ayjay + teaching   46

Why Spelling Counts | John G. Stackhouse, Jr.
The ugly truth about work in this Real World, despite a generation or more of affirmation of each student’s precious wonderfulness—or, to be sure, in the alternative situation of a ruthless passing-along of barely educated pupils to the next grade level by overworked teachers whose attentions are disproportionately occupied by the variously troubled “problem children” in each excessively large class—is that few jobs, even in the Information Age, require and reward originality, or even creativity to any significant degree.

All jobs, however, require correct and complete following of instructions.

Those jobs—again, that would be all jobs—require, furthermore, such following of instructions regardless of whether one sees and agrees with the value of each instruction.

Failing to comply with the express directives of one’s supervisor is not generally understood as a mark of individual specialness. Nor do supervisors typically strain to “see past” such deviations into some underlying brilliance that more than compensates for this disappointment of expectations. No, not following instructions to the letter is more typically termed “cause for termination.”
march 2017 by ayjay
amor mundi: Four Habits of Argumentative Writing
A First Habit

An argumentative paper will have a thesis. A thesis is a claim. It is a statement of the thing your paper is trying to show. Very often, the claim will be straightforward enough to express in a single sentence or so, and it will usually appear early on in the paper to give your readers a clear sense of the project of the paper. A thesis is a claim that is strong. A strong claim is a claim for which you can imagine an intelligent opposition. It is a claim that you feel a need to argue for. Remember, when you are producing a reading about a complex literary text like a novel, a poem, or a film the object of your argument will be to illuminate the text, to draw attention to some aspect of the wider work the text is accomplishing. Once you have determined the dimension or element in a text that you want to argue about, your opposition might consist of those who would focus elsewhere or who would draw different conclusions from your own focus. Your thesis is your paper's spine, your paper's task. As you write your papers, it is a good idea to ask yourself the question, from time to time, Does this quotation, does this argument, does this paragraph support my thesis in some way? If it doesn’t, delete it. If you are drawn repeatedly away from what you have chosen as your thesis, ask yourself whether or not this signals that you really want to argue for some different thesis.

A Second Habit

You should define your central terms, especially the ones you may be using in an idiosyncratic way. Your definitions can be casual ones, they don’t have to sound like dictionary definitions. But it is crucial that once you have defined a term you will stick to the meaning you have assigned it yourself. Never simply assume that your readers know what you mean or what you are talking about. Never hesitate to explain yourself for fear of belaboring the obvious. Clarity never appears unintelligent.

A Third Habit

You should support your claims about the text with actual quotations from the text itself. In this course you will always be analyzing texts (broadly defined) and whatever text you are working on should probably be a major presence on nearly every page of your papers. A page without quotations is often a page that has lost track of its point, or one that is stuck in abstract generalizations. This doesn't mean that your paper should consist of mostly huge block quotes. On the contrary, a block quote is usually a quote that needs to be broken up and read more closely and carefully. If you see fit to include a lengthy quotation filled with provocative details, I will expect you to contextualize and discuss all of those details. If you are unprepared to do this, or fear that doing so will introduce digressions from your argument, this signals that you should be more selective about the quotations to which you are calling attention.

A Fourth Habit

You should anticipate objections to your thesis. In some ways this is the most difficult habit to master. Remember that even the most solid case for a viewpoint is vulnerable to dismissal by the suggestion of an apparently powerful counterexample. That is why you should anticipate problems, criticisms, counterexamples, and deal with them before they arise, and deal with them on your own terms. If you cannot imagine a sensible and relevant objection to your line of argument it means either that you are not looking hard enough or that your claim is not strong enough.
via:betajames  teaching  writing  pedagogy 
december 2015 by ayjay
The Secret of Good Humanities Teaching - The Chronicle of Higher Education
A bad or mediocre professor will do just one of these two parts — the simplifying or the nuance of a text. Some professors only get students to a basic understanding of the themes and ideas involved, but that shouldn’t be enough in college: It’s hard for students to get excited about, or write well about, a topic or text that you as their instructor feel can be fully captured by a summary.

Other teachers skip right to some particular nuance or layer without providing context or orienting the students’ discussion and understanding of the text. In some sense that’s even worse teaching because it doesn’t really help students understand the thing they’ve read, and it creates the dangerous impression that the narrow point or issue that gets taught is all there is that’s worth paying attention to.

