Monday, February 16, 2009

 

Ask the Administrator: HS vs. CC Faculty

A regular correspondent writes:

What, exactly, are CC faculty supposed to do that substantially distinguishes them from high school teachers?

I don't mean this in a derogatory manner, I was a high school teacher and found the job incredibly fulfilling.

Similarly, I was a full-time CC instructor on the tenure-track.  In order to be approved for tenure I was expected to teach classes (actually semester hours) to a reasonable standard of competency.  I was also expected to take part in the organizational structure of the college by serving on committees.  It was expected that I keep current in the methods of pedagogy in my field and demonstrate that I was attempting to improve my instruction (note that this is pre-tenure).

I could write the exact same job description for a high school teacher, except that they would spend far more time in the classroom on a weekly basis. I taught more classes, had more preps and had more students as a HS teacher than a CC teacher and I worked far more school days.  That 'month break' between fall and spring semesters sounds more like 10 days depending on the year.

The weird thing?  The salaries were about the same, maybe a little better at the CC.  And, the opportunities for overloads, intersession classes, summer classes made the possible salary significantly better.

What justifies this disparity?  Especially in these economic times?

For reference, my academic qualifications were better when I got the HS job than at any time during my CC gig and I was a far better teacher.  While teaching HS I just kept reflecting on how much free time I had while teaching at my CC.

I guess the corresponding question is, 'how are CC administrators paid in relationship to school district personnel who have similar jobs?'  I've got no idea/experience on this one other than to note that many, if not most superintendents make well in excess of 100K, but I've got no idea what the lower level folks make.


I'll start by saying that this varies by state, so generalizations that are relatively fair in one state may be wildly off-base in another. Depending on locale, one venue might be unionized and the other not, for example. I'll be interested to see what my wise and worldly readers have to contribute on this one, since they hail from many different places.

That said, I'll address the academic side first. In the geographic areas with which I'm relatively familiar, high school teachers have historically been teachers first and subject matter experts second (or sometimes third). On the positive side, that has often meant that they've been trained in the quirks of child and adolescent behavior at a level that most laypeople haven't. On the negative side, I had teachers in high school whose subject-matter mastery sometimes lagged my own, and I wasn't alone. (I clearly remember explaining the Missouri Compromise to my American History teacher, who thought that it involved partitioning Missouri. You know, North Missouri and South Missouri.) The worst – and I'm not making this up – was the fifth-grade math teacher whose grasp of fractions was bad enough that we graded quizzes by majority vote. If TB came home and told me that, I'd be in his principal's office the next day with a pitchfork in one hand and a torch in the other.

At the cc level, instructors are professors. That means their primary expertise is in their subject matter, with a secondary focus – if that – on instruction. While I've seen some great teachers, many good ones, and a few regrettable ones, I haven't seen a single one who didn't at least understand the subject matter of the course. The least effective ones often can't communicate their knowledge effectively, but at least the knowledge is there.

On the higher end of the scale, we expect professors to have the capacity to explain things above the level they're teaching. That's why we require Master's degrees, and prefer Doctorates, even to teach 101-level classes. The idea is to be able to handle student queries that don't follow the book, to follow developments in the field before they show up in textbook revisions, and to equip students with some of the depth necessary for them to succeed at the next level. Our graduates transfer to four-year colleges, and they need to be ready to compete there. (According to the data we've been able to gather, they actually graduate at higher rates at their destination schools than do 'native' students.) Professors who have the capacity to do higher-level classes can provide that extra depth, so that's who we hire.

It's probably true that the 'face time' demands on high school teachers are higher. At my cc, which isn't unusual, professors have to teach 15 hours per week and provide a few office hours on top of that. They also have to do a few committees. All told, they can do the scheduled work in probably 25 hours per week, when classes are in session. That's not counting prep time, or grading, both of which can be monstrous time sinks, but both of which can be done at home, or at night, or on Sunday. High school teachers have to do five days per week, six (or so) classes per day, starting at an unhealthy hour of the morning. (Why, or why, haven't American high schools adjusted to the research which shows that the adolescent body clock starts and finishes the day later than everybody else's? But I digress.) They also have to prep and grade, and sometimes do lunchroom or hall monitor duty, too. (I literally can't imagine my faculty doing that.) I imagine that high school teaching involves less curricular work, since curricula are pretty rigidly standardized, but that can bring its own set of stresses.

