Additional Post 5: Teaching Faculty

Due to the abysmal conditions in which most adjunct faculty find themselves, I wanted to do a post about one change I would like to see in higher education. I would like for colleges to hire professional teaching staff and pay them relatively high wages. Doing so would actually benefit students more in the long run because they would be the instructor’s priority.

If your main focus is research, you simply do not have time to spend reading and re-reading a student’s draft or to provide them additional instruction outside of class. I think there are a lot of cases where students get treated unfairly precisely because faculty lack the time to teach them. One could argue that this need is currently being met with adjunct faculty, but I don’t think this argument makes very much sense. We certainly cannot expect someone to do their best when they are worried about how they are going to put food on the table, or how they will ever be able to pay for their children’s medical expenses. It is just too much to expect. People need a basic level of financial security in order to consistently perform to their potential.

One way to ensure that high-quality teachers are performing their very best is to move more towards professional faculty positions. Professional faculty would be hired solely on their mastery of the subject matter and their teaching skills. They would be differentiated from high school instructors in that they would be more focused on conveying higher level knowledge within their discipline

Professional faculty could also be differentiated by degree. To be a high school teacher, you need a bachelors, but to be on professional faculty, you should need a masters. This would also serve to restore significance to the MA degree as an indicator of subject mastery. It might also open doors for universities to consider funding more masters programs because they would essentially be training colleagues that they would later hire to instruct their undergraduates. Overall, this program would have a plethora of advantages, including giving tenured faculty more time for research. Freeing up tenured faculty means that they can be more productive.

It also functions to let teachers specialize in advancing knowledge within their discipline. A lot of pedagogical research is overlooked because it simply deemed unimportant. If professional faculty can demonstrate real value, they should be allowed to conduct pedagogical research and publish curriculum within their discipline.

Additional Post 4: Are Universities Trying to Do Too Much

Universities may be trying to serve too many functions, as providing someone with a holistic education can prove at odds with training them for a vocation. While I have written in the past about how humanities curriculum needs to change to meet modern demands, I did so under the firm belief that university would continue to try to serve many goals at once.
Education should be valued in and of itself, and it is the place of the university to embody this value. It needs to serve this function so that people come to see that learning is something worthwhile for its own sake. Universities illuminate that being smart is cool in and of itself.
Education needs to be linked to value and development, not earnings. It is a journey, not a destination. Because of this reality, higher education faces a problem surrounding the marriage of knowledge and utility. After having said all of this, I would still contend that knowledge is power, and that education is a vital tool to transform one’s life; that type of learning, however, can be offered at a much cheaper cost.
If tuition rates stay the same, it is actually unfair to have universities be the training ground for corporate world. It makes the barriers to entry too great, and it eats a way at opportunities for micro-credentialing. The latter form of skill acquisition does not have to be imagined as happening without human contact or supervision and occurring only online. To the contrary, lab courses could probably be held in many different venues, and instructors could conduct assessments of competency in person.
Under this paradigm, universities could fully devote themselves to the dissemination of knowledge, without having to worry about the job prospects of its students. They could also focus on making tuition more affordable and classes more discussion based and rigorous. In short, it would give them more resources to devote to their primary objective, while also mitigating barriers to entry for workers looking to gain additional skills.

Additional Post 3: Technology in Higher Ed

What does technology look like in higher education? As an instructor, I get a lot of papers on the flipped classroom model, and my students are not typically fans. They often feel like most of class is spent completing worksheets and that they no longer have the opportunity to ask questions about the lecture. For this reason, I think we have to be careful about the ways that we seek to integrate technology.
With this said, I think there is definitley room for digital learning. In the case of a physical course, a teacher should be able to hold students responsible for digital content. but should not use digital content to replace teaching their students information. What digital technology means is that we as instructors have to step up our game and devote more time to being great educators. We have to tailor our explanations to students, rather than simply sending them a way to watch another video that may be doing our job better than we are. We have to actively look for knowledge gaps, which means that we need to be able to digitally assess what students have learned from digital content.
I think the future is in assessment technology that is built into digital lessons. Digital lessons given outside of class should be interactive, and they should definitely include application questions to gauge understanding. The right use of this assessment technology would be to grade the assessments for completion, so as not penalize students for knowledge gaps that the course instructors should be aiming to fill in.
A second use of technological assessment and digital curriculum that I think is worth talking about is the use of self-study modules. I envision self-study modules as really elaborate study guides and tests that enabled students to test out of subjects not currently offered by the university. I could see this being of real use to graduate students, who could then earn extra course credit over the summer and potentially finish their degrees faster. It also gives doctoral students more power to be truly interdisciplinary. Someone could theoretically write a dissertation on how rhetoric relates to mathematics because they have been able to earn credit for enough math courses to establish expertise in that ancillary domain. Without such an option, the department might deny the request, or it might conflict with the curriculum within one’s discipline. Though it may seem against the spirit of higher education, I think self study modules would just mean that students could save money and get to more fully pursue their interests.