The second form of bad teaching is much more common in college than the first because it feels somehow more advanced — because it’s like graduate school. And in grad school, yes, you’re supposed to delve deep into some narrow scholarly topic, and once you’re teaching graduate students you can (or should be able to) expect that your students are already committed to thinking hard about literature, and they know how to read very carefully on their own, and they know how to write and organize their thinking about a text. But any productive discussion of a text should be premised on some shared understandings of themes, ideas, and story — and professors have to make those ideas explicit (if only to give students a chance to disagree). Nearly everyone, no matter how precocious, can use more practice at the fundamentals of reading and experiencing a text, particularly if that text is difficult enough to be worth teaching in the first place.

Good humanities pedagogy, then, is largely teaching the skill of rereading — of going up the river twice. The best humanities professors leave students with the ability and the desire to first make a complicated text simple and understandable, and then to reread and find the complexity again. They teach how much is there if you know how to look.
teaching  humanities 
october 2015 by ayjay
Why College Kids Are Avoiding The Study Of Literature
Literary works are not texts in that sense. The text is simply the way the author creates an experience for the reader. It is no more the work itself than a score is a concert or a blueprint a creation capable of keeping out the rain. No, the real literary work is the reader’s experience. This means the first thing a teacher needs to do is help students have the experience the author is trying to create. There is no point in analyzing the techniques for creating an experience the students have not had. Students need to have such experiences, and not just be told of their results. It is crucial for them to see how one arrives at the interpretation and lives through that process. Otherwise, why not simply memorize some critic’s interpretation? I once delivered a paper in Norway on Anna Karenina, and a prominent scholar replied: “All my career I have been telling students not to do what you have done, that is, treat characters as real people with real problems and real human psychology. Characters in a novel are nothing more than words on a page. It is primitive to treat fictional people as real, as primitive as the spectator who rushed on stage to save Jesus from crucifixion.” Here is the crux of it: Characters in a novel are neither words on a page nor real people. Characters in a novel are possible people. When we think of their ethical dilemmas, we do not need to imagine that such people actually exist, only that such people and such dilemmas could exist.
criticism  teaching  lit 
july 2015 by ayjay
Wary About Wisdom | Easily Distracted
I can see what a learner-driven classroom looks like, or how we might rethink failure and assessment. I don’t know that I can see what an education that produces ethics and wisdom looks like such that I would be confident that it would produce people who were consistently more wise and more ethical than anyone without that education would be.

What I unfortunately can see is that setting out to make someone ethical or wise through directed learning might actually be counterproductive. Because to do so requires a prior notion of what an ethical, wise outcome looks like and thus creates the almost unavoidable temptation to demand a performative loyalty to that outcome rather than an inner, intersubjective incorporation of it.

If we thought instead about ethics and wisdom as rising out of experience and time, then that might attractively lead back towards the general reform of education towards projects, towards making and doing. However, if that’s yet another argument for some form of constructivist learning, then beware fixed goals. A classroom built around processes and experiences is a classroom that has to accept dramatically contingent outcomes. If we embrace Davidson’s new definition of the liberal arts, paradoxically, we have to embrace that one of its outcomes might be citizens whose ethics and wisdom are nothing like what we imagined those words contained before we began our teaching. We might also find it’s one thing to live up to an expectation of knowledgeability and another altogether to live up to an expectation of wisdom.
education  teaching 
march 2015 by ayjay
Teach or Perish
But no decision we ever made could have been more catastrophic than this one: Somewhere along the way, we spiritually and emotionally disengaged from teaching and mentoring students. The decision—which certainly hasn’t ingratiated us to the job-seeking generation—has resulted in one whopper of a contradiction. While teaching undergraduates is, normally, a large part of a professor’s job, success in our field is correlated with a professor’s ability to avoid teaching undergraduates.