I can't really address the salary question directly, since I don't know the ins and outs of local high school salary schedules. (Yes, they're unionized, as are my faculty.) My impression anecdotally is that they're roughly comparable, though you get tenure faster in the high school system. And I have even less clue what, say, high school assistant principals make around here, so I really can't address that.

What I like about this question is the implication that some folks who are absolutely killing themselves as college adjuncts might be able to find very satisfying lives teaching high school. In some disciplines, that's probably true, and well worth some mulling.

Wise and worldly readers – any thoughts or observations on this one? Keep in mind, the question isn't meant to be derogatory towards either group; it seems to be (at least I'm reading it as) an actual question.

Have a question of your own? Ask the Administrator at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.

Comments:
My fiance, who's taught physics full-time at a CC for 15 years now, would add something significant to what you say: they teach classes at a level that enable students to perform at or compete with college classes directly. The classes are scheduled and run the same way they are at the university, so the content density, as it were, should be similar. His CC looks for instructors who can provide a bridge for HS graduates not quite ready to transition to college level study directly. The advantage of the CC here is that the same classes can generally be offered with far fewer students in the classroom, so that students can receive more attention than they would at the big U.
 
One basic, but serious difference, would have to be class size, no? I mean, in most high schools, your classes have 20-40 students, tops. A 101 CC class could be anywhere from 50-200. That leads to HUGE differences in the type of teaching you can do. With 25 students, there's the possibility for student interaction, group work, etc. With 100 students, not so much.

In terms of actual content, I don't see THAT much difference between the two. DD, the HS teachers you mention sound just downright awful, but in my experience, most are better prepared than that...

The other thing isn't just the level of graduate preparation (Ph,d. v. Masters), but the KIND of graduate work that seperates the two. Most H.S. teachers I know get their graduate degrees in Education. I've found that this usually helps them on the student behavior side of things, but leaves them lacking in the subject area expertise (although not to the degree that DD remembers). It's been mentioned before, but one of the really big downsides to the way most states certify teachers is that a Harvard Ph,D. in say, history, would probably have to go back and take a bunch of Education credits in order to be able to teach high school history. I have a family member who just decided to teach high school business, but even with an M.B.A. from a top-5 business school, and 25 years of top-level management experience, he's back at the local U taking education credits (which, in my opinion, is a terrible waste of time and money). In a lot of states, you don't even have to major in the subject area you want to teach. Ask around your local high school; I bet there are plenty of high school english teachers who were history majors in college...

CC professors, are, for the most part (especially in this market) required to have Ph,d's, as DD noted. I think this, for the most part, is a pretty ridiculous qualification. A doctorate doesn't really test specific area knowledge; it's really a research degree. The same coursework as an M.A. in the subject, just + however many years it takes to finish the dissertation. I don't think the extra 4 years really makes you a better CC professor, except to say that for most folks, they have to adjunct at a CC while they're getting their Ph,d. Useful, cheap labor for the CC? You bet. But I don't think that it should be required...

I think a good policy would be requiring both CC profs and H.S. teachers to have Master's degrees in the subjects they wish to teach, with H.S. teachers having to take a few more ed and/or child pysch classes...

-Rob
 
"What I like about this question is the implication that some folks who are absolutely killing themselves as college adjuncts might be able to find very satisfying lives teaching high school. In some disciplines, that's probably true, and well worth some mulling."

Unfortunately, in most cases, that would be impossible unless the adjunct in question also had a worthless "degree" in education. As the old saying goes, Greenspan isn't qualified to teach a high school economics course...
 
The question I'd really like to see someone take on is the admin salary and admin-teacher-student ratio in grades 7-12 versus grades 13-14. My HS had about 1/7 the students of my CC, but it sure didn't have only 1/7 the full time faculty!

That said ...

Could my HS physics teacher, who was working on a masters, teach the classes I teach? Interesting question. My answer would be "almost", and the difference would be in areas where I suspect he would do about as well as, if not better than, some of the profs at Big Dog U.

As DD says, you don't need an MS in Chemistry to teach HS chemistry, or an MS in Physics to teach HS physics. My memory is of a student teacher in HS chemistry who actually did know less chemistry than many of his best students. He needed to use exams that came with a key! My first-hand knowledge is that many area high schools have persons teach HS physics or chemistry who are completely out of area (e.g. Phys Ed in one case) and have never even taken a college physics class comparable to the one I teach (which is required to get Secondary Physics Ed certification).

