Tag Archives: higher education

Yale Graduate Students’ ‘Microunit’ Unionization Strategy Could Have Nationwide Implications

A quarter-century-long fight for a graduate-assistant union at Yale University has taken a new twist that could make it easier for unions to gain a foothold on campuses.

Unite Here Local 33 has filed petitions for union elections in nine academic…

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Navigating the Perfect Storm

Higher education faces a perfect storm.

The product of low graduation rates, increases in tuition, mounting student debt, and employer dissatisfaction, this storm is placing institutions under enormous pressure to make college more affordable to middle-class families, cut time to degree, and ensure that graduates have real-world marketable skills.

Also contributing to the coming storm are disruptive changes in the educational landscape. Increasingly, students are acquiring education in ways that undercut university’s current business models. A growing number are earning credits in high school or community college, or from various online providers. Meanwhile, master’s programs, a traditional cash cow, are losing ground not only to lower cost online programs, but to alternate purveyors of credentials, including industry-branded certificate programs and non-profit providers of technical skills.

This perfect storm is deeply disruptive, but it also brings opportunity. Already, universities are using digital modes of communication to make higher education far more accessible than ever before.  Data analytics will allow faculty to personalize the learning experience in ways never before possible, diagnose and remediate areas of confusion, and target interventions in near real time.

The biggest opportunity is to radically rethink our educational models in order to bring more students to a bright future while containing costs.

Our current university model melds together a student life component, an academic component, a credentialing component, and a research component. These four functions co-exist uneasily, with many students prioritizing coming-of-age experiences and many institutions incentivizing faculty research above teaching. As many complain: Students’ academic engagement, demonstrated learning, and acquisition of real-world competencies are neither measured nor given precedence.

Within the University of Texas System, we are thinking long and hard about new models that will optimize time to degree, better prepare students for a rapidly shifting workforce, and ensure that students graduate with the skills, knowledge, and problem-solving abilities expected of a college graduate. Underlying our thinking are four models.

Model 1: Seamless Pathways and Crosswalks
In recent years, a new educational lexicon has emerged, featuring such terms as “exploratory majors,” “guided pathways,” “verticals,” “meta-majors,” and “crosswalks.”

Linking these terms together is the notion that many students would benefit from a more coherent, intentional, integrated curricula, with synergies across courses, and from much more seamless transfer of credits.

Certainly, the guided pathway approach would offer fewer electives; and certainly such pathways need multiple on- and off-ramps. But for those students who choose to pursue such paths, the route to a degree would be more direct, transparent, and quicker.

At the same time, crosswalks – between military training programs and the academy or between high school, community college, and four-year institutions – would ease one of the big impediments to graduation: The loss of credit hours when students transfer from one institution to another.

Model 2: Integrating the Curricular and the Co-Curricular
For many students, the most meaningful, transformative educational experiences occur outside the standard curriculum: in mentored research, internships and externships, study abroad, or service learning.  Yet for the most part, those experiences count little toward graduation.

To be sure, students need to acquire core knowledge and facility in critical listening, reading, and writing – precisely the kinds of education found in lecture halls, discussion sections, and seminars.

Yet if those fundamentals could be taught more cost-effectively and efficiently , then many faculty members would be free to participate in high impact learning experiences, which could then become integral parts of degree paths.

Model 3: Stackable Credentials
A bachelor’s degree generally requires four (or more) years to vest, and too many full-time, first-time-in-college students never reach the finish line.  Many of those students would benefit from stackable credentials – professional or academic certificates, badges, specializations, micro-masters, and the like – but only if these have real value in the marketplace.

Model 4: Co-Location
A new model of education is gradually taking shape: A campus that includes multiple educational institutions, research institutes, start-ups, and established industry.
Medical centers have long pursued this model. Multiple hospitals, medical schools, laboratories, and synergistic industries serve as research hubs, education centers, and incubators for new inventions, industries, and technologies, training workers, driving knowledge creation, and developing applied innovation.

Global cities such as New York and Paris understand that such a model is critical to ensuring their future prosperity and successfully competing in the global economy.

New York City has invested more than $500 million in the applied science and engineering campus on Roosevelt Island, while Paris is bringing 19 universities, polytechnics, and institutes together in order to compete with Silicon Valley.

UC-Berkeley had similar ambitions for a global campus in Richmond, which was supposed to bring together an international coalition of leading academic institutions and private sector partners.
 