Additional Post 2: Humanities Education Part II.

  • To follow up on my last post, I wanted to briefly draw some parallels between the skills developed by classical thinkers and those demanded in society. First, classical thinkers were masters of information. They could draw inferences from very limited data and could apply reasoning and logic to most problems they encountered.
    Modern employers need workers that can problem solve not just with quantitative data, but also with qualitative data. I think that they would have been very impressed with classical rhetoricians and philosophers, hiring them with full confidence that what they lacked in quantitative expertise they acquire very quickly due to their unrivaled reasoning abilities. Another point that bolsters my case is that formal logic is very similar to mathematics and has the same degree of precision. While they would not have studied calculus or advanced mathematics, the quantitative reasoning of philosophers and rhetoricians was likely strong.
    The second skill set that most employers would jump on would be their written abilities. Having studied all aspects of language use for years, and written thousands of speeches, a classical thinker’s ability to convey and argue for ideas would seem otherworldly. They would simply be unmatched because of the years they had devoted to building skills in exposition, argument, and persuasion.
    All of this would be coupled with a pragmatic attitude and comfort with uncertainty and change. Because education was so practically applied and oriented towards problem-solving, the tasks expected by modern employers would not seem foreign to classical thinkers—though the content of the problems surely would.

Additional Post 1: Humanities Education

There is a desperate need for humanities education that serves the demands of modern society. Meeting this need is often conflated with serving corporate interests, but it is not fair to espouse that preparing students for the world they will encounter necessarily means the corporatization of the humanities, or the jettisoning of its principle values. It is even unfair to assume that embracing the future means the introduction of new content and methods.
As it turns out, the past has been more responsive to the modernity’s needs than many might realize. Embracing the present, most likely means a revisiting of classical culture because of the parallels of that culture to our own. In ancient Greece and Rome, citizens were expected to do a lot with information, particularly information presented in oral and written mediums.
There were several arts formed that centered around its production and manipulation . Rhetoric taught how to apply facts and language to accomplish deliberative, judicial, and cultural objectives. It constituted a huge portion of one’s education and was comprised of lessons in style, memorization, reasoning, reading, and delivery. This was largely coextensive with the arts of formal logic and argumentation; the former paid particular attention to the form and syntax in which information was presented to determine the conclusions that could drawn on the basis of its form, while the latter on the actual processes dispute resolution.
In addition to these more specific crafts, the study of philosophy gave thinkers a disciplined way to pursue inquiry and cultivated skills in dealing with puzzles, complexity, values, and paradoxes. If these arts were taught, humanities curriculum would be undeniably modern, and yet classical. While classes are offered in the topics mentioned, they are mainly devoted to exploring areas of knowledge and not as much to the development of the aforementioned skills. It is the pursuit of skills that differentiate classical education from the more modern humanities curriculum, not necessarily its content.

Tuition Free College

One thing that really bugs me is the amount in loans that most undergraduates have to take out to be able to afford college. I think this is unacceptable. I ran a quick search for the percentage of students in Finland who are enrolled in college, and it is about equivalent to two thirds of the population. Even better than the sheer number of students receiving a higher education is the fact that they paid little to nothing to earn their degree.
As a teacher, I think about how much money in loans most of my students have had to take out. They are a bright bunch, and I am super privileged to teach them, but that’s the thing . . . I am privileged to teach them. I am sure that most of my students did well in high school and will continue to do so in college.
Its sad to me that students who, if they lived in the right country, would likely go to college for free have to finance their education on their own dime. While I know that we may not be able to practically become Finland, I do think that we could work to pursue some type of merit-based system which rewarded academic performance.
If we took the top third of students and allowed them to go to college for free, then I think this would be more than enough for many people, myself included. In such a system, I think the majority of the weight should be placed on GPA, but a table could be used that took account of various standardized assessment, such as the SAT. You could set it up so that if you had higher than a 3.7, your tuition was covered, but the lower the GPA, the higher the requisite SAT score would have to be to compete for a full-tuition scholarship. A 3.0 would make for a nice cut off point, where anything below that number precluded the possibility of full tuition, no matter how close the score was to a 1600.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/why-are-finlands-schools-successful-49859555/

 

Using Wikipedia For Academic Training

https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-with-technology-articles/wikipedia-projects-for-learning/