Even our former HS math teachers, particularly the ones who teach math that is basically at the HS level, emphasize the "one year in 15 weeks" aspect of college learning to get their students up to speed for their next math class. My best HS classes never came close to that level of effort.
 
With due respect to Rob, this simply isn't true, at least in my discipline (English literature):

A doctorate doesn't really test specific area knowledge; it's really a research degree. The same coursework as an M.A. in the subject, just + however many years it takes to finish the dissertation.

My doctoral program required a year of coursework beyond the requirements for the MA. It required additional language training. We spent the better part of a year preparing for the Qualifying Exam, which tested a substantially broader body of knowledge than we would need to write the dissertation. In addition, we all taught a variety of classes, under much closer mentoring than one receives teaching either HS or CC. All this made me a much better teacher (if I do say so myself--at least in terms of my mastery of Literary Studies as a discipline) at the end of my doctoral work than I would be if I had stopped with the MA.
 
Shane, perhaps your comment needs a bit more qualification?

You wrote, "this simply isn't true, at least in my discipline (English literature)" and then provided evidence.

I'm not willing to believe that this is true at all phd granting institutions even in the field of English literature.

I cannot comment from a position of any experience in the field of English literature, but given that vastly different levels of training I've now seen in mathematics can't help but assume that similar variation exists between institutions in English both in terms of the coursework required after the masters and teaching responsibilities and mentoring.


Perhaps we're both guilty of overgeneralization to some extent here?


I know that my doctoral program did nothing to prepare me to teach. We never even had a single meeting on the topic of 'how to teach in your field.'
 
Caveat: I don't teach at a CC and never have, but...

I'd imagine that the biggest differences (based on my knowledge of what my best friend who is a high school teacher in my field, English, has to do for her job) have to do with stuff beyond the classroom.

1. Curricular development: even at a CC, there is often a greater deal of autonomy in how courses are taught and in what courses get taught, what assignments are given, etc. While some classes may have a common textbook, there often isn't a common syllabus, and there isn't the mandate to teach to standardized tests that high school teachers face.

2. The need to deal with "interested parties" - i.e., parents, the school board, the community - about the work of a class or of individual students. This just is not the case when you teach adults (although CC teachers have some of this because of early enrollment high schoolers).

3. Advising. My best friend is not responsible for helping her students to choose classes, to think about what they'll do after high school, etc. She may do this for some, but that is the job of guidance counselors. I'd imagine that there are advising responsibilities for f-t faculty at community colleges.

Those are the big things that come to mind off the top of my head, though again, I don't teach at a CC, though my regional's mission and student population isn't unlike that of a CC.
 
To take up for Shane,
My experience is that the vast majority of doctoral programs in English include a lot of emphasis on teaching (and generally *require* their students to clock time in the classroom during the period of their residency) - from elite institutions to mediocre sorts. Why? Because the market is so glutted in English that even an Ivy PhD won't usually get a person a f-t, t-t job without teaching experience - not even at a research institution. Also because grad student labor is necessary to keep first year writing programs afloat. So yes, there is some generalization going on here, but English is a field that is very "teaching-centric" in terms of even its doctoral training, or at the very least has been in the past 15 years or so. I'm willing to venture that there must be programs that have no teacher training component in English, but I do think those are few and far between.
 
Dr. C,

Your comments are suggestive and I'm willing to believe that I shouldn't project from math to English.

Weird though that the same oversupply exists in mathematics too (300 applicants per position is normal) yet it seems that departments respond in very different ways...
 
The K-12 schools around me require a Masters + credits, but most people take both their majors in education. I know a lot of art teachers that have a BA and MA in art education. That means half the credits for both degrees fall into art and the other half education. This does not give a teacher the opportunity the become diverse or even specific in the subject area.

As someone who dropped out of an art ed. grad. program to pursue art, I think it is a waste to take classes in education, other than child psych or classroom management. Taking an entire semester of lesson planning is ridiculous and basically was set to national education standards.

Freedom in the classroom is something that stands out as being different in HS and college. I don't have to worry too much about parents being in an uproar about course content. Art history is one major area I see HS art teachers lacking knowledge.

