ERIC Number: EJ972727
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Jan-8
OK, Let's Teach Graduate Students Differently. But How?
Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan 2012
What should graduate teaching look like when it aims to prepare students for a range of careers? That's a welcome question, but it is not an easy one. The author takes up the problem in two parts, this month from the individual faculty member's perspective, and next month on the curricular level (that is, from the point of view of departments and programs). In history (and other disciplines), the idea that graduate students should perforce become professors arose relatively recently, during the postwar expansion of higher education. Thomas Bender, a history professor at New York University and author of the 2004 report of the AHA Committee on Graduate Instruction, wrote to the author in an e-mail that "the most immediate issue is to remove the stigma" that graduate students feel if they do not become professors. This must begin with a concerted "refashioning" of what it means to be a professional historian. But graduate students are not the only ones in need of refashioning. To move students away from thinking about their possible futures in purely professorial terms, Leora Auslander, a history professor at the University of Chicago, suggests that graduate-seminar leaders "teach from unconventional stuff." Edward Balleisen, an associate professor of history at Duke University, suggests that graduate-seminar leaders "imagine interdisciplinary seminars around a given theme," in which history graduate students would work "with grad students from other disciplines, as well as professional students." The very nature of that idea points to its applicability to other disciplines. Its value goes beyond cool-looking seminars to the cultivation of a wider professional ethos. Such courses would allow graduate students to imagine their work outside of the contexts of their own specialties. In fact, the central virtue of the whole approach lies in its endorsement of a move away from the sort of niche specialization that creates scholars whose work is far deeper than it is wide. The work in such seminars challenges the idea of solitary authorship that prevails in the humanities and some of the social sciences. Balleisen further suggests that departments create the option of pursuing an outside field that would orient graduate students toward nonacademic careers.
Descriptors: Careers, Graduate Students, Seminars, Social Sciences, Teaching (Occupation), Career Choice, Vocational Interests, Career Counseling, Historians, Intellectual History, Interdisciplinary Approach, Training Methods, Training Objectives
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A