Monday, July 20, 2009

Like barber college, but not as useful

One of the things that has always bothered me about the process of getting a PhD is that there were very few opportunities to get teaching experience for many departments. And despite the fact that many graduate students are better teachers than the professors, the stigma of "being taught by a grad student" remains. At the same time, students on both sides of the desks are wary of lazy professors dropping their grad students into the deep end, which is what often happens in those cases where students do teach.

Why not put together an after-hours community outreach teaching program, then? There's always a market for basic courses like introductory programming, mathematics, basic sciences, and languages. Many other courses, it seems, would be useful for high school kids looking to get an edge getting into college, retirees looking for something interesting, and college kids looking for something to do or for a head start on an upcoming course. I'd certainly be interested in filling in some of the gaps in my education, either by picking up Japanese courses again, taking some history courses, or making another attempt at learning optics. (It never quite took, the first time around.)

The college, then, would provide the facility, some organizational help, and some assistance in course development. In exchange, the college would split any proceeds with the teacher(s). (The plural is for the likely case of one student not being confident enough to take on a class alone, but being willing to team up with a fellow student). The classes themselves should be long enough to require meaningful planning, but not so long as to make it difficult for potential students to commit. Homework and exams should be included -- they help ensure participation, and are good practice. A final grade, however, would probably not be helpful: it might be better for both student and teacher to have a mediated exit interview.

I'm looking into typing this up as a proposal to send to the Dean of the school I just graduated from. Any suggestions would be welcome.

I should note that Dartmouth already has something kinda-sorta like this, the "Miniversity" courses. These are taught by students, staff, and professors, and tend to be along the lines of cooking, dancing, language. However, they're often somewhat expensive, and are not usually academically-oriented -- they're often quite good, but not what I'm thinking of.

No comments:

Post a Comment