What is the value of a professor? This is an increasingly important question as administrators evaluate options for teaching courses beyond the use of full-time and adjunct professors. If we cannot articulate our value to students and to our university leaders – and back it up with actual results – then our role in higher education will change significantly – perhaps for the better, but likely for the worse, as is normally the case when value is assumed to be recognized by institutional leaders (and other stakeholders) as high.
The work that we do consists of teaching, research, and service. Let’s look at the value of a professor from the principal job function, teaching, which is the focal point these days. To more effectively comprehend and answer this question, I make reference to my own teaching and what I think is the value that I bring to that part of my job. I’d like to know what you think of this and your views on the value of a professor in relation to teaching.
Here is what I believe comprises the value that I offer to my students and my institution:
- Sort through articles 365 days per year to find interesting and relevant reading materials that resonate with students and help them learn
- Create unique weekly assignments closely aligned with reading materials and responsive to focused learning outcomes
- Make good use of precious face-to-face time in the classroom
- Use mostly current (not dated) sources of information
- Ability to improvise in the classroom when needed
- Develop my own teaching materials based on my unique lines of research and industry work experience
- Assess students in ways that align with their learning style and contribute the most to their learning
- Develop and apply original ideas to teaching
- Be responsive to students needs in and out of the classroom through personal attention
- Act on feedback, from students, self, and others
- Continuously update and improve my course materials
- Continuously improve my teaching
In addition, I do work related to teaching pedagogy that other faculty can learn from and work related to leadership and general management that top university administrators can learn from.
The value of a professor for teaching is determined not just by what the professor does. Policy changes could help improve the value proposition of higher education for students. For example, in Lean management, decision-making is driven to the lowest level. Therefore, give students the freedom to choose all of their non-major courses. Students are adults and can readily do this to create educational experiences that have greater personal and professional relevance.
Professors must not ignore the increasingly competitive landscape for differentiated forms of human and automated teaching. Instead, we must react to it by improving the value that we offer to students and to our institutions, and by making that known to our administrators.