At new faculty orientation this summer an administrator was talking about sustaining excellence on campus in difficult economic times. One example of excellence was the high number of recent graduates who were either employed or enrolled in graduate or professional programs. This accounting method is not unique to my new institution, but as graduate degrees in many fields become less likely to lead to employment in academia, I couldn’t help but feel that the administration was passing the buck on our graduates by making their future unemployment somebody else’s problem.
This is not an all-or-nothing proposition. It would be easy to report the percentage of recent graduates who are employed, the number in graduate schools, and the number in professional schools. In fact, these numbers are available if you dig around on the school website (at least as basic “employed” vs. “grad school” stats). For the past several years, about a quarter of recent graduates have gone to grad school. I suppose, though, that focusing on those who go to graduate school is similar to pointing out a flat tire on a car with no engine since the category of “employed” itself is not defined in any way that lets readers know if these graduates have full-time jobs related to their degrees or are working part-time at a local coffee shop.
On the other hand, my previous institution provides no data about graduate outcomes other than the fact that roughly 1/5 of graduates apply to graduate programs. I guess that some data are better than no data, even if those data are vague.
Posted in Grad School, Student Life, The Ivory Tower, Tracking the Transition | Tagged Employment, Graduate School, Graduation Data, Memoirs of a SLACer, Student Outcomes |
-The return of students to college campuses
-Endless calls for additional members from ASA sections trying to increase the number of sessions they get at next year’s annual meeting
Posted in Conference Attendance, Meeting Expectations | Tagged American Sociological Association, Conference Attendance, Memoirs of a SLACer, Signs of Autumn |
Lego recently launched a line of female scientists, and according to Slate, archaeologist Donna Yates bought a set and started the “Lego Academics” Twitter account to chronicle their adventures. It is nice to see depictions of female scientists experiencing the highs and lows of academic lives (unfortunately, the set is now sold out), but they must be at an R1 because as far as I can tell they never teach.
Posted in Gender, R1, The Ivory Tower, The Publication Gauntlet | Tagged Donna Yates, Lego Academics, Memoirs of a SLACer, Publish or Perish, R1 Professors, Slate |
For the past few years I have been requiring students to answer discussion questions about the readings before coming to class. The purpose of these discussion questions is to make sure that students do the reading (obviously) but also to ensure that students think about the readings and their connections to other course topics. After a trial run in one course I have adopted the practice in nearly every course with small variations (in lower-level courses, for example, I provide the discussion questions while in upper-level courses I combine my own questions with those written by students). When preparing my syllabi for the fall, I again included discussion questions even though I wasn’t entirely sure what students at my new institution would be like. In the days after completing my syllabi, though, I began to feel uneasy.
Using discussion questions in a course I’ve taught a number of times does not contribute much to my workload outside of class. Since I know what lass discussions have focused on in the past I can be sure to include questions on those elements of the readings. For a new prep, however, writing discussion questions involves reading a week or more ahead to anticipate the direction of class discussions while allowing my students enough time to use the discussion questions to complete the readings. The more I thought about it, the less I looked forward to writing discussion questions in addition to preparing for one new course and one course with substantially-revised readings. Higher publication expectations were also a factor, since reading ahead to write questions, preparing for class, reviewing readings before class, and grading would have left me with little time for writing.
In the end, although my syllabi had already been posted to Blackboard, I decided in the interest of my sanity and productivity to delete the discussion question requirements before handing them out on the first day of class. This will also give me a chance to see how I might use discussion questions most effectively with my new students. My decision isn’t particularly groundbreaking since my students likely won’t even know what they’re missing, but ten years into teaching it is important to remember why I was advised not to try too much in my first semester of teaching: it is easy to get overwhelmed when starting something new.
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Posted in Teaching Tricks, Tracking the Transition, Work-Life Balance | Tagged College Teaching, Dicussion Questions, Memoirs of a SLACer, Syllabi, Work-Life Balance |