We in the higher-education-reform community have pointed out that undergraduates often experience teaching that is mediocre to poor in their courses. The professors and instructors often have other things on their mind (especially the obligatory research publications), don’t benefit if they teach well nor suffer any loss if they teach poorly, and are often content to coast along with the minimum of effort. Sadly, many students are fine with that. As long as they don’t get less than a B in a course, most don’t care whether they learn anything or not.
Not all is bleak and desolate, though. Each year, the Pope Center sponsors its Spirit of Inquiry contest, in which we invite students to nominate professors who have done an exceptional job of teaching. In today’s piece, Jane Shaw writes about the results of this year’s contest, in which the awards went to a biology professor, a statistics professor, and an economics professor.
The general weakness in undergraduate education was the key point in our event last May, Higher Education Reform: Where the Right and the Left Meet. If education leaders really want to improve their institutions, they should concentrate on creating incentives for good teaching (we’re doing our part, but it’s a drop in the bucket) and disincentives for just easing into the cozy “faculty/student non-aggression pact,” as Murray Sperber calls it.