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Getting Names Right: It’s Personal

Diverse group of university students in classroom

Editor’s Note: The following article was excerpted with permission from To My Professor: Student Voices for Great College Teaching, a new book that brings together student experiences and opinions with advice from master educators and experts. The book was written by students at Michigan State University under the guidance of Joe Grimm, visiting editor in residence in the MSU School of Journalism since 2008.

“I spend a lot of money to go to school here. It would be nice if a professor knew my name.”

“I appreciate the fact that you asked me what I wanted to be called because my name has various pronunciations in different languages.”

There are so many ways a simple and personal thing like a person’s name can lead to problems. The first student quoted above felt more like a number than a person because she felt none of her professors bothered to learn her name.

The second is an international student who was used to mispronunciations and questioning looks and appreciated a professor’s extra effort.

Mishandling names can lead to awkward moments. For many students, name problems come on the first day of class. Here’s a tweet with the hashtag #GrowingUpWithMyName. “Knowing the pause on roll call in school was my name. I would just start saying ‘Here’ before they even tried.” Everyone knows what it is like to have their name mispronounced sometimes. But imagine what it is like to have it happen almost every time—and with an audience of new peers.

While some students might offer a name that they feel will be easier to remember or say, it is not OK for instructors to rename students to make it easier to call roll.

There are those times when the professor calls a student by another student’s name. Somehow, the professor has made a connection. Maybe these are the only students of their race or ethnicity in the class. It seems like a little thing, but it carries big implications and it can make others in class feel uncomfortable.

One American college student reported feeling uncomfortable for Asian students when professors stumble over their names—and then turns the mistakes into jokes or ditties. It can humiliate the student and, if they are new to U.S. culture, it can be bewildering.

International names do not have universal spellings or pronunciations across cultures and societies. The student who appreciated a professor’s patience in learning the pronunciation of his name is French African. Where he is from, his name has a different intonation and spelling. The student felt very good about his class after this encounter because he perceived that his professor took the time to be personal with her students.

One international student said that she can always sense when professors are about to make a funny attempt at pronouncing her name. “They never ask first but they want to act like they know already, which doesn’t usually always end well.”

Because names are an important aspect of our identity, acknowledgment of a person’s name and its correct pronunciation can signal acceptance of that person into a new culture. Since acknowledgment leads to acceptance, many international students adopt English names to better assimilate. By doing so, they avoid the potential mispronunciation of their names and feel like they fit in. Fitting in can enhance learning.

Strategies
There are almost as many reasons why it is hard to get names right as there are students in a class. Professors have scores or hundreds of students in a term, and new ones every term. Some professors have more than a thousand students in one term. There are a lot of names to learn.

But learning and using student names improves teaching.

Daniel F. Chambliss, Eugene M. Tobin Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Hamilton College, wrote “the best thing I do to improve students’ work in my courses is … I will learn and use their names. It’s easy, and it works. Using those names in class is uniquely powerful.”

Here are some strategies:

  • Read a class roster out loud before meeting the class. Note potential difficulties. If the class list has photos, try to match them with the names. Print out the pictures and bring them to class.
  • Take attendance on the first day in a consistent way with each student, even the ones with seemingly easy names. Use a standard question such as, “What do you like to be called?” One professor sends out a survey before classes begin and asks students for their name preferences. One student seemed delighted when, at the first roll call, she was called by her preferred name, which was not the name on the attendance list.
  • Write phonetic spellings down when you need to. When you get to a name that might be difficult, ask the student to say it, using the part of the name you feel more comfortable with. Don’t joke. Don’t rush. Spend a little extra time if you must to understand, but don’t make a big deal. If you need to ask the student for more help, do it after class. If you make a mistake, apologize but don’t make an excuse.

Many international students adopt American names to fit in. But at the same time, there are also instances where foreign students have American names. Whatever the case may be, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire professor Phil Huelsbeck in the department of International Education, advises that professors be actively aware of these differences. He wrote, “Without an audience, ask (repeatedly if necessary) how to pronounce the international student’s name and make a note of the proper pronunciation. Some international students take on an ‘American name’ but it is often appreciated if the instructor takes the time to learn the student’s native name, as well.” It can also teach classmates something.

Marian Kisch, a freelance writer in Maryland, wrote in the November/December, 2014 issue of the International Educator: “Even a short conversation after class about the student’s home country can help the student feel more comfortable and can build rapport. Do your best to learn how to pronounce students’ names, even if it takes a few attempts.”

Dustin Carnahan, who teaches in the Michigan State University College of Communication Arts and Sciences, suggested customized rosters, which can accommodate extra columns for chosen names and pronunciations. Students should be able to tell the professor what they want to be called, “no questions asked,” he said.

