For the past few months, I have been researching and writing about the physical and moral stasis of certain literary characters. Simultaneously, I have become more involved in my university’s Center for Teaching and Learning Enhancement* and am amazed at the lack of interest many of my colleagues display toward faculty development. There is, indeed, a problem with pedagogical stasis on my campus.
In my dissertation research, I’ve found that the stasis of the characters I’m studying (Penelope in Orchestra, Lucrece in The Rape of Lucrece, and Coriolanus in Coriolanus) is a voluntary or involuntary reaction to an unwanted external force that poses either a moral or physical threat. It is a defense mechanism. It is how the characters protect themselves from a particular type of trauma.
Working with these very different instances of stasis, I can’t help but consider how one may inform the other.
So what are my colleagues defending/protecting themselves from? What is it about the possibility of learning that creates pedagogical stasis? What could be so threatening, indeed traumatic, about faculty development that they feel the need to passively or even aggressively adopt a defensive/protective posture against it?
I recognize time, pride and laziness as causes for pedagogical stasis, but I wonder if it could be more than that. I wonder if faculty development is the Antinous to my colleagues’ Penelope (from Davies’ poem, not Homer). I wonder if it is the plebians to my colleagues’ Coriolanus? Could it be that my unmovable colleagues are exercising moral stasis? Can pedagogical stasis be, on some level, an issue of teaching/professional morality? If so, then the promise of improved and enhanced teaching could be perceived, in the case of my more defensively static colleagues, as a threat, indeed an assault, against the virtues and nobility that they perceive in their teaching philosophies and methods– virtues and nobility that may only be of service to their disciplines and not their students.**
*I was recently appointed Associate Director of my university’s QEP, an appointment that has created an academic and professional impasse. I’m a year away from completing my PhD in Renaissance Studies, yet I find my career and academic interests going in a very different direction. I should write about this.
**In no way am I implying that all teachers who refuse to participate in faculty development are ineffective teachers. Sometimes, the (defensive) pride and disinterest are justified. Nevertheless, teachers of all ability should have the desire to keep learning and improving, indeed should be ideal students.