Tag Archives: college

July 31, 2008, 6:51 am

Keeping the "extra" in extracurricular

Over at Study Hacks, they are floating the “dangerous idea” that

Outside of a few exceptions, college extracurriculars are of minor importance to your efforts to find a job after graduation. There is no benefit to be gained by suffering through an overwhelming load of activities at the college level. [emphasis theirs]

The article makes the point that extracurricular activities in college can add a little color to your job applications later, and of course it’s always healthy to be active in things you enjoy. But overall, they advise that college students keep the number of their activities small, use those activities to surround themselves with interesting people, and don’t be afraid to cut back.

I agree, and this fits with the idea I’ve blogged about before that time is a scarce resource that (like any such resource) requires budgeting and careful management. There are only a certain…

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July 26, 2008, 12:46 pm

"The faculty/student nonagression pact"

From a 2004 review by George Leef of Patrick Allitt’s book I’m the Teacher, You’re the Student:

[M]atters might improve considerably if the rest of the faculty were also fighting against the student aversion to reading, but few of them probably are. Allitt doesn’t say much about his colleagues, but I suspect he knows that many of them have given in to what Murray Sperber calls the faculty/student non-aggression pact: Students get light assignments and good grades in return for expecting little instructional effort from their professors. Allitt’s willingness to stay and fight when much of the rest of the faculty has surrendered is commendable, but if only a small number of professors insist that students read and understand, the college experience is just the skeletal remains of its former self.

The bolded passage is a dead-on appropriate term for much of what goes on under the guise …

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July 10, 2008, 12:14 pm

Skipping class

Good quote about attendance via Study Hacks:

“The following are valid excuses for skipping class: I have a fever of 105 degrees; I need to fly to L.A. to accept an Academy Award; today in class we are reviewing a book I wrote; my leg is caught in a bear trap. The moral of this exercise: Always go to class!“
– from How to Win at College

Here are some memorable excuses I’ve had before:

  • A student missed class because, he said later, he had to go to the doctor. Fine, I said, just bring me the doctor’s note and I’ll excuse the absence. Instead of a doctor’s note, he brought me a bottle of pills that he said the doctor gave him. The bottle didn’t have a label on it.
  • A student approached me the day before a final exam to request that he be excused and take the final exam later in the week. The reason? He claimed his dad was a famous NASCAR driver and had called him up that morning…

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June 30, 2008, 11:12 am

Melinda Gates' idea of improving education

Bill and Melinda Gates, whose charitable foundation has done much good in the world, are now focusing on education with a program called Strong American Schools and a companion web site, EDin08.com. Given the Gates Foundation’s success in helping improve public health in third-world countries, one might be optimistic about what they might do with our struggling public school system.

However, my optimism suffers a big setback when I read stuff like this from Melinda Gates, in an interview with NPR:

Can we reasonably expect 100 percent of high school students to become college students?

Yes, I think we can. And, in fact, I’m here today in the Chicago school district visiting with students – huge number of Latinos and African-American populations, and guess what? I’m in schools where 95 to 98 percent of these kids are going on to college, and it’s because they started freshman year…

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June 10, 2008, 11:09 am

Graduation in the Arctic

Fascinating story in InsideHigherEd this morning about graduation day at the University of Alaska’s Chukchi campus, located in Kotzebue, Alaska — 33 miles above the Arctic Circle.

Today, at commencement, it is a sunny and crisp 33 degrees. Younger residents don T-shirts and shorts.

