05
Sep
13

A Reality Check on the Drive for College Degrees

ImageThis article appeared in the Atlantic several years ago, but I thought it deserved attention again. Recently, someone wrote an article likening school to a prison. If so, what are we doing in colleges? Professor X takes a sobering look at the reality of college for students and professors.

There seems, as is often the case in colleges, to be a huge gulf between academia and reality. No one is thinking about the larger implications, let alone the morality, of admitting so many students to classes they cannot possibly pass. The colleges and the students and I are bobbing up and down in a great wave of societal forces—social optimism on a large scale, the sense of college as both a universal right and a need, financial necessity on the part of the colleges and the students alike, the desire to maintain high academic standards while admitting marginal students—that have coalesced into a mini-tsunami of difficulty. No one has drawn up the flowchart and seen that, although more-widespread college admission is a bonanza for the colleges and nice for the students and makes the entire United States of America feel rather pleased with itself, there is one point of irreconcilable conflict in the system, and that is the moment when the adjunct instructor, who by the nature of his job teaches the worst students, must ink the F on that first writing assignment.

In the Basement of the Ivory Tower

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05
Sep
13

Adjuncts and Retention

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Gracie G  makes some great observations at The Unarmed Education Mercenary.

What incentive, other than the personal satisfaction of a job well done, does the adjunct have to contribute significantly to a department that has made their disposable status very clear?  Why worry about the well-being of a department or school that may or may not ever offer work again?

Some Thoughts On Adjuncts and Retention

03
Jul
13

Should you self publish?

Should you self publish?

Isaac Sweeny describes his path toward self publishing and his process in his article on The Chronicle of Higher Education. It will be interesting to see how many more of us opt for self publishing and how that will affect the way colleges and universities view it.

03
Jul
13

Is there a Derridean in the house?

Is there a Derridean in the house?

Is there a Derridean in the house? If so, there is a call for papers made just for you! The Derrida Today Conference is looking for papers “on the ongoing value of either Derrida’s work, or deconstruction, to the political-ethical, cultural, artistic and public debates and philosophical futures that confront us.” if that rocks your boat, then follow the link. Let us all know about your success!

25
Jun
13

Don’t Believe the Hype

factorfictionThese days it is often hard to tell when a claim is true when faced with the swirl of rapid fire information that is our modern world. We teach our students to evaluate sources, but even we can sometimes be confused by new and glitzy claims. The article above gives an interesting example of new educational technology and shows how to critically evaluate the claims made by the company. Whether you feel comfortable about your ability to tell myth from fact or you think you need a refresher, Daniel Willingham’s article is a great read.  Originally printed in American Educator in 2012, it provides a guide to help you determine which newfangled innovations are really worth the hype.

Measured Approach or Magical Elixir 

Click above to read the article.

19
Jun
13

Rate My Nightmare

4175299981_614e7d9dc5_nOne of our colleagues received a call about a position for which she had recently applied. Thinking that she might have gotten the job, she excitedly returned the call, only to find out that she had not. But what the dean told her next would throw her for a loop. She had not been hired because of her low rating on RateMyProfessor.com. Having a low score on RMP, she was told, was “career suicide,” and she should “do something about it” as quickly as possible.

We all know that student ratings are of are of limited value. That is not to say that professors never do anything wrong. We all have our faults. However, by the time people are moved to post on a rating site, they are usually more inclined to criticize than to praise. Students can also be quite vitriolic when they are angry, particularly about a poor grade. Some students don’t like to be challenged, and when faced with difficulty, they lash out. Finally, there are always those students who simply don’t like the professor or his/her teaching style.

Even well designed evaluation surveys given by colleges are subject to students’ whims and biases. RMP asks students only four questions, and one of them is whether the class is easy (let alone rating the instructor as “hot” or not). Why would anyone use such ratings as a serious measure of a professor’s teaching ability?  I agree that they might give a professor a general idea for adjustments that might be made to a class, but they cannot be validly be used as anything more than that.

Tying instructor salaries and hiring options to student evaluations, particularly those at RMP, is not only unsound, but it can only lead to lack of rigor and grade inflation in the classroom as professors scramble for that positive or easy rating. It is hard enough to be a teacher/professor without having to worry that unless you find some creative way to abandon your integrity you might lose your job or not get another one.

On the other hand, maybe we should learn “The Art of the Bogus Rating” and game the system. Gabriela Montell discusses how RMP’s anonymous posting lets some professors take matters into their own hands: “Professors like to dismiss the site as flawed and frivolous at best, and untrustworthy and malicious at worst. However, faculty members are using the site more than they let on, and in all sorts of ways.”

03
May
13

Knowledge Cafe: Independent Scholars and the Digital Divide

Join us at the University of North Texas  on May 25 at 10 am

Knowledge Café:

Independent Scholars
and the Digital Divide

 

Sponsored by: UNT’s Center for the Study of Interdisciplinarity
And Independent Scholars

 May 25, 2013 from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm

At the University of North Texas in Denton
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Friends and colleagues who are graduate teaching fellows and adjuncts, instructors and lecturers–all non-tenured educators in the North Texas area, please join us for a Knowledge Cafe on teaching in the 21st Century.
 As you know, schools are rushing to promote mixed courses as well as MOOCs as the future of higher education. This is based on two assumptions:
 1)      All youth today are digital natives and
2)      Everyone in America has equal ease of access to the Internet.
 Most of you who are teaching at our local community colleges as well as those instructing freshmen requisite courses at our universities know that often neither of these assumptions is a safe one to make.
 Come and help us discuss ways to deal with the Digital Divide based on your own experience.
 A “Fortune Cookie” session will follow to discuss contingent faculty (adjunct) issues.

 Please register your attendance by email at Keith.Brown@unt.edu

Questions? 940-565-4671.