Category Archives: GRAD 5104: Preparing the Future Professoriate

Additional Blog Post – Depth Over Breadth

For my additional blog post I have decided to expand on my teaching pedagogy. My teaching pedagogy aligns closely with Paulo Freire, meaning that I view teaching as an ethical practice where I value the respectful exchange of ideas and opinions while also being mindful of the power I have in the classroom (Freire, 1998). An article by Terry McGlynn tilted “Are You Teaching Content, Or Just Covering Material?” caught my attention because I believe we have an ethical responsibility as educators to encourage critical thinking. With this in mind, McGlynn (2020) argues that covering material is akin to students’ having a breadth of knowledge, but not having the depth of concepts to truly articulate what they learned. This lack of depth also hinders a student’s ability to think critically because they have been restricted to a surface-level understanding of the content. When one “covers material” they are just talking about the topics, but if one “teaches content” they are giving students an opportunity to think critically and deepen their knowledge on a smaller number of topics.

McGlynn (2020) goes on to provide scenarios which promote genuine learning among students. For example, one scenario discusses the utility of having small groups work together to solve a single problem related to a particular theory/concept. In that same amount of time teachers can cover multiple concepts that students barely grasp. When the learning environment is superficial, then we as teachers have failed students miserably. I think this is why we see low attendance in synchronous classes as the weeks go on because students pick up on our teaching styles. Therefore, when things get stressful, humans get practical. Students may then rationalize skipping a class only to catch up on the lecture slides later. This process completely negates the purpose of having synchronous instruction. This also gives false security to students because they may not see a difference in these two types of learning. This isn’t to say that students may not learn just as well, or more, asynchronously — but when a class isn’t set up to be self-guided, moments for genuine learning are missed. I see this more as a cyclical process rather than a linear one because one’s decision to skip a lecture may be reinforced by an instructor’s teaching style.

As I reflect on the points made in this article, I compare my teaching pedagogy to my actual practice. McGlynn (2020) makes a compelling point near the end of the article by suggesting that there are curriculum-bound constraints that make it impossible for educators to engage in this type of in-depth teaching approach. As a graduate teaching assistant, I find myself in this category because there is a certain percentage of content that must be covered in the course I teach. What isn’t clear, however, is how I go about this. As higher education becomes more intentional in accommodating student needs, especially during a pandemic, we may see rapid changes in how instruction is carried out. One solution could be to spread out the content between 2-3 courses, this way teachers and students don’t have to cram so much content into one semester. As someone who teaches human sexuality, I could definitely see students benefitting from a course like mine being a 2-part course. In this scenario, the fundamental concepts are covered in the first course, with the second course covering more advanced, in-depth concepts. One issue here is the potential for students to only take the first course, therefore, missing out on additional important topics covered in the second course.

Until administrators view learning as a process rather than an outcome, we will continue to have courses that apply a breadth framework, rather than one that promotes depth and genuine learning.

Future of the University

If I could pick one thing to change about higher education, I would change the way institutions prioritize social justice. In an ideal world, academic institutions would center the liberation of the most oppressed. Many institutions today ask for an “Inclusion & Diversity Statement” for prospective faculty and require trainings to students and faculty geared at reducing implicit biases.

I found an article by Randall (2019) that offers what seems to be a counter argument. This article also hits close to home because the universities referenced are located in my home state of North Carolina. The author appears to be making an argument for less social justice advocates in higher education. They conceptualize advocacy as a political, polarizing issue that left-wing democrats are trying to push. Ironically, the author’s photo is provided and he appears to be a White gentleman. This is particularly of interest to me because there was no discussion of their own privileges and biases as a White person critiquing social justice. This is the first step in the social justice movement that I would want to see highlighted in higher education: People in positions of power, ranging from admissions to faculty to graduate teaching assistants, need to consider power dynamics. These dynamics are hierarchical, which is either supported or complicated by one’s social location. For example, as a Black educator, I felt it was a microaggression when a White student attempted to delegitimize one of my lectures for my misuse of grammar on a PowerPoint slide. I am always open to feedback, but the point here is that Black women are often made to feel inferior and/or taken less seriously than White men, White women, and Black men. To this day, I wonder if this student would have approached a White cis male professor in the same way, with the same critiques. Possibly, this student would have stopped and reflected on whether or not it was necessary to undermine his professor. Despite the series of unfortunate events, I handle each awkward encounter like this with grace and curiosity before I try to assume intent. An institution that prioritizes social justice would have advocated for this student to take a similar reflexive approach.