In “Learning Student Names,” posted on the National Teaching and Learning Forum, Joan Middendorf and Elizabeth Osborn at Indiana University wrote: “A professor who does not know his or her students’ names may be perceived as remote and unapproachable. … In large classes, the task of learning student names can seem daunting, but even if the professor learns the names of only a portion of the class, a caring, inclusive atmosphere will be established.” They gathered more than 25 strategies for learning and retaining students’ names. They included name tags, tent cards, flashcard drills for the instructor, association and student introductions. There is probably something for most circumstances.

At the end of the day, it is always better to call students by the names they like. As Czech-born writer Milan Kundera wrote in his novel “Immortality,” “We don’t know when our name came into being or how some distant ancestor acquired it. We don’t understand our name at all, we don’t know its history and yet we bear it with exalted fidelity, we merge with it, we like it, we are ridiculously proud of it, as if we had thought it up ourselves in a moment of brilliant inspiration.”

Resources
Chambliss, Daniel F. “Learn Your Students’ Names.” Inside Higher Ed, Aug. 26, 2014. June 12, 2016 http://ift.tt/1laRPOX

Huelsbeck, Phil. “Awareness Points for Educators with International Students in the Classroom.” University of Wisconsin. June 12, 2016   http://ift.tt/2e02hfT

Kisch, Marian. “Helping Faculty Teach International Students.” NAFSA: Association of International Education, International Educator, November/December 2014.

Middendorf, Joan, and Elizabeth Osborn. “Learning Student Names.” Bloomington: Indiana University, 2012. June 12, 2016 http://ift.tt/2edJIQA

Mitchell, Charles. “Short Course in International Business Culture.” Novato: World Trade Press, 1999.

Nichole Igwe is a journalism major and a public relations and French minor at Michigan State University.

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Online Discussion Forums as Assessment Tools

student on laptop in library

Classroom Assessment Techniques, or CATs, are simple ways to evaluate students’ understanding of key concepts before they get to the weekly, unit, or other summative-type assessment (Angelo & Cross, 1993). CATs were first made popular in the face-to-face teaching environment by Angelo and Cross as a way to allow teachers to better understand what their students were learning and how improvements might be made in real time during the course of instruction. But the same principle can apply to online teaching as well.

Impact and Examples

There are many types of CATs that work well in the online classroom. The KWL CAT stands for “What you Know, what you Want to know, and what you Learned” (Ogle, 1986). Steele and Dyer (2014) found that KWL CATs increased student participation in online discussion forums. These authors implemented KWLs in their discussion forums and give the following example of how a KWL may be implemented:

Timeline: One week or module

Monday: Create and post additional question, “What we know,” under DQ (Discussion Question) 1.

– Example: “What do you know about a thesis statement?”

Wednesday: Create and post additional question, “What we want to know,” under DQ 1.

– Example: “What do you want to know about a thesis statement?”

Friday: Create and post additional question, “What we learned,” under DQ 1.

– Example: “What did you learn about a thesis statement?”

Wrap-up: On the next Monday, copy and paste a list of responses students shared relating to what they learned regarding the topic and objective. This is a choice opportunity to validate student learning and understanding regarding all the ideas they discovered. This type of positive feedback will help students continue to engage in future weeks and create a personal accountability for learning. This can also be an opportunity for instructors to reteach key points that the students did not pick up on or indicate in their “what we learned” post.

After implementing this style of CAT in the first half of their test classes and not in the second half, Steele and Dyer found an increase in the average number of student forum postings for those classes that used the KWLs over those that did not.

In my own study of CATs, my coauthor and I found that using simple practice problems as CATs in undergraduate math class discussion forums can be helpful. Several sections of 100-level math online classes were used as a test case. Half of the sections employed CATs that asked students to solve problems in the discussion forum and document their steps, and then discuss their solutions with their classmates and instructors. The CATs were simple postings of sample problems in line with the material from the week’s unit. The students were asked to complete the problems in an open discussion forum where all students could see their attempts. In one version of the CAT, students were asked to document their steps. In all cases, students were encouraged to comment on each other’s solution posts and to add correction and/or commentary. We later compared sections of classes that used these simple CAT interventions with those that did not, and found an increase in both frequency of student posting and subsequent mean quiz scores in the CAT sections (Cross & Palese, 2015).

CATs are easy wins that can have a real impact in the online classroom, especially when used in the discussion forum space. These small checks for understanding not only deliver increases in participation and possibly learning outcomes, but can help us all adjust our teaching style or tools on the fly to better help students learn.