I found this article on the web about academics using Wikipedia in their instruction and thought it was a great idea. According to the article, the first person to implement this practice was Dr. John Beasley, at the University of British Columbia, who had students write articles about the novels they had read in his Spanish Literature class. Interestingly enough, students not only had to contribute to Wiki but were also assessed on the ratings their articles received by the Wikipedia community. Articles that were deemed good received an A, while featured articles were given an A plus.
Such a system of evaluation really incentivizes students to participate in sharing knowledge in an accessible way. Since many of editors on Wikipedia happen to be academics, it also integrates the writer into a culture of collegial learning and scholarly production. There are, however, some even wider implications that have not yet been expressed; I think Wikipedia’s use in the classroom has the potential to change scholarly culture in the humanities in a couple of ways.
The first is that it returns knowledge production to an egalitarian position, where making an addition, or emendation, to the existing corpus of knowledge is something that everybody can take part in, and not just something that happens in scholarly and specialized enclaves. In making the culture of learning more democratic, scholarly culture itself is forced to remain accessible, mitigating the fear of scholarship becoming self-selecting and far removed from the larger concerns of society.
Being on an equal playing field with an audience who does not possess specialized knowledge, scholarly currency, or an overly sophisticated vocabulary, also leads to the second effect of scholars having to have a deeper knowledge of their subject matter. Personally, I have found that I don’t really know something well unless I am able to explain it in at least two different ways, and I think this applicable to all scholarly pursuits. If an idea can be explained simply, why revel in unnecessary obfuscation and prolixity?
I know that most of the time that I have resorted to wordiness or abstract explanations, it has been to mask some deficiency of knowledge on my own part, and not because it was necessary. I think we, as writers, especially need this dose of humble pie. If we have introduced a theory that simply does not make sense when we attempt to translate it into simpler language, perhaps there is something wrong with the chain of concepts that we are suggesting. Altogether, I think that teaching students to write for Wiki will be a boon scholarship because it allows for knowledge checking, clarity, and revision—all processes which would enhance scholarship as a product.

 

Open Access Journal: ” Arguments and Computation”

 

This journal is published through IOS publishing house in Amsterdam. “Arguments and Computations” strives to publish work that contributes to the field of computational argumentation: an interdisciplinary field that works to identify argumentative structures so that computers can use these structures in reasoning related tasks. Though it is located at the fringe of my field, the journal’s subject matter is still highly germane to the study of writing and rhetoric, as rhetoric was the discipline in which argumentation originated. The journal is interdisciplinary, in that it involves broader issues in argumentation theory which are not limited strictly to computer-based research. I have listed the topics on which it accepts submissions at the end of the post.
In regard to open access, the journal does not lay out its philsophy; nor does it appear to be interested in positioning itself in the open access space. It does state that submissions are published online shortly after acceptance. This is interesting because I think the journal does not really have competitive aims; it is simply seeking to serve as forum for those that may have a stake in the type of scholarship that it promotes. The only stated interest is in the “dissemination of high-quality papers.”
If taken at its word, the broadest means of dissemination require it to be open access. This would also fit in quite well with the journal’s goal of “ acknowledging richness and diversity and promoting integration.” While the promotion of such diversity does not mandate an environment of open access, it is most likely greatly facilitated by it. In a world where disciplines are becoming more and more specialized, increasing diversity means going against the pay to play environment that is so characteristic of contemporary academic culture. The very fact that certain institutions may have access to a particular journal, and others might not, automatically limits the pool of scholars that might take an interest in submitting their work for publication and serving on the editorial board. As an interdisciplinary journal, “ Arguments and Computation” might also face considerable discrimination in terms of acquisition if it were to use a more traditional model of publication. Argument is not really in vogue at the moment in writing studies; neither is collaboration with STEM related fields. Typically, at least in rhetorical studies, the term interdisciplinary only really functionally refers to those fields which are in fashion at that particular moment in scholarship, in that scholars in the field of rhetoric may find a set of theories in other fields that they like, but not be interested in anything else.

https://content.iospress.com/journals/argument-and-computation/10/1

Non exhaustive list of topics that submissions could deal with:

Formal, semi-formal and informal models for argumentation;
Dialogue based on argumentation;
Argumentation and computational linguistics;
Argument mining;
Argumentation and defeasible reasoning;
Argumentation and game theory;
Argumentation and probability;
Argumentation and logic programming;
Argumentation and narrative;
Analogical argumentation;
Reasoning about action and time with argumentation;
Decision making based on argumentation;
Strategies in argumentation;
Argumentation in agents and multi-agent systems;
Argumentation for coordination and coalition formation;
Argument-based negotiation, dispute resolution and mediation;
Argumentation, trust and reputation;
Argumentation and human-computer interaction;
Argumentation and machine learning;
Computational properties of argumentation systems;
Implementation of argumentation systems;
Tools for supporting and teaching argumentation;
Innovative applications based on argumentation;
Computational argumentation in specific argument-intensive domains, such as science, business, law, medicine, government, forensics.

