Viewpoint: Graduate student endorses need for stronger teaching
A year ago, I read a strongly worded article in The Graduate (the Concordia Graduate Students’ Association’s magazine) on the conflict between education and commercialized research.
“Today, universities are in serious danger of becoming driven by market priorities,” the article said. In fact, time spent on research is growing at the expense of the dissemination of knowledge, which is the core mission of universities.
This perception was expressed in a Viewpoint column by Dr. Arshad Ahmad (Journal, Feb. 9). The pressure to do research is causing a major drift within the faculty body away from teaching, which should be the university’s central purpose.
Academic training channels the students’ social contribution, shapes their mindset, and prepares them for their careers. The instructor plays an important role in their development. Some professors underestimate the role of class dynamics in this process.
In an increasing number of classes, students — as quiet receptors — listen to long lectures and stare at slides. Haven’t they spent enough years in the silent acquisition of information at their elementary and high schools? These students looked forward to passionate pedagogical approaches that would stimulate their desire for enlightenment.
The pedagogical approach should be redesigned. The lecturer should be able to design, formulate, and deliver his/her course material in a smooth and pressure-free way.
Concordia students come from the four corners of the world. Many of them put in serious efforts to get to university. They want more value from their post-secondary studies. I came from Lebanon to gain a competitive advantage in my career; my friend Lu came from China to acquire a different set of skills.
In most of my classes, I was disappointed. My Canadian colleague Nada feels the same way. She admits that we have to push hard at Concordia to get what we were promised.
I strongly agree with Dr. Ahmad that we need to redress the balance between teaching and research. Dean Nabil Esmail has remarked on the need for continuous assessment of the methodology of teaching skills in engineering training, especially at the undergraduate level.
Professors should care not only for the content they deliver, but also for the skills graduates need when they enter the workforce. It is sad to see rich academic content lacking a clear objective and a strong learning process.
Better teaching processes and learning models would draw another practical dimension for Concordia’s mission statement: “…Concordia is committed to responsible and innovative leadership in fulfilling the mission of universities to develop and disseminate knowledge and values and to act as a social critic …”
As a graduate student, I am not convinced that the current learning and teaching model realizes this mission statement. Other students have expressed their feeling that the bureaucratic organization treats them as mere numbers.
I am glad that program administrators realized the importance of reshaping current program structures, but I worry about the questionable priorities leading the administration decisions as expressed by Dr. Alan Hochstein (Viewpoint, Journal, Feb. 23).
My experience at Concordia has been rich and fruitful during the past two years in my graduate studies, but it is still below the expectations of an international student sacrificing his savings for a graduate degree.
Bilal Abdul Kader is a PhD student in the Finance Department, John Molson School of Business.
Readers are invited to contact Barbara Black with ideas for future Viewpoints. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org