Most undergraduates on Thanksgiving break were enjoying family, food, and festivities. There is plenty of research that speaks to regression and a loss of skills during breaks in the academic school year for students. Students with learning disabilities are more highly proportionately affected by longer breaks. Teachers and parents can combat this regression by encouraging activities throughout the break which reinforce topics learned in the semester.
Meanwhile other PhD colleagues and myself were busy hammering away on projects, final papers, and presentations. Not a moment to lose because once break ended there were only 2.5 weeks left before the end of class. Deadlines loomed and advancement on work had to happen or we knew that we’d be pulling all nighters very soon. I thought this paradox between undergraduate and PhD level was interesting and worth talking about.
As we continue along under the current administration we will see shrinking operational budgets and increasing financial aid needs. The article poignantly speaks about these issues such as with traditional “brick and mortar” institutions being challenged by “for-profit” companies who offer nontraditional scheduling and modality of instruction. The current university state must adapt or risk being pushed out of the market. One thing that is constant across the higher education system is the use of adjunct faculty to reduce tenured expenditures. This is seen largely in community colleges and professional degree programs.
There was research in 2006 that showed community colleges with heavy reliance on part-time faculty had the lowest graduation rates. This brought up the concern of: how are the adjunct professors evaluated; are they able to obtain professional development; and, are they able to join a faculty union? Obviously another major concern is how this mode of education is affecting the students. Community colleges and universities that employ adjunct professors may be getting a better deal with their deduction in labor expenditures, but, the overall health of the institution may be suffering.
The article I read today really had me thinking about the future of the university and our higher education system in general. It started out talking about how a few years ago the media compared “the imminent future of 2015” as depicted in Back To The Future Part II and the actual advancements at the time. One major thing that was omitted was the invention of the internet or better known as the world wide web. What if as we discuss this topic now we miss such a critical component of the future university?!? Can we expand our minds and be creative enough to think that far outside the box?
The article states that we might not have anyone to teach because the jobs we are preparing students for currently, might be done by robotics. It also speaks about how most classes will be taught online. Obviously, those requiring labs such as in the sciences or medical field will still have to have on campus curriculum. The current rage is “flipping the classroom” in which students lead the discussion and the teacher takes on more of an advisory role. Will this reverse in 2030 as the pedagogical pendulum swings back to a more autocratic institution? Knowledge is advancing at such a rapid pace it is questionable to think that professors will have the base to educate students without themselves first going back to school. Finally, problem focused research and interdisciplinary collaborations must happen because the world is becoming more and more interconnected.
I really enjoyed reading these viewpoints, although some of them were a little too doomsday for my taste. I thought the “imagery” of the pendulum swinging back and forth helped me put things into perspective.
An article I recently read was on the topic of innovation in the classroom in higher education. I primarily focused on the discussion regarding “flipped classrooms” because this was a recent experience in one of my own seminars here at VT. I had never heard of the term before so I was interested to find out why we were doing it. It is a new model in higher education in which the students spend time discussing or presenting topic ideas and the professor acts more as a facilitator than an educator.
Often times in a seminar students are “spoken” at and not actively involved in the information that is presented. The flipped classroom model allows the students to process a complex problem or subject matter and then teach it back to their colleagues in a language that is interesting and one they understand.
I personally enjoyed my own flipped classroom experience so I’m happy to see this is an education model that is being explored in a more rigorous manner across the system as a whole.
I read a journal article titled “Impact factors: Influencing careers, creativity and academic freedom” by Dallen Timothy in Tourism Management from 2015. The essay details strategies one must employ when trying to obtain tenure at a university. When evaluating the tenure process it all comes back to one key indicator: the impact factor of journals. When professors are trying to get tenure they must publish in “high impact” journals which are set by their governing board. The unfortunate challenge of Open Access journals is that they are not on these “lists”. In order to become more widely used in academia OA journals first have to become relevant to the governing boards. Literally, what counts is what is counted.
The author states it best when he says: “My comments reflect concerns regarding impact factors as inhibitors of younger-career academics, limiters of academic freedom, and suppressors of creativity and innovation.” He supports the idea that the more freedom to publish where one desires will encourage a new generation of critical thinkers. We can’t get outside the box when the box is made of steel.
Having just started my career at a top research institution I was shocked to read the article that was published last month via ABC News. The article revolves around three research professors at Dartmouth University who are under criminal investigation for allegations of sexual misconduct. As a new student I had to undergo official IRB certification as part of my onboarding before I could progress onto my TA position or implement research sponsored by the institution. Considering this particular research focused on studies of sexual desire and attractiveness I would have thought that a high level of scrutiny had been applied by the IRB and local university itself throughout all phases of the research. Shame on them for not doing so.
Other articles speak about the situation in which the three professors created a hostile academic environment involving excessive drinking, favoritism, and inappropriate behavior were the norm. In total around 15 students have filed official complaints and the university is complying with law enforcement for a full investigation.
Innocent until proven guilty, however, in my opinion reputation is will also be lost regardless of the litigation outcome.
