I sometimes feel a bit cut off from "the outside world." Partly it's being really busy with work, partly living where I want to go play in the snow, and where most folks in the US think of us only as "flyover country." So I've been vaguely aware of the cheating scandal thing, but since the closest I've been to Harvard is probably either Logan Airport or downtown Boston (whichever is closer), I haven't put my energy into following it closely. (On the other hand, I've had a common redpoll at my feeder!)
But Flavia over at Ferule and Fescue talks about the issue of faculty mentoring, and how she's moving from being mentored to being a mentor, and she got me thinking.
I'm wondering how good a job we (broadly speaking, as well as at my own institution) do at mentoring. My guess is, we here mostly don't do a great job.
Partly, this is a balance of respecting new faculty members' academic freedom to teach and do their work. Partly, this is everyone feeling overwhelmed by work.
I know there was one case here where a faculty member was having serious, near disastrous, difficulties teaching. It became apparent during a first year review, as I recall. At that point, several faculty members pointedly took on specific mentoring roles. They met with the new person to make sure expectations were clear, shared course stuff (when they'd taught the same classes), and so on.
But mostly, as far as teaching, we observe tenure track people, look at their evaluations (with a sense that these aren't the best measure of teaching), read their course stuff. Then, if we're doing our job well, we give them developmental feedback. But if everything looks more or less okay, we pretty much stand back.
So, I don't think we'd necessarily recognize that teacher X was giving almost everyone easy As, so long as the paperwork looked okay and the student evals didn't seem alarming.
My question is, what makes good mentoring of teaching, specifically?
What's most helpful to newer teachers?
How do we do a good job balancing our respect for their expertise, our busyness, and what might be helpful interventions?