Archive for the ‘fabio’ Category
I was recently asked about trigger warnings. Honestly, it is not something I worry about. In fact, it is something that I think so little about that I had to actually look up the definition to make sure I understood the term properly. The wiki definition is that you warn the audience about unsettling content. Doesn’t seem that bad to me. I later learned that there is a healthy debate about whether it is appropriate to have trigger warnings. Shouldn’t college classrooms sponsor debate? Is it really the responsibility of an instructor to make sure that every single student feels perfectly comfortable with every single topic?
College classrooms are interesting speech situations. People buy a college education, but they don’t directly control the content. The service providers even expect people to be uncomfortable. The question then is when is discomfort allowed. If it is allowed, how do we handle it?
A simple standard is: “what would be allowed between strangers interested broadly interested in ideas?” By that standard, we’d almost certainly exclude speech that is bullying, but allow scholarly discussions of all sorts of topics (e.g., we don’t call the other person an X, but we can discuss X as a term). Long as it has a clearly defined intellectual goal, it should be fine. Also, for strangers, we’d probably almost always tell them when we’re about to discuss something that average person might find genuinely shocking, or proceed very slowly when doing so. But being in a world of “ideas and debate,” there is actually a presumption of discomfort. Colleges are also pedagogical, so there is value in letting people learn how to discuss uncomfortable things. Bottom line: Warning people of graphic content is fair enough, but it shouldn’t prevent discussion of things, even those that are offensive.
Can you name a emotional caring occupation dominated by men?
I occasionally get asked: what about career advice for junior faculty? Don’t worry – you’re covered! The Grad Skool Rulz already includes all your heart desires. Remember, the subtitle is “Everything you need to know about academia from admissions to tenure.” And that is 100% true. The GSR includes tons of information for tenure track faculty:
Chapter 42: What is Tenure?
Chapter 43: How Does Getting tenure Work?
Chapter 44: What Counts for Tenure? How Much Do I Need?
Chapter 45: Publication Strategy
Chapter 46: Working With Graduate Students
Chapter 47: Keep Everything in a Box
Chapter 48: Service, Time Management, Saying No
Chapter 49: Professional Obligations, Conferences and Referee Requests
Chapter 50: Grants and Fellowships
Chapter 51: Department Conflict
Chapter 52: Be Nice to the Staff
Chapter 53: Midterm Review and Yearly Reviews
Chapter 54: The Tenure Dossier
Chapter 55: The Actual Tenure Review Process
Chapter 56: Early Tenure and Switching Jobs
Chapter 57: Success
Chapter 58: Failure
All for a measly $2. Cheap!!!!
The New York Times has run an op-ed by Molly Worthen, a professor of history, who implores against active learning in college classes and wants to retain the lecture format:
Good lecturers communicate the emotional vitality of the intellectual endeavor (“the way she lectured always made you make connections to your own life,” wrote one of Ms. Severson’s students in an online review). But we also must persuade students to value that aspect of a lecture course often regarded as drudgery: note-taking. Note-taking is important partly for the record it creates, but let’s be honest. Students forget most of the facts we teach them not long after the final exam, if not sooner. The real power of good notes lies in how they shape the mind.
“Note-taking should be just as eloquent as speaking,” said Medora Ahern, a recent graduate of New Saint Andrews College in Idaho. I tracked her down after a visit there persuaded me that this tiny Christian college has preserved some of the best features of a traditional liberal arts education. She told me how learning to take attentive, analytical notes helped her succeed in debates with her classmates. “Debate is really all about note-taking, dissecting your opponent’s idea, reducing it into a single sentence. There’s something about the brevity of notes, putting an idea into a smaller space, that allows you psychologically to overcome that idea.”
As we noted on this blog, there is actually a massive amount of research comparing lecturing to other forms of classroom instruction and lectures do very poorly:
To weigh the evidence, Freeman and a group of colleagues analyzed 225 studies of undergraduate STEM teaching methods. The meta-analysis, published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that teaching approaches that turned students into active participants rather than passive listeners reduced failure rates and boosted scores on exams by almost one-half a standard deviation. “The change in the failure rates is whopping,” Freeman says. And the exam improvement—about 6%—could, for example, “bump [a student’s] grades from a B– to a B.”
