Excellent resource for future faculty members

Last week we were having a discussion about the importance of blogs and the impact that they may have (or not) in academia. One person in the discussion was concerned about the benefit of blogging, her argument was that she was not able to directly see how blogging can improve academia. Some of us were arguing that blogging can provide an online presence that can help create a sense of community and can help connecting with people in your field. That connection in the long-run can be very useful for new faculty members.

To add to my point, I found this blog that I consider a very valuable resource to have when planning to apply for faculty positions. Dr. Kelsky has a very special way to talk about issues regarding the faculty job from a protagonist perspective and with brutal honesty. I found the blog to be really useful and also helps to make my point of the importance of creating an online community to support each other and to grow as faculty members.



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Anti-teaching and the flipped classroom

Reading the article “Anti-teaching: confronting the crisis of significance” by Michael Wesch, some points caught my attention. First the author suggest (as many researchers do) that the traditional lecture is inefficient as a learning environment. Learning occurs most of the time in the absence of the teacher. If I think about the things that I learnt I would agree with that. Learning is an independent process that occur at very different points for every person. Therefore, the classroom can’t be a place where information is delivered rather a space of discussion where everyone can generate the tools required to learn.

One interesting model that I have been following is the flipped classroom. Several instructors are transforming the entire teaching process from the traditional view (i.e. attending lecture and doing homework afterwards) to the opposite, obtaining the information from lecture through videos or readings before the class and dedicate class time to do the “homework.” There is not enough research that supports that this method is more efficient but I do think that it can be an interesting experience for both the student and the instructor.

Relating back to Wesch’s article he explains that learning can be enhanced by asking deep questions. Just the process of asking questions can help students understand different views of the information they are discussing and that will help them develop the learning outcomes they are suppose to develop.

I think it would be interesting to implement a flipped classroom where students have access to all the information and come to the classroom and use that time and space just to start debating and generating thought provoking questions about the topics they are learning even if no one have the answers.


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Changes in Higher Education

During this semester we have been discussing different topics regarding the higher education system. There are several aspects of higher education that requires improvement, but in my particular opinion there is one change that may help to tangentially solve several problems at the same time.

If I were able to change only one thing in higher education, it would be the tenure process. I believe that the process as it is, it’s making a lot of damage to the students and to the universities. As discussed before in the class and in several blog posts, it is very rare to find a professor that is a very productive researcher but also an outstanding teacher. However, the current process force everyone to work in the same way, generating sometimes negative outcomes.

I have seen young faculty members that are completely tired for doing extensive research, they don’t have time to focus on the courses they are teaching, and yet they are in charge of several courses. As a consequence they perform very poorly in they classes.

In the other hand, excellent instructors feel the need to stop being great at teaching, because they need the time to produce more publications, in some fields it doesn’t even matter the quality or the type of publication as long as they are a lot. This generates frustation on the instructor, and also a negative impact on the research outcomes.

My suggestion would be to have faculty member being evaluated in the things that they can do better. I strongly believe that good teaching is a skill that needs to be developed over time. The skill won’t be developed in a couple of courses and seminars but in a constant faculty development program focused on teaching. I suggest that professors with that skill can be able to undergo a tenure track based on the performance that they have in teaching. This has to be a complete evaluation process rather than simply student perceptions evaluations.

In the other hand, faculty members that want to dedicate to research, can spend their time doing it without being force to teach several courses that sometimes they don’t even want to teach. It would be more beneficial to have them teach something that can be an outcome of their research or is directly related.

I think by doing that the outcome will be better classes, therefore happier students, and more productive and sincere research.

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ORI scholarly integrity cases

I was trying to find a case in the ORI site that is different or special. After reading most of the misconduct case summaries, I realized something more interesting to post about. Most of you already know several cases, and its consequences. I think what is very interesting is how all the cases are related or very similar.

Most of them are related the healthcare field somehow, and most of them are regarding falsification of data in order to obtain funds for research. This caught my attention. Is this type of situation only happening in that field? or is jut that since this is such complex and delicate field is where all the eyes are?

