Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education


Date of this Version



Essays on Teaching Excellence: Toward the Best in the Academy (2007-2008) 19(4)

A publication of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education


Copyright 2008, Craig E. Nelson. Used by permission


Full credit courses on teaching offered by academic departments for their own graduate students and postdocs have many advantages. Many students come to graduate school because they want teaching to be an important part of their future professional life. Most who are hired in academia will go to jobs where teaching is important. Indiana University’s Graduate School noted that 95% of its PhDs who landed tenure-track positions found those positions at liberal arts colleges, smaller comprehensive universities, and urban institutions. They noted that their teaching experience at Bloomington did not necessarily prepare them fully for these jobs.

I offered a course on Alternative Approaches for Teaching College Biology intermittently for 30 years in a science department that has a very strong research emphasis. Students and post-docs who took it often reported that they were told by hiring deans that their teaching preparation or their statement of teaching philosophy and interests provided the edge that allowed them to get an interview or a job. Indeed, some reported being told by deans at good liberal arts colleges that PhD graduates from Big 10 schools usually were not sufficiently prepared for teaching even to make the initial cut.