It follows from this contradiction that the more accomplished the scholar, the less she or he is required to engage with students. Prestigious institutions perpetuate this logic by freeing their most distinguished faculty members from classroom responsibilities. Such luminaries, of course, might be asked to teach a small graduate course in their area of microspecialization. Or they might speak at multitudes of underclassmen in a stadium-size auditorium. These stars will be shielded by a battalion of teaching assistants, lest they be disquieted by some sophomore’s imbecilic concern about her midterm grade.
teaching  from instapaper
january 2015 by ayjay
All You Need to Know About the 'Learning Styles' Myth, in Two Minutes | WIRED
Many leading experts believe the myth of preferred learning styles is not just a benign misconception, but is likely causing harm. As Scott Lilienfeld and colleagues write in 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology, the approach “encourages teachers to teach to students’ intellectual strengths rather than their weaknesses.” Yet, they add: “students need to correct and compensate for their shortcomings, not avoid them.” There’s also an economic case. Many learning style questionnaires and training programs are expensive. “Given the costs of assessing students’ supposed learning styles and offering differentiated instruction,” write Rohrer and Pashler, the news of the lack of scientific evidence for learning styles “should come as good news to educators at all levels.”
pedagogy  teaching  education 
january 2015 by ayjay
The Art of Writing in (e)Books — Book club — Medium
HJ: I was struck—guilt-stricken, actually—by a former undergraduate student of mine who told me that after reading my first book on marginalia she had seen the light and decided to write in her own books, but that she then found she could not bring herself to do it. She thought she had failed. But I think the reasons were that she had so internalized the prohibition against writing in books that it was impossible for her to break the taboo, and also that she had no good examples to follow. So I would advise: watch out for models that appeal to you; have a good reason for getting started.

When people write in books, they do it for some purpose and they have usually seen books marked up in the way they eventually do it. But readers typically develop a method of annotation that suits them only slowly, over time. If you are of an impatient disposition, the sort of person who never opens the manual before trying out a machine, you can just plunge in and learn by trial and error. If you are more reflective, you might want to figure out why you are planning to do this and what you expect to get out of it. Are you using notes to take in information, to express opinions, to correct a text or to make connections with other reading? Are you doing it so that some other reader will read as it were with you, understanding the book as you do? If you do that you will work more purposefully and effectively from the start. Both kinds of annotator are likely to find their practice changing, however, so perhaps it doesn’t matter which type you belong to.
reading  teaching  bloggable 
december 2013 by ayjay
The Condensed Classroom - Ian Bogost - The Atlantic
An astute observer might start to wonder... what's so flipped about the flipped classroom? Looking at the two side-by-side reveals one major difference that will help us reformulate this concept without the bluster of its trendiness.

A traditional classroom has readings before class, lectures during class, and assignments after class. A flipped classroom has lectures before class, assignments during class, and assessments after class. Flipped classroom supporters like to argue that traditional classrooms only provide first exposure to materials via lecture, but that claim assumes that nothing whatsoever happens before such classes, that students enter class blind. In reality, digging deeper than hearsay is a hallmark of university education. Classes in all disciplines ask students to engage with primary and secondary materials beforehand.

The flipped classroom abstracts these materials, overloading them into the lecture, which itself is usually shortened and condensed into modules less than 20 minutes in length. This condensed primary material then becomes fodder not for discourse or practice, but for evaluation. 

A cynic might say that the flipped classroom ushers in the CliffsNotesfication of university courses. Slate's Will Oremus has offered a more moderate take: the MOOC-style flipped classroom lecture might be best understood as a replacement for textbooks and other reading materials students traditionally encounter in university.
education  teaching 
september 2013 by ayjay
Create Your Syllabus With a Spreadsheet and a Calendar App - ProfHacker - The Chronicle of Higher Education
In my post today, I’m going to show you how to use GoogleDocs and Google Calendar to create a dynamic calendar for a course. This calendar can be displayed as a web page or embedded in a course web site. Why would you want to do this? Well, if you’re happy with using a printed syllabus only—which is perfectly fine, of course—then there’s no reason for you to try this. However, the method I explain below is useful if you’d like a little added flexibility and efficiency when updating a course syllabus from semester to semester. Plus it’s kind of nice to have an online syllabus that will always show the immediately upcoming events and assignments for your course.

To pull this off, we’ll take the following steps:

Create a spreadsheet in GoogleDocs,
Add information to each row in the spreadsheet for each class meeting,
Export the spreadsheet data as a CSV (“comma separated value”) file,
Import the CSV file into Google Calendar, and then
Make the calendar available to others.
tech  teaching 
september 2013 by ayjay
An undergraduate student’s guide to Twitter in higher education – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD
While my research blog was primarily designed to write my thoughts about policy issues that are of interest to me (and discuss my current research agenda), I’ve also found that my students needed a lot more guidance on how they can use Twitter. I encourage (read: quasi-force) my undergraduate (3rd, 4th year for the most part) Political Science students to use social media, and I figured I should write a guide on how to use Twitter in higher education. Primarily, because I do believe in the power of social media to advance academic pursuits. And of course, you can follow me on Twitter here (@raulpacheco).
tech  teaching 
july 2012 by ayjay
Building a Better Blogging Assignment Redux « Remixing College English
One of the sessions at last week’s THATCamp dealt with the issue of designing a better model of student blogging. You can view my Storify of the session here.

