Sunday, May 24, 2015

Administration vs. Teaching

I am currently serving in an interim administrative position.  I enjoy it very much and appreciate the opportunity.  However, I do not want to hold on to it too tenaciously.  My future in this position is in God's hands.

Due to a past commitment, though, I am also teaching two classes this summer.  Driving home the privilege of teaching occurred to me.  I have been trying to get away from it because I have done it so long, yet am I devaluing it in favor of the supposed power of administration?  How can I devalue something as important as teaching, such an honor, such a joy?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Discretion, Social Media, and Higher Ed Teaching

I am currently fulfilling an administrative role at my college.  It is interim, and I do not know my future other than I will be at that institution for a little while longer.  I enjoy it very much, although the two aspects of teaching I liked the most--the students and my teaching colleagues--are not as large a part of my life right now.

Between finishing my doctorate and stepping into this role, I have to admit to a different self-view and more reticence about what I put on my blogs.  Many things I would like to sound off about I realize it's best not to "go there."  At least while I am "assistant vice president," I will censor myself about
upcoming Supreme Court decisions
the fact that I got a solicitation from the Bill Clinton Foundation today (they want MY money?)
the democratic presidential candidates
The current president
Amtrak accidents
Affordable Care Act
murderers at the Boston marathon

But anyone who reads this can probably figure it out.

All that said, I have been following the brouhaha over the Boston University faculty member (actually, she's not actually there yet, but coming in the fall) who tweeted about white male college students.  Free speech aside, I think college faculty should just put away the tweet machine.  It is just too easy.  The medium is the message, and tweets simple cannot allow anything but potshots that are too easy to take out of context, too quick to go viral, and that lack the nuance of academic discourse. 

I have only gotten in trouble for something I blogged or Facebooked one time, and I learned my lesson.  I was being completely honest at the time and meant no harm, but it seemed so.  This is all so contextless and impersonal!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

One week out from doctoral graduation

Last Friday I graduated from the University of Georgia with my Ed.D.  I was hooded, and have the photos to prove it (although I can't get a transcript yet).  I plan to use it to advance the profession of college teaching by helping individual instructors and hopefully to make more money (why else spend three years of one's life on such a process). 

Flipping the Classroom--Or not

An incident with a student today got me thinking about the "flipping the classroom" trend, or buzzword, or fad, or whatever you feel disposed to call it.  However, as I am now an administrator for an indeterminate amount of time, I can't go into the details of the encounter, so I'll skip to the reflection.  Suffice it to say that the student was complaining that some instructors had gone to a "flipped classroom" approach and it didn't work for this particular student.

So, why did it not work for this student?  One of three reasons:
1.  the student did not do her part to make the learning strategy work
2.  the instructors did it "wrong"
3.  the instructional strategy of flipping is not the perfection it is touted as.

Now, I am being purposefully snarky.  I do not hold to #3.  Flipping is something good teachers have been doing for a long time, but good teachers have not been flipping, too.

What about #1?  Highly possible.  Other instructors who have tried to "flip" have complained that students do not respond well to it because it's more work for them. 

#2?  Also highly possible, because the use of any new instructional strategy is not automatic.  It takes time, just like a course redesign is not complete on the first day of the semester.  By "wrong" I don't mean they were clueless and incompetent, but that the method had not reached its full potential because they had little experience with it.

A colleague says of "flipping"--"what a unique and innovative concept--having the students read the material before coming to class!"  Of course there is more to it, in that the class meeting is supposed to be interactive, practice-oriented, discursive, engaged--just not lecture or content delivery. 

I have written on this blog about the pros and cons of lecture.  Suffice to say, some students learn--or think they do--better through lecture.  Of course, this goes to a deeper question--what is learning, and who judges if learning is accomplished?  If I think I have learned, have I?  In the case of classes, an external measurement says so, and in this student's case, she hadn't.  But why? Because she chose not to take advantage of the new method, or didn't understand it, or it was done insufficiently?

I would love to have some input here.