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Are our best teachers rewarded?

Remake higher education to focus on classroom leaders

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Remember your favorite professor, minus the topic?  Easy, right.  
Remember your favorite class, minus the professor? Little harder.

As much as we praise "innovation in higher education", we cannot forget that the bulk of the work in classrooms is done by human beings, instructors who labor under conditions that work against the basic concept of quality in education.

Graduate students who are given scanty training on how to teach, often little more than a few hours on how to avoid the worst of harassment claims.
Adjuncts who earn a less-than-minimum-wage salary patching together four or five different classes at multiple campuses, with little say in the design of their courses or the direction of the institution.
Tenured professors who achieved their status on research rather than teaching, and who regard the classroom as a distraction from their true work.

The simple fact is that the human element is consistently ignored in innovation, when it is those human connections that are the irreplaceable value added of higher education, as opposed to independently reading textbooks.  How can institutions encourage, rather than discourage, excellence in teaching.

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Michael Burnam-Fink, PhD, is a graduate of the School for the Future of Innovation and Society at Arizona State University. His dissertation, "Making Better Students: ADHD and the Biopolitics of Stimulant Medication" explored the history and causes of the use of Adderall, Ritalin, and similar drugs by college students to study, and what it means for the future of humanity. Michael currently is a consulting sociologist of science.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

What can we do to give instructors the opportunity to improve their skills, and to make good college level teaching rewarded?


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Photo of Rana Chakrabarti

Hi Michael,

Kate Rushton  pointed me to your post. Thanks Kate !

We're working on the prototype of the @The Cookbook - meant to make it easier for educators to introduce design-doing into the classroom. A side effect of design-led classes is high engagement by students. It's the real-world problem solving that gets them excited. Do take a look. Happy to continue conversing if it interests you. Link :


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