By Robin Loon, Department of English Language and Literature
The NUS Educator Track is an exciting career path for Higher Education educators. It allows Educator Track faculty to devote their time and attention not just to teaching, but to making impact on education and student learning.
A lot of buzz (and confusion, if I may add) have surrounded the promotion pathways for Educator Track (Edu-T) colleagues, especially with the prospects and the security of an open contract for those promoted to Associate Professor and above on Edu-T. While the promotion processes and expectations are still being defined and finessed, I think it is timely for us to also consider the importance of hiring staff who wish to enter this career path.
The hiring of Edu-T faculty at the lecturer/entry-level is equally fraught. The main challenge, in my view, is that HODs and Search Committees have not recalibrated their processes from tenure/research track hires to Edu-T hires. The ritual of search-and-hire has been overwhelmingly dominated by indicators forecasting research impacts and potentials. These processes and indicators cannot be easy, nor should they be, mapped onto Edu-T hires. It is frustrating that Edu-T hires may still be assessed by their publication track records which do not articulate the potential these candidates have as excellent educators. A recent Edu-T hire advertisement from an FASS department states that “to be considered for a senior position, apart from the above, a candidate must demonstrate the potential to be research active.” This is problematic on many fronts. Firstly, as articulated by a fellow Edu-T DELL (Department of English Language and Literature) colleague Dr Leslie Lee, applicants may misinterpret this to mean “that research is required/important/relevant for career development on the [Edu-T]’. This may result in the kind of mismatch between expectations and reality that led to previous departures on the [Edu-T].” Secondly, this misrepresents the Edu-T career progression which the Educator Track document (HR 006/19) states:
“At higher levels of appointment, candidates further need to demonstrate positive impact through either educational leadership, or through the development of expertise in their discipline in relation to pedagogy, or a combination of these.” (p.1)
As a senior Edu-T faculty, I participated in the recent DELL Edu-T search-and-hire process. I was invited to observe and comment on candidates’ teaching demonstrations (which is an open invitation to all DELL colleagues). In addition, I was asked by the search committee (comprising Prof Lionel Wee (chair), A/P Vincent Ooi and Dr Leslie Lee) to meet with the candidates individually to answer the candidates’ queries on Edu-T career prospects and expectations. This is the first time, in my memory, that an Edu-T search committee has provided such a forum. Not only did this mean that the department took the hiring process very seriously, it also indicated that the committee wanted the candidates to understand what an Edu-T career at NUS entails and that we send the right messages about what this track has to offer. I gladly accepted the invitation to promote Edu-T to potential hires. My meetings with all 3 shortlisted candidates were friendly, candid, and focused on the Edu-T. I was very pleased to hear that all 3 candidates expressed strong interests in developing a career in Education in NUS, and that they had definite ideas and plans to develop student learning and education. It was invigorating to hear from other enthusiastic educators who share the same fervour and commitment to providing our students with innovative and engaging learning environments. I believe that this was a direct result of the search committee applying strict Edu-T specifications during the initial interview and shortlisting process. Any of these candidates are a good fit in the department and in the NUS Edu-T.
Our new Edu-T hire will join the department in January 2021. I know the department has selected the strongest candidate who has not only displayed strong teaching capabilities but has also demonstrated potential for leadership and innovation in education at NUS.
The search committee has given me permission to share their account of this hiring process and I have attached it here.
For the Edu-T at NUS to reach its full potential, we must not only focus on career advancement and support, we must also be rigorous at the very start of the process: by searching for strong educators with the potential for educational leadership.