I thought that I would add some of my own ideas and discuss how I address some of the issues raised during the session (since, unfortunately, I couldn’t be there).

As noted on the session’s Google Doc, a major problem with requiring students to blog is that the large majority of them are unfamiliar with blogs, so we need to identify effective methods for acculturating them to the genre. Since I’m an advocate of immersive learning, I’ve found that many students begin to “get” blogging by spending a good deal of time actually doing it. But I’ve developed a few orientation assignments that help them get off to a good start.
june 2012 by ayjay
Disposable Twitter Accounts for Classroom Use - ProfHacker - The Chronicle of Higher Education
The second paragraph of the assignment lays out the way that I manage some of the potential problems with using Twitter in the classroom. I give students explicit permission to keep their personal and academic lives separate, even when we’re using social media in the classroom. Jason mentions this strategy in his “creepy treehouse” post, as well. I like the phrase “disposable account,” which evokes disposable cameras, pre-paid cell phones, and the like—something useful for a purpose and easily discarded once that purpose is fulfilled. Students can use an alternate email to sign up for a class-specific Twitter account (or even sign up for a dummy email address for this purpose), use that account to meet the requirements of the social media assignment, and delete or abandon the account when the semester ends. Students can even create entirely pseudonymous Twitter accounts for class. So long as they tell me which account they’re working under, I do not care if the account reflects any of their personal information. This provision solves concern #2 above.
may 2012 by ayjay
Disrupting Ourselves: The Problem of Learning in Higher Education (EDUCAUSE Review) | EDUCAUSE
So, what’s disrupting courses and the formal curriculum? If they are no longer the essential center of the undergraduate experience, what is? In 2008, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) published a now-familiar list of what is referred to as “high‑impact practices.”4 These are the college experiences that highly correlate to the most powerful learning outcomes. Students’ participation in one or more of these practices had the greatest impact on success, on retention, on graduation, on transfer, and on other measures of learning:

First-year seminars and experiences
Common intellectual experiences
Learning communities
Writing-intensive courses
Collaborative assignments and projects
Undergraduate research
Diversity / global learning (study abroad)
Service learning, community-based learning
Capstone courses and projects
academe  teaching  education  from instapaper
march 2012 by ayjay
Prensky’s Natives and Immigrants pre–date the launching of what are now commonly known as social media applications. The social bookmarking site Delicious, for example, was launched in 2003 as was MySpace. Both Facebook and World of Warcraft [8] launched in 2004; Bebo and YouTube in 2005; and, Twitter in 2006. Prior to 2003, the Internet was used primarily as a means of finding information with Google leading the way since 1997 in offering an effective means of searching for and gathering information. A key distinction between information–gathering versus social–networking sites is that the latter invite individuals to project their personas online as a ‘digital identity’ via text, image and video. Furthermore, social media platforms facilitate the construction, by the individual, of complex social networks not constrained by physical geography. These are critical shifts in the use of the internet which we suggest are transforming the nature of relationships, citizenship and learning.

In response to these changes the metaphors which we suggest best represent the engagement with online technology now widely experienced are those of ‘tool’ and ‘place/space’. This section looks at both. Certain platforms on the Web fit quite neatly under the metaphor of ‘tool’, while others are more closely aligned to the metaphor of ‘place’. ‘Tool’ is functional and may provide a bridge between Prensky’s understanding of how people used computer technology and that which we propose. ‘Place’, on the other hand, is social. Increasingly, the two overlap.
tech  teaching 
march 2012 by ayjay
Eric Mazur on new interactive teaching techniques | Harvard Magazine Mar-Apr 2012
IN 1990, after seven years of teaching at Harvard, Eric Mazur, now Balkanski professor of physics and applied physics, was delivering clear, polished lectures and demonstrations and getting high student evaluations for his introductory Physics 11 course, populated mainly by premed and engineering students who were successfully solving complicated problems. Then he discovered that his success as a teacher “was a complete illusion, a house of cards.”

