I read an article recently on the InsideHigherEd site about preparing graduate students to teach in colleges. It's not new to hear a call for better preparation in graduate education for those students who wish to pursue that path. Students who are better trained to teach seems like a no-brainer, but it has never been a priority.
The article says that may be changing. Maybe it's because tenure-track positions are becoming much harder to find. Fewer jobs means more competition. In many colleges, adjuncts are teaching the majority of course sections, and that squeezes the opportunities even tighter.
Conducting research and obtaining grant money have long been the most important things for promotion and tenure at top-tier universities. To say that students who will continue in academia should be effective in the classroom is still radical. If those students plan to seek employment at a liberal arts or community college, the need for that teacher training is much greater.
Teaching certificate programs are actually showing up at some institutions. The Graduate Student Instructor Teaching and Resource Center at the University of California at Berkeley is conducting a survey of the 70 or so institutions that already offer such a program as UC plans its own program. Though their survey results are still preliminary, it shows that at those colleges the number of students working towards a teaching certificate will increase by about 10% this year.
At MIT, 90 doctoral students signed up when the program was first offered two years ago by the Teaching and Learning Laboratory. This year, 140 graduate students are working towards teaching certificates.
Is this trend because of an increased commitment to preparing graduate students for teaching? Is it the formalization of a philosophy that already existed at many universities? I hope so. Is there a "false dichotomy between teaching and research" as is suggested in the article? No, there's a real dichotomy and research still trumps teaching on those promotion and tenure committees.
With all the attention that K-12 schools and teachers are getting these days (Waiting for Superman et al), it would be good to turn the spotlight on college teaching. My best teachers were in K-12. My worst teachers were spread all the way through the end of grad school, but statistically there were more poor teachers in college than in the earlier grades. Masters of content, but little else.