Should Academics have Continuing Education Requirements?

Continuing education is required for maintaining certification status in medical, engineering, and teaching fields. However, academics view the PhD as a terminal degree and an end point for formal learning. This contrast is quite interesting when we consider the role of the academy in producing and disseminating knowledge.

Continuing education is used as a tool for requiring professionals to stay abreast of current developments in their field and also for professional societies to administer standardized content such as ethics and information dissemination around a new idea. One outcome of requiring continuing education credits among the professionals in a field is the creation of a field of “life-long learners.” It amuses me to think that academics are not cultivating a culture of life-long learning.

I understand that academics especially research faculty will constantly be reading literature and publishing their own studies, resulting in moving the discipline forward. One could call this continuing education, but I disagree. Academics are not (typically there are always expectations) pursuing training in cultural competency, teaching and learning philosophies, ethics, or data management. I think that one major reason why faculty are not pursuing formal education is that they are not supported by their peers and mentors. Faculty that decide to get further training need to take the initiative alone and seek out ways to get the formal training.

Since there are already numerous frameworks for continuing education with many different disciplines why haven’t universities adopted a requirement for some kind of formal training of their faculty? I think this is due to the assumption that faculty members are experts in their field and that as experts they don’t need to learn anything outside their field. To me this seems to be a belief that is contrary to the way universities embrace interdisciplinary collaborations. If more faculty had frequent exposure to ideas outside their field maybe there would be less resistance to creating interdisciplinary research programs.

I think it would be beneficial for universities to require that all faculty with teaching appointments obtain a teaching certificate through their university faculty development or teaching centers that would need to be renewed with every contract renewal or every 3 years. This would allow the university to explain their own specific curricula objectives and their learning management system. Additionally, this initiative could serve as a place to present teaching scholarship conducted by faculty at the university and encourage faculty to conduct teaching scholarship or research.

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