Wondering what this conference is all about? It’s for anyone teaching political science, and that probably includes you. If you want to work in academia, regardless of what type of school you end up working in you will be teaching. How much you teach and how much time you invest in your teaching will depend on factors like tenure requirements but it also depends on your personal commitment. And you might be wondering if it’s appropriate for graduate student. I will say that there were several other PhD students at the conference, many like myself interested in supplementing any teacher training they got as graduate students. And I did get a lot out of it, in that regard.
APSA’s President Henry Brady, Senator Bob Graham, and Rogers Smith spent time with us at the conference this weekend giving their views on the importance of teaching political science and the state of the field on campuses today. You can choose to think of teaching as fundamental to what we do or you can treat it as precious time spent away from your research. But if you don’t think it matters, think again. Departments with fewer students get less funding, with few exceptions. That was their message in a nutshell and one that I agree with.
How does it work? For three days, you are a part of a small group of teachers discussing pedagogy, the role of political science in general education, and fun things like using technology in the classroom. There are also tracks for graduate education for tenured faculty looking to improve graduate programs, internationalizing the curriculum, and simulations and role playing in the classroom. You can present a paper or participate as a discussant (everyone is a discussant by default). The tracks meet separately in a working group model and come up with major points/themes and recommendations for the field. These are then published in PS the following summer. I was in the core curriculum/ general education track this year. Dr. Kohen was in the technology in the classroom track, I believe.
My own experience this weekend was positive. It was a chance to talk to others across the country about what it is political scientists do. And why what we do is important. It was also a good opportunity to find mentors and even research collaborators for the future. Research projects were drummed up all over, it seemed. And not all of them were about teaching.
The APSA Teaching and Learning Conference has been around for 7 years, it’s still young. But it serves an important role in getting political scientists from all over together to talk about teaching. No where else is this done. It’s expensive, sure ($250 registration this year). It’s a growing conference and has yet to break even, thus the higher cost (or so I was told). APSA will continue to support it so long as it continues to attract people interested in teaching. So if this is you, plan to attend next year or the year after. It’s 3 days out of the year, 5 at most with travel if you’re a discussant. Unfortunately, our department only partially funds graduate student conferences for paper presentations, not for serving as a discussant. So if you have an idea for a research project involving teaching, then submit a proposal.
If you have any questions or want more information, check out the conference area on APSA’s website or ask me. And no, this is not a paid advertisement!