Academic work as a Moral Tale: An agony in a mere six fits [Part 1]

By | November 30, 2014

On our Reed College Facebook page, there has been a debate on academic reimbursement, starting with an innocuous discussion on the posting of a position for a new event planner for the College and leading up to my threatening them with my own analysis of academic job markets – a threat now begun here.


Despite the neverending best efforts of our group to feel bad for our beloved college,

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Quality in online higher education: a Moral Tale

By | November 28, 2014

I’m a big fan of Moral Tales. These are relatively short stories – sometimes real, sometimes made up, or at least embellished – that make a significant point about some issue or problem. Their aim is to open eyes, induce thought and reflection, and generally to suggest new ways of looking at situations. I’ve used them in my teaching ever since I started.  One pretty great teacher you may recall called them “parables”,

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Is Psychology a science? [Part 3]

By | November 26, 2014

I hadn’t intended to make a third post on this topic. But for some reason the issue regarding the definition of science that’s been debated in a LinkedIn discussion continues to generate new opportunities to further develop the point. So what follows is a somewhat reworked version of my concluding post there; there’s not much more I can say.

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Skills or education?

By | November 21, 2014

It’s pretty well documented that the best and best paying jobs available to new graduates go not to those who demonstrate any particular set of skills, but rather to those who have attended a relatively small and select number of undergraduate colleges and universities. See Chronicle of Higher Education, “Brown and Cornell are Second Tier” for elaboration.

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Is psychology a science? [Part 2]

By | November 14, 2014

[Part 1 of this discussion is found here.]

The original proposition that sparked this discussion was put forth in a recent study by a couple of psychologists that claimed that “academic math-intensive science is not sexist”. This study has many methodological flaws, and I’m not sure that its rather sweepingly generalized conclusions are really justified.

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Is psychology a science? [Part 1]

By | November 12, 2014

A LinkedIn discussion in the Higher Education Teaching and Learning Group is currently revisiting the perennial question of whether or not fields like psychology, engineering, and medicine ought to be allowed to call themselves “sciences”. This question seems to be of primary interest to those who have some vested interest in discrediting findings emerging from research in these fields,

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Why do we teach?

By | November 8, 2014

The question of why teachers quit teaching has recently been posed in a LinkedIn discussion forum. I offered some thoughts there, but I thought that it might also be useful to expand some on this theme here. It’s a complicated issue, but one with considerable social urgency.

It’s easy to see the question of why teachers quit as simply the inverse of why teachers start to teach in the first place.

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On systems and systems thinking

By | October 25, 2014

Some time back, in connection with a class I was teaching, I posted a question to the
Socio-Technical Systems Roundtable (STS RT) discussion board on LinkedIn asking about what kind of developed procedures there might be for conducting socio-technical design studies. This provoked a vigorous discussion with a goodly number of participants, and generated a lot of useful advice.

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“Math phobia” disaggregated

By | October 12, 2014

About a year ago, Miles Kimball Noah Smith published a column in The Atlantic entitled “The Myth of ‘I’m Bad at Math’”. Clearly this touched a number of nerves, and provoked a comment debate that continues today. I did an earlier post on this topic. Today, there were a couple of new comments added that stimulated me to think about this issue in a new way,

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Statements of teaching philosophy

By | September 24, 2014

In another one of the endless series of interesting LinkedIn discussions, the question arose about statements of teaching philosophy. These are frequently required in applications particularly for adjunct faculty. The degree to which they are read and understood by those hiring the faculty is not clear, but they are part of the ritual process. The question specifically was whether or not there is a standard template for such statements of philosophy,

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