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Archive for the ‘faculty responsibilities’ Category

You Work Only 12 Hours Per Week, Do Not Work in the Summer & Have a Sabbatical Every 7 Years?!

In course evaluations, Education, faculty responsibilities, institutional responsibilities, teaching, universal design for learning on June 11, 2012 at 10:58 am

Consumatory Scholarship!?! Sounds like someone eating books and articles!

In the Chronicle article Just Because We’re Not Publishing Doesn’t Mean We’re Not Working, Bruce Henderson argues that faculty Eatingwork is inadequately recognized by the public and by legislators who make demands for accountability. He also notes that “teaching” as an activity in higher education, is not respected. He notes, as an example, that those who do the most teaching (adjunct faculty) receive lower pay.

I agree.

We do not honor teaching as we should. Universities usually measure and reward teaching by counting publications (research), looking for a key number on student evaluations (e.g. 4.0 on a 5 point scale or meeting the department average) and relying on peer evaluations, Publications in one’s area of expertise do not necessarily translate to good teaching, student evaluations are notoriously unreliable (see my latest post on student evaluations) and peer evaluations are only an indicator of one (or two) colleagues’ attendance at one or two classes. Adjunct faculty’s jobs are at risk if they have low student evaluations, even though the link between student evaluations and teaching is tenuous. So, let’s begin measuring teaching effectively: let’s show students, faculty and legislators how and what students learn. Let’s do that using evidence-based teaching practices, explaining how innovations can help improve learning and reward faculty who do their part (and remind others how learners must do their part).

University administration should reward faculty for their teaching accomplishments. And that means ALL teaching faculty, not only tenure-track faculty. Then, the public can begin to see that not only do many teachers work hard, that they work more than 12 hours per week but that we provide a substantial benefit to society.

I sometimes wonder whether there’s an element of classism, anti-feminism and racism in the continual demands for accountability. The University faculty and administrators were overwhelmingly middle-class white males in the 60s. Now, it’s much more diverse. The increase in diversity parallels the increased demands for accountability. And while I know correlation doesn’t mean causality (and accountability demands have complicated causes), it is frustrating to know that for years, higher education faculty faced no obligation to justify existence. During those times, faculty presented material in a way that only certain types of learners (those you might call read-write learners) could succeed. Student studyingTenure was awarded based on a handshake (at least according to some of the faculty who retired just as I came on board) or solely based on the school from which the faculty member obtained his Ph.D.  And while I was successful in that environment, I recognize that my success shouldn’t be the only measure of whether anyone else can garner educational success. I have met students and others who were just as intelligent, but who learn in different ways. So, I recognize that this system of teaching is not the only means of communicating.

I also wonder whether the accountability demands reflect an attack on intellectualism; that the demands represent an attack on those who want to explore and learn. In his blog posts, The Real Ken Jones discusses this in more depth in his “Celebrating Stupidity” series. He focuses on some of the contradictions between science and what some what to believe. Whether the attack on education is related to an attack on intellectualism in general is subject to debate, but there does continue to be a significant attack on education: justified on some grounds but not on others.

So this discussion returns to the topic line: what should we as educators do to let the public and legislators know what we do in the classroom? Regardless of the cause of the controversy, we need to figure out how to address it–how to rebuff the attacks and to go on the offensive. We provide an invaluable service to the community, yet that gets lost in the rhetoric about accountability.  Is using the term “Consumatory Scholarship” and defining it a way to address it? I think not-the essence is in the details. But to the core question I do not yet have an answer.

Do you?

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The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

In assessment of learning, Education, faculty responsibilities, information literacy, innovation in teaching, institutional responsibilities, teaching with technology, technology on April 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm

All around us, the world is changing. From digital information everywhere to mashups, the landscape is changing.

Yet in higher education, we’ve been extremely slow to change. Holding to tradition can be beneficial, but educational institutions face a changing landscape that other institutions have faced. Medicine has changed with the advent of digital information. One study concluded that more than half the patients of a primary care internal medicine group used the internet for information, including information they did not share with their doctors (2002). The music industry has changed drastically; purchases of CDs has reduced y 50% with the advent of illegal file sharing and access to purchase individual songs. (See: Music’s Lost Decade) Yet in higher education we teach as though nothing has changed.

