Throughout this semester I have thought about the advantages and disadvantages of the current tenure-track system. I made a concerted effort to learn more about the process. I spoke with professors who were up for tenure–the shift from assistant professor to associate professor. I tuned in each time I heard the topic being discussed by others. I plundered around the Web to get a sense of what others think about the process. I have come to the conclusion that many think that the current tenure structure is counter-productive, and its a system that maintains a hierarchical status-quo. However, many of these same people did not offer of ways to dismantle the system. This could be partly due to the fact that most of them are a part of the rat race, or have benefited in some way from the system. Both junior and senior faculty members expressed the more negative points of the tenure process, and the only positive points that I came across were expressed online and in very subtle ways. Everyone sees the pink Elephant, and they keep offering it food and comforts; no one is challenging the absurd.
One professor talked about how the tenure-track pressures junior faculty to crank out journal articles, and often times these articles lack in quality. This then puts additional burden on journal editors to sift through an abundance of poorly constructed manuscripts. A major fallout from manuscript grind is that a professor’s teaching might suffer and students’ learning might suffer. I think there are ways we can change the system, but it will require incremental change. Here are a few steps we can take now:
What Educators Can Do:
- Talk to their colleagues about the topic; plant seeds.
- Work with the graduate school to launch a pilot program.
- Create a body of program and department heads who have a desire to change the system. Let’s call them the Society of Progressive Administrators & Professors (SPAP).
- The SPAP will have the charge of designing a replacement structure, designing a roll-out strategy for the new structure, and establishing a shared commitment to recruit and retain talent using the new structure.
What Students Can Do:
- Write op-eds that will provide decision-makers with new ways of thinking.
- Encourage your chair and the graduate school administrators to consider implementing change.
- Schedule one-on-one time with your chair and express your concerns.
- Schedule one-on-one time with the dean of your graduate school and express your concerns.
- Conduct research on the topic and broadly share the results.
- Use your professional network to gain support.
- Ask for support from the professional society for your discipline.
- Create networks with other students who share your concern.
I am planning to submit an article to the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation (JASSS). The journal is managed by the University of Surrey, which is located in the United Kingdom. The journal promotes learning about society by way of computer simulation. JASSS has been publishing since 1998, however, it is unclear if it has been an open access platform since its conception. The journal has an “About” page that states that access is free and the term “open access” is not used to describe the journal. In fact, there is no political stance about free [open] or traditional publishing modes. Authors are not required to pay to contribute to JASSS, however, the submission instructions include a kind ask for donations in the suggested amount of $1,300. I found it comical that the suggested donation was listed in three forms of currency (US dollar, the euro and pound sterling). The journal also offers an incentive for donors in which they offer to tag the authors contribution with a badge that will denote their contribution. The average visitor to the JASSS website will immediately realize that it is an open access journal. URLs to their current articles are prominently posted on their landing page; there are no assumptions to be made about their stance on publishing.
I am on the fence as to whether I will donate. Virginia Tech has a fund that will cover publishing fees for open access, but I would rather those funds go to a student who is trying to contribute to a journal with mandatory fees. I will make my decision on this point in December. If any of you are interested in JASSS, here is the direct link to their page: http://jasss.soc.surrey.ac.uk.
My task for this week was to find an article related to how teachers are using technology to enhance learning. The first article I came across was this quick read by Vicki Davis. She provided 10 examples of how teachers have incorporated tech in their classroom. One teacher had students create Twitter handles using names of famous Aztecs. As they walk through the history lessons, students sent tweets that stated how they think a historical event transpired. I was inspired by several of the examples shared by Vicki, but then I started to think about how these ideas would align with higher education. Based on the provided examples, I assumed that most of them were drawn from K through 12.
I have found the delivery of most professors to be predictable, and this could make learning more of a chore. However, a select few have made an effort to teach outside of the box. One professor used a survey app to push questions to us [students] as we moved through the lesson. In fact, the professor projected our collective responses on a screen and we discussed each element of the lesson with great detail. The professor used this tool a few times throughout the course and I thought it was a great way to spice up an otherwise mundane topic. More importantly, I noticed that people were fully engaged. Learning should be fun, and I think his use of tech helped to make that happen.
One challenge for higher ed is that we may sometimes find that our class population is not homogeneous. Meaning, some students may be technologically challenged, and some students may not have the means to purchase or participate in certain platforms. If we decided to make technology a centerpiece to our lesson plan, we must keep these type of issues in mind. With enough creativity and patience, we can bring along those who are not savvy with technology and we can ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate.
If any of you have used technology as a centerpiece to learning, I would love to hear about it.