In his 11 years at the helm of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, educational psychologist Lee S. Shulman, PhD, has become a national spokesperson on the need to identify and share the best practices in teaching and learning. On his watch, the foundation created an advanced study program for teachers and launched a 10-year study to identify the best teaching strategies in law, the clergy, engineering, nursing, medicine and K㪤 teaching.
In July, Shulman retired from Carnegie and will write a book that he describes as a "valedictory and synthesis of our work at Carnegie over the last decade." Before leaving his post, Shulman spoke with the Monitor about the future of education.
How is online instruction transforming teaching as we know it?
Dramatically. When online instruction first became popular, the general view was that it would transform distance education. What has happened instead is that it has become a tool to enrich the quality of campus-based education. Faculty and students are finding a whole variety of ways of elaborating the kind of information that can be exchanged, but also the quality of the interactions between faculty and students and among students. It's been absolutely revolutionizing, and we've only seen the camel's nose so far. In another generation, people will be doing things we can't even imagine now.
What sort of things?
Well, when faculty plan their courses, they will plan them with more of an eye toward what can only be done in class and what can be done very well online and doesn't need to take up class time. More and more, straight information transmission will be online.
Online education is also going to have a real impact on faculty work. For generations, the teaching work of faculty has been invisible. Nobody knows what their colleagues have been doing. What we are seeing now is that just about every class has an online presence. Syllabi and supplemental materials are online. In the places that have moved toward open, shared content, even lectures and discussions are videoed and online. And that means that if I am interested in how well my colleague teaches or if I simply want to build on my colleagues' work as a teacher, it's all there.
Also, peer review of teaching and the recognition and rewards that accrue to teaching will be happening much more frequently in the future. That will be a spectacular advantage.
Speaking of the future of faculty, how are the shrinking numbers of full-time, long-term teaching slots going to affect new faculty hires?
It will have a devastating impact. One thing new faculty should negotiate is that it should be made very, very clear what the standards are for reappointment and promotion. These are often kept very vague, and they've got to be much more explicit. New faculty should also negotiate much more serious mentoring. Often, they start a new position and are simply left high and dry as far as getting support and coaching from their more senior colleagues.
What else will new faculty need in the next decade?
They are going to need, first of all, real jobs. I don't know that they are going to be able to count on every faculty position leading to tenure. Tenure as we know it is going to become a historical artifact. They should prepare to have the quality of their work reviewed on a continuing basis. I think faculty will increasingly be expected to teach very, very well. The fact is, how many faculty who clamor constantly to have smaller class sizes have really been trained to skillfully lead a discussion? The answer is somewhere between zilch and bubkis. I think the next generation will want and need that type of preparation in their doctoral training.
How should disciplinary societies such as APA address these and other challenges facing higher education?
Let's face it, if we want to recruit the best of the brightest to psychology, then it's in our best interest to do whatever we can to make undergraduate psychology classes stimulating and rich.
As you've studied the range of teaching strategies, have you noticed any that psychology should pay more attention to?
I have been impressed by the creative use of technology in the classroom. The skillful and well-designed use of personal response systems, fondly known as clickers, is growing dramatically, particularly in physics and chemistry. They make it almost impossible for students to become invisible in large lectures because they always have to be ready to answer questions and their response becomes part of their permanent record of their performance in class. It really transforms the large lecture into a hybrid of a seminar and a tutorial. And clickers are going to be much more effective if more and more faculty use them for their large courses. Students will develop habits of learning and interacting with one another in that manner.
What will you miss about Carnegie?
I will miss the remarkable sense of intellectual and social community we achieved at the foundation, the ways in which the work of all the senior scholars intersected and interacted rather than following the all-too-familiar pattern of parallel play. So many people visited for short or longer terms and observed that the culture at Carnegie was the kind they had always dreamed would characterize their own academic department in the university, but rarely did. Serving as president has been the best job in the world.