Teachers are the soul of a university. They are important educational resources as well as the main body for implementing the school’s educational system; hence their career development status is directly related to the success or failure of the school’s education system and the quality of learner development.
As the top level of the whole organization system of the Open University of China (OUC), the career development of the full-time tutors in the headquarters of the OUC will directly determine the quality and the future of open education to a certain degree. Based on the study of the status quo of vocational development of OUC headquarters full-time tutors, this paper introduces the theory of career development stages. Starting from analyzing the characteristics and needs of the OUC headquarters full-time tutors at different stages of career development, it emphasizes putting forward measures to improve recognition of professional tutors' identification and enhance their abilities, to promote the training and improvement of tutors at different stages of career development, and thus tries to reveal the career development path for full-time tutors at the OUC headquarters and to eventually provide talent support for the development of open education.
I. Current predicament of career development of the OUC headquarters full-time tutors
For a comprehensive understanding of the status quo during the period from 5 to 26 March, 2015, the OUC Teacher Development Centre and the Human Resource Department had wide exchanges with the full-time tutors in the OUC headquarters and solicited their opinions by adopting three kinds of research methods, including issuing questionnaires, holding open forums and individual interviews. Afterwards, Liu Ying, a tutor from the Teacher Development Centre, took the responsibility of writing the Investigation Report on the OUC Headquarters Full-time Tutors, which focuses on exploring a path for the career development of OUC headquarters full-time tutors, with supportive data mainly based on the research results of the above research report.
1. General status of the career development of OUC’s full-time tutors
Among the 158 full-time tutors in the OUC headquarters, 21 are holding concurrent positions both as course leaders and as management personnel. The number of young and middle aged tutors below the age of 45 totals 88, accounting for 56%. Tutors with postgraduate qualifications are numbered at 106, accounting for 67%. There are 122 tutors with a master’s degree or above, of which 44 have a doctorate degree and 78 a master’s degree, accounting for 77%. 96 tutors have senior professional titles, including 18 with senior professional titles and 78 with associate senior professional titles, accounting for 60.7%. The number of personnel with intermediate titles is 62, accounting for 39%. The primary role of the full-time tutors in the headquarters is to serve as course leaders. While according to the requirements of the OUC and personal development needs, some tutors also serve as primary lecturers (30%), course editors in chief (23%) and tutors (33%).
The survey finds that 75% of the tutors think that they are under high work pressure, with nearly 50% of the tutors undergoing emotional burnout from their existing work. Only 55.3% of the tutors express satisfaction with their career development while 42.6% are not satisfied, with another 2.1% complaining about extreme dissatisfaction with their career development. 59.6% and 28.1% of the tutors believe respectively that the confusion of career development lies in the fact that the tutors’ role is ambiguous and that career planning is missing. Those who are not satisfied with the current state of work and feel at a loss accounted for 19.1%.
2. Factors hindering the career development of full-time tutors in the OUC
There is a reason for everything. The key factors forming the career development status quo of OUC full-time tutors mainly include the following: Ambiguous orientation of tutors' roles; Tutors’ responsibilities are not clearly described and they are heavily overloaded, constantly exposing the tutors in the conflicts of role changing; High standard of work requirements, a heavy workload and complex work tasks result in tutors losing their strength to work well even though they are more than willing to; Their self-values are lost, self-confidence lowered and emotions and energy exhausted, which has resulted in a worn-out body and mind, as well as job burnout. The professional title assessment is not reasonable. In the education system in our country, open education is subordinate to higher education. However the nature of work, working content and working ways of tutors in open education are completely different from those of general higher education. In the existing tutors’ evaluation system, there is no evaluation criteria specified for tutors in open universities. This has led to a situation where the evaluation of the professional titles of Open University tutors has to refer to the criteria of general colleges and universities, which is not conducive to the overall career development of OUC tutors. Special career development guidance and management are lacking in the OUC system. The tutors' personal career development management system has not been set up in the OUC and thinking on the path of tutors’ career development is still lacking. Tutors' personal career development needs fail to match with organizational development needs, which has led directly to a weak career development concept, a lack of consciousness in career planning, undefined career development goals, the lack of a sense of vocational identity and motivation for self-improvement and a relatively common job burnout phenomenon for a considerable number of tutors.
3. Rational reflection on the career development of full-time tutors in the OUC
As can be seen from the above situation and dilemma, the career development problems of the OUC headquarters full-time tutors have become an important subject that needs to be urgently studied and solved, because it is related to the successful development of open education. The OUC has also gradually begun to realize the importance of tutors' career development. In 2014, the OUC established the Teacher Development Centre to focus on promoting the development of tutors. In 2015, the Teacher Development Centre completed research on all of the OUC headquarters full-time tutors and completed the Investigation Report on the OUC Headquarters Full-time Tutors. Based on the research of the tutors situation in the whole OUC system, it has completed drafts of two documents, Roles and Responsibilities of OUC Tutors and OUC Teaching Ability Standards, with the original intention of both studies being to attempt to clarify the roles of tutors, provide convenience for the university in planning for tutors' career development and to create prerequisites for tutors' career development. But so far, all the results are still in the research stage and pending practice. A new round of teaching reform is about to begin and the tutor’s role is about to be addressed and solved. At a special historical stage when the old positioning of tutors' role is still in use and the new one has not yet been formed, when the policies related to title assessment remain unchanged and the supporting evaluation and incentive mechanisms are yet to be established, the discussions we have on tutors' career development path are seemingly in the air to some extent. To this end, the author has tried to avoid the above problems and started from the theory of career development stages. Teachers’ career development is deemed as a dynamic life development course in stages in this article, which focuses on the incentive strategies to promote tutors' career development and universal group development needs, ignoring individual differences and exploring the path of career development for OUC’s full-time tutors, with the purpose of providing some helpful inspiration for future policy makers and implementers and strengthening targeted training and motivation of tutors at different stages of their development.