Sunday, September 09, 2007

Teaching academic life

At LASA I was having a conversation with a full professor at a school with a very good Ph.D. program in Political Science. I broached the idea (which I've raised here before) that graduate students would benefit from getting some sort of workshop on academia--just some of the basics of what would be expected of them when they began their careers as assistant professors.

I was a bit surprised when he almost completely dismissed the idea, saying that the variety of schools and their job expectations was so great that no generic model could even be offered. I didn't feel like arguing (and there was no point) so the conversation shifted fairly quickly to something else.

Of course, he's right that there are many different types of academic positions out there, but I still think you could give quite a few general pointers that could save people time and energy later because they would know better what to expect.


Miguel Centellas 7:58 AM  

I think you're right. And it might be that this person just couldn't be bothered? I suspect many people (especially in "good PhD programs") are there because they'd rather research than teach. So you were essentially asking this person to take more time away from research to teach something.

But, yes, I wish I'd been taught specifically how to write a book review, a journal review, how to publish a manuscript, etc. I'm also sure that things like "how to be a chair" or "how to design a syllabus" are pretty standard enough that they could be taught. Besides, there's a wide variation in things like political institutions, but we still teach basic survey seminars in the subject.

Greg Weeks 8:46 AM  

Your first point may well be true, though I think you could put together even an informal workshop that would not require too much time.

It would be interesting to do a survey of assistant professors to see whether they felt prepared for all the various aspects of their new job.

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