Service colleges and academic divisions: Quality implications

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TERESITA TANHUECO-TUMAPON

HIGHER education institutions (HEI) basically organize their general administration into finance, physical plant, maintenance, security and other general services; the academic area, into colleges headed by academic deans who report to the vice president for academic affairs. Countries with historical ties to the United Kingdom such as Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Canada etc. use the term academics when referring to faculty members. “Faculty” in these countries means a “college” (a group of related departments). Thus, the British term Faculty of Law means to us College/School of Law. We will use more the North American term of which we are familiar. Thus, faculty members to refer to tertiary level teachers.

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Academic organization. Reporting to the college deans are their respective academic department chairs to whom, in turn, their respective faculty members report. Academic support services are usually split—guidance counsellors report to the student services dean/director or vice president; while the registrar and the librarian, and quite rare in Philippine HEI’s, a director of a support unit for continuing professional development (CPD) of faculty members such as a Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, to the VP for academic affairs. With the full implementation of K-12, we would expect structural adjustments. This presentation attempts to record the typical pre-K-12 scenario, still much evident today.

Service colleges. A service college is a college that offers courses to students enrolled in another college in the same HEI. As is expected, the general education part of the bachelor’s curriculum in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is similar to that of other bachelor’s programs, with some variations. Less social sciences but more sciences for engineering, more philosophy for a Bachelor of Arts degree, etc. General education consists of the knowledge fundamentals—language and letters, social sciences, sciences and mathematics. In most universities, different bachelor’s programs of an HEI draw their general education courses from the CAS. In this sense, the CAS, as is usual in most HEIs, is referred to as a service college. Any other college of an HEI may also be a service college. The accounting subjects in an agri-economics program of the Agriculture College could be “serviced” by the Business and Commerce College, hence, making the accounting subjects regularly accessible to agriculture students. The physical education required of all bachelor’s curricula is often “serviced” by the Education College.

Strategic CPD for faculty members of service subjects. Continuing professional development (CPD) of faculty members assigned in service courses could be strategic if they are assigned to specific colleges. This would also help them get used to the disciplinary environment in that college. Certainly, one assigned to teach Freshman English in the Business College would find some difference in parlance of a business program from that of Pharmacy. One teaching Business English could further train in office memoranda forms and business letters updates. One assigned to Pharmacy would become conversant with pharmaceutical terminology and train students to cushion student essays in a more direct scientific style. Even better, if these faculty members are invited to academic meetings of colleges they serve. This enables them to be “at home” as it were, with the academic environment of that college—bottom line, to the students they serve.

Organizing HEI’s by divisions or departments. HEIs with a huge number of enrollees are usually organized into distinct academic departments. Full-time teaching loads for each faculty member would likely be available since there would be more sections to handle. Hence, it is more likely that they teach subjects related to their graduate degrees or major fields. By contrast, HEIs with small enrollment would lump disciplines into divisions such as Language and Letters, Social Sciences, Mathematics and Sciences. Academic disciplines cannot all be represented by the limited number of faculty members. Hence, one teaching biology has also to teach physics/or chemistry or one teaching history, would also teach sociology, etc. to have a full-time teaching load. There are quality implications to this arrangement.

Implications on teaching and learning quality. As instances of cross-teaching increase, the likelihood of faculty members teaching courses not aligned to their masteral degrees could also increase. All other things being equal, who would better teach in a discipline— a major in the discipline or a major in a slightly related field? How much understanding of a discipline—its depth and breadth could be provided by a faculty member merely several chapters ahead of his/her students? Regardless of how a college is organized, and all considerations being equal, those with appropriate expertise are better able to teach both basic and advanced courses offered in a department. One with an economics master’s would have a better grasp in helping students majoring in economics analyze how a particular market segment can impact on the whole national economy; know which theories anchor such situations, than one with a master in sociology or history or political science who because of the exigency of the service, has to cross-teach in economics. An expert does not simply lecture or spoon-feed, but can additionally contribute to what the students learn on their own. Web information, being mostly foreign, is often far removed from Philippine conditions. Lacking insight on what they read, students need an expert to help them draw understanding of local conditions the impact of which they may have experienced, hence bridge theory to practice. Students would have expanded and deepened insights of a discipline. This, we call, authentic learning.

Email: ttumapon@liceo.edu.ph

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