This semester many of us are engaged with a national initiative entitled Connected Courses. At Virginia Tech, we developed our own active co-learning group of faculty and graduate students to interface with each other and ConnectedCourses. And the dialogue ensued.
The first unit (of six) challenged us to engage with “why we need a why” and participants were asked to reflect specifically on “why we teach”. Michael Wesch and his colleagues (Randy Bass, Cathy Davidson) shared some of their teaching experiences, introduced purpose driven not just content driven courses, and challenged us to contemplate “why we need a why“. They asked us to share “why I teach”.
As I pondered “why I teach”, my thoughts quickly moved toward questions of “why” beyond teaching as related to the future of higher education and the future professoriate. We are often taught about the 7 questions – the who, what, when, where, how, why and why not. As one who is focused more on process, I especially appreciate the why, the how and the why not.
In the graduate course I teach, GRAD 5104 Preparing the Future Professoriate, we have been discussing the roles and responsibilities of faculty (teaching, research, service and more) and the changing nature of higher education. As the students consider their future as faculty, they must ask themselves which university they will choose and why, the roles and responsibilities they will embrace and why, the pedagogical strategies to utilize and why, the possibilities for change and why not, and how they will engage with colleagues, students, and community. Inasmuch as the path forward for higher education requires dynamic mostly non-linear processes and will offer some exciting opportunities, the faculty and the future faculty must innovate, create, and lead change. The questions they ask and answer especially the “why” will inform the future.