We do not want to be the ivory tower: Professors need to have job experience in the areas they teach

Currently, our Teacher Education Department has a search for a science educator tenure track professor.  The California State University Dominguez Hills Faculty Affairs Department (personnel for faculty) has informed us that the search committee may not require an applicant for that position to have taught science in the US to be a professor of teacher education for science instruction.  For the last couple of years, we have requested that they approve our posting for a science educator with the requirement that the applicant needs to have taught for 3 years. They won’t. Here’s why that is a bad idea.

Here’s the rationale:

  1. Experience is an essential component of knowing how to do something.  Why would we hire a person who is not an expert in their area? 
  2. A professor without experience in K-12 US schools would not have credibility to the students.  One of our current professors has impressed on us that  her teaching in Nigeria did not prepare her to teach teacher candidates in the US.  The university is already known to be the ‘ivory tower’ because too many times, classes do not address real world problems. This new policy of prohibiting the requirement for applicants of tenure track jobs to have experience teaching will increase the students’ perceptions that what professors teach does not reflect what teachers need to teach.
  3. More experience means more expertise. It also seems that a person who has taught 10 years or so should be given weight on their application for the wisdom they have experienced in schools.  Schools cycle through different waves of teaching methods, policies, state standards, textbooks, trade books, and management systems over 10 year’s time and someone with that experience would be more credible and more helpful to teacher candidates that they teach.
  4. Finally, those with lots of experience teaching have an intuitive understanding of classroom contexts and can advise teacher candidates in a much more complex and grounded way.

Addressing arguments against:

  1. The fear of having to hire someone is a straw man argument.  Requiring 3 years of teaching to be a teacher educator does not exclude or discriminate against Green Card Residents or non-residents of the United States.  My wife who is now 60 years old was a Green Card holder for 37 years and never had to answer any questions about her status during the interview process when being hired in the public schools or in the CSU.  It also doesn’t exclude non-residents and citizens of other countries.  Now there will be some extra steps employers and non-residents/citizens need to take to get the right visa, but it doesn’t exclude them.  You might have hear of someone who challenges the process as being exclusionary and then we end up with a professor we don’t want, but it is much more objectionable to be stuck with professors who have experience in the areas they have to be experts in.
  2. Our understanding is that we might have to go through an audit if we get flagged on requiring that a professor have experience in the area in which they are teaching.  Bring on the audit.  Again, it’s preferable to stand on principles as faculty and staff at Dominguez Hills have always done rather than sink into mediocrity. 
  3. I would hate for the public to find out that we cannot require professors have experience in the jobs they are preparing candidates for.  We will lose credibility among students and in the general public if they were to find this out.  In contrast, we will gain credibility if we challenge this notion.

Please let me know if you think professors should have classroom teaching experience in US schools in order to be considered to be professors of teacher education.

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