References

Angelo, T., and Cross, K. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers

Cross, T., and Palese, K. (2015). Increasing Learning: CATs in the Online Classroom. American Journal of Distance Education, 29 (2): 98-108.

Ogle, D. M. (1986). K-W-L: A Teaching Model That Develops Active Reading of Expository Text. Reading Teacher, 39 (6): 564-70

Steele, J., and Dyer, T. (2014). Use of KWLs in the Online Classroom as it Correlates to Increased Participation. Journal of Instructional Research, 3 (1): 8-14. DOI 10.9743/JIR.2014.3.10

Reprinted from Online Classroom, 15.7 (2015): 7. © Magna Publications. All rights reserved.

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Author discusses new book on attacks on philosophers during Cold War

Many academics were victims of McCarthyism during the Cold War, and philosophers in particular were among the key targets in the early days of the Red scare. The Philosophy Scare: The Politics of Reason in the Early Cold War (University of Chicago Press) explores how and why philosophy was a target. The author is John McCumber, a professor of Germanic languages at the University of California, Los Angeles. Via email, he answered questions about his new book.

Q: Why do you think philosophy was an early target, as opposed to fields that might have been easier for politicians to understand?

A: There were a couple of things that put philosophy front and center as the Cold War began. Religious conservatives had for a while been openly targeting philosophy as the only discipline in the university where atheism might be taught (this cost Bertrand Russell a job at City College of New York in 1940). There was also a feeling that capitalism did not have a philosophical basis to rival the prestige and vigor of Marxism, especially in Western Europe. Philosophy, some felt, should supply it. Philosophy was also at an institutionally weak moment. Its long alliance with American religion was coming to an end, but it had retained from that relationship a critical relationship to science. It was without powerful academic allies.

Q: How did Max Otto’s appointment become a controversy? What was the significance of the attacks on Otto?

A: Max Otto was a prominent Wisconsin philosopher whose appointment to a visiting professorship at UCLA came to the attention of The Los Angeles Examiner, a major newspaper. They published a prominent article on it, highlighting Otto’s open atheism, which led to a letter-writing campaign against him. This may have cost him the job, and in any case was traumatic for him and for the UCLA philosophy department’s chair, Donald Piatt.

This affair and others seem to have led philosophers and philosophy departments to act in “stealthy” ways not easily discernible to outsiders. Philosophers published less in public places. They hid atheistic (or “naturalistic” views) under a technical discourse on the structure of science (“reductionism”). Philosophy departments tended to hire people they already knew personally. Course descriptions in university catalogs — the main way outsiders could discover what was being taught in a given department — were edited to make people seem more theistic than they were.

Q: Many academics were attacked during the Cold War. Was the response in philosophy similar or different to the responses in other disciplines?

A: The study of how different disciplines reacted to Cold War political pressures is in its infancy, so we cannot know in detail. We know that the overall pattern in California showed first regents and upper administrators (presidents and chancellors) ceasing to defend intellectual freedom in their universities, followed by capitulation from lower-ranking administrators (deans) and from the faculty itself. There is no currently known case of effectual response, and no reason to think this was not the pattern throughout the country. More research, however, is needed.

Q: What types of philosophy were most damaged during the Cold War?

A: Cold War pressures favored a philosophy that absolutized individual freedom of choice, instead of seeing individuals as situated in a social order and bound by duties to others; that underplayed or disregarded the nontheistic tendencies of modern thought; and that could facilitate Red-hunting by espousing a single, monolithic view of rational method, so that anyone not following such a method could be condemned as “incompetent” and quickly fired without raising issues of censorship. Marxism obviously could not conform to these demands, but two other paradigms, existentialism and pragmatism, also suffered. Both viewed philosophers as having moral obligations to society, were openly atheistic and — while many of their adherents allied themselves with science — did not view science as following any single method. Pragmatism fell into decline in American philosophy departments, while existentialism made few serious inroads into them.

Q: How can we see the impact of these Cold War attacks in academic departments today?

A: Cold War philosophy and the reactions to it affected the entire nation. Within universities, the ’60s saw a visceral reaction against the Cold War view of reason as the “objective” (i.e., dispassionate) deployment of a single method, but all kinds of departments, schooled in what suddenly became the old ways, could only see the newly concrete concerns and particularist strategies of African-Americans, feminists and LGBT people as abandonments of reason itself. The result is that the newer approaches found other homes, in programs such as African-American, women’s, Jewish and LGBT studies, while Cold War philosophy persists today in many traditional departments. With the Cold War now decades in the past, it may be time to revisit this arrangement.

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