Saturday, August 27, 2005

What Professors Care Most About

Since I was given responsibility for the Center for Teaching Excellence, I have co-hosted monthly lunches for our new “tenure track” faculty members. (A tenure track faculty member has the opportunity, after six years of rigorous evaluation, to win lifetime employment at a university). Next April, we will be holding a final dinner for these men and women to celebrate the completion of their first tenure year. Toward the end of the evening, we gather in a circle and I ask each new colleague to reflect on their past year and share an experience that was a high point that they remember.

Since we have been doing this for four years, I know what the overwhelming majority of the responses will be. They will describe an experience when an individual student or perhaps a class was awakened by the experience of learning something that the faculty member was teaching.

Professors don’t always communicate this very effectively. And sometimes the circumstances of a particular class makes this difficult. For example, they might, as a junior faculty member, be required to teach a required quantitative analysis class, to non majors at 8:30 in the morning.

But only rarely, is the spark fully extinguished.

University students should never forget this, because I know from many conversations over many years, what many of them, care most about.

There care most about learning from a Professor that inspires them.

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