Making a Difference: Building the Next Generation of the Professoriate

Making a Difference: Building the Next Generation
of the Professoriate

Anthony Marini
1997 3M Teaching Fellow

ince becoming a 3M Teaching Fellow in 1997, I have been given many opportunities to promote the importance of quality teaching on my campus and on many other campuses across the country. In particular, it has been a privilege to nurture the next generation of the professoriate. The University Teaching Certificate Program (UTe), which I recently initiated, is currently the focus of my teaching development work at the University of Calgary.

The program is designed to provide graduate students and post-doctoral fellows wishing to enter the professoriate with skills and knowledge related to effective teaching. Each cohort typically includes twenty-five students who are enrolled in Masters or Doctoral programs, or who hold post-doctoral fellowships. The course activities involve approximately eighty hours of class time and six hours of teaching practicum in the student’s home department. Participants also develop a course syllabus, design assessment activities to determine student learning, and assemble a teaching portfolio to begin documenting their development as instructors. Each participant presents a forty-minute teaching session to group members who then provide detailed written and oral feedback. The sessions are videotaped so that participants can reflect on their teaching and prepare for a meeting with course facilitators where they review the videotape and identify areas of strength and areas for improvement.

While the program recognizes the need for a core of central teaching skills, the facilitators also recognize the individual teaching needs that participants bring to the UTC program. Therefore, facilitators observe participants teaching in their home departments and meet to discuss these observations. They also meet with participants to refine the written assignments.

Since its implementation in September 2002, the UTC program has awarded over 100 teaching certificates to participants from faculties across campus. Reaction to the program has been overwhelmingly positive; waiting lists are lengthy. Janice Kinch, from the Faculty of Nursing, found the experience transformational. ” My teaching world has changed. This opportunity must be opened up, even made compulsory for all new teachers,” she says. Other participants address the issue of confidence building. Marianna Hofmeister, from the Faculty of Communication and Culture, commented on her increased comfort in the classroom. ” Now I can look forward to teaching and I can feel confident that I’ve got some of the skills to move forward in this career,” she says.

Students seldom have an opportunity to be in a learning environment with students from other disciplines. The opportunity to learn about each others’ areas of study and observe diverse approaches to teaching has been of significant value to all UTC participants. It has been particularly rewarding to watch groups build their own community of support where they feel comfortable enough to provide each other with honest and insightful feedback. Through these relationships, professional development and networking continue on an ongoing basis well after the program requirements have been fulfilled.

But perhaps the most significant value in building an effective professoriate is cited by participants like Jan Macor, who, as a result of attending the UTC program, are motivated to want to join the professoriate and become excellent teachers. Says Jan, “I want to be a professor now, more than ever.”