December 5, 2011, 7:30 am
It’s hard to believe, but we’re entering our last week of Fall classes here at Grand Valley. For those of you who only started reading the blog since it joined the Chronicle blog network in September, this was only my first semester at GVSU. I started here this fall, having left a tenured position at a small liberal arts college where I was on the faculty for ten years, uprooting my wife and three kids to move here to west Michigan in search of a better life for us all. It’s been an eventful time for us since coming here in July and therefore no surprise that fifteen weeks have gone by in what seems like a flash.
I can’t imagine getting off to a better start. My students have been smart, mature, and industrious and it’s been a pleasure to help them learn. My colleagues have been supportive in every way. I’ve really enjoyed the large university environment GVSU offers. My wife’s job…
December 1, 2011, 8:51 am
This semester, I made the decision to phase out paper from my professional life. Little by little, and over the course of perhaps a couple of academic years, I hope to shift as much as I can over to digital versions of everything I use in teaching, scholarship, service, and mentoring. There are several reasons I want to do this, but the main thing that convinced me to make the choice to go “as paperless as possible” were my grading practices. At some point during this semester, I became convinced that I simply must move away from paper when dealing with student work. Why? Here are a few reasons:
1. Paper-based student work is cumbersome. More than once this semester, student work has gotten lost or misplaced because it was put into the wrong stack, stapled to the wrong thing, or in one case the staple for one student’s submission got hung on the staple for another student’s submission…
November 29, 2011, 7:45 am
This year, I did something new on Thanksgiving: I ran one of those 5K “turkey trot” races on Thanksgiving morning. It was actually the second such race I had done in the space of a week. There’s something invigorating about getting up early and joining a crowd of a few hundred people to buck the temptation to lie in bed or on the couch all day.
Running has been a hobby of mine since my 40th birthday (July 2010). Turning 40, I was overweight and constantly tired, and I decided to do something about it. So I declared I would start training for a 5K, to commence as soon as the birthday party was over. As for how that beginning actually went, I’ll get to that later. For the moment, it’s enough to say that running has always accompanied a reflective mood for me. As I was doing the race on Thursday, I got to thinking about the connections between running and teaching. I think I’ve learned a…
November 2, 2011, 7:30 am
From Utah, here’s a story about business prof Stephen Maranville who was denied tenure at Utah Valley University, apparently based on student complaints about his use of the Socratic Method. I won’t quote from the article because it’s short — read the whole thing — and because it sounds a lot like other cases where profs have found themselves on the wrong side of student and administrative graces because of grades or pedagogy or both.
Here are my thoughts on this.
1. It can’t be as simple as the meme of: Professor is tough -> Students complain -> Administration caves to student demands -> Prof gets fired. What actually happened in Maranville’s classes? Do we know? There are profs using the Socratic Method all the time, being tough and holding high standards with students not that different from UVU students, who don’t get complaints on this scale or lose tenure. Some of them are…
September 12, 2011, 7:30 am
I’m reading Poke the Box right now, an interesting monograph by Seth Godin on the power of initiative and risk-taking. One of the concepts he invents in the book is “instigation capital”:
What can you invest? What can your company invest?
- Financial capital—Money in the bank that can be put to work on a project or investment.
- Network capital—People you know, connections you can make, retailers and systems you can plug into.
- Intellectual capital—Smarts. Software systems. Access to people with insight.
- Physical capital—Plant and machinery and tools and trucks.
- Prestige capital—Your reputation.
- Instigation capital—The desire to move forward. The ability and the guts to say yes.
– Godin, Seth (2011). Poke the Box (p. 12). The Domino Project. Kindle Edition.
He goes on to say that instigation capital is the most important kind of capital in the new economy,…
September 11, 2011, 12:04 pm
This is an article I first published here on the blog back on September 11, 2007, in remembrance of the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It seems incredible that 10 years have come and gone since that horrible day of confusion and chaos. I was in my first year at Franklin College in Indiana then. On 9/11/2001, the students I have today were around 7 years old, which is the age of my oldest daughter right now. Knowing how innocent yet knowledgeable my daughter is, I can begin to understand the awesome formative power of that day in their lives. I think the point of this article — you’ll see it in the last paragraph — still works today for me, and it’s the same lesson that I want to communicate to my students and to my kids.
I remember 9/11/01…
September 8, 2011, 7:30 am
Two things I noticed at the start of this semester were (1) the number of articles and blog posts coming out about “syllabus bloat” (see Profhacker, for instance), and (2) the insane degree to which my own syllabi have bloated. My Calculus II syllabus is 12 pages long, for instance, and I wasn’t exactly using 36-point font.
I liked (in a chagrined sort of way) Barbara Fister’s metaphor very much of the syllabus as Terms of Service. Put together all the boilerplate, all the course policies, all the tables of grade assignments, etc. and what you have is not very different from the Terms of Service (ToS) agreements we all click through without a glance when we start up new software. And that’s not a good thing:
The trouble is the syllabus-as-contract is not only tiresome to read, it’s not inspiring. You must, you can’t, you ought – that’s not an itinerary for a trip to someplace…
September 6, 2011, 8:00 am
There was a comment on this post back on the old site that I felt deserved more than just a reply. Raphael said:
…I flinched when I read this sentence:
“The ideal result is that the child/kid/student has a sense of being understood, cared for, and valued.”
There is one big difference between being a child and being a student. A child, I guess, has to be supported no matter what in the bounds of somewhat well-defined rules/values. You know your child is being stupid (like painting a green sky) but you still say it is doing great. It is part of the process.
As a student, I am on the verge of becoming a professional. What I need from my teachers (which includes other students, assisstants, professors) is honesty. If I do well, I need to hear that, true. But if I mess up, I need to know, too. And maybe the latter is more important. I have to learn my weaknesses so I can work on…
August 25, 2011, 8:00 am
I spent most of Wednesday at the 17th annual Fall Conference on Teaching and Learning, put on by my new employer, Grand Valley State University. It was a full day of good ideas and good people, and I really enjoyed engaging with both. One experience from today has really stuck with me, and it happened during the opening session as Kathleen Bailey, professor in the Criminal Justice department, was speaking about the changing student demographic we are encountering (not just at GVSU but everywhere in higher ed).
Kathleen comes from a fairly unique position as not only a professor of CJ and assistant director of freshman orientation but also as a former parole officer for teenagers. In her talk, she drew some parallels between parenting, being a parole officer, and…
April 12, 2011, 8:07 pm
I’m finally through one of the busiest three months I think I’ve ever spent in this business, so hopefully I can get around to more regular posting here. The last big thing that I did as part of this busy stretch also happened to be one of the coolest things I’ve done in a while: I got to do a clicker workshop for some of the senior staff of the Johnson County Humane Society.
It turns out that someone had donated a set of 50 TurningPoint RF cards and a receiver to the Humane Society for use in educational programming — but nobody at the Humane Society knew how to use them or had any idea what they could do with them. One of the leaders in the Humane Society saw an email announcing a workshop I was doing on campus and contacted me about training. We had a great workshop last Friday and came up with some very cool ideas for using clickers in the elementary schools to teach kids about…