Teaching Certificate Programs are becoming more popular world-wide! –Arash Shahi

In my days as an undergraduate engineering student, I was rather disappointed with the teaching quality in a number of my classes. To me, it seemed as some of my high school teachers could do a much better teaching job than some of our first year instructors. Throughout my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I started to pick on the trends of good professors and I couldn’t help but notice that most of our younger professors were much more interested in teaching than the older ones. This encouraged me to look a little deeper into the reasons behind this trend. After talking to a number of faculty members in our department as well as some people in our Centre for Teaching Excellence I realized that the emphasis that has recently been put on teaching qualities of the hiring faculty is rather a new criterion! Some of the more experienced professors in our department admitted that they never had any teaching training or experience before they got their first faculty position and even after that they have been teaching based on “experience” and through no formal training. This trend has been changing over the last decades, with research based universities now requiring a teaching portfolio or a similar documentation of teaching experience during the interviews for their new faculty positions. Consequently, PhD students are now more eager and interested to develop their teaching skills during their post-graduate degrees. This trend is evident in the increasing number of students enrolled in our very own Certificate of University Teaching (CUT) program at Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) at University of Waterloo. My supervisor at CTE, Dr. Taraban, recently introduced me to an article by Allie Grasgreen in “Tomorrow’s Professor”, which looks at different certificate programs in university teaching offered by a number of universities in US. It is not surprising that the number of students enrolled in these programs are increasing every year and more and more universities are joining the long list of certificate programs in university teaching. Perhaps the most interesting insight of this article was that the certificate programs in university teaching started with an emphasis on training Teacher Assistants (TA), while the main focus of these programs has been expanded to develop future “Professors” and “instructors”. Interestingly, in our own Centre for Teaching Excellence, the position of previously called “TA Developers” are now being changed to “Graduate Instructional Developer” to make the point that we are no longer just training TAs, we are training the future faculty of our universities! 🙂

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