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Teaching

Outcomes Assessment: Conceptual and Other Problems

Despite their plausibility and their having become common practice, programs of outcomes assessment are fraught with problems. Disclosing the problems requires critical thought and a skeptical attitude at odds with most of the relevant literature. The practice lacks a basis in research, though circular, question-begging faux research attempts to caulk the gaps. Its real basis, discernible on investigation, raises more problems.

Invigorating the Classroom

In a lengthy two-part, online essay titled “Politicizing the Classroom,” Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, argues that the AAUP’s recent report Ensuring Academic Freedom in Politically Controversial Academic Personnel Decisions is an effort to politicize the university. He advocates, as if it were an alternative, that the university focus on improving the quality of student learning. I disagree with his critique, and particularly his contrived assumption that advocacy and learning are contradictory.

Graduate Student Academic Freedom and the Apprenticeship Myth

In fall 2009, my university’s newly hired director of programs in professional writing circulated a survey asking business writing instructors to note which of the long list of tasks, skills, and assignments they taught in their classes. Many of us blithely responded to the survey: what harm could come from his desire to know the overlaps and discontinuities amongst the program’s instructors, many of whom had been teaching these courses for years? By early spring 2010, we learned that he was not simply gathering information. He announced that he “likely [would] define the core content” of the two major business writing courses, a move that would impose “an instructional core ... of ten weeks.” The survey apparently had been either our only major opportunity to help shape this core or flimsy evidence to justify changes the new director already had planned. His e-mail did assure us that “the program is not proposing or adopting a single pedagogy for all sections”; he merely was dictating 70 percent of what we would teach.

MOOC Platforms, Surveillance, and Control

In the mid-1980s, while she was a professor at the Harvard Business School, Shoshana Zuboff formulated three laws about the implications of information technology:

1. Everything that can be automated will be automated.

2. Everything that can be informated will be informated.

3. Every digital application that can be used for surveillance and control will be used for surveillance and control.

Eight Actions to Reduce Racism in College Classrooms

Last year, at dozens of colleges and universities across the United States, students protested institutional unresponsiveness to pervasive issues of racial inequity. Most media attention disproportionately focused on the popularity of the protests as opposed to the actual issues underlying campus unrest.

Teaching Palestine

I teach courses that reflect my work in critical queer, feminist, and ethnic studies, security studies, and law. In all of my classes, I teach about Palestine. When I tell colleagues this, I tend to hear one of the following in reply:

1. That’s brave; I avoid it like the plague.

2. You are going to get in trouble.

Faculty Forum: Live and Unplugged

Now that course content, classroom discussions, and even entire universities have gone online, many wonder whether face-to-face college education has a future. With unlimited digital information easily available in the public domain, do we still need classrooms and laboratories?

State of the Profession: Freedom in the Classroom—and in the Trump Era

A week after the election of Donald Trump, over a hundred students and faculty members at my institution, Pennsylvania State University, met to talk about What It All Meant. Tensions ran high, and there was a heated argument over whether misogyny or white supremacism was primarily to blame for Trump’s freakish win (we would not know for another week or two that he performed no better in the popular vote than did Michael Dukakis in 1988).

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