Category Archives: Teaching

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Journalism Curricula? Get Me Rewrite

A year ago, in February 2014, the metrics on journalism education were trending in worrisome directions. Enrollments were down at some of the most prestigious programs in the country for the second year in a row, and a Poynter Institute study revealed that journalism faculty members viewed their programs as far more central to the journalistic enterprise than their professional colleagues did. More troubling, almost 40 percent of educators themselves acknowledged that their programs were not kee…

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We Can’t Judge Community Colleges’ Success by the Numbers

I am a community-college teacher jumping with joy at President Obama’s America’s College Promise proposal, which would undoubtedly send more students to community colleges. But I can’t help but ask: Doesn’t he know that, by federal accountability standards, we’re an abysmal failure?

As Eduardo Porter writes in The New York Times, “precious few of the students at community colleges are likely to complete their education.” He has some “bottom of the barrel” (his words) statistics to show i…

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The Professor as Comedian

“But, no jokes.”

Thus said my first, otherwise excellent, class performance-evaluation sheet. Just starting my undergraduate teaching career at twentysomething, I had been more concerned about the mastery of the subject (accounting), the fulfillment of class objectives, the clear delivery, the professional deportment. Check. Students’ opinions had been positive too: Their professor was “knowledgeable,” “helpful,” and “concerned with their learning.” Check. Overall remark from my el…

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Attending to Attendance

Sound pedagogy involves communication, not just of the ideas we teach, but also of the expectations we have and the demands we make. Especially with regard to policies that can incur a tension-filled backlash, a few minutes of explanation can help students approach our classes in the spirit in which we offer them.

One issue where “buy-in” can be particularly tricky is attendance. At large urban institutions like mine, where many students live off campus and cannot merely roll out of bed, don…

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Poke, Prod, and Rile: Secrets of Good Teaching

Dogs tend to look like their owners, and often the same is true about academics and the historical figures they study. The reason could be as predictable as two friends’ becoming drawn to the same tastes after having spent considerable time together—I once heard a lecturer confess that her Southwestern wardrobe was inspired by her intellectual mentor. Or it could be something closer to what the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno wrote about his own experience in reading like-minded authors:…

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Students Are Welcome to Shop Online During My Lectures

I have a confession: I am writing this essay while attending a presentation. Normally, I give a speaker my full attention, but there are many people here, so it is easy to miss that I am doing something other than listening. Besides, I am still paying attention (for the most part). The speaker is giving us an update on our university’s shuttle schedule.

As I write this, I think of students in my classes who are obviously on their computers doing something other than, or in addition to, listening…

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#FergusonSyllabus

How should academics respond to the death of Michael Brown and the non-indictment of his killer? If you teach critical race theory, criminology, modern American history, African-American studies, or any number of other subjects explicitly linked to Brown’s death, then I suspect you already have a plan. But what about the rest of us?

One of my beliefs about public engagement is that the process of becoming an academic, as both a scholar and a teacher, creates habits of mind that we can bring to b…

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Silicon Valley’s Empathy Problem

Facebook is no stranger to controversy, but last month the company found itself in a public scrap with its fiercest opponents yet. The cause? Facebook’s decision to delete the accounts of several San Francisco drag queens, enforcing a longstanding policy that users go by their real names on the site.

Here in San Francisco, the activist queens known as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence reacted with anger and disbelief. As queens like Sister Roma rightly pointed out, alternative names are a mean…

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Confessions of a Gen-Ed Junkie

I’m just going to come right out and say it: I like teaching gen ed. I like it a lot. In fact, I like it more than my major classes. OK, so if my dean calls, I’m going to say I didn’t really mean that. But honestly—just between me and you, Chronicle readers—I do.

Here’s why:

1. I’ve always been a jumper.

No, I don’t mean that I’m suicidal. Not anymore, anyway. Back when I was in grad school, though, I found myself going nuts. You want me to write a dissertation on Victorian literature? Just Vic…

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In Defense of Theory

Is gender theory relevant to undergraduate students? Skeptics have long dismissed theory’s intellectual import largely on the basis of style. In the 90s, Gayatri Spivak, Judith Butler, and Homi Bhabha were scrutinized for their “pretentiously opaque” prose, “bad writing,” and “indecipherable jargon” respectively. Of course not all scholars are equally subject to these sorts of critiques. As Butler noted in her response, “The targets … have been restricted to scholars on the left whose work f…