Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ms. Angelou Knows the Answer

Yesterday, we learned of the passing of one of our time's greatest wordsmiths, Maya Angelou. The quote here is one of my favorites from her. How curious that I also came across an intriguing new approach to higher education that uses the same principle.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Why, What if, and How of Teacher PD

It's the end of the school year, and that might mean we have time to address some pretty tough questions. If you're a faculty member like me, you get about a week to catch your breath, submit final grades, and finally read that article you've had open for the past month. For many of us, summer is a chance to reflect, make changes, and move forward. This is at the same time exciting and daunting, so where do we even start? 

Monday, May 19, 2014

An Equitable Investment

Why do students attend college? It's worth posing this question to both students and colleges. Colleges and students might answer similarly: to learn more about what the student is interested in so he/she can use that knowledge to get a better job. Rephrase the question - what do you expect to gain from this education? - and there may be a difference. 

And where does this fit in the midst of what seems to be an unending debate about if college is worth the rising price of tuition, how to handle growing student debt when graduates are still struggling to find jobs, and what to do about low completion rate and the job skills gap? 

This is a worthwhile discussion to have since we instructors are now, more than ever, obligated to hold up our end of the deal. If college is now spoken of and treated as an economic investment in which the skills we're teaching are expected to have a market value, then faculty are responsible for redefining what "learning" means in a college classroom. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Insiders & Outsiders
Way too often, I find myself shopping online for books. I love knowledge, and I often fill up my cart with books I want to read...only to exit out of the window after realizing that the amount of money I will have spent to buy them will not come close to matching how much time I have to read them. 

But that's what I was doing this morning, and put Mindset: The New Psychology of Success [Kindle edition] in my cart. I sighed heavily as I realized how many books were lined up ahead of it, and closed the browser. 

And then found an article, Who Gets to Graduate? -, as the subject of an e-mail I received as part of a listserv I subscribe to. Who is mentioned in that article...but Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset. Whoa.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Let the Commencing of the Commencement Commence!
I love the idea of using education to further improve society and create a more just, enlightened society. And I love the idea that every human, no matter the background, can benefit from an education to do just this. But in a challenging economy - where, as Monica Hesse from the Washington Post writes, "qualified workers can't find jobs, and jobs can't quite final qualified workers" - higher education is charged with doing more.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Redefining "Finished"

When are students finished with college? 

My personal circle is filled with old college friends, and many of us are finishing or have earned our masters' degrees, and some have begun or even earned a Pharm. D. or Ph. D. The finishline for us was not necessarily the end of a bachelor's program.

The discussion around student retention and college completion has turned to those students who enroll in college but don't finish, and what value that enrollment had for them. This is a terribly overdue conversation that post-secondary has been avoiding for a long time. Generally, we think of the finish line as the end of a program and a degree. Colleges like that model because then we feel that our students have been through the educational wringer, and there's tuition dollars to speak of. But is that truly where students stop? Or need to stop? 

I came across this article the other day from the Brookings Institution: Is Starting College and Not Finishing Really That Bad? . It's an intriguing piece that brings up a worthwhile point: if workers with some college earn significantly more than those with no college, is it worth it to finish a degree? There's little doubt left that, even as tuition and fees rise and financial aid capacities shrink, investing in a college education will pay off. But if a worker can increase his/her earnings with even one semester of college, what motivation is there to continue through the end of a degree program? Or, is there enough to entice a student to earn a degree? This is an especially important question to consider for those students with risk factors - which comes down to most students in any institution that's not a 4-year university.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Meeting Students at the Door

Meeting Students at the Door | Buckets & Fires Blog
Image from
As I've written before, Dr. Daniel Chambliss has found that what makes college a positive experience comes down to the people students interact with. We've also covered how successful colleges know and appreciate the students who walk through their doors instead of constantly search for better students, as told in Joann Soliday and Rick Mann's great book. This means that it is even more important for colleges to recognize who is coming through the door, and to have the right people available to meet them. This is especially the case for students attending technical college. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Microwave Nation: Technology & Education

For a while now, I've used the term "microwave" to describe or define a situation in which a problem exists because someone/everyone wants the simplest, fastest solution that requires the least amount of thinking and energy. 

In other words, we want to be able to pop a problem in the microwave, hit the button, and make it better at super-fast speed. Anything more than 30 seconds is too long, and we don't want to take a lot of brainpower to figure out which buttons to push.