I speak from experience because I attended a master’s program where this idea was implemented. This program offered a systemic multicultural counseling certificate, which any program with a clinical emphasis could apply for and complete. By proxy, the students in my program were required to take most of the courses that met the certificate requirements. Beyond this, the faculty members of the program would explicitly name the classroom climate if certain sociopolitical topics made individuals tense or quiet. For example, I remember one lecture where we were naming internalized racial stereotypes people have about one’s self and other cultures. As the conversation progressed, someone made the statement about skin bleaching and how this technique of lightening one’s skin has become so common across countries, that people can buy creams and other topical agents online and at various stores. Something about this shift in the dialogue made a few of my classmates uncomfortable. The faculty, a Black cis man, asked the class to spend that week’s discussion post to reflect on what was happening for us internally. In the following class we continued the dialogue, addressing implicit biases and how those show up directly in the classroom. He took this opportunity not to critique, but to authentically educate us.

Technology and Innovation in Higher Education

This infographic is from 2014, yet the findings are interesting to compare to classrooms today. During a pandemic, classrooms are virtual and technology has been crucial in keeping institutions running. Students may face more distractions, that are not limited to technology, through remote instruction at home. Additionally, instructors may have a harder time intervening when technology becomes a distraction because the features on zoom allow for one to mute or turn off their camera.

However, the actions of taking one’s phone, or answering a student’s phone in class, seem invasive to say the least. Also, I do not agree with the extra credit assignment to “bust” students who are using social media. If a student is distracted by a classmate, I wonder what other practical solutions would suffice. I think about a distracted student moving seats, but then the issue of accessibility arises. This also can create distractions for even more students as one packs up their belongings and relocates to a spot in the classroom that is more conducive to their learning. I struggle, personally, to find a solution that does not cause further harm, or publicly embarrass a student.

When I apprenticed for the class that I currently teach, the professor had the students read an article on the use of laptops in class. The name of the article is escaping me, or else I would include it here. The conclusion drawn was that laptops are incredibly distracting, not only for peers, but for the student who is using their devices for unrelated tasks (i.e. instant messaging, checking Facebook, or responding to emails).

Turning back to the present, I think there are effective ways to measure classroom engagement despite distractions. This parallels the argument that cameras on in a Zoom class violate students’ privacy and autonomy. For instance, students can do a poll or instructors can do break out rooms and monitor each room. These are just two ways that educators can assess learning, while also being mindful that remote instruction is relatively new, therefore, hopefully we develop more creative ways of assessing student participation in the near future to prevent burnout and poor performance.

Open Access in Psychotherapy Research

Coincidentally, I had a difficult time finding an open access journal relevant to my discipline. My department is situated within the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and my program is Marriage and Family Therapy. Therefore, I wanted to find an open access journal that is relevant to the field of psychotherapy.

A journal that mostly fits my criteria is called Acta Psychopathologica, which falls underneath the umbrella of Insight Medical Publishing (iMedPub). With an impact factor of 1.2, this international journal is based in London, UK. According to their home page, iMedPub has a review process that is sophisticated and prompt. The specific journal I looked at covers a wide scope of psychopathological dysfunctions and psychiatric diagnoses. I appreciate how the journal breaks down the different categories, or keywords, that are covered. An aim of this publication is for research to have a global reach. They execute this pretty well. For instance, each Acta Psychopathologica journal subcategory crosses over with other journals. The advantage here is that research is presented through a transdisciplinary lens. This is a disadvantage, however, when one is looking exclusively within their field rather than between fields.

Regarding open access, this journal does explain what this means by stating, “open access means that anyone with internet access can find and read your work, offering you a wider audience and greater reach. Recent literature shows that articles published in open access journals are highly cited than those in non-open access journals.”

I see the benefits and potential risks in citing an article that is published in an open access journal. The benefit of expanding your reach is phenomenal — paywalls definitely prevent non-researchers from accessing knowledge — but, the drawback is relying on information that comes from a source that lacks quality control.

In therapy, our first rule is to do no harm. If citing an open access journal, I would want to further validate the findings by looking up empirical articles that cite the work.

Let’s Talk Ethics

Before deciding on a case to discuss, I first browsed through every case listed on the Office of Research Integrity website to get an overall sense of what types of ethical misconduct have been reported throughout the years. My initial thought was surprisingly positive because there are few cases listed, which may be a good sign that most researchers practice with integrity. Unfortunately, I found that most cases come from schools of medicine, which is concerning because medical science researchers help to inform policy by providing the public with legitimate claims. Additionally, cases with a medical component are possibly basing their samples on vulnerable populations, such as older adults or folks living with a physical or cognitive impairment. This further supports my concerns regarding dissemination of misinformation because of researchers’ lack of sensitivity for participants’ unique health risks. To clarify, life expectancy for older adults and for individuals living with certain diseases is lower compared to relatively younger and healthier individuals. If there are few options for improving one’s quality of life, a person may feel strongly inclined to participate in research that is aiming to do just that.