Lecturing has its benefits, but there are far more options available to teach. However, institutions and regulatory bodies do not make it easy to change. Classes are structured so that students are expected to spend 150 minutes per week “seat time” in their courses. Any changes to that structure require compliance with University regulations–and under faculty governance that means that the changes must be submitted to several faculty committees to be reviewed. At my institution, such changes generally take a year to progress through committees and sometimes longer. Clearly processes need to be changed to permit “pilots” or fast-paced changes.

In addition, the “a” word (assessment) requires that work must be evaluated to determine its effectiveness. Assessment can be complicated, since different factors may determine whether a technique has been effective. One factor is student effort-and that is difficult to measure. In addition, we tend to focus on short term (semester) but there can be long term implications that are not easily measured.

Why can’t we adopt a process that makes it easy for faculty to test new approaches, with a quick turnaround time and ample assistance to assess effectiveness?

Twearning + Motivation

In Education, faculty responsibilities, how people learn, institutional responsibilities, Motivation, teaching on April 17, 2012 at 12:53 pm

JumpingMotivation to learn, to explore, to engage, seems to be less prevalent in my classes. I seem to have more questions about whether something will be on the test, than curiosity about what a theory means and its implications for individual or business conduct.

Yet according the article Can Colleges Manufacture Motivation, by Dan Barrett, posted in the Chronicle of Higher Education, it seems that motivation is a key factor for student success. According to the article, as students continue with their college careers, motivation declines.  And it seems to be faculty rather than institution-inspired. According to one of the studies cited in the article, there were wider disparities in motivation generated within universities rather than between universities. Recommended ways to motivate included multiple opportunities to review assignments and re-submit, permitting students to choose topics and permitting students options on formats. Institutions can motivate students by determining which faculty motivate students most and assigning them to teach the introductory courses. At the same time, different people are motivated by different things and what inspires one can sound a death knell for another.

Can motivation also explain the success of the Twearning exercises where I’ve combined Twitter with Learning? I’m going to add a few questions about motivation to the post-survey about Twitter use; I wish I’d thought to add them to the pre-survey. Perhaps motivation is part of the explanation for the success of Twearning to date. So far, no students have dropped the class, altho there have been varying degrees of participation. If all stay until the end of the course, that itself will be a first during the five years I’ve taught this particular course.

Lecturers are People….and….Faculty, Too

In faculty responsibilities, integrity, teaching on February 25, 2012 at 11:08 am

One of the great inequities at the University where I teach is the failure of our administration to formally acknowledge the hard work done by our lecturers (a/k/a adjunct faculty). These are the faculty who teach many of our General Education (GE) courses. They teach up to 5 courses per lifting_weightwithsticksemester and earn  less than tenured/tenure-track faculty. They are usually the first faculty our first time students meet. They often have other full-time jobs to supplement the income they receive from teaching. Yet they are the unsung workers who help trigger and encourage student learning.

Apparently, our University is not alone in its unfair treatment of adjunct faculty. In the Chronicle of Higher Education, writer Michael Stratford, in a piece titled: Accidental Activist Collects Data on Adjuncts,  discusses the research and conclusions of  Joshua A. Boldt, an adjunct faculty member at the University of Georgia. Boldt’s conclusions (based on information you can view from this publicly editable spreadsheet): many adjuncts are treated poorly: lower pay, higher teaching loads and general disrespect from tenured/tenure track faculty and administration. So our University is not alone in failing to acknowledge lecturers’ contributions.

There is one way to acknowledge the work done by lecturers: visible awards.

Why Not an Award for Lecturers (Adjunct Faculty)?

My institution is a unionized campus. During most years, union contracts, negotiated between the teachers’ union and central administration, define our responsibilities and compensation. (Right now, teachers are working without a contract. Apparently two sets of teachereducated minds cannot agree on what is the best pay/performance contract in tight budget times.)

