Effective faculty

The ways things are

Few professors know how to teach well. They have Ph.D.s in accounting, computer science, etc. However, few doctoral programs have even one course on teaching.

Profs generally are not rewarded for teaching. Profs are rewarded for publishing in academic journals, not improving students’ lives.

That doesn’t mean that profs dislike students. They don’t, except for the occasional curmudgeon. This is not about evil individuals, but about a university system that doesn’t help students as much as it should.

All is not lost

You know the saying:

One good apple improves the bunch.

Or something like that. Anyway, it shows us a way out.

A few profs learn about learning, and create good course material. Let’s say one prof in twenty. They do it despite their universities, not because of them.

The one in twenty is enough to give students better value for their tuition dollar.

Nineteen of twenty profs don’t want to learn about learning. They know the reward system doesn’t want them to. However, the nineteen are free to use the content created by the one in twenty.

Here’s how it works. A professor (or a team) in biology, accounting, etc., learns about learning, with the help of the Cyco wiki and its community. The prof uses open source Cyco software to write course content with lots of embedded exercises. Cyco courses replace textbooks. They’re not supplements, but direct replacements.

Students read content and do exercises. They submit their work online. Graders evaluate it using “clickable rubrics” created by the author(s). Students and their instructors get detailed feedback. Ideally, students get a chance to correct their mistakes and resubmit.

The graders need not be professors; it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in computer science to grade intro programming assignments. Graders can be anyone with basic skills in the field (math, chemistry, whatever).

Class time is when professors help students with their work, one-on-one. No lectures. Professors do what they’re good at: problem solving in their fields. They need not be learning experts. Students get chocolatey learning goodness baked into their courses by the one in twenty, that is, the course author.

The result

One professor in twenty learns about learning, and makes a good course. The remaining nineteen use that course, and all students benefit.

The bottom line: students get more value for their money and time.

Like what you see? Take a look at what you can do.