Category Archives: Life in academia

March 20, 2013, 8:00 am

Inside the inverted proofs class: Dealing with grading

6251461402_2a11c771db_mSo, what about grading in that inverted transition-to-proofs course? Other than the midterm and final exams, which were graded pretty much as you might expect, we had four recurring assignments that required grading: Guided Practice, Quizzes, Classwork, and the Proof Portfolio. Let’s discuss the workflow and how it was all managed.

Let’s start with the easy stuff: Quizzes and Guided Practice. Quizzes were done using clickers, so the grading was trivial. Guided Practice was graded on the basis of completeness and effort only, on a scale of 0–2. So it was almost instantaneous to grade. Students would submit their work using a Google form that dumped their responses into a spreadsheet. I would just sort the spreadsheet in alphabetical order, look through for any glaring omissions or places where effort was lacking, and then put the grades right into Blackboard. A grade of “0”…

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February 19, 2013, 7:45 am

When MOOCs melt down

Coursera right now is reminding me of this scene from LOST, shortly after the initial plane crash:

Having a bad month, indeed. First it was this MOOC on “Fundamentals of Online Learning” that, ironically, had to be shut down for reasons involving the failure of online learning technology. Now it’s this course on “Microeconomics for Managers” in which the instructor, Richard McKenzie, walked away from the course. According to the CHE report:

Gary Matkin, the dean for distance education at [UC-Irvine, McKenzie’s home institution], said the problem had stemmed from Mr. McKenzie’s reluctance to loosen his grip on students who he thought were not learning well in the course.

“In Professor McKenzie’s view, for instance, uninformed or superfluous responses to the questions posed in the discussion forums hobbled the serious students in their learning,” said Mr….

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August 10, 2012, 9:00 am

When exiting graciously isn’t the right thing?

About one hour after I wrote my last post about the importance of leaving an academic position gracefully, I came across this item about the resignation of Annette Clark, the (now former) dean of the law school at Saint Louis University. She didn’t so much resign as she blew up the administrative offices of the university and walked slowly away from their burning ruins. Check out this excerpt from her resignation letter to the university top brass:

…[Y]ou have failed to make good on your assurances to me when I accepted the deanship that you would fully support the law school and our efforts to enhance its program of legal education, national reputation and rankings. From the beginning of my deanship, you have evinced hostility toward the law school and its faculty and have treated me dismissively and with disrespect, issuing orders and edicts that allowed me virtually no…

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August 9, 2012, 9:00 am

Finding your next job: Happy endings

This is the final post on Finding Your Next Job. I hope it’s been of some use. As a reminder, you can one-stop-shop the entire series at this link. Helpful for if you need to bookmark it or pass it to a colleague.

This post assumes that you’ve gone through the process of the job search and accepted an offer. Congratulations! You’ve just stepped into the unknown. But before you get too far out there, you have to take care of business at home, which means acting with integrity one last time and leaving your current employer with grace. How this happens depends on the climate of the job you are leaving. If the job’s been good to you overall, beign gracious is easy; leaving will be hard. If the job has been a bad scene, then vice-versa.

But first, why should we try to be gracious when we leave a job, though, especially if your dean has been a jerk and you can’t wait a second …

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August 8, 2012, 3:33 pm

Finding your next job: Handling offers

The panel discussion on Issues for Early-Career Mathematicians in Academia went very well at MathFest last week. We had a small crowd with good questions, and I enjoyed getting to know and hear from Rick Cleary and Jennifer Quinn, who spoke on how to get tenure (from the department chair’s point of view) and how to get involved in the mathematical community. This blog series, which was an incubator for my part of the panel, has a couple more posts left in it, both having to do with what might happen at the end of a search for the next job.