Part of the Issue: Our Institution Has No Money, So No Rewards

Not all rewards need to be  paychecks. The Provost award, given annually, is a prestigious award for faculty. The Provost actually has created and gives several types of awards. These awards are for outstanding teaching, research, service, assessment (new this year), and promising new (tenured/tenure track) faculty. The glaring omission in the list of Provost’s awards is an award for adjunct faculty (we call them lecturers).

Why Don’t Lecturers Just Apply for Awards?

You may say the list’s omission of lecturers is an oversight. After all, at our institution, as of 2011, 55% of the teaching faculty were lecturers. Note that at some institutions, more than 70% of the courses are taught by part-time or adjunct faculty.  So you might think the 55% would be eligible for any one of the Provost’s awards.

You’d be wrong. They are not. They were neither welcomed nor permitted to apply.

How do You Know Lecturers are Not Eligible for Awards?

A colleague and I tested that once, approximately 4 years ago. We applied for a Provost award for service. She and I (a tenured full professor) had built and delivered plagiarism workshops to assist students (and faculty) on campus. We’d delivered the workshops to more than 2,000 students at that point. So, we applied for the award. We didn’t get it, even though we had support for other faculty. But that’s the nature of award applications–applicants are competing with other worthy applicants. Or at least that’s what we thought.

So what was unusual? Well, to apply for the award,  I had to draw in a check-box that said person writing“lecturer” for my colleague because there was no option on the form to check that status. That should have been our first clue that lecturers were excluded from consideration. That clue was confirmed when we learned from an inside source that the reason we weren’t eligible was not merit, but instead concern that “faculty” might be upset if a lecturer won an award [even apparently as a co-recipient with a tenured full professor].

To add insult to injury, the next year, the award form was amended to specifically exclude lecturers from consideration for any awards.

I understand some of the issues. Most tenure track and tenured faculty have advanced degrees beyond a masters’ degree and thus have a more in depth knowledge of an aspect of their disciplines. Arguably, those same faculty members have demonstrated a greater commitment to education. Tenured and tenure-track faculty are willing to disseminate  information through research presentations and publications and thus further knowledge in the discipline. These faculty also have additional commitments to service to the University, discipline and community.

But does that cancel out contributions by lecturers? Does this difference require that lecturers’ contributions be ignored? As director of our faculty development center,I have met lecturers (and other faculty) who care about learning and teaching. Lecturers are welcome to and do attend workshops, training on our learning management system and lead faculty learning communities. But that’s not acknowledged as an award by administration.

Let’s Create a Lecturers’ Award

Acknowledging good teaching is not a zero sum game, however, especially if the acknowledgement is through an award from the Provost. A simple solution on our campus Woman receiving awardwould be to create an award specifically for lecturers–call it the Outstanding Lecturers’ Award. Ask Deans or other colleagues to nominate (and allow self nomination as with the other awards). Show appreciation to the 55% of faculty who teach-and who teach the GE courses that students take when they first enter the University.

Lecturers (adjuncts), not corporations, are truly people…and faculty, too.

Ditch the Technology-Just Teach!

In assessment of learning, critical thinking, faculty responsibilities, how people learn, innovation in teaching, teaching, teaching with technology on February 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm

I love new technology tools. I’m waiting for the first truly functional house-cleaning, grocery-story-shopping, laundry-washing and folding, meal-preparing robot á la the Jetsons’ Rosie, the robot maid. I prefer playing around with my computer, my iPad, my tablet and my iPhone instead of….working. And lucky for me, my day job permits me to play around with technology and work at the same time.

I was also moved by the video produced by Michael Wesch’s anthropology class that focused on students’ lack of engagement with teaching, with learning, and with the material. The video highlighted issues that many of us (faculty) had ignored about students’ world. And I agreed with Wesch’s focus on creating technology-based and enhanced real-life projects to reach and engage students.

