Articles about Education
Miya Tokumitsu, of the University of Melbourne, has written an article in the online version of The Chronicle of Higher Education defending the art of lecturing. Tokumitsu has presented many of the aspects of lecturing that professors who lecture realize but never verbalize. This article is an excellent rebuttal to those tho criticize the age-old art of delivering information. She maintains that lecturing is not a passive but an active activity because the lecturer hones an argument that the audience can comprehend and the audience is engaged in listening. The most important part of Tokumitsu's article is her remarks about listening. What she failed to mention was that a crucial portion of learning to listen, in certain settings, is learning to take notes. It is a skill students largely acquire through experience, and it serves one well, not only in the classroom but in the board room and even during business meetings. For that matter, there are some crucial times during one’s personal life when active listening and note taking are beneficial skills. See http://www.chronicle.com/article/Long-Live-the-Lecture-/239555?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en&elqTrackId=365d92acdcd44ee092194ae791d8d0ed&elq=54be2c5cd9734cb9bb198ca21ceaaf57&elqaid=13161&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=5448.
President Barack Obama has proposed that community colleges be free for all students who maintain a 2.5 average and who are enrolled in vocational programs or are headed for four-year institutions. Should Congress approve the measure, the federal government would pay three-quarters of the cost. Many fear that university enrollment would drop. Furthermore, should the proposal become reality, it may dilute the community college experience even further, and universities would have to design more courses intended to strengthen the skills of students before they enter majors. In the past, the underclass experience focused on broadening a student's horizons, but in recent decades, it has taken on a remedial role because high schools are failing to prepare students for higher education. Mr. Obama's program, as admirable as it may be, will necessitate a rethinking of the college experience if the bachelor's degree is not to become further weakened. See http://chronicle.com/article/Obama-Proposes-Free-Community/151097/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has compiled a manual for flipping a classroom that is available at http://chronicle.com/article/A-Guide-to-the-Flipped/151039/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en. Those interested also can download it from this website by clicking here. The manual actually is a compilation of past articles on the subject that appeared in the Chronicle.
Steven Conn, who teaches public history at Ohio State University, is concerned about the increasing need for college students to have ever more detailed instructions from as well as constant contact with their professors instead of solving problems on their own and thinking independently. For those of us who have resisted rubrics and still expect students to be able to conceptualize and execute a research project without instruction and feedback during every step, his article is a welcome addition to the education debate. See http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2014/08/05/the-rise-of-the-helicopter-teacher/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en.
Teletandem or telecollaboration is a method of pairing students on line with their counterparts abroad so that each can learn the other’s language. The technique is in classrooms at Virginia Commonwealth University, Northern Virginia Community College, and elsewhere. The idea works when neither student has any command of the language of their counterpart, but that is not usually the case. In most of the world, children begin learning English or another foreign language at an early age. Since two speakers naturally default to the language that is easiest for communication, it is unlikely that American students will benefit from telecollaboration as much as their foreign partners. Nevertheless, those who are disciplined have a great deal to gain from the experience. See http://chronicle.com/article/Technology-Provides/146369/?cid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en.
NPR has provided an interactive graph on the numbers of students enrolled in specific majors between 1970 and 2011. History reached a low in 1984 of 1.68 percent and a high of 5.60 in 1970, and enrollment in the major stood at 2.05 percent in 2011. The graph is based on statistics from the Digest of Educational Statistics. See http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2014/05/09/310114739/whats-your-major-four-decades-of-college-degrees-in-1-graph?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20140509&utm_campaign=dailydigest&utm_term=nprnews and http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/.
A proposed law in Florida will force college professors to use text books for three years and make it difficult to change texts. The effort is an attempt to hold down the rising cost of texts, but it has negative repercussions on academic freedom and effective teaching. Once adopting a book, professors will be unable to change a text without administrative approval, which reduces the ability of the professor to adopt more effective books that reflect the most recent research. Using the same texts during the course of several years also increases the chances for students to cheat. For all of the complications it would make for professors, the bill would have a minimum effect on keeping down the cost of texts for students because publishers frequently issue new editions, almost always at higher prices, and the older ones quickly become unavailable. The proposed law is an example of political micromanagement of state universities that has become all too frequent. See http://chronicle.com/article/Professors-Would-Have-to-Use/145861/?cid=at.
