DVC should require and pay for instructor training


DVC recently received an overall score of 61.1 percent, indicating that well over half of students have successfully transferred or completed a certificate program.

As we celebrate DVC’s above-average state student success scorecard, it’s worth pointing out that another important report card also exists for the school.

Rate My Professors’ average for DVC is 3.83/5, or 76 percent. While the usefulness and accuracy of the website’s reviews are debated, it has become an essential tool for many students.

Even though a quick look into other schools’ scores suggests that DVC is still leading the pack in community college average professor ratings, finding 99 professors with an overall rating of “poor” is nevertheless disheartening.

Certain themes seem to prevail among the poorly reviewed professors. Some of them can’t be helped, like an instructor teaching an inherently difficult course or having an inconvenient language barrier.

It’s shocking though to see to see prevalent themes which could have been addressed much more easily. Among the most common complaints of poorly rated DVC professors are disorganization, unstructured lessons, inability to answer questions effectively and taking too long to grade assignments.

The common link between poorly rated instructors seems to be a lack of experience. Most experienced professors seem to figure out how to structure lesson plans and grade assignments effectively as they go along. Perhaps the ratings of some seasoned instructors would be different if Rate My Professors had been commonly used when they started teaching.

While DVC does require professors to have at least a master’s degree in their field, no teaching experience at all is required, nor is it provided to them. That’s why we at The Inquirer recommend that DVC considers spending a bit of time and money to train inexperienced professors in how to teach effectively.

The idea in itself isn’t uncommon. High school teachers, even substitutes, are required to fulfill some amount of similar training. DVC instructors may require less training because they’re experts in their fields and their students are older, but they could still use some guidance on how to organize lesson plans and grade assignments efficiently

Our Letter to the Editor this issue is a perfect example of the sort of problems that can arise when professors aren’t taught how to effectively interact with international students.

Proper training is in the best interest of instructors every bit as much as students. It’s incredibly daunting for an instructor to stand in front of a classroom for the first time and teach, especially when their field of expertise doesn’t involve a study of communication.

The current policy requires that inexperienced professors teach like deer in headlights, whereas a bit of practice could go a very long way in helping their comfort level while teaching.

Nearly everyone interviewed in The Buzz this issue said that what they most wanted to see out of first-year professors was a passion for their subject. It’s very difficult to show passion when you’re uncomfortable.

To be fair, DVC’s Nexus program makes important improvements on this front. Nexus, according Nexus Coordinator Lisa Orta, is a year-long state-required training program for newly hired full-time instructors. The program focuses on policies and procedures, as well as techniques in effectively engaging with students.

Still, despite its important contribution Nexus makes, full-time faculty are typically hired with years of teaching experience already under their belts. Part-time faculty, who teach a lot of classes and are often completely inexperienced only receive an optional 3-hour orientation session.

DVC also surveys its students for feedback regarding their professors, though to what degree those surveys lead to change isn’t clear, and the damage is already done to the students filling them out.

The cost is going to be an issue. Without pretending to know the specifics of the school’s budget, all that can be said is that the opportunity to vastly improve the student body’s satisfaction with their professors should be a very important priority.

Let’s be clear: poorly reviewed professors only make up 10 percent of the total reviewed body of professors on Rate My Professors, and students who use the website when signing up for classes generally report a great overall satisfaction with the quality of DVC professors.

On the other hand, the four most-reviewed DVC professors all have a overall rating of poor. The students submitting these negative reviews have suffered from our shortcomings as a school and are an indication that something needs to be done.

Whether DVC sees their concerns as legitimate or not, and whether it decides to do anything about it, remains to be seen.