Now Wesch is re-thinking his focus. In Jeffrey Young’s recent interview of Wesch, summarized in the Chronicle Article article, “A Tech-Happy Professor Reboots After Hearing His Teaching Advice Isn’t Working,” Wesch noted that other professors had tried his suggestions on technology use and had informed him that the technology did not work. In the article, Young describes Wesch’s encounters with faculty who lecture and who make a connection with students in the lecture (and who therefore believe learning has occurred). Those faculty connect with students despite the decision to forgo technology. According to  Young, Wesch’s key point was that with all technology-enhanced teaching techniques, the technique’s success ultimately depended on the intangible “bond between professor and student.” Wesch’s point was that although technology can engage students, the students’ connection with the faculty helped determine student success.

I agree, with reservations.

The article does not refer to the research that supports the position that if the students “connect” through lecture that the expected learning occurs. My own research (of one, as a student in college, 30 + years ago!) supports the idea, in part, that a dynamic lecturer can connect with students and encourage them to want to learn. My own research (same standard as before!) also supports that there were some “dynamic” lecturers who neither engaged me nor fostered my desire to learn. My desire to learn in those situations was internal: I wanted to maintain my high grades so I could know enough to get into the courses I really wanted! And frankly, if dynamic lectures are truly the only significant ways to impart knowledge, I have a heretical suggestion: hire actors/actresses, train them well to express enthusiasm and “connection” and let them teach the courses! If research supported that lectures are the best/only way to promote learning, then students would succeed at much higher rates than they do now. Learning is more complicated than listening to a lecture. And there are multiple ways for faculty to connect with students.

There are intangibles that promote a connection between faculty and students so that students learn. Some exist with lectures. Some exist in online classes when TN_crca_dogs_friendsstudents, when prompted appropriately, engage in thought provoking discussions. Some exist in face-to-face small group discussions where faculty and students examine topics. Some exist when students meet with faculty outside of the classroom. Some exist when students participate in out of the classroom service-learning projects. Some exist when students are immersed in the topic through technology or through, for example, performance. The point is that as faculty we can choose, adapt test and research teaching methods to determine which works well for students and for the faculty. And if it promotes critical thinking, deeper inquiry or other noteworthy educational goals, then learning has occurred regardless of the technology.

That’s the real message!

So yes, Rosie would be a wonderful addition to my household! But if I had a house filled with young children (as opposed to my current household that includes one grandchild to whom I’ve introduced technology and who embraces it just as her grandmother does!) I would be sure to let those children know that Rosie’s there to Jetsons_TVfamilymake one aspect of life easier, but that Rosie is not there to substitute for every aspect of life. Rosie may clean, for example, but I would want my young children to know what it means to make things dirty, what dirt is, and why it could be harmful (or useful, depending on the discussion). In other words, the technology is a tool that can be used to broaden students learning and to appeal to, or reach students. It is not a substitute for the hard work of learning (and teaching).

Still Adrift in Education

In assessment of learning, course evaluations, critical thinking, faculty responsibilities, institutional responsibilities, teaching on February 15, 2012 at 1:19 pm

In his essay,’ Academically Adrift’: the News Gets Worse and Worse, Kevin Carey, explains that there is more information that not only do college students fail to learn in college, but also that students who perform lower on the CLA (Collegiate Learning Assessment) also fail to find financial security after graduation.

In an earlier post, I discussed some of the conclusions I reached from the sections of the book which I had read. Those conclusions were:

  • There is an inverse relationship between the number of faculty publications and a faculty orientation toward students.
  • The higher students’ grades in the course, the more positive the student evaluations.
  • Grade inflation probably exists.

In a later post, I discussed critical thinking as a concern: that students don’t “enjoy” the challenge of traditional problem solving the way I (and other faculty) do and that has an impact on whether students learn. If students do not see tackling and solving problems as a challenge (and we as educators should do as much as we can to make problem-solving interesting), then there will be a significant impact on student learning.

A Not So Radical Transformation in a Core Business Course

In the introductory business law course that is required for all business majors, all the faculty teaching the course agreed to make substantial changes in the way the course was taught in order to acknowledge and address perceived efficiencies: students lack of college-level ability to read, college-level ability to write and need to improve critical thinking. Students complained a great deal about the additional work.

