While serving as the director of a faculty development center at Seattle University, Therese Huston noticed a recurrent complaint emerging from professors: “I’m being asked to teach a subject I never studied.”
In 2009, Huston authored a self-help manual for profs coping with this dirty little secret of higher education, “Teaching What You Don’t Know.” And, judging by the book’s success, it’s an all-too-common problem: The second edition will be released this month, and there’s already an audio book on the market, perfect for ever-commuting adjuncts.
“It became increasingly clear that one of the most stressful situations was when someone was teaching not just a new course in terms of preparation, but a new course in terms of having to learn new material,” says Huston. “People were embarrassed to talk about that, but this is when they needed the most help.”
Based largely on case studies of 28 professors from a wide range of colleges and universities, Huston tackles the issue from course preparation to final exams. “This is the first book to talk openly about teaching outside of your expertise. Most books assume the opposite. So I had to look at the empirical literature differently to find research that might be relevant. I wanted to continually ask: ‘Who does the best teaching — and under what circumstances?'” says Huston. “There are strategies for managing the time. That’s a big concern: Not only do you want to know that your students are learning, but you want to make sure you can do this and have enough time to sleep.”