Depth of content is another difference. When studying color do HS art teachers delve into scientific theory or simply have students do a color wheel? The course assignments are on a more difficult level.

It also depends on the CC, some are easier than others. I feel the no admissions requirement policy stems from the lack of preparation and education coming from the high schools.
 
I've taught both community college and high school. Of the two, high school actually required more in the way of academic credits to get the qualification. (This is in Canada, so the US may vary.) I needed the same subject qualifications at both, but HS required extra psychology and methods courses.

Pay for high school is less up here than for community college. More full-time jobs, though, as the CCs up here have been basically hiring only part-timers on short-term contracts for years. Teachers don't have tenure up here (just seniority, which is different).

As to keeping current, the hard part about keeping up as a high school teacher is that you are cut off from the academic world. No subscriptions, unless you pay for them yourself. No conferences, unless they happen during your vacation (only ten weeks up here) and you can afford them. And very little time (50-60 hours a week to do a decent job). Throw in no real office (smaller than grad students cubicle, no secretarial support, etc.) and, as noted, the requirement to be in the building for extra duties when not actually teaching, and even reading the literature comes out of one's sleep cycle.

That said, basic competence is expected — at least at the grade level one is teaching.
 
Ooooh, Dean Dad, please do a post about the desirability/necessity of a Ph.D for community college teachers. That'll get the fur flying!

--Philip
 
I'm with Anonymous Philip. I would LOVE to know why people with doctorates are either better or more desirable CC teachers.
 
I do think my experience was fairly typical of doctoral training in Literary Studies. The amount of coursework post-MA may very, but almost all the good programs will require competency in a second foreign language, and they all require a qualifying exam of some sort. And as Dr. Crazy said, English departments tend to focus a lot on teaching. Among other experiences, grad students often work as TAs for professors in large introduction to literature courses, for which they get to teach their own discussion sections. The amount of formal mentoring might vary, but I think it's fair to say that pedagogy is foregrounded both in the English curriculum and in extracurricular training.
 
Rabbit trail time:

A methodology question:

DD you wrote, concerning your CC students' success when transferring to 4 year institutions) that

"(According to the data we've been able to gather, they actually graduate at higher rates at their destination schools than do 'native' students.)"

How are you making this comparison? I would assume that you take the students that enter into their 3rd year having been "native" to the school, and then compare that to the CC students transferring in for the third year, allowing for something close to an "apples to apples" comparison?

Do you have any links to the research that you would be willing to share?
 
I'm with the other anonymous posters here. I'm teaching math part-time at an art college with a master's degree and feel that I'll be much more prepared to teach at a community college in two years (when I would have graduated from my PhD program) than the other students in my cohort.

My college hires part-time faculty as part-time faculty, and not as adjuncts, the difference (aside from semantics) is that we all have required professional development meetings and exercises; we have teaching evaluations by our peers and department heads; we're set up with full-time faculty mentors who we work with to improve our teaching; and some of us (myself included) work on committees to improve the curricula, the tutoring program, and other academic aspects.

Why would community colleges prefer a candidate who has a PhD in mathematics but maybe very little teaching experience (and certainly no developmental mathematics teaching experience) over someone like me, who will have taught something like 30 sections of courses, most of which at the developmental level but some courses that would be at the higher end of what most community colleges offer? It would seem that I'll have significantly more teaching experience, especially with the courses that the college is likely to offer, as well as much more direct education training, including working with students with disabilities, working with diverse populations of students, etc.
 
I happily went back to "killing myself as an adjunct" after less than a year of teaching high school at a small, private school with mostly wealthy kids with professionals as parents.

The students in that high school were impossible to control. At a community college or any college, I don't have to tell students to stop running around the classroom, biting and hitting one another, and doing all sorts of disruptive activities.

As an adjunct, I don't have to deal with annoying or unconcerned or intrusive parents.

As an adjunct, I don't have to act listen to my fellow teachers sound like ignorant morons. Adjuncts and full-time faculty members may have their quirks and faults, but their largest topic of conversation isn't "American Idol" or "The Bachelor."

As an adjunct, I am free to accept or turn down courses as I please.

As an adjunct, I am an independent contractor, Me Inc., not someone who always is prodded to represent the school to the community. My contract actually forbade me to talk negatively about the school, even after employment was terminated (which, happily, it was, at the whim of a psychotic head of school -- that severance pay and months of unemployment compensation gave me the sweetest time of my life).

