Submitted by Emily Tate on January 25, 2017 - 3:00am
Student success depends, in large part, on the effectiveness of the faculty members instructing them, a report from the American Council on Education states.
College students who are engaged in their course work are more likely to be satisfied with their educations and achieve their academic goals. The paper, titled “Unpacking Relationships: Instruction and Student Outcomes,” argues that the subject matter and learning environment -- both of which are set by faculty -- are important components of that success. “Instruction matters,” the author, Natasha A. Jankowski, wrote in the white paper. “And higher education needs to provide support for faculty to help students attain outcomes.”
The most effective methods for ensuring student success are not widely practiced in higher education, the paper notes. In the paper, Jankowski, director of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, considers five faculty practices that would benefit students:
Transparency: students need to know what to expect from their courses, what their professors expect of them and how they will be assessed.
Pedagogical approaches: personalized instruction and active learning are just two pedagogical approaches that have been linked to better student understanding and overall experience.
Assessment: students can build upon their knowledge base and check their progress through regular assessments, as opposed to testing their new knowledge and skills once or twice throughout the term.
Self-regulation: colleges that require active participation and reflection from their students tend to be more successful and have higher graduation rates.
Alignment: it’s important for students to see how separate assignments, courses and experiences can complement each other and contribute to their overall success.
Carol M. Swain, a controversial professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University, will retire in August, she announced this week. “I will miss the students and the rhythm of campus, but I will not miss what American universities have allowed themselves to become,” Swain said in a statement on her website. “What will I do next? I anticipate spending my time writing, speaking and making myself available for my next assignment.”
Swain has faced criticism for her comments about Islam and Black Lives Matter, among other topics. In 2015, for example, some students pushed for Vanderbilt to take action against Swain for writing in a column in the wake of the January terror attacks in Paris, “What would it take to make us admit we were wrong about Islam? What horrendous attack would finally convince us that Islam is not like other religions in the U.S., that it poses an absolute danger to us and our children unless it is monitored better than it has been under the Obama administration?”
A university spokesperson told The Tennessean, “We wish Professor Swain well in her retirement from Vanderbilt.”
Lincoln University in Missouri made headlines last year for shuttering its history department against the advice of a faculty committee. Now Lincoln has changed its financial exigency policy in ways that would make it much easier to lay off tenured faculty members. Financial exigency -- defined by the American Association of University Professors as a dire, institutionwide crisis -- is one of the few ways AAUP policy says that professors in good standing may lose their jobs. Most institutions have adopted that policy, and those that don’t risk possible censure by the AAUP.
Lincoln has changed its rules to specify that financial exigency may be declared not only at the university level, but also “for specific colleges, schools, departments or programs.” Faculty members with the shortest term of service now also “will generally,” not definitively, be terminated before those with longer periods of service.
A spokesperson for Lincoln did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary for tenure, academic freedom and governance at AAUP, called the university's new policy a “significant departure from our standards” and reiterated that the association defines financial exigency as “a severe financial crisis that fundamentally compromises the academic integrity of the institution as a whole and that cannot be alleviated by less drastic means.”