- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

SEATTLE

Kelly Jabbusch likes teaching, and she’s good at it. She knows not to talk too much, and how to see a problem through the eyes of a novice. She has received an award from the University of Washington, and served as lead teaching assistant for the math department.

“I find great joy in teaching,” Miss Jabbusch said. “I would hope employers ask about it.”

Often in the academic world, they don’t — though that may be changing.

Universities are supposed to produce the next generation of college professors — that is, people who will both conduct research and teach. But star researchers bring in money and prestige. It is an open secret that, for many top academic jobs, research potential is the first thing hiring committees look for.

“At research institutions, that’s what the currency is,” said Jim Masterson, president of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students.

Now, however, some universities are taking their teacher-training missions more seriously. Partly, it’s to provide better teaching for their undergraduates, who with rising tuition are less hesitant to complain about incompetent TAs. And partly, it’s to help their graduate students when they go into a job market that seems moderately more interested in teaching skills than in the past.

Several universities, including Washington, Colorado and Michigan, have built up significant centers staffed with specialists to train and mentor TAs.

Washington, Ohio State, Temple and Delaware are among the schools organizing major training conferences for new TAs each year, while Howard University is leading an effort to improve classroom preparation for future faculty members at historically black colleges. Membership in the POD (Professional and Organizational Development) Network, a group of university employees who work on developing teaching skills, has grown from 100 in 1974 to about 1,500.

“Major research universities really did lose their publics because of lack of attention to undergraduate education for a while,” said Jody Nyquist, a former University of Washington administrator who oversaw a major national research project called Preparing Future Faculty.

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