Category Archives: Teaching

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The Teaching Compact

As one of the last cohort of flesh-and-bone tenured teachers of non-STEM courses at the postsecondary level, allow me to express what always ought to have been better understood, in this last light before the machines take over teaching as they have already begun to take over grading. Administrators, we all recognize, have long since been replaced by robots, whose reading is limited to grant applications and teaching evaluations.

I, as the professor, am not primarily interested in assessment. I …

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An Adjunct’s Farewell

To my students at Assumption College:

I have thoroughly enjoyed working with you, but to answer the question many of you have asked: No, I will not be teaching at Assumption College again next year. Although I did receive an offer to return, the conditions that led me to decline that offer are most likely unfamiliar to many of you and your families. This letter aims to remedy that.

I am an adjunct (part-time) instructor. As such, I receive drastically less pay than full-time faculty members, and…

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My Nomadic Class

My course this past semester began like so many others: 14 students and I arrived every Tuesday and Thursday morning in an uninspiring space of concrete-block walls and fluorescent lighting, with few windows and fixed desks all facing forward, ill suited to the discussion-based, flipped format of the class. So, a couple of weeks into the semester, we decided to go nomadic.

We had pedagogical reasons for doing so. The course focused on how the built environment both reflects and affects our ideas…

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Let This Satirical Campus Newspaper Live

In 2007, a group of students at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln fought to establish the first satirical newspaper on the campus. Eight years and nearly 70 issues later, the paper still hits the newsstand every other week. Recently, however, a committee charged with allocating student fees proposed defunding it — saving students a mere 15 cents annually — for the one reason that scares and baffles me the most. “While it does create a number of opportunities for students,” the commit…

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Teaching While Black

“There will never be a nigger SAE … You can hang him from a tree, but they will never sign with me … There will never be a nigger SAE.”

That vile chant has reverberated in my head throughout these last couple of days. And as it has, my thoughts have drifted to the students, particularly the minority students, who attend the University of Oklahoma, who have sat in classes with the young men who so proudly and gleefully chanted those disgusting words. I doubt that this type of ignorance, this rac…

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Don’t Divide Teaching and Research

We excel, in the research university, at preparing our students to do world-class research — everywhere except the classrooms in which they teach. From the beginning we insist that Ph.D. applicants explain their research plans. When they arrive we put them through their paces in methodology classes, carefully taking apart their ideas of what they want to accomplish and introducing them to the hard work of gathering data, performing analyses, testing and retesting hypotheses, and exploring all …

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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…