At most universities, the research faculty’s main responsibility is to conduct research, but they are often required to teach courses as well. However, prior teaching experience isn’t required for academic faculty positions, and most researchers rarely complete formal training in instruction. Two faculty members weigh in on whether researchers should have more teaching experience or resources to fulfill these duties.

          Headshot of Mary Kay Lobo
Mary Kay Lobo is a neuroscientist at the University of Maryland at Baltimore. She teaches lectures for the medical school and has taught courses in neuroscience for the graduate program. 
Mary Kay Lobo

Mary Kay Lobo

I completed a short teaching course during graduate school and taught as a teaching assistant and gave a lecture as a postdoctoral researcher. As experts in our fields, we also present seminars, even as part of our hiring process, so we do have some experience communicating to an audience even if it isn’t formal teaching experience. 

Without a formal opportunity, though, like being a teaching assistant as a graduate student, getting teaching experience may be difficult. For instance, postdoctoral researchers can choose to teach lectures but are mostly expected to work in the lab. Having more training would have been beneficial to me, so providing an orientation to faculty with tips for teaching effectively and having resources to use for putting together courses could help us be more prepared. 

          Headshot of Tanecia Mitchell
Tanecia Mitchell is a mitochondrial and redox biologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is a course director for a graduate level ethics course and specialty course on mitochondria.
Tez Davenport

Tanecia Mitchell

I chose to complete a teaching certificate early in my career. In addition to teaching outside of the university and seeking guidance from my postdoctoral advisor, that certification helped improve my teaching abilities. 

For current research-focused faculty, a mandatory course on teaching isn’t realistic, but a short workshop or even a video series that highlights the best practices for teaching would be reasonable and helpful. Instead, a good time to provide teaching experience may be at the postdoctoral stage, since that’s when a lot of individuals consider their careers. If they want to pursue a faculty position, they should complete a teaching certificate or other training. 

These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

What do you think? Should teaching training be required for faculty roles? 

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