Assessing and Working to Improve Reading Skills

Although my own experience with students confirms that it would help for them to have more practice reading and writing, the students did not agree. When asked whether My Reading Lab (a publisher-created product) helped them, students said no:

WhetherMyReadingLabHelped-BA18F11

Note that this response is only the student’s perceptions. We have not yet completed an analysis to determine whether those who performed better on My Reading Lab performed better on the tests or in the course. We will work on analyzing that data later. This also does not included longitudinal data, i.e. would students, upon reflection, decide that they had learned more than they thought by the additional practice reading. However, what this data does show is that students did not embrace the additional reading practice and testing requirement.

Reading the Textbook

Student preparation for class is a concern. Many students do not read before attending class; they attended class then read after class.  In addition, students did not study. As part of the course redesign, we required quizzes prior to students attending class. Students (74.2%) agreed that the quizzes helped them keep up with the reading.  Even though the students said the quizzes helped them keep up with the reading, many still didn’t read everything. The following graph lists the students responses about whether they had read the textbook (this is at the end of the semester):

Percentageofreadingscompleted-BA18F11

Note that 40/202 or 19.8% read 90% or more of the readings and 80/202 or 39.6% read 80-89% of the readings. That means that nearly 60% of the class read 80% or more of the readings. These are the results obtained after faculty required that students read and take a quiz on the material before attending class. Thus, students were more motivated to keep up with the reading. How would these results differ if the students had not been required to take a quiz before attending class?

Studying

Student preparation and studying. The following graph includes information on the hours that students studied.

TimespentstudyingBA18F11

According to these self-reports, 21.2% of students studied between 1 and 3 hours per week, 27.7% of students studied between 3 and 5 hours per week, and 21.7% of students studied between 5 and 7 hours per week.  Students should have studied nearly 8 hours per week (2 hours per week outside class for each hour of class-this was a 4 unit course). In Chapter 4 of Academically Adrift, the authors note that students report spending 12 hours per week on their courses outside of class.  According to figure 4.2 of the book, in a 7 day week, students spent approximately 7% of their time studying.

Conclusions so far

The educational process requires that the faculty and the student participate, and if the students have not completed their share, then education and learning wouldn’t necessarily take place. I don’t know how this data compares to other studies on student reading, but it is challenging to help learning if both parties are not fully invested. Students have a variety of reasons for that lack of involvement, but if the investment in education is relatively small, then improvement in learning will be small.

In addition, this past semester, my student course evaluations were much lower (this was also partly due to a change in the institution’s survey evaluation instrument). Because I am tenured, I do not face losing my job over the changes in my student evaluations (although adjunct faculty face a different reality when it comes to being rehired). However, adjunct faculty depend on good student evaluations in order to keep their jobs. If that is the case, adding rigor to a class could cost that faculty member his or her job.

Copyright Law + Education = Strange Bedfellows

In critical thinking, faculty responsibilities, how people learn, information literacy, innovation in teaching, integrity, teaching on February 10, 2012 at 12:54 pm

In the article, Do Students Have Copyright to their Own Notes, Erica Perez summarizes the arguments pro and con for students owning their class notes. The specific concern was that students were uploading the notes onto websites and, in some cases, purporting to sell them.

First, should students have a copyright in their own notes?  Absolutely!

Students’ notes are copyrighted by the students and students should be able to do anything they want with them, including sell them (although California law makes that illegal) or post them on a website. After all, when students take notes, they’re adding their interpretations of what their instructors present in classes. This is true whether the students copy from a faculty-member provided outline or whether students create and outline the notes solely from lectures or other presentations. And notes memorialize what students heard, so they can use them to study, to study with others in the class and to help students who did not attend class.

