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Training community college instructors

Teaching community college students requires skills that don’t come with a master’s or a PhD, argue graduate programs that offer a special credential, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Temple University offers a community college teaching certificate; students don’t have to be enrolled in a Temple graduate program. In addition, there is a  track for current community college instructors who want to learn new teaching techniques.

The certificate for current community college instructors consists of a three-credit seminar on “teaching in higher education” — with broad-based lessons on various teaching philosophies and course designs — and three one-credit modules on specific topics. Current topics are “assessment,” “diversity and inclusive teaching” and “teaching with technology.” Aspiring higher education instructors in graduate school take the same introductory seminar but then take on a teaching practicum in which they serve as teaching assistants at Temple instead of taking the module courses.

One of the most valuable aspects of the program, according to its participants, is the opportunity to talk about their individual teaching practices with other community college instructors and learn from one another.

Valerie Schantz, reading and critical thinking professor at Delaware County Community College, took the teaching class even though she’s taught for more than six years. She plans to allow students to use technology more often.

 So instead of always assigning a five-page essay for students to show their understanding of a concept, she said she will encourage the creation of videos or other multimedia presentations for the class. Additionally, she said, she will try to make more use of interactive online tools to stimulate discussion among her students outside of the classroom.

The certificate program also includes a module on “diversity and inclusive teaching,” which teaches instructors to develop  “diversity action plans” and adapt their teaching to the demographics of their students.

Temple hopes to offer an online version of its community college teaching certificate program.  

A few other graduate programs offer certificate programs for teaching certain disciplines at community college, such as San Francisco State’s graduate certificates in “the teaching of composition” and “teaching post-secondary reading.”

Jennifer Trainor, an English professor at the university, explains that most students who pursue these certificates are earning master’s degrees in other disciplines such as literature, creative writing or linguistics.

. . . “We try to give those in the certificate program an overview of composition theory, and we also show them common student errors in writing and how to approach them constructively,” Trainor said. “Sometimes the first response to bad student writing is to put red ink all over a paper, throw your hands up and go look for another job. We try to show these future instructors what kinds of mistakes students make and how not to mark up everything and how to take teaching them step-by-step.”

San Francisco State is working with community college to strengthen the program by preparing students for the online learning environment and for administrative duties new instructors may have to take on.

Sugie Goen-Salter, another English professor at San Francisco State, wants to require future instructors to study the history of community colleges and their missions.