I work more, I work harder, I have less free time and less job security -- but I work with adults and kids who act like adults. They come to class because they want to be there (if not in my course, then in the college).

I wouldn't go back to high school teaching for triple the pay and one-third the workload, whatever job security it has.

Adjuncting may be exploitation to some but to some of us, it means pleasure, freedom and independence.
 
"Why, or why, haven't American high schools adjusted to the research which shows that the adolescent body clock starts and finishes the day later than everybody else's?"

Since you asked, my theory is that people hate and fear change.

A later start time is currently on the table for Fairfax County (Virginia) high schools, where I live. Many people are up in arms about this, for several asinine reasons:

* Teachers fear having to contend with rush hour traffic (which, to be fair, is brutal around here). With their current unholy start times, they can avoid the worst of the traffic.

* Parents fear having to work out a new schedule for their mornings, especially if they have multiple children. I think this is a reasonable concern for, say, the receptionist who MUST be at her desk at a certain time as a condition of her employment. But those raising the loudest stink are the wealthy parents with somewhat flexible work arrangements. Among this group, it is apparently passe' to let your teenager figure out how to get his own self out the door and onto the school bus. That greatly complicates things.

* Teachers, students and coaches - especially coaches - fear the impact on sports and other extracurricular activities. This seems like a bit of hogwash to me; it's not as though you're reducing the number of hours available in a day, you're just shifting everything back a bit. But some have sworn this will be the end of softball/model UN/swimming/theater (etc. etc.) for all time.

I think that fearing change is a poor justification for any course of action, especially one where the research so *clearly* supports the alternative. But as soon as you propose the idea, a thousand voices rise in protest about the perceived inconveniences.

In reality, I'm sure one week of the new schedule would be time enough for teachers and parents and students to all adjust. Humans are adaptable.
 
Anonymous 4:01, I stopped adjuncting at a CC when I got a full-time job at an independent school, and my experience has been in the other direction. I have motivated, bright, funny, engaged kids with mostly very supportive parents. I have fewer behavioral problems than at the CC, and when I have a student acting up, I get to talk with that student's other teachers and together with the administration we figure out how to deal with the behavior. The school has backed me up every time so far.

I'm in English and in HS I have to be far more of a generalist than in college. I teach every genre, every period of literature in English, plus classics in translation. I am challenged every day, and I've never been happier as a teacher. I do miss the days off, but as a scrambling adjunct I didn't have a lot of those anyway. And I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing my teaching make a difference over a longer time.
 
To take the heat off of mthgeek and put it on our respective graduate programs, which appear designed to propagate poor teaching in favor of great research for the handful going on to t-t jobs at R1 schools:

The ONLY explicit training I got about teaching was provided by my UNDERGRAD college when I (as a math major at the time) was selected to TA some math recitation sections. That program was superb, with practice sessions and great feedback. That is where I learned to teach a class and also how to grade exams.

I got no, nada, none, zero preparation for teaching physics labs or recitations when I started grad school, and I can't even recall any observations during my first semester teaching! We only went over the mechanics of the lab itself, not even grading expectations. We got that from each other.

In fact, I can only recall one observation of my teaching, and that was only when I was up for a teaching award after teaching N years.

My understanding is that this has not changed very much, if at all, in physics programs I know about except when a university has a specific program to prepare grad students to teach. Sadly, one that I do know about appears to do this separate from actual regular teaching, essentially a bogus pseudo-ed program that puts months of effort into one lesson that uses all of the current buzz words in education. I can see where its grads might be able to talk the talk, but they don't have any real experience with improving a course they have taught before.
 
Followup to "The Professor":

I had the same question. Our college used to make a claim like that based on comparing the fraction of our transfers who graduated to the fraction of new freshman who graduated. Apples to oranges.

The reality for us is that our transfers do really well, but are not even close to native students who stay sober enough to make it to the 3rd year.
 
To summarize some of the discussion it seems like:

CC instructors may (depending on the course) do more curriculum development (depending on how closely the curriculum for transfer is required to align with the 4-years ).

CC instructors may be required to have more content knowledge (and generally do given the over-supply of Phds).

CC instructors may (depending on the school) have large lectures of 50+ which never happens in K-12.

CC instructors have to 'cover' more content per class hour.


