Graduate Education in Classics: A Continuing Conversation....

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" Does Graduate Education in Classics Need Reform?

Preparation for the Academic Job Market: Teaching and Research

In his opening remarks Lowell Edmunds raised the question of whether graduate education was adequately preparing people for the jobs they would be likely to do. He wondered in particular whether classics PhDs receive enough training in three particular areas: pedagogy; the institutional structures and procedures of the academy, such as grantsmanship; and various skills not required of classicists in the past, such as using the computer, reading modern languages of emerging importance in research, etc.

One strand of discussion under this general heading concerned how good a job graduate schools do preparing people to be teachers as opposed to researchers. Jennifer Sheridan picked up on this theme, noting that her own training did not prepare her for her current job in any direct way: whereas she spent most of her time in graduate school (at Columbia) learning to do research in Roman economic history, she now teaches five undergraduate courses per semester at St. Joe's and has little opportunity to do research or to integrate into her teaching what little research she has time for. She now feels she would like to have had more instruction in course preparation, pedagogical technique, etc. Jacqui Sadashige noted that most graduate students she knows do quite a lot of teaching and thus by the time they get their degrees have had quite a lot of teaching experience, a point with which others agreed. Nevertheless, there seemed to be general agreement that, while graduate school does require graduate students to begin their pedagogical careers, they tend to do so in a relatively unstructured way, without a great deal of guidance.

Andr Lardinois and Alessandro Schiessaro suggested that something might be learned from the European model, in which the earliest years of graduate school were specifically intended and practically oriented to train candidates to teach in secondary schools. Lee Pearcy commented that the skills stressed by PhD programs typically took very little account of the qualities needed to teach secondary school. Others spoke to the dichotomy between teaching and research and to the perception that classics PhDs are interested mainly in the latter pursuit. Bert Lott told a story about a classics position in a small southern university that went unfilled for several years: the search committee ultimately decided that all the classicists who applied were more interested in specialized research than in the fairly low-level, generalist teaching they would have to do in the position they were seeking to fill, and so hired a hispanist instead.

Joe Farrell asked whether those present would favor a recommendation that graduate programs adjust their focus towards pedagogical apprenticeship at the expense of research training. The group expressed a clear disinclination to endorse any such recommendation. Alessandro Schiessaro suggested that, in fact, most people go to graduate school precisely because they want to learn to do independent research in a field and, if they plan to seek related employment, to find a position that will allow them to do such research. Judy Hallett called the dichotomy a false one, and said that we should in fact be doing more to bring our research into the undergraduate classroom and to encourage undergraduates to undertake serious research projects, particularly those of a collaborative nature, and she cited some examples in which she had seen this approach work.

[To proceed to section 2.2, click here.]