Ethics 2 corrected post

I am writing about the case of Kenneth Walker at the University of Pittsburgh. He falsified data in manuscripts, grant applications, and publications. He was conducting research in genetics at the time, and it was found that he falsified trends of statistical significance. He was essentially caught by his two co-authors, who were not charged with research misconduct.
The investigation of his work led to him being placed under close supervision for three years following his misconduct. I think this case raises interesting questions about the proper severity of the punishment for outright confabulation of data. I am not sure that I think the direct consequences were severe enough, but it seems like the indirect consequences were it ending his research career.
This is a pretty simple case, where the author clearly intended to make up findings for their own personal gain. I would like to contrast it with an instance of plagarism in my own field. An unintentional case of plagarism at Brown University was committed by English professor, Vanessa Ryan. I found this article interesting because, as usual, it raises questions about the role of intentionality in deciding issues of plagarism, especially in the humanities. I think humanist scholars are in a unique position because what we usually market is our interpretations of other’s words and their ramifications. We develop systems of analysis that extract meanings, and this, then, becomes our contribution.
So, our role is to formulate a new view on someone else’s view, essentially. The questions we seek to answer usually concern, “how can so and so be read,” “ or what role does concept X play in this work.” This means that the field is a little bit more than just social. We entirely rely on the ideas of others in order to formulate our own work. I, for one, am frequently pressured not to write an article unless at least two to three scholars have already published on the topic.
This poses many dilemmas in and of itself ( how in the world does on publish something completely original?), but it also says a lot about how easy it would be to unintentionally plagiarize in this field. A scholarly monograph usually contains the opinions of dozens, if not hundreds, of people, and each must be properly attributed.
In Ryan’s work, a good deal of the plagarism stemmed from the improper attribution of opinions. The article states specifically that the work had several unattributed quotes but that there was no attempt to present the views of someone else as her own. It was due to this fact that the committee did not find her guilty of committing a serious research infraction. I think that the conclusion was appropriate because it was reached by panel with no connection to the author, and the panel rested its conclusion on the ground that the issues found “ weren’t central to Ryan’s argument, and were related to “peripheral or contextual issues” (Qtd in, “Flaherty).
This is how I think cases of plagarism within my field should be dealt with. Since the contribution is usually an argument about a work, it is the originality of the argument that should be assessed. While a method that is this generous may be seen as weak, I think it is pivotal that we have some means of distinguishing cases of intentional and unintentional plagarism and that these criteria be set for each field. These criteria need to be able to distinguish between cases like Walkers,’ where the author seriously meant to misrepresent their findings, and those like Ryan’s, which arise from mere carelessness. Misattributing quotes is one thing, faking data is another.

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/04/25/investigation-brown-professors-plagiarism-case-goes-public
by
Colleen Flaherty

https://ori.hhs.gov/content/case-summary-walker-kenneth

https://www.post-gazette.com/news/education/2016/05/10/Former-Pitt-researcher-accused-of-falsifying-data/stories/201605100057

Former Pitt postdoc admits to faking data

Ethics in English

I have chosen to write about a case of unintentional plagarism at Brown University committed by English professor, Vanessa Ryan. I found this article interesting because, as usual, it raises questions about the role of intentionality in deciding issues of plagarism, especially in the humanities. I think humanist scholars are in a unique position because what we usually market is our interpretations of other’s words and their ramifications. We develop systems of analysis that extract meanings, and this, then, becomes our contribution.
So, our role is to formulate a new view on someone else’s view, essentially. The questions we seek to answer usually concern, “how can so and so be read,” “ or what role does concept X play in this work.” This means that the field is a little bit more than just social. We entirely rely on the ideas of others in order to formulate our own work. I, for one, am frequently pressured not to write an article unless at least two to three scholars have already published on the topic.
This poses many dilemmas in and of itself ( how in the world does on publish something completely original?), but it also says a lot about how easy it would be to unintentionally plagiarize in this field. A scholarly monograph usually contains the opinions of dozens, if not hundreds, of people, and each must be properly attributed.
In Ryan’s work, a good deal of the plagarism stemmed from the improper attribution of opinions. The article states specifically that the work had several unattributed quotes but that there was no attempt to present the views of someone else as her own. It was due to this fact that the committee did not find her guilty of committing a serious research infraction. I think that the conclusion was appropriate because it was reached by panel with no connection to the author, and the panel rested its conclusion on the ground that the issues found “ weren’t central to Ryan’s argument, and were related to “peripheral or contextual issues” (Qtd in, “Flaherty).
This is how I think cases of plagarism within my field should be dealt with. Since the contribution is usually an argument about a work, it is the originality of the argument that should be assessed. While a method that is this generous may be seen as weak, I think it is pivotal that we have some means of distinguishing cases of intentional and unintentional plagarism and that these criteria be set for each field. It is just too easy to accidentally plagiarize, and I think we would all want some grace extended to us if it were our work that was in question.

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/04/25/investigation-brown-professors-plagiarism-case-goes-public

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