Higher Education Management Group member, Yuval Bar-Or, PhD, has just published a book -“Is a PhD for Me?”. Below, is an excerpt in which he raises questions about the teaching qualifications of university professors.
Excerpt from Chapter 11: Hot Issues in the Academic World
Are Today’s Professors Qualified to Teach?
A strong argument can be made that the answer to this question is No!
Kindergarten, elementary and high school teachers are required to study how to teach, and must proceed through a fairly regimented system to attain the appropriate credentials. PhDs, responsible for teaching at the highest levels of higher education, traditionally have very little to no formal training in how to teach, instruct, train, or educate others. It’s assumed that, somehow, students obtain their PhDs and simultaneously (and miraculously) acquire the ability to teach, perhaps by osmosis. They are subsequently entrusted with educating our most advanced students: the next generation of leaders, thinkers, poets, scientists, philosophers, and generals is in their hands; yet, in contrast to teaching qualifications required of elementary and secondary school teachers, university professors are required to possess few to none.
It’s easy to point to the global dominance of North American-educated leaders and insist that the system is, nevertheless, working. But where would our society be if university teachers were even better? How much more impact would better-educated people make on the current and future states of the world? Has the educational benefit of institutions of higher learning been maximized?
Some universities now require all graduate students to attend at least one teaching class; recently, requirements that all instructors possess at least minimal English language skills have been adopted in most North American universities. Many of these changes have come in response to complaints by irate students who felt their tuition money was wasted on graduate students and professors who were incapable of teaching, due to lack of either language or teaching skills or both. Sadly, in many cases the changes are rather cosmetic, doing relatively little to improve the quality of higher education.
In addition to poor teaching or language skills, many academics are so isolated in their ivory tower they’re out of touch with external realities. Consider the examples set by many of the leading business schools: junior professors, with no practical experience outside academia, stand up in front of MBA students and preach theories. Fine, time-honored theories which make a lot of sense within the protected confines of the ivory tower, but are difficult or impossible to apply in the complex global marketplace that is today’s real business environment. It doesn’t take long for an MBA student with up to ten years of work experience to challenge the professor’s statements; the inadequately prepared professor cannot bridge this gap between theory and practice for the confused students. As a result, some of the material is rendered useless, and the instructor’s credibility is eroded.
Yuval Bar-Or, PhD
President of The Light Brigade Corporation and Adjunct Professor at Johns Hopkins University
Is a PhD for Me? Life in the Ivory Tower: A Cautionary Guide for Aspiring Doctoral Students
TLB Publishing (http://www.TLBcorp.com)