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Professors who want to establish classroom connections with their students receive lots of advice. And some experts have over the years advised the use of “self-disclosure,” telling students stories about themselves, using self-deprecating humor as a way to make students feel comfortable and to view the instructor as an ally. InsideHigher Ed discusses the finer points of this:

“Ignore that advice. That’s the recommendation of a study being published today in Communication Education, a journal of the National Communication Association. imgresThe study was based on surveys of 438 undergraduates at a Southeastern university. The students — from across disciplines — were asked about the class they had attended just before taking the survey. And for that class, they were asked both about their instructors and about whether they engaged in certain “uncivil” behaviors, such as packing up books before class was over or texting during lectures. The researchers then compared attitudes the students had about professors and the students behaviors.

“The study notes that professors’ styles only go so far in predicting whether students will be posting status updates on Facebook or actually paying attention, but they do matter.

“Although it is clear that a range of factors outside of instructors’ control contribute to uncivil behavior in the classroom — such as societal shifts toward student entitlement and students’ being raised in homes where manners are not adequately taught — results of this study indicate that there are at least some things instructors can do to minimize uncivil behavior,” the study says. “This model, taking into account only instructor-related factors, explained 20 percent of the variance in self-reported uncivil behaviors among our participants — not a huge proportion, but enough to make a noticeable difference to a frustrated teacher.”

“Based on the surveys, the paper argues that students are least likely to engage in uncivil behavior when they view the instructor as having high levels of “credibility,” meaning that through actions and nonverbal cues, the instructor conveys command of the material and the class, a sense of knowing what should be going on in class, and so forth. When students have that confidence level, they are more likely to pay attention.

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It would be hard to find a faculty advocate opposed to the suspension last week of a University of Florida professor of veterinary science who was secretly taking videos of students’ body parts with a device hidden in his pen. Administrative — and police — action came swiftly, without any public objection from fellow instructors.

But as InsideHigher Ed reports today: “Beyond such a clear violation of professional conduct, and, in this case, the law, faculty advocates often are quick to criticize institutions for jumping the gun with punishments. imagesA spate of forced leaves for professors in recent memory raises the question of what exactly constitutes suspension-worthy speech and action — particularly a suspension made unilaterally by administrators.

“In other words, does a line exist and, if so, where?

“The answer, some experts said, is another question: Does the faculty member’s exercise of his or her rights violate anyone else’s? And some fear that institutions may be becoming too quick to suspend in cases in which faculty conduct may have resulted in hurt feelings but not actual harm.

“The proper line to draw is where a professor’s actions interfere with the legitimate rights of others,” said John K. Wilson, co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ “Academe” blog, editor of AAUP’s Illinois Conference Academe journal, and author of the book Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies.

“If, for example, a professor commits a crime against students (such as video voyeurism), it’s punishable, Wilson said in an e-mail. So, too, is unfairly grading or meeting the “high bar” of discriminating against some group of students; making verbal threats in violation of the law; or engaging in academic fraud. And professors can be suspended for failing to do their jobs, such as refusing to teach.

“Still, that’s all with due process – and the professor should keep teaching as his or her case is being adjudicated, outside of being an immediate threat to students or others on campus. (Even the Florida professor deserves the right to defend himself before fellow professors at some point, faculty advocates said.)

“But a professor can’t be punished if he or she “merely says something that offends someone,” Wilson said. “When a professor is suspended for expressing controversial ideas, it violates the rights of students to hear those ideas, and the rights of everyone on campus who must live in a climate of fear about freedom of expression.”

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/09/25/are-colleges-being-too-quick-suspend-professors#ixzz2fxWZpAgb
Inside Higher Ed

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This essay starts with utopia—the utopia known as the American university, writes Thomas Frank in The Baffler

“It is the finest educational institution in the world, everyone tells us.”Indeed, to judge by the praise that is heaped upon it, the American university may be our best institution, period. With its peaceful quadrangles and prosperity-bringing innovation, the university is more spiritually satisfying than the church, more nurturing than the family, more productive than any industry.

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“The university deals in dreams. Like other utopias—like Walt Disney World, like the ambrosial lands shown in perfume advertisements, like the competitive Valhalla of the Olympics—the university is a place of wish fulfillment and infinite possibility. It is the four-year luxury cruise that will transport us gently across the gulf of class. It is the wrought-iron gateway to the land of lifelong affluence.

“It is not the university itself that tells us these things; everyone does. It is the president of the United States. It is our most respected political commentators and economists. It is our business heroes and our sports heroes. It is our favorite teacher and our guidance counselor and maybe even our own Tiger Mom. They’ve been to the university, after all. They know.

