Graduate Teacher Education Now: a #digped Discussion

“…of all the machines that humanity has created, few seem more precisely calibrated to the destruction of hope than the academic job market.”
Patrick Iber

There is an argument for staying in higher education. Even while increasing numbers of teachers and researchers are fleeing the academic world because of its problematic economies of reputation, its entrenched misogyny and racism, its use and abuse of adjunct and contingent labor, and the rather horrifying surrender of teaching methods to the (similarly misogynistic and racist) technologists of Silicon Valley — yet there is an argument for staying in higher education.

As Paulo Freire puts it: “Education does not change the world. Education changes people. People change the world.”

There are at least half a million graduate students in the United States. Of those who will matriculate, more than 60% will not have a job waiting for them, and less than 1% will find a tenure-track job. Not only will most graduate students not end up in an academic job, but many will end up relying on government assistance to make ends meet. Of those who are able to find a way to remain in education, most will face some kind of discrimination or oppression — oppression that could be based on gender, race, reputation, discipline, employment status, research interests, social justice concerns and activism, or even their relationship to the digital — which will make the effort to succeed in their fields exceedingly or impossibly difficult.

It is into this reality that graduate students will matriculate. A reality which raises one immediate question: how are they being prepared? Becoming a scholar in their field of study is simply not enough. We can’t expect them to know their way into a stable life.

Pedagogy, specifically training in Critical Pedagogy, may be an answer. On the one hand, most of those graduates who will find their way to teaching — whether as lecturers, tenure-track, or as adjuncts — will have received only a bare minimum, if any, training in teaching. For those who get jobs in academe, their work will consist of 40-90% teaching. Yet their graduate study will like likely have included only a single course, a smattering of workshops, or no pedagogical preparation.

In his keynote at the University of Delaware, “Graduate Training in 21st Century Pedagogy”, Jesse Stommel asserted that: “pedagogical study should consist of at least 40% of the work graduate students do toward a graduate degree.”

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For those graduate students who will not teach, who will instead find themselves either in a “day job” or on food stamps, critical pedagogy is just as important. Possibly more important. 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.

Jesse offers:

By pedagogy, I mean something much broader than just preparing graduate students to teach in university classes. I also mean preparing graduate students and new faculty for outreach, activism, work in libraries, instructional design, public scholarship, educational journalism, etc. Work that moves beyond content to consider how our study of that content gets shared with others or inflected in the world.

This Friday, May 13 at Noon EDT, Digital Pedagogy Lab will host a Twitter chat using #digped to discuss the challenge of graduate teacher education. This conversation is especially important to graduate students themselves, but must also be informed by the perspectives of academics in every sphere — tenured, contingent, adjunct, alt-ac, and those who find themselves considering a departure from academia.

Some questions in anticipation of our chat:

  • 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 graduate? What do they need to know in order to survive beyond the academy?
  • 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?
  • What does it mean to perform teaching? What does it mean to perform learning? What does the role of a student who is also a teacher look like in a college classroom?
  • Should graduate teachers be made aware of their potential future in the job market? Should they be encouraged to be part of the dialogue of labor practices at the university, the community college, and in their own departments?
  • How can graduate teachers prepare to be pedagogues in non-teaching careers?

If you are interested in this conversation, join us Friday, May 13 at Noon Eastern. For those unable to join the conversation this week, the #digped chat happens on the second Friday of every month at Noon Eastern. If you have suggestions for future topics, feel free to add them to the comments on this entry or tweet them to @Jessifer or @slamteacher.

[Photo by Linda Tanner.]

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