Strengthen Teaching Preparation

Departments should provide sufficient teaching opportunities for students and ensure that their teaching experience is designed to enhance their professional development. Teaching opportunities should be accompanied by course work, practical experience, and mentoring. Departments should avoid burdening graduate students with excessive teaching obligations that impede their progress. Preparation for teaching is a central component of doctoral education. Currently, graduate students in private universities that offer fellowships may have too little teaching experience to succeed on the academic job market; in contrast, graduate students in public universities are frequently put in the position of financing their education through extensive teaching assignments.

This issue is complicated and thorny. Contradictory forces drive the development of programs, their size, and their dependency on teaching assistants for delivering the curriculum. For some institutions, cohort size is geared to teaching needs in the undergraduate program. In most cases, the cost of using graduate students as instructors is now much higher than the cost of hiring contingent faculty members (Cohen). But we underscore the ideal that training for teaching and teaching opportunities should be conceptualized above all in terms of the needs of graduate students’ learning.

Opportunities for teaching should enable doctoral students to gain expertise in different kinds of classrooms—in the lecture hall and around the seminar table, in the general education classroom and the classroom of majors—as well as in digital pedagogies, hybrid courses, and online learning. Preparation for teaching includes teaching diverse populations, both domestic and international. Departments should develop a culture of support of doctoral student teaching, creating peer and faculty mentoring programs and recognizing excellence in the classroom through teaching awards.

Further, doctoral programs cannot and should not assume that students will find positions in similar kinds of institutions or will want positions in similar institutions. Pedagogical training should introduce students to the wide range of institutions in higher education, diverse in mission, history, and student demographics. Teaching experience is also valuable for those who may ultimately have nonfaculty careers. The skills acquired through the teaching experience are transferable to other career contexts. Outside the education sector, the ability to teach can be understood as an attribute of leadership, and doctorate recipients can use the pedagogical skills acquired during graduate study to become agents of change.

[Next recommendation: Expand Professionalization Opportunities]