faculty

Colleges award tenure

Bethany College, in Kansas

  • Lucas (Luke) McCormick, chemistry

Knox College

  • William Hope, anthropology-sociology
  • Helen Hoyt, chemistry

Lander University

How to deal with microaggressions in class (opinion)

Tyrone Fleurizard gives advice for reducing subtle yet discriminatory actions and comments in the classroom.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018
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3 Approaches for Confronting Microaggressions

UNC Coach: If Football Goes Down, 'Country Will Go Down, Too'

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's football coach, Larry Fedora (left), on Wednesday said the sport is “under attack” from safety advocates, with long-term stakes moving far beyond the playing field.

“I fear the game will be pushed so far from what we know that we won't recognize it in 10 years,” he said. “And if it does, our country will go down, too.”

Speaking to reporters during the ACC Football Kickoff, in Nashville, Fedora said he had spoken to a U.S. military general who told him the nation's armed forces are so strong, in part, because so many football players go on to enlist.

"Are there still injuries? Yeah. It's a violent sport," Fedora said, according to ESPN. "You've got big, fast, strong guys running into each other. Something is going to give. But there are risks involved in the game, and everybody that plays the game understands those risks."

To date, 111 head injury lawsuits have been filed and condensed against the NCAA and its membership. The NCAA has already agreed to pay $75 million to settle a class-action concussion lawsuit, but none of the money has gone to individual athletes, who can still file personal injury claims. Most of it, $70 million, has been used to set up a medical monitoring system for players. The remaining $5 million is slated for concussion research.

The National Football League has offered a $1 billion settlement for former players who display lingering problems related to concussions and has instituted much stricter rules around head trauma.

In 2017, Boston University researchers found that the brains of nearly every professional football player it studied had symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease brought on by continual head trauma. Researchers found CTE in 110 of 111 professional players’ brains it studied, and in 48 of 53 college players’ brains.

In CTE cases, a protein called TAU builds and clumps in the brain, killing cells and causing physical problems such as severe headaches, as well as significant mood swings, memory loss and dementia. It can only be definitively diagnosed after death.

Fedora on Wednesday questioned the evidence tying CTE to football, saying that the game "is safer than it's ever been," according to ESPN. "When I started playing the game, it was all about the head. You were going to stick your head into everything. And as we've learned and we understand the dangers of what's going on in the game of football, you slowly have taken the head out of the game. And so all the drills that you teach, all the tackling, all the things you do, you do it with the head out of the game, to keep the head away from the impacts."

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New Paltz Professor Apologizes for Comments on Rap

Gerald Benjamin, distinguished professor of political science at the State University of New York at New Paltz, apologized Wednesday for comments he made about a local congressional race in an interview with The New York Times. In the interview, Benjamin suggested that Democratic candidate Antonio Delgado’s past as a rapper would hurt him in terms of votes. “Is a guy who makes a rap album the kind of guy who lives here in rural New York and reflects our lifestyle and values?” Benjamin was quoted as saying. “People like us, people in rural New York, we are not people who respond to this part of American culture.”

Delgado, who is black, told the Times that ongoing criticism of his music was an attempt to “otherize” him, and many readers condemned Benjamin’s comments as racist. Donald P. Christian, New Paltz’s president, and Tanhena Pacheco Dunn, the university’s chief diversity officer, criticized Benjamin’s comments in an all-campus email after the article appeared online Tuesday, saying, “We are disappointed that such language would come from a campus leader and ambassador of the college and reaffirm that the quotes do not reflect our institutional values of inclusivity and respect.” The expectation of “any member of this community is that they be mindful of the impact of their speech on others and understand that the consequences of that speech may have unintended and long-lasting negative effects,” they said.

Benjamin said in a separate statement that he has a “deep attachment to the school and the diverse community we have built here” and that he was “very sorry for any unintended distress caused by my remarks.” Acknowledging that his comments had been interpreted as racist, Benjamin added, “I had no racist intent but understand the impact of those remarks, and regret having made them.”

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College Board backtracks on plan to begin AP World History exam in the year 1450, saying it will now begin in 1200

College Board backtracks on plan to begin the AP World History exam in the year 1450, saying it will now begin in 1200.

Non-Tenure-Track Fordham Instructors Win Big Raises

Fordham University’s adjunct and full-time, non-tenure-track faculty union voted to ratify their first contract, they announced Wednesday. (An earlier agreement was tentative.) The union, which represents 800 instructors and is affiliated with Service Employees International Union, says the three-year deal provides adjunct faculty members with raises of up to 90 percent, with the majority of adjuncts earning between $7,000 and $8,000 per course by the end of the contract. The new minimum annual salary for full-timers is $64,000, an increase of about $14,000 per year for some of the lowest-paid instructors.

