The Long Tail of Teaching Talent

Joshua Kim:

The tail of teaching talent in your institution is longer then generally recognized, and it extends to your librarians and technologists. Perhaps this long tail of teaching talent encompasses others as well, such as the professionals in institutional research, human resources, building operations, and many more.
The idea that the only qualification for developing and teaching a college course is a Ph.D. is stunningly counterproductive. The knowledge necessary to design a course is not the exclusive property of the terminally credentialed. The passion necessary to teach, which really means to co-learn, does not co-vary with years spent in school. How can we recognize that staff have the ability and background to teach, and that the work they do often lends itself to translation into courses? How can we set up systems, processes, incentives and rewards to enlarge the pool of instructors to include staff?
At many colleges and universities staff have been brought into the teaching process with great success. I’ve seen this occur most notably in freshman seminar classes. These small courses, led by faculty and staff partners, often focus on the ethical and behavior issues (or sometimes study and interpersonal skills) essential for new students to engage with but often not covered in the regular curriculum. Community building freshman seminars can reduce the risk of attrition by connecting new students with a supportive group of adults working at the college and peers early in their college career. Since these courses are often new offerings, and they are instructor intensive to design and run, there seems to be a great flexibility in enlarging the pool of acceptable instructors to the large staff population.