Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The New Liberal Arts

By Michael Staton for Inside Higher Ed

Up to half of new graduates, by some estimates, are finding themselves jobless or underemployed. Why? As Andrew Sum, the director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University said, "Simply put, we’re failing kids coming out of college." Recent pieces in The Atlantic and The Weekly Standard (claiming that the proponents of the liberal arts have "lost the war" and the liberal arts has been "killed.") and elsewhere place much of the blame on liberal arts programs.

Let it be known, I was a student of the liberal arts (geography, Asian studies) at a liberal arts college (Clark University) and I founded and run a technology company in Silicon Valley. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want our so-called "soft" studies (humanities, social sciences) to show some spine and create a response. The typical defense of the status quo involves spinning the value of a liberal arts education, pitching the curriculum as promoting the ability to problem-solve, learn to learn, and thrive in a knowledge economy. If the curriculum is teaching such skills as adapting to a knowledge economy, why can’t the professors that teach such great skills to thrive in a changing world employ them with some grace and poise? How can the liberal arts, itself, adapt to a changing world?

Simply put, we need to rethink what our students do to demonstrate their understanding. I’m not suggesting that we stop teaching literature and history and economics and psychology – or that students stop majoring in these fields. But we need to ask students to create, to experiment, to be bold and possibly fail with projects and deliverables relevant in today’s world. We’re too limited by Blue Book short essays and term papers -- in which success is easily measured and bell-curved. If we shift the way we ask students to demonstrate their knowledge within liberal arts fields, we can prepare students for employment by advancing the liberal arts.

We can achieve this revitalization by asking students to acquire and demonstrate 21st-century skills as the activities and assessments within the liberal arts curriculum. No longer can we assign formats that are isolated exercises; they need to be projects that communicate with and potentially affect the wider world. While peer-reviewed journal articles and regression analysis may be the way that professors communicate, the rest of the world has updated its formats. Academe, and in particular liberal arts programs, may be on the verge of being left behind.

What skills could we teach and measure in a new liberal arts?

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2012/10/16/essay-calling-new-skills-be-added-liberal-arts-disciplines

Journal of College Science Teaching Call for Papers

The Two-Year Community section of the Journal of College Science Teaching, edited by Dr. David M. Majerich, invites submissions on aspects of teaching and learning of special importance in the community college environment. Coordination of science education efforts in the community college classroom with subsequent educational and/or workforce expectations and professional issues of science instructors at community colleges are of particular interest. Some broad topics of interest include the following:
  • Programs aimed at promoting college completion
  • New approaches to measure college readiness
  • Coordination efforts (across secondary and two-year communities, and two-year and four-year communities)
  • Developmental, remedial, and online course development, implementation, and assessment
  • Gender and diversity issues in the classroom
  • Industry and professional organization partnerships and programs
  • Novel STEM course development, implementation, and assessment
  • Professional development for two-year faculty
  • Research on STEM teaching and learning outcomes
  • Unique programs that address retention and attrition
  • Science standards adoption
  • STEM outreach programs
  • Technical certification course development, implementation, and assessment
  • Innovative technology adoption and curricular integration in the classroom or laboratory
  • Improving transfer and articulation agreements between two- and four-year communities
  • Undergraduate research experiences and learning outcomes
  • Workforce development
Prospective contributors are encouraged to contact the column editor by e-mail to discuss the suitability of a given idea for this column. Submissions are limited to 3,000 words exclusive of tables, figures, and references. Submissions reporting on investigations or those that review other literature will be double-blind peer-reviewed. Editorial submissions will be assessed for their level of novel contribution. Accepted editorials will be designated as such (and therefore nonpeer-reviewed) in the journal and should be limited to 1,000 words.

Inquiries concerning the suitability of possible contributions to the Two-Year Community column should be sent by e-mail directly to:

David M. Majerich
Science Educator and Research Scientist II
Design and Intelligence Laboratory
School of Interactive Computing
Georgia Institute of Technology
85 Fifth Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30342

For more information: http://www.nsta.org/college/twoyearcommunity.aspx

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Faculty Spotlight - Janet Willman

English Instructor
SouthShore Campus

“Memorization is what we resort to when what we are learning makes no sense.”
Picture of Janet Willman
Capital Course:
I enjoy teaching ENC 1101 the most. I enjoy having students tell me that my instruction is helping them succeed in other courses. I also know that I am making a difference when a student tells me that he or she wishes my class was taken first because what I am teaching would have helped.

Ideal Ideology: Learning occurs when students feel safe, when students are not afraid to give answers even if the answer might be incorrect. As an instructor, it is my job to provide that safe atmosphere. Once that atmosphere has been established in my classroom, learning can occur. In this environment, I provide students with instruction that will help them succeed in any course and in the business world where oral and written communication is a necessity.

Teachable Moment:
I had a student in my ENC 1101 class who plagiarized a paper. I talked with her, and she admitted it was a student’s paper from an earlier class of mine. I gave her a zero for that assignment, and advised her to do all of her own work in the future. I was very surprised to find that she signed up for my ENC 1102 class this semester. On the first day of class, she told me that she had signed up for me again because even though she had done the wrong thing in the previous class, she was completely comfortable with me. I had treated her with the same respect I had before she had cheated. She said she knew I didn’t hold grudges and would not hold it against her in this class. I think this demonstrates the safe environment I referred to early. She felt safe enough to return to me even though she knew I would be checking everything she wrote.

Student Success:
In my ENC 1101 class, on the first or second day of class, I give students a topic for a sample essay. I make comments on them just like I would any other essay written in that class. But I keep them. Near the end of the semester, I give the students the same topic again as an in-class writing. Once I grade them, I staple them to the first one they wrote and hand both back. The students are thrilled to see their progress. There are such drastic differences in the two pieces of writing. I have so many students thank me for doing this because they say it really shows their progress and it builds their confidence for future classes.

Techno Tool:
I use Blackboard to post PowerPoint presentations, missed notes, tips of the week for writing assignments. The students complain when I forget to post.

Optimized Advice:
Be active in the course. When I teach an on-line course, I am in the course shell five days per week. I have a discussion board every week which forces students to be active weekly. Because I am present in the course on a regular basis, fewer students are skipping out on assignments. If there is nothing for me to grade or respond to, I find out who has not logged in that week, and I send them a friendly email. Many instructors will put complete responsibility on the student. But I find myself encouraging students in my face to face classes to be on time, participate, be timely with assignments, and online, is no different in my mind.