Why the current professional development model is broken

Tony Bates, e-learning, distance education resources, Aug 09, 2011
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Tony Bates argues at length that the 'professional development' for instructional staff at universities is broken. This is a follow up,in which he criticized a series of videos showing staff how to teach online. "They are,`he writes, "symptomatic of a system of training that is completely broken, at least as far as online learning is concerned (and probably also inadequate for classroom teaching, but that’s another matter)."

How so? "There is no requirement to have any training or qualification in teaching to work in a university in most Western countries," he writes. "The lack of comprehensive and systematic training in online learning at a pre-service level places a disproportionate burden on ongoing professional development, which is at best ad hoc and variable in both quantity and quality. Above all, it is an entirely voluntary system." And finally, "most faculty and instructors do not base their teaching practice on empirically-based evidence or research on the effectiveness of different approaches."

Honestly, I think our mistake is in asking researchers to become (traditional and/or traditionalist) teachers. People don't get PhDs in physics or engineering or biology because they have an abiding desire to be teachers; they do so because they want to be physicists, engineers and biologists. We need to begin with this fact, because it's not going to change.
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