SWOT: A strategy for mid- & late-career teachers


One of the most common analytical approaches taught in business programs is SWOT Analysis. Students are asked to identify an organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.  The results identify strategic, proactive actions the firm can take to improve.  Andy Molinsky, author and speaker, recently blogged about the need for entrepreneurs to apply the technique to themselves, asking entrepreneurs to consider their blind spots, weaknesses and opportunities.  You can find the source article here. I think SWOT can be a useful exercise for mid-career teachers.

Strengths.  What are your teaching strengths? Are you organized? Do you plan well? Are you an engaging speaker? Do you have a way with words? Are you personable? Are you tops in your field? Are you reliable, dependable, trustworthy? Are you effective at motivating and inspiring students? Are you savvy with technology? Can you find that sweet spot of pushing students hard without discouraging them? In economic terms- what are your comparative advantages?

Weaknesses. Be honest. What aspects of teaching or work as a teacher is a struggle? Are you disorganized? Impatient? Do you have trouble learning students’ names? Have trouble managing teaching and learning at a reasonable pace? Does your teaching feel stale? Do you procrastinate? Return papers late? Miss opportunities for timely feedback?

Opportunities. Molinsky sees opportunities as “chances to build on your strengths and rectify your weaknesses.” Look at the patterns and relationships between and among your strengths and weaknesses. Are there ways to minimize a weakness by exploiting a strength? For example: Could you apply a technology skills advantage toward becoming more organized, managing paperwork, or grading more timely?

Threats. Threats can be internal, personal, departmental, or institutional. For contract faculty, job insecurity may be a significant threat. For tenure-line faculty slow publication acceptances and manuscript rejections can be significant professional hazards.  Decreases in funding, declining enrollments, changing demographics, new leadership, or a lack of institutional leadership can be threats to teaching vibrancy and effectiveness.

Look at the patterns and relationships between and among the SWOT categories.  How might you use this information to invigorate your teaching?

Additional resources:

Mid-Career Faculty: How to Stay Engaged Fulfilled and Productive. White paper from Faculty Focus, https://www.facultyfocus.com/free-reports/teaching-and-learning-free-reports/mid-career-faculty/

Phelps, Patty. Nov 12, 2014. Climbing the Stairs: Observations on a Teaching Career. Faculty Focus, https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-careers/climbing-stairs-observations-teaching-career/

Weimer, Maryellen. (2010). Inspired College Teaching: A Career-Long Resource for Professional Growth. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.




About Lolita Paff

Educator. Wife. Mother. Amateur chef. Wine lover.

Posted on September 28, 2017, in Professional Development. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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