“When we reach the end of high school, we approach the next life, the university life, in the manner of children writing letters to Santa. Oh, we promise to be so very good. We open our hearts to the beloved institution. We get good grades. We do our best on standardized tests. We earnestly list our first, second, third choices. We tell them what we want to be when we grow up. We confide our wishes. We stare at the stock photos of smiling students, we visit the campus, and we find, always, that it is so very beautiful.

“And when that fat acceptance letter comes—oh, it is the greatest moment of personal vindication most of us have experienced. Our hard work has paid off. We have been chosen.

“Then several years pass, and one day we wake up to discover there is no Santa Claus. Somehow, we have been had. We are a hundred thousand dollars in debt, and there is no clear way to escape it. We have no prospects to speak of. And if those damned dreams of ours happened to have taken a particularly fantastic turn and urged us to get a PhD, then the learning really begins.”

 

More at: http://thebaffler.com/past/academy_fight_song

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Certainly, the lens and the frame are useful as metaphors, but as used, they are also quite limited. As an experiment, the next time you see one used, replace “frame” or “lens” with “context,” adjust the necessary conjunctions, and see if any meaning is lost. If in a given piece of writing, “seen through a queer lens” could just as easily be “seen in a queer context,” then the optical device isn’t living up to its potential as metaphor.

The chief ways in which optical metaphors can be improved in our writing are through diversity and specificity. imagesThese go hand-in-hand: the more diverse our optical metaphors become, the more specific they are able to be. Lenses, for example, can be convex-convex (the usual “lenticular” shape, which incidentally I suspect of being where lentils got their name, though I’ve done no research on this), but they can also be flat or concave on one or both sides. So, some lenses are plano-convex, others are convex-concave. These lenses behave differently and have different applications, and so could be employed in a diverse range of metaphorical applications.

“Lens” and “frame” get used a lot in theory writing. A recent post on Bad-at-Sports i getting cranky about this:

“The difference between a lens of any type and a frame is that we are directly aware of the ways in which lenses alter the image we are seeing. A biconvex lens held at the right distance from the eye will magnify the image. (At this distance, the image is not inverted; held out further, the image inverts, but the reason why is beyond my ability to explain from memory, so go Google a diagram.) This is the classic magnifying glass. Other types of lenses, such as eyeglasses, subtly alter the focal distance of our eyes (or rather, adjust the image to account for a flawed focal distance). Multiple-lens apparatuses like binoculars and microscopes magnify and can be focused. The point is that we are immediately aware of this alteration of the image we are seeing, because it is inherent to the function of the lens-based device.

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When I started teaching, books were easier to find than articles, whose references were buried deep in voluminous, thin-paged indexes. Students took different paths in their research and came up with wildly different sets of texts, states a piece in ths weeks Chronicleof Higher Education:  imgres

“Some checked out the better books early, leaving the others to scrounge for what was left. Sure, there was overlap, but students often ended up with individualized research materials, exercising their critical abilities to integrate what they found into a coherent, cohesive discussion. As periodical-search engines blossomed, students, ever adaptable, started using more articles. While the electronic card catalog remained more or less static, the search engines became increasingly user-friendly. It became so difficult to get students to use books in their research that I started stipulating that they use a minimum number in my assignments.

“Then the development of Google and of electronic journals essentially converged. Why bother with books and the stacks when you can search full-text articles online? The process has become even more alluring with database products like Discover (which our libraries enthusiastically characterize as “the scholarly version of Google!”). It searches millions of entries, including all of the library catalog, the most-used journal databases, and local historical collections. Like Google, Discover ranks findings according to relevance. With the aid of our reference librarians, students easily set up their searches to obtain exactly what they think they’ll need, usually in the form of full-text articles.

“Consequently, my students hardly ever consult books. Circulation statistics support this impression. In 2005 our libraries checked out or renewed 86,807 books or other media. That number has been steadily declining. By 2012, the number had dropped to 45,394, down 48 percent in seven years.

Why am I bothered by these developments? Well, partly because modern library design mirrors student preferences. Increasingly, libraries are social spaces—with Wi-Fi, study nooks, coffee shops, chat areas, and movable furniture—and not homes for books, which are relegated to off-site repositories, save for a few recent acquisitions. If a student wants a book, she can requisition it. I cannot imagine students already deterred by the stacks having much patience for the repository.”

 

Full article at: http://chronicle.com/article/Unintentional-Knowledge/139891/

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