Category Archives: metrics

All You do to Me is [TED] Talk, Talk

Not to brag, but I teach at three colleges. It’s a cold hard fact of the college professor lifestyle.  One is a traditional community college where I teach in the classroom.  Another is a non-profit liberal arts college operating mostly online.  My third and longest employer was a publicly traded for profit college that went into the hands of private for-profit investors in 2016.  I teach here in person and online.

I appreciate my varied teaching history for the simple reason that it provides ample evidence and example to test my beliefs as they relate to higher education.  Further, as I believe higher education’s delivery methods and purpose is experiencing rapid change, it may be best to keep many eggs in my basket.  Historically (a good critical thinking lens to employ), I know at least one will falter and one will flourish.  I take the same approach to financial investment – buy what you know but diversify as much as is reasonable.

I’m preparing for a July class at University of Phoenix (UOP), which means it’s time to dust off the syllabus and see what to cut and what to revise.  Certainly, more about spotting fake news is appropriate.

Related to that, I have been reading and re-reading this: the [ill] logic of climate denial and still crafting details to make it a classroom exercise rather than a lecture.  I’ve found the really important thinking parts of the class need to be discussed. I can test terminology knowledge and MLA formatting with little effort.  It’s the big points, mostly that your thinking is at the very least a “shared” phenomenon, I want them to analyze.

Each college schedules under a different philosophy. However, each of those philosophies embrace TED Talks!  UOP holds all undergraduate classes once per week, at night, for four hours, over five consecutive weeks. With twenty hours of class time to fill, my behavior is like a shark’s. I am in constant motion, seeking the signs of new content and relevant activities and useful discussion topics.  I just bought a thesaurus, thanks for asking.

This TED Talk video, linked below, is wonderful on many levels. I find it best to introduce at the end of week one (analysis of the state of our own thinking) or the start of week two (exploring ways of asking questions to uncover knowledge…aka the Socratic method…named for Dave Socrates).

First, it breaks the ice.  Giving people a video demonstrating how silly “other people’s” ideas are generates some laughs.

Second, it aligns with the learning outcomes of the course and the pace of the textbook reading.

Third, it let’s me introduce my personal biography and history with critical thinking.  The section on backward masking transported me to junior high, the early 80’s. I completed 4th-12th grade at an evangelical Christian school. I grew up learning the facts about the Bible and America that are on full display today at the highest levels of our government.  Backward masking was introduced as the means by which secular society influences behavior.  We mostly just found it funny, at times a bit scary.

I learned then that if you want someone to believe like you do, you must teach them. It rarely happens organically.  Yes, I do believe the best higher education is non-organic.  I might someday come to the conclusion that the best higher education is delivered by non-humans. I might even concede that it may be best to circumnavigate the person entirely, and just teach AI inspired devices directly.  But that’s a blog for another day.

Living as a human my entire life, the last decade paddling around in higher education, shaped my belief that teaching via processes like “childhood” and “school” generate behaviors and values we desire most consistently.  The everyday observations by a child regarding adult behavior, and the standardized lesson planning in education shape our beliefs, often to the detriment of other types of critical thinking evidence.

Media often gets the credit.  Media however, is the wall of your echo chamber, bouncing back what you’ve already put into the universe.  When it reaches your ear again, it sounds like confirmation. But it’s not…

It’s like this video I show in my critical thinking class.  When we are told what is “there”, lo and behold, we usually “see” it. And that is where critical thinking begins in earnest!

 

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Filed under belief, classroom management, college teaching, critical thinking, higher education, leadership, metrics, training, Uncategorized, UOPX

Looking for Stories

Metrics!  No matter your job, there are data available to validate, educate, or eliminate you!  A solid organization will utilize all three purposes while managing the people side of the operation. During my decade in higher education, “educate” would seem a natural fit, but metrics applied in higher education can make people wonder just what they taught us at our alma maters.

If you were ever a college student, you know that the preferred method of gathering metrics from students is through the end of course survey.  One concern is that they tend to attract your most ardent supporters and frustrated detractors.  To be fair, that is an unscientific opinion supported by personal experience over several years.  I would be pleasantly surprised to find otherwise, so if there is good evidence to the contrary, please let me know.

A second concern has to do with the psychological effect looking at my scores has on me.  As much as I say and believe that I am not competitive, I sure find plenty of evidence to the contrary. Since I teach a class on thinking critically about data, I should know better. Actually, I do know better.  I also know that if Vegas ever offers betting options on what motivates decisions – emotions or evidence – put your kid’s college fund on “emotion”. But I look at the score, then immediately see how my score compares with the University average. Above average means I have been validated and I am a great teacher and should keep on keepin’ on. Below average and I may need to revise my syllabus, dust off the CV, or both.

Now that I teach several times per week instead of a few times per year, I am on campus a good deal. Which means I get to run into students from my early courses on a regular basis.  I like these student interactions because they tell a story better than the data sets.  As someone who teachers with a philosophy that we all enjoy stories and should tailor our communications to that reality, it makes sense for me.

Recently I ran into three students from three different classes on the same day!  First, I enjoyed the fact that enough of my students persisted through their early coursework in order for me to run into them!  Second, I remembered two of their names!  More importantly, the short conversations we had between classes left me feeling that I am making a difference.  One talked about his tough but survivable Math class, and how it related to some of our discussion topics in English. The other warned me that there are still plenty of teachers still doing the “Death by PowerPoint” thing.  He said if the military could not break him with months of jargon-filled slides, an occasional four hour session of them was not going to stop him either.  The third conversation was the most supportive and it came from a student that really did not like my class all that much.  We talked about work stuff and parted with a friendly handshake.

All three interactions came about by chance.  A chance that happened only because they chose to stick with the program and I chose to be out and about at my campus.  For me, it was validating.  To see them still at it, to see they wanted to continue the conversation long after they had to, helps me understand my goal as a professor.  It is not to get a higher score than my peers. If I truly wish to help them “Rise”, I must make it a point to see them, and hear them, long after they have passed my class.

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Filed under college teaching, critical thinking, higher education, metrics, UOPX