Thursday, June 1, 2017

Research-intensive (R1) Universities

Contributed by: M. Rossi

Can we value teaching if we work at a research-intensive university?

In our final meeting for the quarter’s theme of “Teaching Beyond Graduate School,” two guest speakers and new professors at UC Davis shared their experiences, their passion for teaching and learning, and fielded our questions. Professor Mona Monfared is in her second year as a Lecturer with Potential for Security of Employment (LPSOE) in Molecular and Cellular Biology. This type of
position is a tenure track one, with its origins at UC San Diego and UC Irvine. These positions are “Professors of Teaching,” in contrast to “Professors of Research.” Still, she is responsible for both teaching and research; it is the workload ratios that vary. Dr. Monfared’s career trajectory included graduating from UC Davis in 2009, with her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, a post-doctorate fellowship from 2009 to 2011, and multiple adjunct positions before accepting her current position. As a recently hired professor last year, she engaged in a community of practice with
other new faculty members, under the leadership of the Center for Educational Effectiveness (CEE).

Professor Con Diaz joined UC Davis from Yale and is teaching in his first year in the Science and Technology Studies program as an Assistant Professor. He shared that while a graduate student, he specifically sought out opportunities to grow as a teacher and invested in his own teacher training, well outside of his own department. He found the support for which he was searching in a department analogous to our Center for Educational Effectiveness. In this capacity, he engaged in individual consultations, peer observations, and small workshop facilitation. He shared with our group that he really values teaching and communicates this to his colleagues. He is appreciative of the freedom to experiment with his teaching practices during his first year and also of his peers who similarly value teaching. Dr. Diaz has also connected with personnel from CEE to continue to build his pedagogical repertoire.

Both speakers shared insights and recommendations with our graduate students. They encouraged graduates to apply for positions outside of their comfort zones. Each had either first- or second-hand experience with opportunities born out of the least expected. We were also encouraged to ask insightful questions during interviews, including, “How important is teaching to your department?” They further advised us to search for a good “fit.” Speakers also spent some time discussing the value of student evaluations. The consensus was for us to look for patterns in the evaluations, not the outliers. Focusing on the trends, versus the isolated points of dissatisfaction, presents opportunities for growth and individual reflection of their own practice. They parted with one last tip: subscribe to a weekly newsletter published at Stanford, “Tomorrow’s Professor”.