There is little doubt that Hurricane Maria changed the island nation of Puerto Rico. However, who would have thought that it would also change the makeup of Orlando? To be more specific the education system.
Families lost everything in the natural disaster and thankfully some of them have relatives living in the US. The article estimates that more than 168,000 people fled Puerto Rico for Florida and most have landed in Orlando. This comes into consideration when speaking to the need of bilingual schools and educators because many new arrivals have a limited ability to speak English fluently. The two main schools in the county have taken in 3,680 new students since the migration started in September.
These new arrivals will tax the affordable housing market, education system, and employment sector. However, they are more than welcome to join FL in my opinion! Trump’s mistreatment and double standard for not effectively helping them regain control of Puerto Rico in an efficient manner justifies allowing them to resettle here in the states. They are technically citizens after all!
Earlier this month I attended a seminar entitled “Current Issues & Diversity in Higher Education” with Dr. Gasman from UPenn as the headline speaker. She was absolutely motivating and enthralling in that she reviewed the current system of higher education and challenged all practitioners in the room to take a look at themselves to evaluate how “positively” they encourage and mentor student success. Dr. Gasman applied for and won a $3 million grant to research why/how some HBCU, Tribal Colleges, and predominantly minority schools have had high success rates. Her Top 10 Lessons were not life shattering nor rocket science, but, rather boiled down to basic human decency which in my opinion is becoming lost at top tier research institutions such as Virginia Tech.
Top 10 Lessons:
- Successful institutions assume success on the part of students rather than seeing students of color from a deficit perspective.
- Successful institutions teach in ways that focus on what the student needs to learn rather than what is convenient for the professor.
- Successful institutions have faculty members that allow students to bring their full identity to the classroom and capitalize on all aspects of a students identity in the learning process.
- Successful institutions have faculty members that come together to co-construct classes and a curriculum that empowers the student.
- Successful institutions provide students the opportunity to participate in culturally relevant assignment that speak to the issues in the communities from which they come.
- Successful institutions encourage students to live for something larger than themselves.
- Successful institutions gather as much data as possible on their students’ learning experiences.
- Successful institutions bring the student services and academic services sides of the institution together in order to focus on students rather than operate in silos.
- Successful institutions encourage student collaboration over competition and independence.
- Successful institutions provide students with peer mentors and peer mentoring opportunities across the curriculum.
Although we didn’t spend much time on each lesson she did review how each one positively correlated with high success in either program graduation rate, continuance of education (moving on from a college to university), and solid GPAs/class attendance. I would be willing to wager that if VT did an evaluation on these Top 10 Lessons for all PhD students they would be surprised by the low scores received. Some students like myself are constantly challenged with fitting into a “mold” that a professor wants us to be rather than encouraged to explore and bring individuality to a program. This in effect stymies the generation of the thought process and reduces our possible impact on the world at large. Challenge received and accepted……I think I’ve found an interesting research topic!
Umpqua Community College: UCC transforms lives and enriches communities.
Virginia Tech: The discovery and dissemination of new knowledge are central to its mission. Through its focus on teaching and learning, research and discovery, and outreach and engagement, the university creates, conveys, and applies knowledge to expand personal growth and opportunity, advance social and community development, foster economic competitiveness, and improve the quality of life.
Having grown up in rural Oregon, UCC is where I started my college education albeit while as a senior in high school. I took college credit Calculus, Spanish, and English at the campus. Now, I’m attending VT for a PhD in Business with a concentration in Hospitality Management. It’s intoxicating in a way to see the dichotomy between the two mission statements lined up side by side……you can really tell that one is a focused on meetings basic expectations and the other is programmed with a mindset of forward thinking and changing the world at large through research and development.
I’m thinking about it and realize that both schools experienced an active shooter in the past 10 years. What are the chances of that? How has that experience transformed or challenged current and future mission statements? I wonder if any language of the VT mission statement changed after 2007? Will the UCC mission statement change considering the recent atrocity?
LINK TO ARTICLE: http://jcs.biologists.org/content/121/11/1771
I recently read an article titled “The importance of stupidity in scientific research” by Martin Schwartz. The title caught my eye and I wondered…..what could this possibly mean?!? The author speaks fondly about running into an old colleague who was once in his PhD program but dropped out and went to Harvard Law School instead of completing the PhD program. When asked why she had dropped out of the PhD program, the colleague responded “because it made her feel stupid”.
The author declares that while growing up we “like” an academic area primarily because we are good at it; we ace exams, we can speak for hours on the topic, and in general we genuinely find the topic interesting. That all changes when entering into a PhD program. All of the sudden we have opted to solve problems or challenge long held theories in the area. We are no longer the experts but rather a novice studying new realms. We are challenging ourselves to explore the unknown. If you think about it there is no one right answer for a problem that doesn’t have a solution!
The author speaks about how “the scope of things I didn’t know weren’t just vast, they were infinite!”. This in and of itself is terrifying to most people, but, we must realize that every person in the PhD program is experiencing the same feeling. We can rest assured that the only manner of progression towards our goal is slow and steady with many mistakes along the way!!