The epiphany came via an article in the American Journal of Physics by Arizona State professor David Hestenes. He had devised a very simple test, couched in everyday language, to check students’ understanding of one of the most fundamental concepts of physics—force—and had administered it to thousands of undergraduates in the southwestern United States. Astonishingly, the test showed that their introductory courses had taught them “next to nothing,” says Mazur: “After a semester of physics, they still held the same misconceptions as they had at the beginning of the term.”
education  teaching  bloggable 
february 2012 by ayjay
Two ways of looking at the same book | The Collation
in my Undergraduate Seminars students devote the bulk of their research time to crafting a biography of the book they’ve chosen as their primary focus. They find out who wrote the book and who printed and published it, they speculate on who the book’s intended audience was and on how the book might have been received, and they trace the afterlife of the book through the owners of their copy and the later editions and translations of their text. In the past students have chosen a wide range of books, sometimes drawn to them because of their author or subject, sometimes drawn to them by their physical characteristics. I’ve had students work on Paradise Lost, on a book of hours, on a traveler’s history of Ceylon. But last fall was the first time I had two students end up choosing the same work: the third edition of the English translation of Thomas More’s Utopia, published in 1597. Luckily, the Folger owns two copies of this particular book, so each student was able to work on her own book, thus reducing the stress both on a single volume and on the students themselves. From my perspective, this surprising coincidence had the benefit of demonstrating how two different scholars can work with the same material but come up with two different approaches and stories.
january 2012 by ayjay
Citation Obsession? Get Over It! - Commentary - The Chronicle of Higher Education
What I advocate here is not to dispense with teaching students how to use sources but rather to abandon our fixation on the form rather than the function of source attribution. Here's why: We cannot control how much time and effort students invest in a particular writing assignment; we can only influence how they distribute their energies. Professors' overattention to flawless citation (or grammar) creates predictable results: Students expend a disproportionate amount of precious time and attention trying to avoid making mistakes. Soon, they also begin to associate "good" writing with mechanically following rules rather than developing good ideas.

In contrast, experienced writers (like us) edit meticulously only after they have allocated substantial effort to more complex and consequential writing tasks, such as refining their topics, selecting and processing their sources, organizing their ideas, and drafting and revising their manuscripts to improve focus and coherence. Nitpicky professors hinder student writers' development by effectively forcing them to invest more time and thinking in less important elements of writing.

Recent research by the Citation Project corroborates how severely teachers' citation psychosis has diminished students' information-literacy skills, in particular. Rebecca Moore Howard and Sandra Jamieson blame "plagiarism hysteria," which compels teachers to punish improper citation more than reward students' effective use of sources' words and ideas. Thus, clever students master quotation "mining" and sloppy paraphrasing, and they rarely summarize (or, presumably, deeply read or understand) their sources. Why should they, when success equals completing a checklist ("minimum of six sources including two books, two peer-reviewed articles ... proper MLA format, including a period before the parenthetical citation for block quotations") rather than composing writing that engages readers with sophisticated content or, heaven forbid, eloquent prose? Should we not judge writing on its content and character rather than its surface features?
october 2011 by ayjay
Distraction-free writing, Fall 2011 #252ac - betajames
Given the relative wealth of “distraction-free” writing programs available online, each purports to be unique in promising to deliver the same, basic thing: increased focus on the task at hand. Both the programs themselves and their descriptive pitches enable and frame the act, purpose, and value of writing in different ways. Some are very process-oriented; others are more expressive. Many exhibit stark, monochromatic styles, harkening back to simpler times. 
In other words, certain programs invite certain kinds of writers. For instance, Writer for iPad implies concern about "destroying the voice and the organic structure of our original thought." Meanwhile, Ommwriter "believes in making writing a pleasure once again, vindicating the close relationship between writer and paper."

Furthermore, WriteRoom "gets your computer out of the way so that you can focus on your work." These programs are pitched and presented more as environments than tools. They are more spaces for us to write from/within and less instruments facilitating the writing process, if it is a process at all.