HS teachers definitely spend more hours in class with students. About 180 school days at 5ish hours a day. (900 vs 15cr/week x 32 weeksish = 480hrs)

HS teachers may deal with more bureaucrazy.

HS teachers may have increased interactions with parents, school board, and other folks which, truthfully, are likely to be noxious.

HS teachers are likely to have to deal with far more class management issues (kids being kids).


Either/both may be academic advisors, but CC faculty are probably more likely to be.


To return to the original question (rephrasing slightly): since the faculty at CCs have so much less face-time than HS faculty, given the responsibilities summarized above, is it:

1) CC faculty are justified to earn about 1.75x(face-time rate) of high school faculty, and we should make no changes; or

2) CC faculty should earn the same face-time rate as HS faculty? (This could mean lowering the pay of CC faculty or raising the HS pay rate)?

Just thinking in terms of the responsibilities of the position...



**While you can take it as you like, research does show that in some disciplines education coursework is positively correlated with student learning outcomes in a way that's much more predictive than additional subject content courses (See Monk, 1994).
 
Just a note that in Canada the school year is, by law, 192 days for high school. Five hours a day "face time" is conservative when you count extra-curricular activities.
 
Mthgeek,
I think before we entertain the either/or that you suggest, we've got to throw in university governance, community service, and activity in the discipline (be it participating in workshops about teaching, scholarship about teaching, so even if not "traditional" scholarship, still some evidence of remaining "active in the field") requirements for CC professors. I think the comments to this point have focused mainly on issues surrounding classroom administration, because they were responding to the original question, which leaves 1/3 to 1/2 of the typical CC professor's job.
 
On schedules: Nah, it's simpler than that. Think busing.

Each school district has three sets of kids to bus: the elementary students, the middle-schoolers, and the high-schoolers. One set of buses serve all three.

The elementary kids are too little to look after themselves, so they have to be bused in early enough so that the 'rents can see them off. OTOH, many of them go to after-school daycare, which costs $, and the earlier they get off, the more it costs. So: the youngsters go in last.

Middle-schoolers? Some are still too young to look after themselves after school, but their daycare is a bit cheaper, and might simply involve going to a friend's house after school. OK, they're next-to-last.

High-schoolers? Many have jobs, which they'd prefer to get to before 5. (I worked through high school, mostly as a seamstress at a tuxedo rental shop, because my family needed the money.) Even if they're not employed, they're old enough to look after themselves, and may very well have sitting duty for younger sibs. That, or there's sports practice. So, lots of pressure for the school day to wrap up by 2:30, which means that homeroom happens at 7 AM, chronobiology be damned.
 
Ding. The thing to remember is that we, as as a society, view teenagers as a problem, rather than a group of folks with needs and capabilities. Witness how high school has slowly morphed into prison, and note how every person objecting to the change of HS start time implicitly holds that whatever inconvenience they suffer is far greater than the benefit to their kids.

It might be that the wealthier parents might well have raised such irresponsible little losers that getting out the door and to the school bus without being ridden like ponies is beyond their capabilities. But my experience, teaching those kids once they hit college, is that they flower pretty quickly when hit with actual responsibility, so the damage is probably not permanent.
 
mthgeek,

In my Mathematics Ph.D. program, having a teaching assistantship--and (for some folks) later a teaching fellowship--is prettymuch the way of things (at my alma mater, TAs generally teach calculus recitations, and TFs teach a couple of courses per semester that are below the calculus sequence). There is a required week-long orientation every year before the first week of the fall semester in which we'd talk about teaching, do faux lesson plans, do teaching demos and critique them, etc. Towards the end of this orientation, TAs would meet with the professor(s) whom they would be reporting to that semester for a detailed briefing on the syllabus, policies, etc. And during each semester, every TA would get a visit from either a faculty member or a TF, and this visit would be followed up by some kind of brief meeting where the two parties would talk about what went well and what didn't during that particular class.

While there was (and always can be) more room for improvement in the teaching preparation that I had, I believe I was reasonably well prepared to teach--both when I entered the classroom for the first time as a TA and later as an assistant professor.
 
To 7:39 PM Anonymous:

I think it's absolutely wonderful that your PhD program puts so much effort into its graduate students' teaching education; however, I think that this is more the exception rather than the rule. Where I went, our TA training consisted of about three hours over the course of the semester, where we would discuss teaching tips and each person gave a five minute presentation on a calculus topic. I have friends at PhD programs who have had even less TA training, and I know some who won't even have taught much in graduate school.

