Susan Navarette - The Shape of Fear

I Don’t Like Teaching – Links on Teaching, Learning, Thinking

I don’t like teaching, but like the really great link below, I do care about it. The end of the semester is often a time for thinking about teaching, and this time I’ve already been in a whole-day workshop on First Year Seminars. Hartwick College has an unexpectedly huge first-year class (see the previous Antifragile College Manifesto for links about the myth of enrollment decline). I have, perhaps rather insanely, proposed a first-year course based on an intensive investigation of anthropologist Tim Ingold’s Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description. Tim Ingold is one of my Inspirations for Anthropology and his thoughts on the possibilities of local knowledge were a motivation for starting this blog.

  1. I Don’t Like Teaching. There, I Said It.

    If you don’t like teaching, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to like it; you just have to care about it. For many faculty members, that’s much easier. Reasons to care are numerous: democracy needs more educated and critical citizens; being educated correlates with higher levels of happiness; teaching affects your annual performance evaluations. The list goes on. I chose to write this essay under a pseudonym because the pressure to publicly pledge your love for teaching means that some administrators and colleagues at my institution, having read this, would recall only that I dislike teaching, not that I nonetheless make an effort to be good at it. And all is not lost if you have crossed over the line to disliking teaching. It is still perfectly possible to do a good job, even an excellent job.

    When I first shared this, my wife asked if I was actually “Sidney Perth,” the pseudonymous author. I’m not, but wish I’d written it!

  2. Processing Professors in the Consumer University. Anthropologist Paul Stoller reflects on time in the teaching trenches and current realities:

    It is not a bad thing to measure faculty performance and student outcomes. But in the blinding light of sweeping change are we losing sight of scholarly depth and intellectual rigor, two factors–at least for introductory courses–that seem to result in poorer short-term student evaluations and outcomes: signs of consumer dissatisfaction? There are, of course, many positive aspects to the digital revolution in higher education. In my view it is usually a mistake to turn your back on technological innovations that can improve how you communicate your knowledge to students. But sometimes the powerful possibility of the latest thing obscures what’s important–in the social life of the university. In an era of big data analysis it would be a terrible loss if our campuses are gradually transformed into certification factories in which professors and students become little more than processed data points in a consumer-driven institution.

  3. Gary Gutting asks Why Do I Teach?

    I’ve concluded that the goal of most college courses should not be knowledge but engaging in certain intellectual exercises. . . . The fruits of college teaching should be measured not by tests but by the popularity of museums, classical concerts, art film houses, book discussion groups, and publications like Scientific American, the New York Review of Books, The Economist, and The Atlantic, to cite just a few. These are the places where our students reap the benefits of their education.

  4. Charisma Doesn’t Count:

    Imagine you receive the same lecture twice: once from a charismatic lecturer speaking fluently without notes and maintaining eye contact; and again from a hesitant speaker, slumped over her notes and stumbling over her words. Which is better?
    In terms of what you learn there is surprisingly little to choose between the two, according to a team of psychologists.

  5. Which is interesting, but it made me think back to the work on Effects of accent, ethnicity, and lecture topic on undergraduates’ perceptions of nonnative English-speaking teaching assistants, which showed that if students perceived ethnicity, they heard accent even if there was none present, and comprehension suffered–even if it was a pre-taped lecture by a native English speaker!
  6. And then there’s The Mom Penalty:

    And the story favors men in academe, said Goulden. “Certainly our most important finding has been that family negatively affects women’s, but not men’s, early academic careers. Furthermore, academic women who advance through the faculty ranks have historically paid a considerable price for doing so, in the form of much lower rates of family formation, fertility, and higher rates of family dissolution.” For men, however, the pattern has been either neutral or even net-positive.

  7. Susan Navarette - The Shape of FearEnglish’s Self-Inflicted Wounds. Mark Bauerlein’s piece did make me think, both because of trying to figure out what to teach in a first year seminar, and because of the continuing issues in thinking through liberal arts relevance. However, Bauerlein is surely wrong, and he keeps harping on one course in one place as completely representative. Or, as my colleague in English put it, “he’s wrong about how we did ourselves in, as a discipline. But I’m too tired to outline how and why.”
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