One specific case stood out to me and it is the claim that a researcher at a medical center in New York defrauded his sponsors and even plead guilty to negligent homicide because of his misconduct. Upon his sentencing, he also received a charge for lying on his job application when asked if he had ever been charged with a felony. The felony is unrelated to his research, but it does make me question the overall integrity of this individual. This case is one example of vulnerable populations being exploited for the sake of producing favorable research. In the end justice prevailed; this person is no longer allowed to conduct research and has been debarred from his post at the medical center in New York.

Mission Statements

Mission and vision statements outline the history, purpose, and future goals of an institution. Cortés-Sánchez described the mission and vision as distinct statements, where the first is focused on: (1) the existence of the organization, (2) its beliefs, (3) policies that guide decision-making, and (4) the plan for executing its purpose; whereas vision statements also focus on values and principles of an institution, but are more future-oriented. For this assignment, I chose to take a closer look at my alma mater for my bachelor’s (the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) and master’s (Appalachian State University) degrees.

The UNCG Mission and Vision Statement

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro will redefine the public research university for the 21st century as an inclusive, collaborative, and responsive institution making a difference in the lives of students and the communities it serves.

UNCG is …

    • A learner-centered, accessible, and inclusive community fostering intellectual inquiry to prepare students for meaningful lives and engaged citizenship;
    • An institution offering classes on campus, off campus, and online for degree-seeking students and life-long learners;
    • A research university where collaborative scholarship and creative activity enhance quality of life across the life-span;
    • A source of innovation and leadership meeting social, economic, and environmental challenges in the Piedmont Triad, North Carolina, and beyond; and
    • A global university integrating intercultural and international experiences and perspectives into learning, discovery, and service.

Appalachian State University Mission, Vision, and Values

Our Mission
Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as engaged global citizens who understand their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. Our location in the distinctive Appalachian mountain town of Boone, North Carolina, profoundly shapes who we are. As a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina, we fulfill our core academic missions of teaching, scholarship, and service in ways that honor our geography and heritage.

We bring people together in inspiring ways. The transformational Appalachian experience develops individuals who are eager to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, to embrace diversity and difference, and to become contributing members of society.

We create rich environments where students can thrive. Our students are educated broadly and are simultaneously equipped with strong disciplinary knowledge. Academic learning occurs in a wide range of undergraduate, selected masters and intermediate programs, and the doctorate in Education offered on campus, at off campus sites, and online.

Faculty and students engage in research and scholarship that advance knowledge and address the problems of our region, state, and world through creativity and innovation. Learning takes place within formal and informal instructional settings with dedicated faculty members, in cocurricular programs that enrich classroom experience, in interdisciplinary educational formats, and through outreach to the local community and beyond. Appalachian cultivates diverse and vibrant arts that enrich the cultural and intellectual climate of the campus and region.

We promote a spirit of inclusion that inspires students, faculty, and staff to form relationships extending well beyond graduation. Our students think critically, communicate effectively, make local to global connections, and understand the responsibilities of community engagement. We embrace our obligation to help create healthy, just, and sustainable societies by equipping our students to live with knowledge, compassion, dedication, humility, and dignity.

Our Vision
Appalachian State University aspires to be the destination institution for dedicated students who seek challenging academic programs and cocurricular experiences, engaged faculty and a vibrant campus culture that will shape them into engaged, responsible global citizens. Inspired by the ideal of sustainable community, we seek to deliver the Southeast’s best comprehensive, progressive education. Additionally, the university will provide excellent value; will be an influential world citizen; and will develop a distinctive identity built on the university’s strengths, location and tradition.

Our Essential Character and Core Values
Appalachian State University is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a place of great beauty and cultural and recreational opportunity. The mountains inspire an appreciation for the traditions of the region as we connect to and learn from the world. We are a teaching institution with small classes in an innovative, interdisciplinary, and integrative curriculum supported by a faculty dedicated to research and invested in new strategies and technologies. Our faculty and staff inspire our students, who have a strong service ethic and involvement in the community. The green ethos at Appalachian infuses academic programs, environmental stewardship, research, and a community with an attitude of care for the planet.

Reflections 

What stands out to me initially is the difference in length for each university. For instance, App State explicitly states their mission and vision, whereas UNCG seemed to group these two concepts together. Additionally, App State further expanded on their principles by including a brief paragraph on their values. What is unique about App State is the community-centered approach to their statement. Boone, NC is a small Appalachia town, comparable to Blacksburg. Specifically, App State does a great job at connecting the town and the institution to create a cohesive environment on and off-campus. UNCG is located in Greensboro, NC and is well-known for its accessibility to commuters in surrounding cities. This is apparent in their mission statement because they are explicit about their reach as an institution to the Piedmont area. Additionally, UNCG emphasizes the life-long, global learner in their statement, which I believe is consistent with their actions as an institution.