So, why the fuss? Faculty believe that the notes students take during class are based on instructors’ intellectual property. That intellectual property is the faculty members’ in-class presentation of research (sometimes) or other information  that the faculty members have developed over time and often at great effort and expense. But let’s examine that point more closely.  Most faculty giants feetdid not create this knowledge independently–they created it by “standing on the shoulders of giants” in their fields and building on those giants’ research and knowledge. Although the instructors present their “take” on the knowledge and the faculty’s presentation is thus copyrightable/copyrighted and valuable, that doesn’t mean that the students cannot copyright their “take” on the information. Each individual’s interpretation of the information has value-and copyright law permits that value to be protected.

This raises a larger issue, though, the issue of “knowledge” in general and the copyright law in particular. In education, we remain wedded to the notion that knowledge resides solely within the purview of the instructor. Think about it, though. According to Google, there are nearly 130 million books (and it plans to digitize all of them). As of August 2010, Google has digitized approximately 12 million.  That does not include other works, such as peer-reviewed articles available in paper and electronic format. It’s impossible for any one faculty member to have mastery over any significant part of that. In fact, that’s the reason that teaching information and digital literacy is so important-it’s not only having some knowledge that’s important, it’s equally important to be able to find and critically evaluation the information that’s available everywhere.

Most of us in higher education teach behind closed doors. We enter the classroom and the teaching and leaRuins of Lamanai-doorrning that occurs behind that door is a secret between the teacher and the students in that course. When students finish that course, they are to emerge with greater knowledge than when they entered. And I hope that’s true. Appropriate assessment can help faculty determine whether that has occurred.

Yet access to information has changed and so, too, must faculty’s role. The recitation and Socratic method of questioning so popular during Socrates’ time was based on the idea that Socrates had “read all the books” and as he presented his oratory he questioned his students to ensure that they were “getting it,” partly because the students hadn’t “read all the books.” Now, students have access to the books and access to a wide variety of digital resources-credible and non-credible. As technology continues to improve, students will be able to use their cell phones to access far more resources than the faculty. Faculty’s role must change to one of assisting students evaluate and manage that information, in addition to passing on the key concepts of a discipline. This evolution involves disruptive, transformational change in the way faculty promote and assess learning.

And copyright law has its own problems in that it, as Lessig would say, stifles creativity. I agree. If we continue to restrict access to information, that will, of necessity encourage underground versions of information or stifle creative versions of information.

So, should students own the copyright to their notes? Absolutely! Does that have an impact on education? Yes, as long as we continue to teach from behind closed doors.  Should it have that significant an impact? Absolutely not! Let’s move past this discussion to work on institutional change in the way we teach.

Improving Critical Thinking in Higher Education-Possibly

In faculty responsibilities, institutional responsibilities, teaching on March 15, 2011 at 6:43 am

In Chapter 2 of Academically Adrift,  authors note that improving critical thinking is a skill that many university’s tout as one of their leading goals. Yet, according to the study, the improvement in critical thinking during the first two years of school is minimal at best—according to the authors, the improvement is statistically not above zero. The book authors state

An astounding proportion of students are progressing through higher education today without measurable gains  [emphasis added] in general skills as assessed by the CLA. While they may be acquiring subject specific knowledge or greater self-awareness on their journeys through college, many students are not improving their skills in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing.” (ch 2-reading on Kindle so don’t have page #)

How can that be? Institutions require that students take a package of courses and one key goal is to improve critical thinking. How is it that institutions can miss the mark by so much? Similarly GE courses have as one of their goals requiring students to write a minimum number of words in a course. Why is it that students cannot write (well) after their first few semesters in college?

I have a couple of thoughts (I still haven’t finished the book to find the authors’ suggestions). One is that faculty have not been taught how to teach critical thinking. Most of us teach the substantive content in our disciplines and teach primarily in the way that we had been taught. We presume that if we learned that way, then students can learn that way.

I enjoy critical thinking questions and challenges, yet I am not certain that I do a good job teaching students how to think critically. (And we don’t’ always agree what that means.) I try thinking, musing girl silhouetteto model how we think in the discipline through the way I solve problems, but I don’t know whether I’m helping students learn how to do it or not.

