Aged photograph of 1950s-era rotary telephone with phone cord winding across the surface, unplugged.
16
May
2016

CFP: Preparing Graduate Teachers

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disconnected.” by Lee Royal; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The May 2016 #digped chat hosted by Digital Pedagogy Lab highlighted the disconnect between the work graduate students are asked to do and the training they are given. For graduates working toward a career in academia, the divide is more significant…and more grave. Posts in academia include a teaching component and expect professors to be skilled instructors, yet the training graduate students get emphasizes theory and content over practice and pedagogy. Graduate student training puts new academics at a disadvantage, setting them up for failure. As Sean Michael Morris writes in the announcement,

From Freire’s perspective, critical pedagogy is the means by which people gain control of their social and economic reality. It’s through critical pedagogy that people “learn to read reality so that they can write their own history.” Graduate students who learn to read everything except their reality will leave the academy unprepared.

This is important. Most graduate students still working toward their degree are teaching. And they are teaching without critical pedagogical training. And in many cases they are teaching students who will go on to become graduate student teachers themselves. Not only does this mean that the lack of pedagogical preparation is being passed down, but so is a subtle misinformation about the future of scholarly work. A decision to devalue critical pedagogical training perpetuates, among other things, the illusion (or delusion) of an academic career complete with cherry bookshelves and elbow patches.

On Friday, 13 May 2016, we discussed that lack of pedagogical preparation using the #digped hashtag on Twitter. The conversation raised more questions than it answered, challenging us to reconsider the priorities of academia and the values of our educational systems.

Phil Edwards points out an advantage of pedagogical training:

Phil derived usefulness from his pedagogical training, but his experiences weren’t shared by all. Janine DeBaise, for instance, attacked the values of her own graduate education, finding them misplaced:

Asking ourselves what we want graduate teachers to learn, do, and be prepared for might lead to answers that don’t always align with the opportunities we provide them.

Jenae Cohn talked about the importance of students being willing to take risks (a topic recently addressed by Sam Hamilton) and the institutional support and flexibility necessary to make that work possible:

Jenae writes about the need for students to feel empowered to make their own decisions about what is and isn’t important for them to learn. Along those lines, Jesse and I questioned the tension between the purpose and the function of educational institutions, something Jesse has also written about in a recent post:

Perhaps higher education aims for things other than learning. When discussing what the professional structures of academia value, Sean referred to the “repetitional economy” of higher ed, Phil pointed out the sense of inadequacy such an economy fosters:

Would that imposter syndrome still persist if graduate training successfully prepared graduate students for academic positions? Is it possible to avoid that feeling and stay within academia?

Janine and Sean pose other big questions that we didn’t have time to answer. The questions stand, and concerns like these — the issues we wished to evoke through the #digped chat — warrant further attention and demand collaborative solutions.

This Call for Participation is meant to continue the initial conversation that grew on Twitter, to further address the questions that were raised and to more carefully consider the issues involved. We are seeking exploratory texts that help shape the discussion about graduate education and its goals. Some suggested questions to consider include:

  • What are the most important issues facing graduate student teachers today? What do they need to know in order to teach? What do they need to know in order to survive beyond the academy?
  • How can we reimagine degree requirements to make way for more pedagogical work?
  • How does a critical pedagogy — or a critical digital pedagogy — inform an approach to graduate teacher training? How do issues of race, gender, sexuality, equality, privilege, erasure, and silencing weigh against training in discipline-specific knowledge?
  • How can training in pedagogy prepare graduate teachers for non-teaching careers? Can this integrate into discipline-specific work?
  • How should graduate teachers be made aware of their potential future in the job market? How can institutions encourage them to be part of the dialogue of labor practices at school and in their own departments?

This is a rolling call for participation. However, our first round of publications will take place after July 18, 2016; early submissions (those received by June 27) will be given preference on the editorial calendar. The most successful submissions challenge readers to re-evaluate their assumptions about pedagogy with experience and theory as support; our articles are typically 1,500–2,500 words. Please direct questions to Chris Friend (Director, Hybrid Pedagogy).

We look forward to your contributions!

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