So while scrolling through my Facebook feed I saw this post by EdSurge – “Minerva Project Proposes A $500K Prize For Higher Ed Teaching”

I’ve been following the Minerva Project since their inception (how can you not when they’ve raised $25 million!). I’m interested in how the project is going to work in finding these top professors to teach their courses. It seems this might be one way. They plan to give an a yearly $500K prize to faculty members from any higher education institution “whose innovations have led to extraordinary student learning experiences.” Wow that sounds great. The founder and CEO, Ben Nelson, even said “The existing system of hiring, tenure, and promotions often emphasize research and publications over teaching.” Which is totally true. You are unlikely to find a professor who is an amazing researcher and teacher at the same time. It just takes up so much of your time, that most tend to focus on one or the other.

After reading that article, I had thought of a professor I wanted to nominate so I went to the nomination page on the Minerva Project. That’s when I saw the “Requirements For Nominees”

1. Nominees must have personal experience teaching in a higher education institution (past or present).
2. Nominees must have a substantial number of highly cited publications.
3. Nominees must be living at the time of nomination. The Academy and Governor will select an alternative winner should a selected winner be deceased prior to accepting the honor.
4. All nomination entries must be made in English.
5. Minerva Academy members are eligible for nomination. However, they are not eligible to vote for the prize winner in a year in which they are a finalist.

All of them except #2 make sense to me. But wait you want the professor to have a “substantial number of highly cited¬†publications?” Not just to have published many papers, but to have them “highly cited?” So in¬†other words they don’t really want a teacher. They want a researcher. Those are the people in higher ed who write all of the publications.

This prize that is meant to put the spotlight back on teaching is actually feeding into the same existing system, that in the CEO’s words “emphasize research and publications over teaching.”

What a waste.


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