Even with a great teacher training program, the fact of the matter is that even if students have taught courses at their graduate school that are "below the calculus sequence", PhD granting universities do not generally offer the sorts of developmental mathematics courses that community colleges offer and require their instructors to teach. Community colleges will often have several courses that are even more basic than a college algebra or precalculus course. You're also teaching to a different demographic at a community college - students who are terrified of adding fractions, students who are trying to work full-time jobs and don't have time to get extra help, students grew up in difficult environments, etc.

While I'm certain that a teaching preparation program like the one mentioned would be superb in preparing someone to teach at a four year college or university, the fact is that a community college is generally a very different environment than a university, with a different set of students who have very different needs than students at a four year university. And as I've learned from the past few quarters of teaching, it's an experience that graduate studies in mathematics cannot adequately prepare one for.

- Anonymous from 3:33 PM
 
Dr. C,

You wrote:
We've got to throw in university governance, community service, and activity in the discipline (be it participating in workshops about teaching, scholarship about teaching, so even if not "traditional" scholarship, still some evidence of remaining "active in the field") requirements for CC professors.

I'm very willing to grant this.

Does it compare to the state mandated requirements for HS teachers to stay current in their field through attendance at workshops and courses (K-12 teachers in most states have to document a certain number of hours of PD time to keep their certification)?

K-12 teachers also have required meetings such as faculty and department. The length and frequency of these seems to vary significantly by school.


Your mileage may vary on your willingness to grant equivalency between these requirements.


@anon @7:39

It's good to hear that your Phd program puts emphasis on preparation for teaching. A week-long seminar + an observation each semester is great! Moreover, I'm glad that you felt prepared to teach.

You got more than I did. My experience was more like CCphys than yours.

I got lucky in my preparation though, in Spanish (I did a masters) they ran a 1 week seminar before the year, then had a weekly 2 hour meeting for all TAs and I was observed 4x a semester. I tried to transfer the things I learned there over to my math teaching.

Now that I think of my experience in Spanish it makes sense that English is more like that than math.
 
"As DD says, you don't need an MS in Chemistry to teach HS chemistry, or an MS in Physics to teach HS physics."

I want to disagree with this, and I think this is one of the things responsible for the dreadful state of science education in our country. You end up with high school science teachers who can't even present a coherent defense to creationist students' claims.

My godfather/uncle has a Ph.D. in biology and teaches high school bio. There's a reason his students are consistently tops in the state and he wins national science teaching awards. There's also a reason he was the guy who stood up against those stupid creationism stickers. He had colleagues who simply couldn't follow the argument; it wasn't their area of expertise, or they didn't have enough science. That's a fairly appalling statement, when your teachers can't justify their curriculum.
 
I agree with this. My fiance always teaches HS science teachers over the summer who have been assigned to start a physics program. With all due respect, it's not enough time to do the subject justice.

I'm a classicist, and when I was in graduate school used to run the Latin placement test for incoming students. There are certainly good programs out there, but way too many students got placed into first term Latin after 2, sometimes 3 years of HS Latin (and even AP). Honestly, I'd feel cheated. Great pedagogical technique doesn't mean much, honestly, if the teacher doesn't know the forms and grammar and can't translate. There's really no excuse for it and all it does is set everyone back.
 
A doctorate doesn't really test specific area knowledge; it's really a research degree. The same coursework as an M.A. in the subject, just + however many years it takes to finish the dissertation.


That depends on the program. My MA took 2 full years of classes, plus a Thesis. My Ph.D. took another 3 full years of classes, plus another year split between classes and dissertation research, an oral exam in four areas, plus 4 written exams which took between 4-8 hours each.

I also put in more classroom time teaching in my Ph.D. program as an instructor (not just as a TA) than I did student-teaching as an undergrad to get my certificate to teach grades 7-12 (in Indiana, state requirements vary). We spent 6 semesters as a TA and 6 as an instructor. This seems to be more than normal in most programs, but it provided great experience.
 
Ah, late to the party again...

I had a HS experience similar to DD. My teachers knew less than I did. It was frustrating! I think this is part of the problem with HS in general. If the bright students already understand concepts better than those teaching it then there is no respect for the teacher and no progression towards higher understanding. This seems to be a serious problem in many schools (I know many of my friends in college had similar experiences) and it is probably because teachers only need a minor in their subject area.

