If Socrates were alive today, he wouldn’t get tenure. This is largely because he polluted the minds of his students with ideas and had a tendency to shake things up.
At Boise State, students don’t really have the Socrates problem. Sometimes, however, they get a tenure-track professor who takes a safer approach to teaching, which helps them secure tenure but negatively impacts the overall experience for students.
“There are certainly people who get very comfortable teaching in a particular way and, for most of their careers that’s the way they teach,” said Susan Shadle, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning.
For this reason, the Ten Before Tenure program was created.
Initiated in 2007, the program was designed to not only help faculty reach tenure, but also help them develop a learning mentality.
Out of the 40 faculty members which are new to the tenure-track this semester, Shadle guesses there are approximately 30 who have signed up. This isn’t a required course, but she feels it’s something professors should want to take.
“I would like every faculty member to see their life as a teacher as a journey in which they’re constantly growing and learning and getting better at it,” Shadle said.
To her, the reason teachers may want to keep the same teaching style is because the strategy they use is effective for students. It may also be because they’re in the process to get tenure.
“Faculty are going to try new things. They’re going to explore new ideas and that could be different ways of teaching,” she said. “There are others who are concerned that if they try something new it won’t go well or go well at first. So there may be some teachers who are more conservative in their teaching until they have tenure because they’re afraid of what might happen on their course evaluations. But that’s not everybody.”
Kortnie Bellery, freshman accounting major, feels that regardless of teaching strategy teachers should be passionate about what they do and bring that same excitement to the classroom, especially at a college level.
“I’ve really been able to connect with the energetic teachers more, the ones that actually care about my education and are passionate about what they do—compared to (some of) the professors I’ve had, that are lacking enthusiasm and are not as interested in the experience of the students,” Bellery said.
Shadle believes most faculty pay attention to student evaluations and, if their approach is not effective, they gradually make changes until it is.
“I think this is valuable for any lesson in life,” said a professor who asked to remain nameless. “If you get a number of people telling you the same thing, then you should say, ‘maybe I’m doing something wrong’.”