Bob Howe, university spokesperson, said Fordham is “pleased to have reached this significant agreement.” Better pay, greater security and “greater integration into the university community are not only better for our faculty, but for the students they teach and for the university as a whole,” he said.

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China may overtake U.S. in research impact of scholars, analysis finds

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U.S. may be overtaken on research impact by mid-2020s, study finds.

Faculty should work together to improve assessment (opinion)

Assessing Assessment

I vividly remember the day I shared with colleagues that I was leaving my faculty position to join our institution’s administration. Congratulatory comments quickly turned to looks of shock -- better described as betrayal -- when they realized I would oversee accreditation, assessment and institutional research.

Suddenly, my decision was met with terms such as “sellout,” “dark side” and “bureaucrat.” And later still, when I told the same colleagues I’d accepted a position with an ed-tech company, the shock was even greater. Every time I read commentary pieces, such as Alex Small's recent Inside Higher Ed article -- or those from Molly Worthen and Erik Gilbert earlier this year -- I’m reminded that, to some degree, anti-assessment culture permeates every institution of higher education. But it shouldn’t have to.

Learning outcomes assessment does not need to be a “bureaucratic behemoth” or contribute to a “ballooning assessment industry,” to cite Worthen. If we as faculty members truly want to own the assessment of student performance and understanding, then we should come to the table and work toward meaningful solutions and processes. In an era of heightened data expectations, in which internal and external forces continue to demand more from institutions, people expect to see results, whether we agree with these expectations or not. Faculty members want to know how programs prepare students to help prioritize internal funding; lawmakers want to know outputs of public money; and students and parents want to know how particular institutions or degrees can lead to success postcompletion.

Ironically, faculty expect tangible results from their peers when reviewing research, but some seem opposed to the same standards being applied to their classrooms. Thinking about higher education from an outsider’s perspective paints a fairly simple picture: students take courses because they expect to learn something. Faculty members are charged with determining what students should learn as part of curricular design, and it’s reasonable that they should determine whether or not students learn what is intended.

So, why the resistance? Why are many faculty members able -- and most important, willing -- to meaningfully show what students do and learn in the classroom, while others prefer to act like their impact on student learning could never be measured?

To be clear, assessment shouldn’t be about writing yet another report or checking an end-of-semester requirement box. It needs to be collaborative and carefully rooted in student learning. Assessment data, when collected and used in a meaningful way, can positively impact a faculty member’s own pedagogy, their academic program and student success. In a true culture of assessment, faculty members hold each other accountable for the benefit of students.

Rather than being another required activity, departments should integrate assessment into the triad of teaching, research and service. When a faculty member uses assessment results to improve as an instructor, they should receive credit for teaching. The scholarship of teaching and learning should be recognized as a worthwhile disciplinary contribution. And professors who lead assessment efforts and contribute in significant ways should be rewarded with service credits. But if assessment is going to be treated as a pariah, we shouldn’t expect faculty attitudes to change.

It’s easy to place the brunt of negative attitudes toward assessment on regional accreditors. And it’s even easier to understand why faculty members do so when campus administrators -- at times, myself included -- find it easier to pass blame on to accreditors rather than take time to explain the actual value of assessment efforts. But accreditation isn’t going anywhere, and assessment isn’t a passing fad.

Our charge then is to actively try to improve attitudes toward assessment. How do we make accreditation reports an opportunity to demonstrate meaningful ways we’ve used data to improve, as opposed to self-selecting cases to convince our peers that we upheld the spirit of an accreditation standard? It starts with developing a healthy assessment culture on campus, which requires both faculty members and administrators coming together to ensure people truly benefit from the data they are asked to collect and provide.

I doubt we could find a faculty member on any campus who would claim they entered higher education because of their love of assessment. That’s certainly not why I entered the field. But I struggle to see why my choice to believe in assessment is a negative attribute or means I am simply a report-filing bureaucrat. Why would I not want to demonstrate what my students (past, present and future) learn, why it matters and how it fits into an intentionally designed program progression? Perhaps most important, why would I not expect to demonstrate my effectiveness at the main reason most faculty members are employed: To help students learn about an area in which I am a content expert?

While it’s fun to write narratives that attack the problems with assessment, it’d be far more helpful if faculty members who have issues with how assessment takes place on their campus would step up and work to improve the culture by participating in relevant departmental or campuswide committees. For as much time as I spent writing reports -- reports that truly helped the faculty members who took time to engage with them -- my most productive career moments have been spent working closely with faculty to assure they understand what we “assessophiles” are trying to do and the real reasons why we try to do it.

Will Miller is assistant vice president of campus adoption at Campus Labs. Previously, he served as executive director of institutional analytics, effectiveness and planning at Flagler College, where he also taught political science and public administration.

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Advice to deans, department heads and search committees for recruiting diverse faculty (opinion)

Abigail J. Stewart and Virginia Valian provide recommendations for how deans, department chairs and their search committees can optimize their chances.