As for my teaching preparation, my grad program offered a six week course in online class delivery, we could opt for a classroom mentor, request class observation, and had a special program that we could apply to in order to shadow a CC prof. in the area. I would not have learned to teach if I had left after my masters (just 1.5 yrs of chemistry courses and minimal research). I needed the time to participate in the optional teaching programs that were only viable once I finished my coursework. I'm very good at what I do because I love the material I teach and I love teaching. I do not think those people who earned only a B.A. instead of a B.S. love the material or even love teaching. Certainly some do but plenty just couldn't take the B.S. level classes. And now they teach HS. I know two of my fellow undergrad students who chose that path. It was the backup plan.

These are all anecdotes or experiences that highlight why I chose to get my Ph.D. and why I don't think HS and CC educators are equivalent at all. I have no real proof so you can jump all over my comment all you like.

As I see it, the job is totally different and, frankly, I think that stems in part for the totally different track the two careers require. And two completely different jobs with different responsibilities, content mastery, content delivery, and preparations should have different work hours and salaries.

My Ph.D. experience made me a much better professor than I ever would have been with a B.A. in education. My favorite classes are the lower level classes where I can use my extensive knowledge to actually explain concepts in laymen terms. I didn't know enough to be able to reduce it to an easier-to-grasp idea at the end of my undergrad education. I do not believe that education courses help if a teacher doesn't start with a solid foundation of knowledge in the subject material itself.
 
Amy, I am curious about how you would determine level of expertise in subjects that do not offer a Ph.D. such as art. There is MFA, the supposed equivalent to a doctorate, but they often are gallery-fine art centered. In order for colleges to realistically prepare students for art jobs of today they need courses that focus on digital technology rather than fine art. If one can not even obtain a doctorate, what are the qualifications for teaching college.
 
From mthgeek's 5:05 PM summary: CC instructors may be required to have more content knowledge (and generally do given the over-supply of Phds).

This is backwards. HS instructors may be required to have as much content knowledge as CC instructors, but the only places I know with that high standard are a few places like the Bronx HS of Science or the Thomas Jefferson magnet school or some private schools, that is, a HS where you have to apply to get in.

I'd love to see you list one public HS system (entire system, not a single school) where they REQUIRE a masters degree that includes 18 graduate hours of physics to teach HS physics. That is the minimum required to teach at a college or university.

Eyebrows wrote at 6:36 AM:
"As DD says, you don't need an MS in Chemistry to teach HS chemistry, or an MS in Physics to teach HS physics."

I want to disagree with this, and I think this is one of the things responsible for the dreadful state of science education in our country. You end up with high school science teachers who can't even present a coherent defense to creationist students' claims.


You and I can disagree that it is a good idea to "only" require a BS in education with content courses up to the sophomore "majors" level in science to teach those courses, but the fact is that it is not possible to meet even that low standard in many (if not most) school systems in this country.

People who can pass those "majors" science and math classes can easily go on to become an engineer and earn much more than a HS or elementary school teacher does. It would take a significant change in the compensation structure to attract enough qualified people to meet that (low) standard in every school system in the US. It would take a major change (easily a factor of 2) to attract persons with an MS or PhD in chemistry or physics to do so under the working conditions present in grades 7-12 where "secondary ed" standards apply.

In a few sentences, that is why the supply-demand picture at a college (we cannot distinguish a CC and a 4-year school at this point, since both have the same minimum accreditation standard to meet) is different from a HS system.
 
urbanartiste:
There is no mystery. The requirements are spelled out by the regional agency (New England, Souther, North Central, Western, others?) in their documents.

See, for example, what SACS says. If the MFA is the highest degree, that is what is required to teach classes required for a major in art at the BA, MA, and MFA levels. Whether the person with an MFA that lacks certain skills should be hired by a particular school is something left to that school to judge (and justify) under sections 3.5.4 and 3.7.1 as well as the various "effectiveness" standards in the current SACS requirements.
 
The guy who posted the original got jokes!!! rofl
 
HS v. CC - exactly why I do not teach high school - education majors who know nothing
 
Well, i do not know much about what you are talking about. But i like the layout of your blog. It is really nice. I cannot say anything about college dean, that is why i think Universities are better than colleges.
 
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