Critical thinking is a skill and habit of mind that must be practiced. At the same time, one must have an interest in it. If I am giving a complex problem, case scenario or reading, I dive in. I presume that I will be able to read through it and analyze it enough so that I can understand it. I see it as a challenge to try to understand it.

Many of my students do not approach tough material or a complex scenario with the same gusto. They seem to just want  me to tell them the answer and they are uncomfortable with the idea that there could be multiple ways of approaching the issue and multiple solutions depending on one’s interpretation of the scenario. They are not comfortable with the idea that I want to know how they arrived at the solution—they just want to know whether their solution is the “correct” solution.

So far, the reading implicitly presents an argument that these initial courses should be taught by full time-tenured faculty who have had guidance in learning how to teach someone to develop critical thinking skills. On most campuses, however, the faculty who tech the GE courses are part time or adjunct faculty and those faculty may be excluded from opportunities to learn how to teach critical thinking more effectively.

My theory on lack of writing ability is based on my concerns with student plagiarism. I will not repeat here what I explained in an earlier post.

Learning More about Teaching and Learning (Or Lack Thereof)

In assessment of learning, faculty responsibilities, how people learn, institutional responsibilities on February 27, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I have not posted much since the beginning of the semester. It’s been hectic. I am currently traveling, so I have begun reading the book Academically Adrift. Note that this is a long post, so it teachersmay take more than a quick glance.

What I have learned from reading the book so far is disturbing. Some of it I knew but some of it was new. The following are my comments on some of the things I learned and my reactions.

  • I learned that there is an inverse relationship between the number of faculty publications and a faculty orientation toward students.

I knew this intuitively, but the book summarizes studies that suggest that faculty in non-research institutions have become more research-focused. This research focus is at the detriment of focusing on students (and teaching and learning). I believe that is true in my school-we have pushed to encourage faculty to publish. If faculty have a finite amount of time to work and the reward lawbooksstructure has shifted to reward publications instead of good teaching, then teaching must suffer.  The one shining light in our school is that teaching-related publications are accepted now as  quality publications. The benefit of that is that faculty can use the research as a way to improve teaching. It will be interesting to see whether that results in improved student learning.

  • I learned that the higher students’ grades in the course, the more positive the student evaluations.

I have heard this many times before. My response has been that if faculty challenge students in courses, students will rise to challenge and they will improve their performance. I also believed that faculty can have higher student evaluations in courses where they are tougher as long as the grading standards are clear and students know what to expect.  My philosophy had always been that challenging students results in student recognition that they can do the work and student effort to complete the work.  I haven’t read the studies to examine the parameters of the studies cited by the authors of ACADEMICALLY ADRIFT, but their summaries of those studies suggest that inflated grades result from reduced demands on students.

I also have anecdotal evidence that this is true. Adjunct faculty only get re-hired if their student evaluations are equal to department averages. Yet we know that student evaluations are nothing more than student satisfaction studies and student satisfaction doesn’t necessarily translate to student learning.  In a previous post, I discussed the study that concluded that students admit that they lie on student evaluations. And if you look at Harvard’s study on implicit assumptions, one of the things that is apparent is that whether a student “likes” a faculty member could depend on factors unrelated to teaching and learning.

As I read, I resisted this suggestion. I want to believe that high quality teaching and challenging demands result in, at least equivalent student evaluations.

My belief has gone down in flames. I advocate change a great deal, but I was certain that students would recognize the value in challenges and would see that as an important quality in an instructor. Must I accept that this is an incorrect belief? I guess I must really re-examine that, because it seems to be contrary to the evidence.

  • I learned that grade inflation probably exists.

According to the studies referenced in the book, grade inflation is real. It seems that every balloongeneration looks at the previous one and says that the current generation is unprepared. One of the studies referenced by the authors says that student class and study time went from 25 hours per week to 14 hours per week during the past 40 years.  (That includes the time spent in class each week.) This result mean either that the students now are smarter and thus need to study less or there’s something seriously wrong in education that students can earn top grades and yet study only 14 hours per week.

Disturbing. I’ll post more as I read and absorb the information in the book.