So, let’s see if any of these programs fulfill their promises.
october 2011 by ayjay
ProfHacker - The Chronicle of Higher Education
I incorporated an exercise that I discovered on the University of Virginia Teaching Resource Center called the Zen Ten. The basic idea in the exercise is for the instructor to remain silent and let the students run discussion. I point them to a passage in the text or give them an opening question, and I tell them that I will not speak for the next fifteen minutes. Instead I will observe their discussion and take a few notes. I have found the exercise to be challenging for me (it can be very hard to not jump in) and very beneficial for students. It breaks them out of the passive learning pattern because they know that no matter what, there is nothing from the professor to absorb or write down. I’ve incorporated the exercise into several different classes, and in each case, just about everyone has spoken at least once, even students who haven’t said a word in class up to that point. When the time has passed, I make sure to comment on the discussion as a whole first before engaging specific comments. In the case of SoS, the exercise turned the silence around. Rather than seeing it as oppressive, I started to see it as an opportunity.
october 2011 by ayjay
An Open Letter to a College Freshman | Philosophical Fragments
4.  Seek answers, not merely questions. You may hear the opposite in the freshman orientation process.  ”It’s not the answers but the questions that matter,” they might say, “not the verities but the inquiries, not the destination but the journey.”  Yes and no.  The faculty certainly want you to question the views with which you were raised, especially when they do not agree with those views.  When I was teaching, it was commonly said amongst my colleagues that the purpose of our instruction is to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar.  Our aim, in other words, is to cause young people to see how dubious and arbitrary are the moral, political and religious beliefs with which they were raised, and how sensible and compelling the beliefs of others could be.  Of course, this was not applied evenly.  If you were a liberal pluralist, then you had no oppressive, exclusivist, intolerant and irrational beliefs from which you had to be disabused.  And if you were a conservative Muslim, then the religious studies faculty would stumble all over themselves to defend your perspective.  If you are a conservative (white) Christian, however, then your parents are a part of the problem, and, for your sake and the sake of the world around you, you have to be liberated from the bonds of prejudice and ignorance.  Thus we had professors who promised the students at the outset of a year-long course that any Christians in the lecture hall would lose their faith by the end of the year, or who scoffed that “God is dead beneath my feet,” or who verbally high-fived their fellow faculty when they provoked evangelicals into crises of faith.  This is important to remember: if you are a conservative Christian of one stripe or another, many professors will view your loss of faith as a good thing for you, and an accomplishment for them.
academe  teaching 
september 2011 by ayjay
Ryan C. Cordell » New DH Course: Technologies of Text
So here’s a draft syllabus I’ve put together for a digital humanities course I hope to propose to our General Education Committee. It’s likely that many DHers looking at this will spot familiar elements. I owe much of this to the DH syllabi collected by Lisa Spiro and available through the Digital Humanities Education Zotero group. In other words, I cribbed heavily from ya’ll, and I thank ‘ya. Please leave comments and suggestions: I have awhile before I’ll actually teach this, and want to offer the best course I can!
teaching  DH 
september 2011 by ayjay
ProfHacker - The Chronicle of Higher Education
One activity that I’ve found quite useful was developed by Frank Lyman thirty years ago and goes by the name “think-pair-share.” (I’m pretty sure this publication is where Lyman first wrote about this activity.) It’s really quite simple, but it’s almost always effective, in my experience. Here’s how it works:

• Ask a clearly-phrased question of your students. Be sure everyone understands what you’re asking. See if anyone needs you to repeat the question. Give students a couple of minutes to think about their answer to the question.

• Have each student turn to a person seated nearby and discuss their answers to the question for a few minutes.

• Finally, ask for volunteers to share details from their discussions.

This activity allows every student the opportunity to think something through and discuss their thoughts out loud. It also shields students who might be shy from having to speak up in front of a room full of people, which creates a significant amount of anxiety in many people. And “think-pair-share” can also help with the problem of a few student voices always being the same ones heard in each class meeting.
september 2011 by ayjay
(Moral) Hazards of Scanning for Plagiarists: Evidence from Shoplifting | David E. Harrington
Relying on students to weigh the benefits and costs of plagiarism in this way assumes that they are good stewards of their future selves.  Just as some shoplifters may give too much weight to the thrill of shoplifting, some students may give too much weight to starting their weekends early.

Instructors may also change the way they write their essay assignments.  One of the best ways to suppress plagiarism is to come up with creative assignments that are literally one-of-a-kind.  For example, I like to rip mine from the headlines by asking my students to write op-eds on current legislative proposals. If I felt insured against plagiarism, I might not spend hours looking for unusual proposals and instead tell students to write their essays on any topic they found interesting.

