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Posts Tagged ‘chronicle of higher education’

MOOCing around: Week 1 Ending

In assessment of learning, Education, how people learn, innovation in teaching, teaching, teaching with technology, technology on September 10, 2012 at 9:32 am

Group of FishIt’s so interesting to take a class in a subject I haven’t taken in a looooooooong time (statistics).

I’m in a MOOC with 74,999 other students. I’ve used the Khan Academy videos on statistics to help me (and I’m just finishing week one!). I finished the video Koala Sleeping in Treelectures and the first quiz (no score yet) and I’m working on the first assignment due tomorrow (Tuesday, 9/11).  It’s taken me at least 4 hours so far.

Fun, yet daunting. I plan to finish, even if I have to pull a few all-nighters!

According to Kevin Carey, in the article Into the Future With MOOC’s in the Chronicle of Higher Education, MOOCs represent the future of education. He refers to his own experience in a mega-sized face to face economics course as evidence that mass-produced education is not new and that it can be more cost-efficient.

I agree, but only to a certain extent. MOOCs are useful, even for credit (although I’m not taking the stats course for credit). However, the structure of MOOCs must Teacher and classchange to incorporate critical thinking and higher order skills. I think MOOCs are great for those of us who want access to learning…period. I want MOOC creators to keep expanding their subjects and use. For those who need more hands on and for those subjects that require more analysis, MOOCs will not work. Not yet. Not without a mass infusion of ….. je ne sais quoiCalculator & Math Symbolss….a more in depth relationship among  learners, instructors and the critical thinking skills/content.

How will I know whether I’ve learned from this MOOC? There are tests, assignments and (my goal) my increased comfort with and ability to read articles that include statistical analyses. And isn’t that truly what learning is about?

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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?

Oh, No, We Won’t Go-Academia and Digital Information

In Education, institutional responsibilities, tests on April 2, 2012 at 9:06 am

Digital information everywhere. Digital books. Digital images. Digital videos. Digital…but not in the academy. In the academy we still place extraordinary attention to print media as the basis for tenure and promotion. We ignore the digital revolution that has occurred all around us.

typewriter

Instead, the structures of universities often fail to reward and champion digital innovators, particularly in guidelines for promotion and authorship that privilege traditional scholarship.

If we do not create mechanisms that reward faculty and students who form digital-research communities, then innovation may bypass universities entirely, putting us at risk of falling behind institutes, private companies, and even individuals.

Randolph Hall, Vice President for Research at USC, made this point in a recent article titled Scholarship, Liberated from Paper at Last in the Chronicle of Higher Education. He notes that after discussion with faculty at his institution, the faculty agreed to include revise the process for tenure and promotion to include recognition of the value of a faculty member’s digital research.

Change occurs slowly in academic institutions. I’ve made that point in other posts. You would think academia would be at the forefront of forging new directions and new research areas. You would think that academia would be the first to devise new ways of thinking about how people learn and in fostering an environment of analyzing tradition and also challenging tradition. If you thought that, you would be wrong. Academia is tied down to traditional methods despite the progress in the rest of society. For example, information forwarded for academic tenure and review at my university is still wedded to paper documents. The process includes, for example, instructions on how the faculty member should label his or her [paper] binder. So, even though all the documents are created electronically, they must be converted to paper for the review. ePortfolios (see .e.g. Trent Babson’s ePortfolio links) or programs like LiveBinder could allow for that same information to be provided in electronic form.

u_s__supreme_courtWhy are academic institutions wedded to paper? Paper is perceived as more permanent; however there are ways to preserve electronic documents. And if the courts permit electronic filing of documents (see e.g. e-filing of electronic briefs) where finances and other matters are at stake, then our University should recognize the value of electronic documents. Also, if the concern is the rigor of the scholarship, public exposure and peer review can help to increase rigor. Research that is available to the public helps to promote additional learning for the public and for the researcher. It could also lead to additional research and creative use of that research.

So, as noted in the Hall article, academia must recognize the value of digital research. Hall notes that Universities like Harvard have createst tubested ways to disseminate research to the public more quickly so that others can read and comment on it. My own experience in posting on SlideShare and on this blog has allowed me to present research findings, (e.g. results of using Twitter in the classroom) to many others. I have had 80 views on a presentation on plagiarism-far more than attended the actual presentation. And with more exposure, I have more opportunity to learn more, test my research and work to make it better.  That’s much more exposure than posting the article in a paper journal that requires that people go to a physical library to access it.

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.