On the one hand, absolutely nothing might happen at the end. You may go through the soul-searching of understanding your motivations and balancing your stakeholders’ needs, spend hours research schools and putting together your materials, and spend days going to interviews — and nothing may come of it. You get no offers. If that’s the case, …

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August 3, 2012, 2:19 pm

Finding your next job: Keeping secrets

I’m currently at MathFest, and I’ll be speaking in our panel discussion on Issues for Early Career Mathematicians in Academia in a couple of hours. If you’ve been keeping up with this series on Finding Your Next Job then you know about the first half of what I’ll be speaking about. If not, then come to the session! And if you’re coming to (or went to) the session, the blog posts here will go into more detail.

Last time we looked at the importance of not being a jerk and making a commitment to act with integrity and graciousness in the upcoming search process. This time I want to bring up another issue that continues to come up for many throughout a search process: Confidentiality. Should you make your search public? Should you make it a state secret and not talk to anybody except your stakeholders? Or something in between?

In some situations there’s no need to keep a…

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August 1, 2012, 7:19 am

Finding your next job: Don’t be a jerk

Thanks for sticking with this series on Finding Your Next Job. I’ll probably have one or two more posts after this one before I’m done. If you’re heading to MathFest this week, this series ties in to a panel discussion on Issues for Early-Career Mathematicians in Academia that takes place on Friday at 2:30, where I’ll be speaking and leading a breakout discussion on this topic. If you’re interested and available, please stop by. Also, in case you want a one-stop shop for all the posts in this series, I have one for you: http://bit.ly/FindingYourNextJob. I’ll be adding posts to this bundle as they go up.

Last time, we talked about the importance of being creative when looking for work and exploring all options, including nontraditional ones. There’s another point to consider at this initial stage having to do with how you choose to conduct yourself during the long slog…

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July 31, 2012, 8:00 am

Finding your next job: Variety is the spice of (professional) life

The first two parts of this series (part 1, part 2) on Finding Your Next Job were about coming to terms with the motivations and parameters behind looking for a next job in the first place. These aren’t stressed enough in most discourses on job searching. The last thing you want is to blunder into a job search without a good idea of why you’re doing it, what you hope to accomplish, and who (besides yourself) needs to be involved.

But once you’re done with this kind of soul-searching, you have to begin. This part of the process can be just as varied as the first two parts, so rather than lay down a “how to” list, let me just share some experiences and what’s worked for me and people I know. Here I’m going to focus on one important and often-overlooked point about what sort of job you consider when you search.

For people looking for a second or subsequent job coming out…

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July 30, 2012, 8:00 am

Finding your next job: Three things to do before starting

We’re continuing a series on Finding Your Next Job. In the first post, we stressed the importance of identifying your motivations and coming to terms with the why behind the search. Now we need to think about getting started. Hitting the EIMS website and beginning to compose cover letters is not the start of the job search in my opinion. That comes next. But first there are a few more things to do. Three things, in fact.

1. Determine who the stakeholders are in this upcoming search. This would be any person, other than your current colleagues, whose daily life will be altered by your move to the next job. This is a different and much smaller list than that of the people who careabout your search — hopefully there are a lot of those kinds of people, but it’s likely you have few true stakeholders. The last time I was on the market, in 2010, I identified five stakeholders other…

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July 27, 2012, 9:25 am

Finding your next job: Understanding “why”

I’ll be at MathFest next week, and one of the things I’ll be doing is participating in this panel discussion. I’ll be speaking about “Finding Your Second Job” and then leading a breakout group to discuss this issue. It’s a little funny that I’ll be speaking on this, since I’m actually on my third job right now (and I hope it will be my last one!) but I won’t let that get in the way.

Finding “the next job” in academia is a very complex issue on a number of levels. I only have 15 minutes to do my schtick in Madison and so there’s no way I can touch on all the nuances. So I’d like to take this week leading up to MathFest to blog about this issue in detail. There may be some people out there who are planning to go on the market in the fall — or wrestling with the possibility of doing so. If you can make it to MathFest, I encourage you to stop by the panel…

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