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Quick takes: From the P&T committee; more on test-taking; formatting in calculus; tech training

September 8, 2006, 2:08 pm

  • The Promotion and Tenure committee I am now part of has met twice so far. We meet for 90 minutes per week. What I’ve learned so far is (1) most of our meetings are spent trying to plug holes, fix mistakes, or deal with unforeseen consequences from past P&T committee actions/inactions; (2) evidently there is a great deal of time spent by the committee to create language in our promotion/tenure recommendations specifically to minimize offending the delicate sensibilities of faculty, for example making sure we don’t say someone’s a "fine teacher" when the faculty in question resents the use of the word "fine" and would prefer "excellent" instead*; (3) evidently there is also a lot of time spent soothing the offended faculty where the language doesn’t work; and (4) it seems a main purpose of having a system for tenure is to allow the college to covers its own rear-end in case somebody sues us.
  • Right Wing Prof has a lengthy post discussing whether or not some students can know the material but are just bad test-takers. This isn’t an easy question to answer, because tests come in so many shapes and sizes. But I still think that for small, localized tests within the context of a single course, you can’t know the material properly and do poorly on a test (barring some kind of sudden physiological problem or something).
  • I’ve followed Rudbeckia Hirta’s lead (from Learning Curves) in requiring my calculus students to format their homework in a particular way. Namely, they must use plain white paper rather than lined notebook paper; leave adequence margin space and white space within the document; put one equation per line; use one column and not two; and staple their work together. I also require them to format their work by putting the answer first, and then follow the answer with the work/explanation of how that answer came about — which basically forces them to rewrite their initial work on each problem. The result was an amazing improvement in readability over past semesters. When you require students to make their work look semi-professional, it really changes the way they relate to the work itself.
  • Thursday’s and Friday’s math classes consisted of training workshops in Derive, Excel, Geometer’s Sketchpad, and LaTeX (for the MOPS class; actually we did MiKTeX and TeXNicCenter). Is it bad if I enjoy that better than teaching some of the math?

*Apparently, this actually happened once. The pettiness of some people in higher ed is just staggering.

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