Sunday, June 16, 2013
What if Ph.D. Programs Actually Prepared Students for Community College Jobs?
None of these will solve the basic supply-and-demand issue, obviously. And I’d hate to see them become excuses to make doctoral programs in the liberal arts take even longer than they already do. But to the extent that they help some programs focus on the possibilities that actually exist, and thereby prepare their students better for the market that actually exists, I hope they do some good. If nothing else, they might result in better teaching by new hires at community and state colleges; if that’s all it achieves, that’s good in itself.
I agree with you about the desirability of teaching experience. I doubt that any of the hiring committees I've been on have hired folks without at least substantial adjunct experience. Why would we hire an unknown candidate, one that may or may not enjoy teaching? I'd rather hire someone who knows what they're getting into -- especially if they'll be a colleague for a long time.
As far as my school is concerned, the "bloggy catechism" is unadulterated nonsense. Over the two decades that I have been serving on hiring committees, we have never given any special preference to candidates with doctorates. In fact, many candidates with doctorates get quickly winnowed out of the applicant pool because they overstress research and understress teaching in their personal statements. Our community college is a teaching institution. If you don't get that, we don't want you.
Of course, where you are (and where I am as well, at a teaching-centered SLAC), teaching experience and the ability to wear several different teaching hats is a plus and not a minus. The number of four-year schools where that is considered a positive is dwindling, though, and dwindling RAPIDLY (my own job searches are littered with "a research plan that can support undergraduates" that the school really wants to be a mini-R1 moneymaker...um, reality, please?), and CC's retain their stigma within the PhD programs, because they're not prestige.
You would think intelligent people in this economy would understand that a job is a job is a damn job. I don't think that message is carrying, though.
I was lucky to have been prepared to teach in grad school. I had a short class on teaching when I first started my MA program, and then a longer, more in-depth class at the beginning of my Ph.D. program. And then I wrote my dissertation about teaching.
When looking for jobs, I looked for both and actually landed a job at a school down the road. The work load was more and the pay was less than I make now as a secondary school teacher. I know at least one of my colleagues made the same move to teaching at an independent school. One could easily get certified for teaching in public schools simultaneous to getting one's Ph.D.
I have been teaching college-level science for 14+ years, 9 of these full time at a community college. This past year, I became certified to teach HS biology and middle school general science; this was due to personal reasons as I have a pretty heinous commute and three young children so my thought was I might be able to land a teaching job closer to my house.
I will say that there is no incentive to really switch careers. At least in my state, K-12 teachers need to take a certain number of workshops in their field to reach the next level of licensure. The ironic thing? I could actually teach the subject matter of many of those enrichment workshops. When I asked the higher education folks if there were any way to waive this for someone who had already been teaching these topics to adults, they essentially told me "too bad"; I'm not talking about educational philosophies workshops, but rather, workshops in my scientific areas of expertise.
K-12 teaching might be an option for a newly minted PhD, but not for someone who is middle-aged and already has quite a few years of college-level teaching under their belt.
We definitely hire adjuncts, both our own and someone else's (teaching four year and CC). We sometimes get someone who started at a 4-year regional that decided to emphasize research over teaching as they fantasize about becoming an R1.
Other things being equal (meaning teaching), we do have a preference for a PhD because of the scope of knowledge and experience they bring. We'd like real-world experience as a substitute for the PhD, but those usually lack a sense of what is needed in our classroom. Your point about a diversity of spare 18-grad-hours is also extremely important, particularly at small colleges.
I'd go further than the first commenter, backing up one of your main points. Outcomes and their assessment are more than a buzzword. There is real value in deciding that a deep learning of some topics is more important than a shallow knowledge of many, and in a cross-campus (even cross department) discussion of what those should be.
Finally, you didn't mention "teaching portfolio", something any grad program interested in the future employability of its grads should emphasize.