学生应该成为研究生课程的主导者

托马斯·施耐德(Thomas Schneider)想知道,为什么大学不根据学生的年度需求来决定要教什么,然后聘请临时教师

五月 28, 2020
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大学教育的标准模式是招募学生参加已有的学位课程,该课程由已经建立了许多年甚至数十年的学院提供。即使可以灵活地制定新计划,这些计划也可能需要很长时间才能获得批准并得以实施。

因此,大学创造知识和传递技能的能力很大程度上取决于其自身的学术实力。同时,世界日益全球化,推动了更快的变革和创新。

如果高等教育机构要抛弃阻碍其跟上时代步伐的约束呢?如果高校(尤其是规模较小、没有巨大人才库的大学)每年决定提供什么课程,然后聘请最优秀的教师以临时合同授课呢?

我认为这种方法在一年制硕士学位课程中特别有价值,尤其是以3.5周为一个模块,连续8个模块的长度(每个周期间休息半周)进行授课。这样一来,该大学就可以只为单独的模块聘请讲师,而不必花费整个学期或学年的费用。

这样的模块性结构已经在科罗拉多学院(Colorado College)、爱荷华州康奈尔学院(Cornell College)和加拿大奎斯特大学(Quest University)实行。在18天的时间里,每天进行3小时的研讨会或辅导式教学,这比传统的10至16周的硕士课程的学习强度要大得多。整个课程都可以在合适的校外地点进行,例如在特定的语言环境、自然栖息地或工业地点中。

学校可以通过一个框架来确保质量。该框架将所有教授的课程归入一个认证过的“文理硕士”资格范围内,或归入该大学的总体认可范围内。一个专门的项目和招生小组将确定来年将要提供的教学项目,然后发出申请邀请。或者,学校可以进行开放式录取,从中择优选择具有与其学位类似的先决条件和偏好选择的申请人。

至于要设立多少课程、招收多少学生,学校需要制定一个公式,以最佳平衡自身和学生的需求与资源。但是,让我们想象一下,在一个拥有1000名本科生的小型大学中设立一个硕士项目。该项目每年有100名学生,分设10个不同类别的课程——小班制可以保证密集的学习环境。这意味着学校一共提供80节课,需要80名讲师。如果每个模块的教师总薪酬为1万美元(包括薪水、机票、住宿和其它费用),则每位学生的总费用为8000美元。

每个课程可以指定一位首席教授来主导教师招聘并选择其他合适的教师。全球有成千上万的学者正在进行学术假期或处在访问职位,这些学者和荣誉教授显然是招募对象。此外,许多学者可能在自己的工作之外愿意担任临时性职位。

在与我本身领域相近的领域里,我能够找到许多符合这些条件的学者。金钱也不是他们的唯一动力。许多年复一年教授相同课程的同事的积极性很低。他们很有动力打破常规并接受这样的合同制职位。

一所作为全球人才的经纪人,而非其教育产品贸交易员的大学可能会被指是其它大学的寄生虫。但是,在一位学者的职业中,在他校的访问性职位或短期研究职位通常会被区分开来。在文中设想的硕士项目中教学包括分担特定课程的教学、作业和考试的任务,以及对顶点项目或论文的指导。这可以视为对个人经验的补充和培训,从而使其自身大学从中受益。

此外,如果我们认为高等教育机构不是知识创造和分配中的竞争者,而是合作伙伴,那么短期内相互出借教师不应该被视为侵犯了某一方的利益。

当然,如果此类计划被广泛采用,那么空闲的访问教授和荣誉教授将很快被抢聘一空。项目负责人因而不得不转向聘请职业早期学者。一些读者可能会反对这一做法,因为这将进一步加剧零工经济,削弱这些学者的安全感和合作感。这些后果可能出现。但是,这也会被此类计划为学生和雇主带来的巨大利益抵消。

这种完全灵活的框架将使大学能够在知识经济和劳动力市场发生变化时(包括当前的大流行病等挑战)做出反应,并不断引入新的知识途径和专业观点。任何采用这类方法的大学都将为学生提供宝贵的职业生涯的最佳准备。