Instructors, like all human beings, look for excuses to avoid doing things they don’t want to do.  Grading essays is hard—often discouraging—work, so instructors look for excuses to avoid assigning them.  One plausible excuse is that plagiarism is rampant, making in-class exams better measures of students’ performance.  Anti-plagiarism software may make this excuse less credible, nudging some instructors to assign more essays.  Hence, moral hazard can work in the opposite direction, something akin to moral security.  Feeling insured against plagiarism, instructors may decide to do the right thing and assign more essays.
september 2011 by ayjay
Retreating on the Grades | A Thaumaturgical Compendium
Heading into a new semester and assembling the syllabi (well, one–the other, once again this term, is in the hands of the students), I’ve decided to give up on my short-lived “no grades” policy. At least nominally.

What happened? Well, at least pedagogically, I was fine with it. To recap, I was concerned that students were more interested in grades than they were in the actual material. I speculated that replacing the grades with badges would at least move them from focusing on entirely arbitrary markers (letters) to markers that were more explicitly tied to learning objectives.

I still think grades suck, of course. Grades are grand for beef, and actually pretty handy for deciding what restaurants to avoid, but as a tool for learning I think they take away more than they add. Realistically, though, I can’t get away from grading on my own. Unless I can convince all my colleagues to move in that direction, my experiment threatens to be merely a distraction for students, or in the worst case, a good way for them to ignore my course. Purely in terms of learning outcomes, I think being able to get totally away from grades would be great. But that wasn’t the case here.
academe  teaching 
august 2011 by ayjay
Critical Mass » Blog Archive » What Umberto Eco hasn’t read
Those huge 900 page Victorian novels typically take three weeks of class time–and even then students struggle to keep up. You can do that one or two times in a semester, but the rest of the time you have to compromise to keep things moving. This is why so many students know Dickens through the unfortunate Hard Times, Eliot through the painful and atypical Silas Marner, and James through the throat-clearing that is Daisy Miller. It’s a big part of why “reading Conrad” typically equals “reading Heart of Darkness,” and why Joyce’s short stories are so often preferred to Ulysses or Finnegans Wake. And it tells us something about why it’s hard to find reading lists with writers such as Trollope and Thackeray on them. They didn’t do short.

I used to rationalize the Slim Prestige approach with the thought that if I taught a shorter work by a major author whose best work doubles as doorstops, I could potentially create an appetite for more. If I teach this really well, I would tell myself, maybe some of these kids will go read the longer, often more amazing stuff on their own. So much of teaching literature is salesmanship–and in this case, hawking short works as gateway drugs to longer, better ones.
reading  teaching  bloggable 
may 2011 by ayjay
about SWoRD
SWoRD is a web-based reciprocal peer review system. In less fancy terms, students turn their class papers into SWoRD, which then assigns this paper to five or six peers in the class. The peers grade the paper and give advice for how to improve it. Students revise the paper and turn it back in to SWoRD, which distributes the paper to the same peers for final review. SWoRD determines the accuracy of the ratings through a complex process of separating out different kinds of bias in grading. The authors rate the advice given to them in terms of helpfulness. Reviewers get a grade for their work which is one half accuracy and one half helpfulness. In this way, reviewers must work hard and take their task seriously. SWoRD has been used in many different courses (graduate and undergraduate), in many different disciplines and at many different universities. The grades that are produced are just as reliable and accurate as instructor grades, and authors get advice that is possibly more useful than what they would have received from an instructor. Most importantly, SWoRD allows the instructor to assign writing tasks of the most important kind (with feedback and revision) without having to do any grading at all, which means that writing practice can now take place in every class (from small sections of 10 students to large sections of 1000 students). SWoRD is free for use. Instructors create an account and setup a course in SWoRD. Students then create their own accounts on SWoRD and sign-up for the class.
may 2011 by ayjay
Economics for Teachers: Musings about Teaching Economics: Peer review with SWoRD
As I mentioned, I'm using SWoRD in my writing class for econ majors. SWoRD is a site that not only facilitates peer review, it allows for student grades to actually be determined by their classmates' reviews. For each assignment, the instructor creates both open-ended comment prompts and a numeric rubric (the SWoRD template requires a 1 to 7 scale, though you can sort of get around that by skipping some of the numbers). Students submit their papers to SWoRD and once the deadline has passed, papers are assigned to peer reviewers (minimum of three, maximum of six; the creators of SWoRD strongly recommend at least five reviews if the scores will be used for grading). Everything is anonymous, as each student creates a pseudonym within the system (you just have to make sure students don't put their names in the text of their files!). I can either assign specific reviewers or have the system automatically assign them randomly. After the reviews are completed, the authors have the opportunity to 'back evaluate' the open-ended comments, indicating how helpful the comments were, or weren't; this is done before the authors see the numeric scores assigned by reviewers so the back evaluation is based purely on the open-ended comments.
may 2011 by ayjay
Reader feedback: When student evaluations are just plain wrong - ProfHacker - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Personally, I found the responses very helpful. As I noted in one comment, I immediately implemented the idea of adding a bit of student reflection to an informal mid-term evaluation I do for full-semester classes. I asked the students to think about how they were preparing for and keeping up with coursework, and to think about how they could improve on their part. The result? Really thoughtful answers, with a few students making truly significant responses that indicated they had thought carefully about their activity in my course and were going to change up their habits.
may 2011 by ayjay
A Generalist’s Work, Day 3
One of the big issues on my mind lately is my ability (and that of my colleagues) to imagine the world of work as our students will experience it.
teaching  bloggable 
may 2011 by ayjay
How I Talk About Searching, Discovery and Research in Courses « Easily Distracted
So what I focus on is processes of discovery that students should use to find out what’s known and knowable, how researchable a particular question is, what the shape or character of information about that question looks like, and how to make smart decisions about where to invest labor and time in developing a research assignment.
may 2011 by ayjay
Using Google Docs Forms to Run a Peer-Review Writing Workshop - ProfHacker - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Today in my literary theory and writing course I found yet another great use for Google Docs, one of our favorite subjects here at ProfHacker. Specifically, I used Google Docs Forms to structure an in-class peer review workshop.