If you’d like your students to master the art of eloquent note taking, continue lecturing. If you’d like them to learn things, adopt active learning.
The Washington Post just ran an article about research showing that homework isn’t particularly effective. A clip from the article:
Let’s start by reviewing what we know from earlier investigations. First, no research has ever found a benefit to assigning homework (of any kind or in any amount) in elementary school. In fact, there isn’t even a positive correlation between, on the one hand, having younger children do some homework (vs. none), or more (vs. less), and, on the other hand, any measure of achievement. If we’re making 12-year-olds, much less five-year-olds, do homework, it’s either because we’re misinformed about what the evidence says or because we think kids ought to have to do homework despite what the evidence says.
Second, even at the high school level, the research supporting homework hasn’t been particularly persuasive. There does seem to be a correlation between homework and standardized test scores, but (a) it isn’t strong, meaning that homework doesn’t explain much of the variance in scores, (b) one prominent researcher, Timothy Keith, who did find a solid correlation, returned to the topic a decade later to enter more variables into the equation simultaneously, only to discover that the improved study showed that homework had no effect after all, and (c) at best we’re only talking about a correlation — things that go together — without having proved that doing more homework causes test scores to go up. (Take 10 seconds to see if you can come up with other variables that might be driving both of these things.)
Third, when homework is related to test scores, the connection tends to be strongest — or, actually, least tenuous — with math. If homework turns out to be unnecessary for students to succeed in that subject, it’s probably unnecessary everywhere.
Along comes a new study, then, that focuses on the neighborhood where you’d be most likely to find a positive effect if one was there to be found: math and science homework in high school. Like most recent studies, this one by Adam Maltese and his colleagues doesn’t provide rich descriptive analyses of what students and teachers are doing. Rather, it offers an aerial view, the kind preferred by economists, relying on two large datasets (from the National Education Longitudinal Study [NELS] and the Education Longitudinal Study [ELS]). Thousands of students are asked one question — How much time do you spend on homework? — and statistical tests are then performed to discover if there’s a relationship between that number and how they fared in their classes and on standardized tests.
Was there a correlation between the amount of homework that high school students reported doing and their scores on standardized math and science tests? Yes, and it was statistically significant but “very modest”: Even assuming the existence of a causal relationship, which is by no means clear, one or two hours’ worth of homework every day buys you two or three points on a test. Is that really worth the frustration, exhaustion, family conflict, loss of time for other activities, and potential diminution of interest in learning? And how meaningful a measure were those tests in the first place, since, as the authors concede, they’re timed measures of mostly mechanical skills? (Thus, a headline that reads “Study finds homework boosts achievement” can be translated as “A relentless regimen of after-school drill-and-skill can raise scores a wee bit on tests of rote learning.”)
Education researchers have long known that homework doesn’t lead to improved learning. Back in 2006, I blogged about The Battle over Homework, which lays out the case. Hey, teacher, leave us kids alone!
The Nation has an interesting article about the fate of predominantly Black cemeteries. The issue is that Black cemeteries rarely have endowments and their associated families and churches often confront tough times. The result is that many cemeteries go into disarray, sometimes turning into abandoned lots where people throw rubbish. From the article:
It’s the same across the United States. “This is the situation we observe: There’s a black cemetery on the other side of the hill, and it began around the same time as the white one, and the white one is in fine shape—the black one is not,” says Michael Trinkley, whose South Carolina–based Chicora Foundation conducts archeological studies of cemeteries. Their decline is tied directly to past and present patterns of investment: Memorials to white lives are left in trust, padded with private and public wealth; collective memorials to black lives fall into the red financially and slip from view. “The underlying problem is that black cemeteries have been left without the resources necessary to operate,” Trinkley notes.
The part that rubs me the wrong way is that many public institutions will pay to maintain Confederate cemeteries. Says volumes.