I understand how when dealing with human health it is required to take extra measures to prevent anything wrong to happen, but I am wondering if the consequence is that other fields with similar importance are left behind.

For example, fields like civil engineering, law, or even education can have a similar impact in society, therefore doing things wrong in those fields can generate also a lot of damage. However, I don’t seem to find any case in any of those fields.

Is people in other fields doing things better? If so, it would be interesting to analyze what ethical standards students receive in their formation to see how can be imparted in the healthcare field.

If they are not doing things better, I believe there is a need for expand the scope of the revisions in ORI and consider evaluating more broad fields of knowledge.

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Some thoughts about MOOC’s

Another topic that have been on the debate the past years and that relates to open access are Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s). Some authors argue that MOOC’s can change the way education has been conceived because it provides access to the best education in the world for free. Some other authors don’t agree with that, their position is that MOOC’s effectiveness hasn’t been proved and that those courses are not having a significant impact in the long term in education.

My particular opinion is that both sides are right. I don’t necessarily think that MOOC’s will change education, however I do think that they may be an excellent complement to education. I have learned a lot from MOOC’s, I have completed courses on game theory and photography just for fun. I think the quality of the education I received was outstanding.

Independent of what you think about MOOC’s I invite you all to see Daphne Koller’s TedTalk about online education. She is one of the founders of Coursera and provides very interesting insights about the information that they have been able to obtain with millions of people taking their courses.


I think is really interesting how they use the information of the courses to improve teaching on those topics. For example having 100,000 students can give you very powerful data. In a 25 students course if two students make a mistake in one test question it is not a big deal and probably the instructor won’t do anything about it, however if 2,000 students make the same mistake that is a powerful message that something may be wrong with the instructor and a revision of the way the topic is being taught is necessary.

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Communicating sciences: the other side of the coin

I found very interesting the initiatives of the center for communicating sciences at Stony Brook University. The project looks very interesting and I perceive its purpose as totally necessary. Many times I have been in situations, specially in engineering, where the technical jargon have made my mind confused. I believe for some of us (engineers) effective communication can be a challenge.

However, there is another side of the story. I worked as a field engineer for many years, when in Industry I realized that people was the most powerful resource in every organization I worked for. That motivated me to study people, their behaviors, and everything related to their interaction with organizations. Becoming a social science researcher in an engineering world have been complex. I feel sometimes that I am not being seen as a “serious” researcher and that all my work is based on touchy feelings and holding hands.

I believe sometimes we need to use some kind of technical jargon in order to “look” like a scientist. Some times I have feel the need to make my speech confusing and very technical in order to get the attention of an engineering audience.

For you people in the social sciences, do you feel the same way?

For you technical engineers, do you feel that we need to prove something?


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Purpose of mission statements

Since I remember, in my professional career I have been almost obsessed about mission statements in the different institutions I have belonged to. Maybe is because my first job as an Industrial Engineering was to create the mission and vision statements for the company I was working. Then when I went back to my University to teach, the course I was in charged was engineering management, where I had to taught engineering students how to develop mission statements and the importance of doing so.

The mission statement is the first thing I look in a company or institution that I will be related to. It allows me to understand a lot about that institution but also allows me to identify a possible fit between my personal values and the values that the institution wants to promote. I strongly believe a mission statement can provide a sense of the culture of the organization. Even a bad mission statement can serve as an indicator of how much the institution cares about those kind of things.

With that being said I think that the must prudent thing is to compare the mission statements of the only two american Universities that I have been related to. Temple University located in Philadelphia, PA and Virginia Tech.

As I was expecting, both statements differ a lot. Temple University mission statement focuses on demonstrating how competitive, global, and diverse the University is. It is understandable for a semi-private University in one of the biggest cities in the US where there are a lot of different competitors providing similar services, they need to demonstrate or “sell” something. Instead, Virginia Tech mission statement is very concrete and more philosophical, demonstrating in few words the essence and impact of the University in the community.

What do you guys think when reading Virginia Tech mission statement? Do you relate at all as graduate students?

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