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Why assessment of teaching is vital (opinion)

Assessing Assessment

“Negative piece on assessment in today’s Inside Higher Ed,” the text from my wife read. I sighed and clicked the link. The piece was all too familiar as it rehashed many of the same talking points and straw men that had been articulated in prior opinion pieces.

Afterward, I dutifully checked the responses to the piece on an assessment Listserv and was surprised the tenor was so different from the reaction to previous opinion pieces. Instead of frustration and resilience, the reaction was closer to reconciliation and exhaustion. One of the posts struggled with not having the time or inclination to respond to every negative opinion about assessment. I didn’t disagree.

But then I thought back on my teaching career. I spent 10 years teaching political science before transitioning into assessment, and during that time, I prided myself on challenging students who made definitive statements without consideration for whether those statements were generalizable or case specific. And so I diligently started the process of trying to answer a few of the various questions that the author of the recent opinion piece had posed.

Before that, I will offer one brief disclaimer: I can only speak of my own experiences in assessment across three different institutions. I will do my best not to paint all faculty members or administrators with a broad brush, which is something that seems to be lacking in a great number of opinion pieces these days.

Do I care about the “action verbs” you used in the assessment report you wrote at 2 a.m.? Sometimes. More often than not, I’m concerned about the substance that follows those Bloom’s taxonomy verbs. When I initially meet with a department about assessment, I ask two basic questions: What do you want your students to learn and how do you know they are learning it?

From there, we engage in wide-ranging conversation about the balance faculty members try to strike between emphasizing disciplinary-specific knowledge and enhancing translatable skills like critical thinking and effective written communication. Interestingly, department faculty can often disagree over the proper balance. The result of that dialogue is a list of learning outcomes that provides the department direction about what they seek to impart to students by the time they graduate. Yes, the development of those outcomes is appealing to me, but it is also appealing to prospective students and parents who want to know what they will receive for their increasingly expensive higher education.

Am I truly interested in assessing students’ learning of your subject? Yes. I love facilitating student learning. That love is what ultimately drove me to assessment. As a faculty member, I could impact the learning taking place in my classroom; however, as I started working in assessment, I realized that I could provide faculty members from across the institution with the support and resources needed to improve learning in their classrooms, as well. It’s rewarding to read departmental reports that talk about continuous improvement strategies that truly have improved student learning, retention and graduation.

Can you implement new teaching innovations you learned at a workshop or from a colleague without going through rounds of approvals? Of course. Part of being a good faculty member is actively seeking out ways to improve your craft and adapting effective teaching strategies from each other. Sometimes those improvements take place at the spur of the moment, and other times, they are planned several semesters in advance. In either case, assessment should not be the enemy of innovation. The focus of assessment is documenting those innovations and determining their relative effectiveness. Hopefully, after documentation and analysis, the department can present its findings to Professor Droning On to demonstrate how much better their innovation is in comparison to lecturing for three hours per week and giving multiple-choice tests.

Do I want you to bury evidence of deficiencies in learning among graduating seniors? No, in fact, I would like for you to do the exact opposite. I want those reports to be highlighted, so that as a department and institution, we can work toward improving the mastery of learning outcomes by graduating seniors.

Should students fail the course and be deprived graduation based upon that knowledge? I can’t say. That depends entirely on how your outcomes are structured within your course grading scheme. I have had students who struggled to write effectively but excelled in other areas of the course, such as classroom discussion or group projects, that allowed them to earn a passing grade. I would never deprive a student the ability to matriculate through their education as long as they met the standards put forth in my syllabus. But that does not mean we should idly sit by and not try to improve the situation.

Do we assess assessment? Constantly. It is an ever-present topic of conversation at every assessment conference, and it is frequently written about in assessment journals and reviewed in-house at every institution where I have worked. We question ourselves on a daily basis. Is the assessment process faculty friendly? How can we make the reports more meaningful? Can we get feedback to faculty members more quickly? Has student learning been positively impacted by the continuous improvement strategies implemented the previous year?

In closing, “assessment” has become a dirty word in higher education. That’s understandable. Faculty members have little formal training relating to assessment. We are subject-matter experts who, in many cases, had our minds filled with knowledge in graduate school and then were pushed in front of a classroom and told to teach. Along the way, we picked up pedagogical strategies, but I admit to being perplexed the first time someone came to me with an assessment plan.

However, rather than lamenting my 6-6 teaching load, I took the opportunity to learn and found that assessment was a way I could improve as an educator. At its core, assessment is about determining what your students are learning and figuring out how to take a more active role in facilitating that learning. Assessment is so much more than rubrics, forms and statistics. It is a way of knowing, which is why it belongs in higher education.

Matthew DeSantis is assistant director for institutional assessment at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Tex.

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