The college, in Kotzebue, a settlement of 3,000 people, clings stubbornly to a gravel outcrop on the edge of the Chukchi Sea, where flat snow-covered tundra meets icy waters. Kotzebue is accessible by boat or air during three summer months; and by air, snow machine and sled in the winter. Residents, students, and faculty live peacefully without ordinary facilities such as a dry cleaner, saloons, discos, or a car dealership. There are more snow machines and dogs than cars in Kotzebue. The town includes an airstrip for bush pilots. People headed to the landfill must pause for incoming and outgoing planes the …

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June 2, 2008, 1:16 pm

Simul kids et adults

I’m working on updating some of my professional documents, including my curriculum vitae and my Statement of Teaching Philosophy (SOTP). Both of these are badly out of date; I don’t think I’ve touched either one since I was up for tenure in 2005. That’s too bad, especially the SOTP; it seems like professors ought to be constantly re-examining their core philosophies behind teaching and having a critical look at what really characterizes what they do in the classroom.

The new SOTP is absorbing some flavor of recent developments in my personal life on the faith front. Since joining the Lutheran church, I’ve become more exposed to — and more appreciative of — the concept of holding paradoxical pairs of ideas in tension with each other and having a real truth emerge out of the dialectic between the two. In Lutheran theology, for example, we have the idea of simul justus et peccator — the…

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May 16, 2008, 8:57 am

When students fail, who's responsible?

This story out of Norfolk State University has been lighting up the internet in general and the edu-blogosphere in particular. It revolves around Steven Aird, a biologist at Norfolk, who was denied tenure for failing too many students: 

The report from [Dean Sandra DeLoatch] said that Aird met the standards for tenure in service and research, and noted that he took teaching seriously, using his own student evaluations on top of the university’s. The detailed evaluations Aird does for his courses, turned over in summary form for this article, suggest a professor who is seen as a tough grader (too tough by some), but who wins fairly universal praise for his excitement about science, for being willing to meet students after class to help them, and providing extra help.

DeLoatch’s review finds similarly. Of Aird, she wrote, based on student reviews: “He is respectful and fair to…

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April 10, 2008, 9:41 pm

Handling academic dishonesty

Virusdoc, always the prolific commenter, has left another comment that raises the issue of how a professor should actually deal with academic dishonesty when it occurs. What follows is my own procedure for handling these situations; I’m sure it’s not perfect, and I’m open to suggestions for improvement, but it’s worked pretty well for me over the years. 

The overall strategy for dealing with academic dishonesty is that the students involved should be confronted with the issue promptly after it’s been discovered, given a chance to give their side of the story, and then the professor can move forward on the dual basis of the evidence in front of her/him and the student’s own statements. This strategy is opposed to two other possible strategies: 

  • Avoiding doing anything about the academic dishonesty at all, either by simply looking the other way and pretending it didn’t happen, or else…

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April 10, 2008, 7:42 am

I'll say it again:

Academic dishonesty is not only easy to catch, it’s a horrible miscarriage of the mutual trust upon which all of education is built, and students who willfully engage in it deserve all the punishment they receive, if not more. There’s simply no rationalizing it, and I don’t think we in higher ed do nearly enough to eradicate it. 

I bring this up because of virusdoc’s comment, just made on an old post

Resurrecting an old thread, but I just graded my first ever take-home essay test (open-book, open web, but no collaboration allowed and students were instructed to make sure their ideas and words were their own).

Out of 30 tests graded thus far, there were two students who boldly copied and pasted huge blocks of text from multiple websites into their test answers, without so much as an attempt to change any words or even alter the font from that in the website. It was horrific. In…

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March 27, 2008, 1:21 pm

Re: Quote of the day

I don’t want to leave the impression from my earlier post that making a college education worth something is all on the students. It’s most certainly not. There are three other factors, at least, that play in to making a college education valuable and not just 4+ years of wasted time:

  1. The faculty. Faculty have to teach and manage courses so that all students are challenged and pushed, to their intellectual limits, and also that being “intellectually inclined” as I interpreted that term earlier is rewarded. Not just making classes hard, in other words, but setting classes up so that there are amazing intellectual insights and learning experiences — and those are almost always gained by hard work.
  2. The curriculum. The curriculum that students encounter has to also reward intellectual inclination and demand that all students
  3. The administration.  Administrations have to manage human…

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