托马斯·施耐德(Thomas Schneider)系中国南方科技大学(Southern University of Science and Technology, SUSTech)国际合作部副部长。 施耐德教授希望借此感谢奎斯特大学校长皮特·恩格勒(Peter Englert)邀请他设计一个被称为“思想实验”的类似课程。

本文由陆子惠为泰晤士高等教育翻译。

后记

Print headline: Students should be the masters of choices in postgraduate degrees

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Reader's comments (9)

I know, why don't students just teach themselves? Better still, we might explain to this author the history of knowledge.
Clearly the writer is simply trying to stir up reaction. Do not assume that academic life is some kind of vocation.
This is morally bankrupt. As the author recognizes, it would further entrench a class of early-career academics who are employed on temporary contracts for a few years, with great financial and geographic instability. Forced to focus on intensive teaching rather than updating their knowledge with the latest developments in their field, their careers would last only as long as their doctoral research was cutting edge, after which they would need to seek non-academic careers--with few of the transferrable skills firms seek in new recruits. But this would not merely damage the tens of thousands of academic mayflies who dedicate years of their life preparing for temporary, fragile teaching gigs. It would damage the whole academic system, and the societies who rely on the knowledge they generate, by directing many promising young academics away from research. Rather than dedicating their careers to a mixture of research and teaching, as used to be the norm, this proposal would see capable scholars forced to abandon research entirely, taking a series of temporary teaching roles at the whims of a fickle market until their once cutting-edge knowledge becomes stale and out-of-date. Rather than playing a role bridging the two worlds of research and education, creating new knowledge and insight then passing it along to the next generation--along with unquantifiable tacit knowledge generated through deep, longstanding familiarity with their field as it develops--this proposal would see the bridge broken, and the cost falling on the side of research. This is indefensible.
Agree with the comments above - this is a depressing article in a THE that also highlights the impact of COVID-19 on staff without permanent contracts. Universities are not just followers of trends or fashion nor do we provide training. Education is a process of transformation that produces, inter alia, an effect on employability. If I did not have greater insight into where my subject is heading than the students and society in general, then there would be something wrong. An article such as this one is really out of place since the pandemic should have shown us that none of our endeavours matter if we do not survive to enjoy their rewards. Let us decouple education from its utilitarian aspects.
Except for the hire and fire them - the block module described here happens in a lot of Business Schools.
Great theory, except had this applied in the past, the world would still be flat, women still wouldn't be allowed to learn mathematics for fear of shrivelling their ovaries/brains, and we'd be treating Covid-19 with leeches and mercury. Working towards an understanding of the world takes a lot more than obedient submission to flat pack knowledge. The work of leading sociologist Basil Bernstein is helpful here. He talked a lot in his work about the dangers of divorcing knowledge from the knower in education in the way the author of this article seems to want. Bernstein drew on Durkheim's ideas of 'sacred' and 'profane' forms of knowledge, and this is an important distinction if you are the understand university-level learning. If you commoditise 'profane' knowledge to be delivered in corporate packages in this way, by itinerant academics as a kind of side-hustle, then you end up with a kind of sterile, static package of material that degrades over time, never refreshed by more recent research. The knowledge they communicate ends up simple being a reflection of a reflection of a reflection, increasingly devoid of meaning. If, on the other hand, you have people working deeply and thoughtfully on new research in which they feel personally and spiritually invested, aka 'sacred' knowledge, weaving that into their teaching, you end up with something altogether richer and more dynamic, that reflects the best of what is known and understood at any given time, and which encourages deep engagement on the part of students (and their teachers). If you don't understand that, then you don't really understand what the entire point of the university is supposed to be. Like the slow food movement, we are the slow learning movement - if you don't like that, go and find an intellectual hamburger and leave the rest of us to savour our whole foods slowly.
So is the UK government sponsoring articles in the THE as well as the Mail now?
Honestly, this is the kind of lazy journalism I’d exempt from the Sun, but actually they would probs have been more subtle. I HATE when people who make comparisons drawing on the US. It’s a totally different system, funded differently, organized differently, and looks at teaching and learning in very different ways. The assertions made here are obviously meant to provoke. Why is our trade publication publishing this stuff? Please can we just have some decent journalism?
Whee are suddenly these education apostles coming from preaching total nonsense. Put them on casual contracts immediately with zero chance for renewal.

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