Duke University has released information about how it spends the tuition of its undergraduates in a way that no other university has in recent years. The $60,000 more than half of the undergraduates pay is divided as follows: 25 percent goes to faculty pay; 24 percent covers financial aid of nearly half of the students (slightly more than 10 percent of the students pay no tuition); 11 percent is for sponsored direct activity; 10 percent is for administrative support, including a million-dollar salary for its president (likely ten times the amount much of the university’s faculty is paid); 8 percent each for staff compensation and facilities; 7 percent for other needs; and 6 percent for academic support. It is possible that other private institutions have similar patterns for allocating undergraduate tuition. See http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2014/02/14/277015271/duke-60-000-a-year-for-college-is-actually-a-discount?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=DailyDigest&utm_campaign=20140221.
Jennifer Ebbeler explained the difficulties she encountered when flipping her Early Rome history class and the means she used to overcome them in "'Introduction to Ancient Rome,' the Flipped Version" that appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education on 22 July 2013 and is available at http://chronicle.com/article/Introduction-to-Ancient/140475/?cid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en. She warned that having students read the lectures on their own and coming to class for discussions resulted in few students doing the required work. As a result, she required quizzes the keep the students current with the material. She also noted that more work is necessary to plan the discussions for each class period, but she concluded that more students mastered the material.
The OECD and 25.7 Wall St. have released reports about education in the OECD countries and the world. In the list of the countries with the greatest number of college and university graduates, the United States ranks fifth, while Russia is first. Ironically, the US expends much more than Russia per student. The reports are at http://www.oecd.org/edu/eag2013%20%28eng%29--FINAL%2020%20June%202013.pdf and http://247wallst.com/special-report/2013/10/15/the-most-educated-countries-in-the-world-2/.
Professors long have realized that there are benefits to online education, including the flexible scheduling for both the instructor and the students. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of students and instructors also recognize that the online environment has major drawbacks. I long have been an advocate of limiting the number of online courses one can apply toward a major and toward the total number of credits needed for graduation. Such an approach, however, never would succeed at most institutions because administrators and politicians, in the case of state institutions, would object. Although they claim that online courses make education more accessible and affordable for students, the reality is that they are less expensive than traditional courses in classrooms. Despite their rhetoric, administrators and politicians are more concerned about the bottom line than pedagogy. They see online courses as requiring fewer classrooms, saving on utilities and support staff, and possibly reducing the need for other expensive facilities, such as labs and libraries. The most telling sign that online courses are potential money savers, if not money makers, is that administrators are great advocates of enticing professors to create an online course for a substantial one-time fee and then have adjuncts service the course in the future. Fortunately, most professors and departments have resisted this approach, although my evidence is anecdotal.
Rob Jenkins, an English professor at Georgia Perimeter College, has written an article that is long overdue, even though it likely will get little attention. In "Who Is Driving the Online Locomotive?" Jenkins critically examined the possible drivers of the online education trend, including MOOCs, and concluded that while students, professors, and employers see an important role for online courses, it is the administrators and politicians who are their greatest advocates. Jenkins's article appears in the 24 July 2013 online edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education and is available at http://chronicle.com/article/Who-Is-Driving-the-Online/140505/?cid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=enR.
http://finance.yahoo.com/news/high-cost-cheap-college-134909001.html. Its author claims that poor support for students at these institutions may be at fault, but it also is likely that their faculty members have high teaching loads and large classes and that their teaching assignments go beyond their qualifications.
http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/04/18/150909686/what-america-owes-in-student-loans and http://www.npr.org/2012/04/25/150882741/negotiating-the-college-funding-labyrinth?ft=3&f=1001&sc=nl&cc=nh-20120425.
Despite these historic successes, and amidst serious contemporary challenges, community colleges need to be redesigned for new times. What we find today are student success rates that are unacceptably low, employment preparation that is inadequately connected to job market needs, and disconnects in transitions between high schools, community colleges, and baccalaureate institutions. Community colleges, historically underfunded, also have been financed in ways that encourage enrollment growth, though frequently without adequately supporting that growth, and largely without incentives for promoting student success. These conditions hinder middle-class students and have a devastating effect on low-income students and students of color, those often in greatest need of what community colleges have to offer.
The full text of the report is available at http://www.aacc.nche.edu/AboutCC/21stcenturyreport/21stCenturyReport.pdf.