I’ve asked my class to submit all of their writing via Google Docs this semester. Google Docs are easier to comment on and return to students. My students and I also don’t need to worry about which version of a given document is attached to which email, since we share a online documents rather than exchanging files. Though there have been a few technical hiccups, on the whole, managing a revision-heavy class has been much easier through Google Docs than it ever was via email or CMS.
may 2011 by ayjay
Why A Public Course Group Blog? Reflections on My Digital History Course : Trevor Owens
One of my three course goals was for students to “Thoughtfully and purposefully engage in dialog about history on the public web with a range of stakeholders in digital history: historians, archivists, museum professionals, educators, and armatures, etc.” Beyond learning about digital history I wanted my students to do digital history. In that capacity I wanted them to engage with the public web and practice public writing. This, in part, meant developing a voice as a blogger and as a blog commenter. I decided to approach this goal through a group blog. I was excited about the prospect us all working and commenting in the same space. My experience participating in PlayThePast over the last six months has opened my eyes to how powerful participating in a group blog can be and I wanted students to get a taste for that.
may 2011 by ayjay
GoogleDocs Forms - ProfHacker - The Chronicle of Higher Education
While signing up for the Boxee Beta trial I came across a fairly standard web form: you know the kind with name, email address, etc. When I was done and submitted the form, a message returned that said Thanks, don’t call us, we’ll call you. But what caught my eye was the GoogleDocs logo and an invitation to create my own form. I clicked on the invitation and lo and behold, GoogleDocs has a form maker which puts results into a GoogleDocs spreadsheet.
teaching  tech 
march 2011 by ayjay
'How are you going to grade this?': Evaluating Classroom Blogs - ProfHacker - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Several of us at ProfHacker incorporate blogs into our pedagogy, and we have written on a range of course blog-related issues such as "Integrating, Evaluating, and Managing Blogging in the Classroom" (Julie) and "Tools for Managing Multiple Class Blogs" (Amy) among many others. In this post we (Jeff and Julie) will offer a few specific tips for evaluating course blogs and addressing the common question "how are you going to grade this?"
june 2010 by ayjay
Xtranormal | Text-to-Movie
(What if I did one of these movies to introduce a topic to my students?)
november 2009 by ayjay
The Ransom of Hector - Paper Cuts Blog - NYTimes.com
From the left, the god Hermes escorts a servant bearing gifts, symbolizing how the gods intervened to end Achilles’ madness. The ransom includes a traditional Greek tripod and a stack of lobed phialai. Achilles drinks from the same type of metal cup. The cups are precious imports from Persia, and they emphasize the high rank of both Priam and Achilles, who are otherwise represented as Greeks
history  lit  teaching 
october 2009 by ayjay
Random House Academic Resources | Examination Copies
request form for NYRB Classics: Hughes, Jones, etc.
january 2008 by ayjay
the Cotton translation (use for class?)
april 2007 by ayjay

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