I have studied at 4 universities, and in 3 different programs.

I always observed that STEM professors are not good at teaching. I suspect this is because they do not have degrees in pedagogy like MEd and so on.

Do STEM professors generally hold training in teaching from faculty of education or not?

If YES, what am I missing?

If NO, why?

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    Define “training”. Does a period of several years of working as a teaching assistant under the supervision of experienced instructors, followed by additional years of gaining more experience as a postdoc and junior faculty member, potentially still receiving mentorship and advice from more senior colleagues, count as training? – Dan Romik Aug 12 '20 at 16:53
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    While teaching is one part of their job, it is rarely the part that gets them tenure. – Jon Custer Aug 12 '20 at 17:09
  • @JonCuster, if that is true, then you probably can answer my question with your argument, but this is bad for Education as a whole. – user366312 Aug 12 '20 at 17:11
  • Is there a known correlation between the quality of one's teaching and having training from a faculty of education? Maybe this should be a separate question, but it seems to be presupposed in the present question. I'd be interested in this for just about any measure of "quality" --- student evaluations, success of students in subsequent courses, students' retention of what they learned, etc. – Andreas Blass Aug 13 '20 at 20:54

Do STEM professors generally hold training in teaching from faculty of education or not?

No. Even at institutions that privilege teaching over research, it is unlikely that professors would receive formal training from colleagues in the Faculty of Education. Many universities have some sort of support unit (i.e. a "Centre for Teaching Excellence") that provide training to professors as professional development. While there is probably more attention these days towards pedagogical issues, few places make this mandatory (apart from perhaps a few introductory seminars). In fact, there is unfortunately a bit of a bias towards seeing teaching training as remedial.

Why is this? For better or for worse, at many research-intensive universities, research takes priority over teaching. Faculty members wanting to get tenured and promoted need to be well received by their community of peers, often external letter writers, who will focus on research as it's the main way to evaluate a faculty member (i.e. if I am writing a letter from another university, it's hard for me to know if a professor is an effective teacher or not; but I can situate them in the profession much easier based on our community norms).

As comments have noted, most professors learn how to teach "on the job" in an apprentice model, similar to how they learn many parts of their job. Starting out as a TA and then increasingly gaining autonomy in the classroom (until they are thrown in the deep end as a professor, of course).

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    As a wise professor once told me, "With a few exceptions, teaching doesn't get you tenure." – Not a grad student Aug 13 '20 at 2:19
  • @Notagradstudent That's a good way to put it - that said, I think bad teaching can easily tip a case over to negative (and exceptional teaching can tip a marginal case over to positive). – canadian_humanist Aug 13 '20 at 15:16

In the US, at least, there is seldom any requirement for formal pedagogy training for new faculty. Most of us "learned" how to teach by observing the professors we had ourselves and we normally tried to emulate those we found most helpful. We also got a bit of practice with some of the "art of teaching" by serving as TAs while in graduate school.

At some, but not all, universities, the student opinion of your teaching, as reflected in questionnaires at end of term, have some impact on tenure decisions, but normally aren't decisive. A good researcher may be a good teacher for advanced students, but not for beginners.

Some places are also trying to offer some help with online pedagogy at the current moment, but I don't have any feedback on its success.


I'm a STEM professor, and I am good at teaching (at least, that's what the post-course student questionnaires say).

Anybody who wants to get tenure in the Netherlands must obtain the UTQ, a teaching certificate for which one must demonstrate evidence of a well-defined set of teaching competences. This, of course, far from guarantees that tenured faculty in the Netherlands are all good teachers, but all tenured faculty will at least have had some formal training.


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