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Among institutions that will be hiring professors of mathematics, how can one identify those which attract students that want to learn? When looking for a job, how can you identify institutions whose values / mindset / pedagogy suit you best? How to find an institution where it would be normal for students to show up for the material in the course, rather than treating it as a price they pay to get a grade?

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    This seems a little bit too much of a rant. Would you mind trying to revise the question in a manner that is not so openly confrontational? – aeismail Sep 13 '13 at 15:08
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    Still seems like a rant – user7130 Sep 13 '13 at 15:13
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    Sniping at other board members is not acceptable behavior on a SE site. Stick to discussions about the questions, please. – aeismail Sep 14 '13 at 4:38
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    However, as an additional side note, expecting a response from someone in an asynchronous discussion format such as this is a little bit strange, and it should be remembered that we have posters from around the world! – aeismail Sep 14 '13 at 4:39
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    It may have been meant as a question, but the framing is based on a false dichotomy. You'll find both kinds of students at all schools, so setting it up as an "either/or" scenario makes your question appear confrontational rather than merely inquisitive. (Hence, "this seems like a rant" rather than "this is a rant.") – aeismail Sep 15 '13 at 7:39
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You might just as well ask how to find a planet where... There is only one answer: create it around you. Your problem is that you want some "universal behavior", which exists neither in a community college, nor in an Ivy League institution. F'x told you what to look at to avoid "totally hopeless" places (and answered the second of your 3 questions as well) but, in all honesty, you can find decent students to work with almost anywhere if you look for them and if you are an interesting enough teacher to make them look for you. I admit that the general attitude in the calculus classrooms is not something that makes me rejoice either, but I have no other students for you today and I doubt anybody does if you request them en masse. Find your consolation in the fact that it takes 5 professors working pretty hard to educate one good student and it takes one cashier in the registrar office to collect money from 1000 bad ones, so concentrate on the first part of the job trying not to miss too many, and just leave the second part to the office clerks.

I also know that it is pretty frustrating that if you try to be "nice", you cannot call the things by their names and if you call them by their names, it is hard not to "rant", so I tried to address directly the point you were trying to make ignoring the style of the question completely. Some more experienced people may be able to give you a better advice, but my 2 cents are here.

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Trying to go to the root of the question: when looking for a job, how can you identify institutions whose values / mindset / pedagogy suit you best?

That's actually a tough question, and one faced by elementary and high school teachers more often than by academics. Probably because higher education deals with adults willing to learn (overall), and so giving individual teachers a lot more freedom is usually fine.

That's a tough question to solve, because an institution is a complex organism, and it does not have a single mindset. So you should identify keep people in the organization who are responsible for setting the tone: department chair, head of the program(s) you will teach in, head of the recruiting committee. Those people effectively determine, large and by, what the attitude of the students will be (and the response to students whose attitude is deemed unacceptable). So, you want to have a chat with these people, and make sure you feel like working with them.

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Let's say you found an institution where it would be normal for students to show up for the material in the course, rather than treating it as a price they pay to get a grade. And then you go to that institution to teach.

One year later, the department chair steps down. The dean of the college goes to another institution. Everythings changes. All of a sudden, the new rule/guide says students presence must be included in grading. What are you going to do? Follow it? Don't care? Dis-follow it?

Your question is meaningless to me. I would concentrate on my own job, i.e. teach and research if I were you. I don't have total control to the external environment although I can have influence to some extent. If I can use my influence, I'll do. If I can't, I either quit or stay. No matter what, teaching my students math is the most important thing to me.

Hope this helps.

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