Liberal Education

From the Editor

One of the mixed blessings of being a dean was observing classes taught by faculty on tenure track as part of their annual evaluation. Evaluation tended toward the developmental in that these were young faculty finding their way in professing a discipline. As the person who had hired them, I had an investment in their success. Since they knew ahead of time that their class would be visited, what I observed, I assumed, was their best effort, allowing for initial nerves at having an observer.

It doesn't take long to recognize that the art of teaching is defined by each person who teaches. There is no one way. The professor's vast disciplinary learning is distilled by his or her classroom persona with all its uniqueness of thinking and expression. I witnessed the alchemy of turning the arcane or complex into manageable learning opportunities. Some used graphics or displays, some interacted with provocative questions or challenges woven into lectures. The range observed was broad.

These and other reflections are triggered by reading about the Preparing Future Faculty program. How important one's first experience as a professional faculty member is. That, in turn, points to the imperative of designing a learning structure within graduate education directly related to the classrooms, faculty offices, and institutions that new faculty will encounter. To use the military metaphor, they should be able to hit the ground running.

Beyond the experiences, activities, assumptions, and wise words about the profession, there's nothing quite like teaching what you love to students there to learn from you. Programs to enrich graduate education with intern-like opportunities to facilitate that are a win/win situation for all.

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