Inside Higher Ed reports today about a new Stanford study that questions the validity of common claims in favor of Advanced Placement courses in high school. The biggest argument is about the claim that “The AP program gives students several advantages in terms of college.” In questioning that largely accepted and unquestioned truism, the study employs the classic “chicken/egg” argument. Do AP courses enhance students’ ability to succeed in college or are students who sign-up for AP courses already motivated, skilled at studying, know how to work, and have the basic intelligence to excel in school?
Personally, I’ve always been a bit skeptical about the idea of an AP course being the equivalent of and hence replacing a college course, which is a different matter. I’m also suspicious of the use of the number of AP courses being used to judge the quality of a school. The article provides some examples of where AP programs were plopped in schools, for instance my home town of Detroit, with no success because there was no planning, training, or support for students or teachers . . . with little to no success. When will education stop looking for quick and easy panaceas, whether they be trendy pedagogies or shiny new technology, and realize that true “reform” will come when the time and resources are provided to sufficiently train and support teachers, and when time and resources are provided to allow teachers to plan and grade and to work with small numbers of students and to get to know students?
Call for 2013-2014 Faculty Learning Community Topics and Facilitators
During the 2013-2014 academic year, the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at the University of Georgia will once again be supporting Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs). We are now placing a call for topics and/or FLC facilitators. If you are interested in proposing and/or facilitating an FLC, please express your interest via the form located at
The deadline for submitting an FLC topic is Friday, April 5, 2013.
An FLC is a cross-disciplinary faculty group of six to fifteen members who participate in a yearlong self-directed program to enhance teaching and learning. Group members actively collaborate in meetings and activities intended to promote learning, development, the scholarship of teaching, and community building. FLCs are typically either cohort-oriented (e.g. first-year faculty, teachers of large-enrollment courses) or topic-oriented to address a specific teaching and learning need, issue, or opportunity. Each FLC typically receives $500 to support meetings, materials, and other identified needs.
A list of past FLCs can be found at
If you are interested in proposing and/or facilitating an FLC, please consider submitting your idea for the coming year by April 5th. If you would like to discuss your idea in greater detail, please contact Dr. Eddie Watson, Director, CTL, at email@example.com.
I’ll admit it–I LOVE THE NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT. I’m sorry. Call me anti-intellectual, part of the problem, or any other manner of names. I am a product of my Duke University education. Anyway, since at least 2006, the good folks at insidehighered.com–inspired by the NCAA Tournament bracket that shows all the teams and how they will play down to the championship–have taken the teams selected and “played” them against each other in terms of basketball player graduation rates. If one school’s rate is higher than the other, it advances to the next round. Very clever–and very surprising. It turns out that last year my alma mater, which has reputation of being a quality athletic program in terms of graduation, got beat in the first round by Lehigh, both on the court and in the classroom. As Bill Jackson, the former director of CTL, once asked, “When did we get in the business of entertaining alumni?” Or maybe you have your own questions that are inspired by the “madness” of college sports in general and the NCAA basketball tournament in general. Full disclosure: I’ve filled out my brackets and have Miami beating Duke in the final.
In terms of the finances of the NCAA Tournament, CBS has a great graphic that original appeared on the H&R Block website.
‘Tis the season: the mid-point in the semester is Thursday (February 28), and while our students’ thoughts may be focused on Spring Break, we may be thinking about what the mid-term means for our classes. Besides mid-term examinations, many faculty use this half-way point to ask students to assess the courses they are teaching. As Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing”: mid-term evaluations are better than end-of-semester evaluations because they provide students with the opportunity to suggest things a professor can do differently while students can still benefit from the changes. I’ve found in my own English classes that addressing the issues that students bring up in mid-term evaluations–regardless if they are things I can change or not–positively affects the rest of the semester as well as my end-of-semester evaluations. An important part of doing mid-term evaluations is addressing what students say. Faculty need to discuss with students what they suggest, perhaps to explain why some things can’t be done, to reiterate why you are doing or asking them to do some things, and to make a commitment to incorporate some of their suggestions for the rest of the semester.
This process is pretty easy. Ask students to answer three questions anonymously. I usually send them an email with the questions in a Word document so they can download it, type up their responses, print them out, and slide them into an envelope anonymously in the next class. The three questions, adapted from Angelo and Cross in their book Classroom Assessment Techniques, are:
- What aspect of the class are working well?
- What aspects of the class are working poorly?
- What aspect of the class do you believe should be changed?
Alternatively, you can have CTL help you with your mid-term evaluations! Contact us at CTL from the homepage (“What can CTL do for you?”) about coming to your class to conduct a group instructional diagnosis (another assessment technique from Angelo and Cross). All we need is between 20 and 30 minutes at the end of a class period to come in and have students respond to these questions individually, then to discuss them into groups, and then to provide a list of things they would like to see changed about the class. From that list, students vote for the top two things they would like us to pass on to teacher. Shortly after the activity, a CTL consultant (Eddie Watson, Paul Quick, Denise Domizi, or Sherry Clouser) will meet with you to discuss what was said. If you are interested in having one of us come to your class either this semester or in the future, just contact us!
I like my title above better than “Closing Down the ‘Roach Motel,’” the headline from InsideHigherEd.com’s article on different universities efforts to reduce the time-to-degree problem that has plagued some PhD programs, especially in the humanities. Referring to the old Orkin ad. describing their roach traps as hotels where “you check in and don’t check out,” the article focuses on CUNY’s and SUNY’s proposal to offer Graduate Center Fellowships for new graduate students good for five years of “full tuition funding and an annual $25,000 stipend” per year, a first-year research assistantship, three years of teaching one course per semester (as opposed to two), and a fifth year working as a Writing Across the Curriculum Fellow. After that, students can apply for additional fellowships, but all bets are off. Wow! That would reduce the time-to-degree for English graduate students at CUNY/SUNY from 9.5. year to five (last I heard, the national average time-to-degree for English PhDs was 8 years). I agree with past MLA president that I’m “at once curious and agnostic” about the prospect of a five-year humanities doctorate.
On the one hand, the nine-plus years time-to-degree average is “too long . . . [w]hen you have people in their mid-30s looking at a terrible academic job market.” And Debra Stewart from the Council of Graduate School contends that there’s no evidence to support that “longer is better in terms of student experience.” On the other hand, I see Ammiel Alcaley’s point in the article that the time restrictions could “drastically narrow the aspirational horizons of people, particularly the kind of people that are at CUNY, who might not be absolutely directed toward a particular goals. . . Time-to-degree has become the mantra in management in efforts to ‘digitize’ the academy and cut down drastically on the kind of education that matters most, the kind you can’t plan for or be directed to.”
Hmm. I gotta go with the five-year argument. I think it will sharpen the need in the humanities for faculty to direct their graduate students more actively and will prod graduate students with a carrot/stick approach to get on with it and not languish in the oftentimes stagnant lagoons between course work and comprehensive exams, between comprehensive exams and prospectus, and between prospectus and dissertation completion. Of course, I say that on the other side of getting my doctorate that took eight years.
The question still remains: is five years any better than nine if there aren’t enough jobs out there?