You’ve landed as an assistant professor at a prestigious college and you can’t wait to get into the classroom. But, do you have all the skills necessary to triumph as a teacher?
That’s where David James, MBA’18, comes in. James is the co-founder and managing director of Boston-based Beacon Instructional Partners, and his mission is to turn good professors into great ones via customized coaching. During James’ time at Babson he combined his interest in teaching with a love of entrepreneurship, eventually leading him to start his company (the director of marketing is former Babson classmate Shuning Hsu, MBA’18). James returned to campus last fall to work with the Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching on a pilot program to coach assistant professors, calling upon his previous experience in teaching, coaching, and co-founding a middle school in Lawrence, Mass.
“Babson is known to be a great teaching college, and it recruits people who are good teachers and love to teach,” says James. But, not everyone who makes it to higher education has benefited from effective teacher training. “For some professors, teaching is trial by fire,” he adds.
James’ inaugural volunteer group included four assistant professors who had a variety of goals that fell into four categories: developing and expressing clear and aligned objectives, improving assessments and rubrics, increasing student engagement, and creating ways to more effectively check for student understanding.
Coaches observed professors in the classroom over a semester both in person and via video. Subsequent one-on-one coaching was confidential and not connected to any tenure evaluations. “Some of the feedback we got from the professors was that they enjoyed being coached by someone who saw their class, saw the students, and understood what they were trying to do,” James says.
James created a case study, extrapolating data from student evaluations and feedback from the professors. The professors’ comments were overwhelmingly positive, noting increased student engagement, significant breakthroughs and improvements in their teaching, and the ability to achieve their goals.
James is partnering with Babson again this spring, and says that coaching is necessary in a shifting educational landscape. “Yes, you can watch classes online,” he says, “but to get the full experience, you need to be there in person.” – Jeannine Stein