Scenario A: A university professor addresses change

Overheard in a coffee shop near campus:

Hey, Frank, you don’t look too happy.

Yeah, I’m mad as hell. Our Dean called a meeting yesterday of all faculty to discuss the university’s new academic plan, and what it means for all the academic departments in the Faculty. I knew there had been meetings earlier in the year, a few of which I’d attended, but it seemed to be the same old waffle about building a university fit for a new age, and revolutionizing the way we teach. But those discussions didn’t seem to affect the courses I’m teaching – it was clear early on that there was no threat to the department being closed down. If anything, it looked like my classes would be getting even bigger, with the usual statements about having to do more with less. My research is going well, and there was no talk this time round about having to take on an increased teaching load. At that point, I’d switched off: I’d been through all this many times before.

But as soon as the dean started yesterday, I sensed trouble. He started talking about the need for the department to be more ‘flexible’ in its teaching. What the hell does that mean – yoga exercises at the beginning of each lecture? Then he went on to talk about ‘defining clear learning outcomes’ and ‘personalizing learning.’ Well, that’s stupid. Anyone knows that you have to internalize what you learn or it doesn’t happen.  And my courses are changing all the time – if I set outcomes even at the  beginning of a course, they’ll probably be different by the time we get to the end.

But then the real kicker, when I knew things were going to be difficult. ‘We want to have at least 50 per cent of all classes taught in a blended or hybrid manner within the next five years.’ OK, I guess I could handle that – I’ve been using the LMS to back up my lectures already, but when he said that means offering the same content across different courses, and getting rid of most lectures, I really started to worry. He started rambling on about needing to serve all kinds of learners from high school entrants to lifelong learners, and for us all to teach in teams, with the senior faculty member as a teaching consultant. Now if he thinks I’m going to let some of the other idiots in this department decide what I’m going to teach, he’s out of his mind. The scary part is that I think the Dean really believes all this claptrap.

But when I really started to panic is when he said we would all have to start taking courses on how to teach. Now I get pretty good student ratings for my lectures – they just love my jokes – and I’m NOT having anyone telling me how to teach my subject. I’m one of the top people in my area of research in this country, and what the hell does the administration know about how to teach it? And when am I going to find the time, anyway, to take courses? I’m already working flat out. Why don’t they just leave us alone, and trust us to get on with the job we’re paid to do?’

If any of that rings a bell, this is the book for you.

For my comments on the scenario, click on the podcast below

For my comments on the scenario, click on the podcast below