Follow up from last post.
Monthly Archives: January 2014
Mary Willingham: the courageous and subversive act of pedagogic research
I hadn't heard of Mary Willingham until today. Her story has been the US education news for a few days now.
One of the risks of researching something is that you often find something out. When that research is into what actually goes on in a university the results can be unpalatable. Pedagogic research is often looked down upon, but in many respects it is the form of research that requires most courage.
Mary Willingham works in the Center for Student Success and Academic Counseling at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Over the course of her experience she came to notice that many student athletes were struggling with basic reading skills. She could have said nothing at all or merely harboured prejudice based on anecdote; instead her research into the reading levels of student athletes (and publication of the results) has brought condemnation from her university senior management, including according to CNN a demotion.
Those us in the UK (and elsewhere in the world) find it difficult to understand the concept of a university in which sports are such a great deal. Games are televised and watched by thousands of people. 80,000 plus seater stadia are not unknown. Athletics is seen as both a money spinner and community outreach. Some universities and college accept students who would not otherwise be qualified based on their abilities in particular sports. The [American] football coach is often the highest paid employee at the whole university. The Chronicle of Higher Education forums are a source of many stories about pressure from sports coaches to be lenient on students who have not done the work required or not done as much as they should.
But sports is not really my point here.
Mary Willingham’s experience illustrates that research into the activities of the universities, especially learning and teaching can be a courageous, even subversive act, which may have high personal costs. Real courage on the part of university management would be to encourage and applaud research into those things which happen every day in our universities.
Sources for the Study of English-Speaking Quebec website
I don't research much on Canada these days, but in googling the title of my PhD thesis I came across the website Sources for the Study of English-Speaking Quebec by Brendan O’Donnell on which some of my work appears. This is a great resource for anyone working on this topic. It appears to be funded by Quebec English-Speaking Communities Research Network (QUESCREN).
Over 100 things to think about when lecturing (from 1937)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Today I have been thinking about lecturing. A couple of years back I was struck by Chekhov's short story “A Boring Story”, (1889) a first person account of an elderly and unwell medical professor, which includes his reflections on lecturing, which he regarded as something of a trial.
This morning I came across A Critique of Poor College Lecturing (1937) in which a psychology professor asked 300 students how he could improve his lecturing. The students came up with over 100 questions the lecturer needed to ask himself. Although somewhat daunting and clearly from a previous age of higher education there is much of value here. (The figures at the beginning of each point indicate the number of students who suggested this question or something like it).
James D. Weinland A Critique of Poor College Lecturing (1937)Journal of Educational Sociology , Vol. 10, No. 5 (Jan., 1937) , pp. 307-315 Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2262152 Not open access 🙁
Regarding Subject matter
10. Do you wander?
5. Do you stick to the subject?
5. Do you talk over the heads of the students?
3. Is your treatment too complicated?
3. Are you always talking of general theories, never specific?
2. Do you lecture too technically?
I. Is your subject matter poor?
I. Do you believe in making your explanations brief ?
I. Do you lecture continually on the same thing?
I. Do you give constructive information or do you tend to confine your criticism to destructive ideas?
I. Do you sometimes fail to speak about the assigned lessons, allowing the class to wonder what it's all about?
I. Do you arouse curiosity about the next lecture?
i. Do you talk more about the subject matter than about yourself?
i. Are you original?
i. Do you understand the subject matter yourself ?
CLARITY AND CONSTRUCTION
I4. Does your lecture have unity and plan?
I4. Is your emphasis on the correct or wrong part of the lecture?
8. Are you clear on the points discussed?
4. Do you connect your topics?
2. Do you make clear the chronological order?
2. Do your statements have clear antecedents?
i. Do you clear up each topic before attacking the next?
I. Are your phrases jumbled, incoherent?
i. Are notes to be taken down announced?
I. Do you repeat conclusions, if any?
I. Do you repeat too often?
I. Are you too slow in making headway in presentation?
i. Is the discussion of important topics too rapid?
I. Can your class keep the pace you set in covering the work?
ATTITUDE OF LECTURER
12. Are you enthusiastic?
I2. Do you show an inferiority complex?
8. Do you have a feeling of superiority, swelled head?
8. Do you show force and vigor?
7. Do you talk hesitatingly, too many pauses?
7. Are you overearnest and overemphatic, too serious?
5. Do you speak with notes, as though reading?
4. Do you speak in a formal manner?
3. Do you speak directly to the class?
3. Are you friendly?
2. Are you interested in the subject?
2. Do you speak to the group as a whole or a selected few just in front of you?
2. Do you adapt yourself to your audience?
I. Are you so interested in the subject that you expect everybody else to be?
I. Do you act as though you wish the lecture were over?
I. Do you make yourself one of the class or a mere talking machine?
I. Do you feel at ease and make the class feel at ease?
I. Do you act as though you were very clever and your class very dumb?
I. Do you smile?
I. Is your appearance correct?
I. Is your bearing sloppy?
I. Do you have some dignity?
I. Do you look asleep?
I. Are you absent-minded?
I. Do you take yourself too seriously?
I. Are you in too much of a hurry?
I. Is your manner indifferent?
VOICE AND EXPRESSION
58. Is your voice monotonous?
28. Do you talk too fast?
23. Do you enunciate clearly?
i6. Is your voice loud enough?
I2. Is your voice too low?
8. Is your voice too loud?
7. Is your voice raspy, harsh?
4. Is your manner stuttering or uncertain?
4. Is the tone of your voice unpleasant?
3. Do you have vivacity of tone?
2. Is your voice shrill?
2. Do you lack articulation?
2. Do you control your voice?
2. Are there too many extremes in the pitch of your voice?
2. Do you fail to open your mouth in attempting to speak?
I. Is your voice weak?
I. Do you show emphasis with your voice?
I. Do you speak too slowly?
I. Do you speak through the side of your mouth or swallow your words?
I. Are your words too drawn out?
I. Do your words run into each other?
I. Do you have an ascending or descending inflection of voice?
I. Do you always emphasize the same part of every sentence?
I. Do you speak with feeling?
I. Do you speak continuously without a break?
I. Do you "hem" and "haw"?
VOCABULARY AND VARIETY
7. Is your pronunciation correct?
7. Do you use big words?
7. Do you slur difficult words?
5. Do you have a large vocabulary, variety, and can you find the right word?
2. Do you say "ah" and "ugh"?
I. Do you use flowery, literary language?
I. Do you repeat pet phrases?
I. Are your sentences too long?
I. Do you use many big words?
I. Are you wordy?
I. Does your vocabulary distract the listener from the subject?
I. Do you have relevancy in word power to situation or mood?
I. Are your lectures always started in the same humdrum manner,
such as: "The lecture today will be on
I. Are your lectures memorized or the result of a thorough knowledge of the subject?
23. Do you use good illustrations-in place?
4. Do you use new examples or stick close to the book?
3. Do you make statements of fact without illustration?
2. Are your lectures stereotyped and monotonous or do they offer an interesting story ?
I. Are your examples clearly given; i.e., their connection to the principle explained?
I. Can you write legibly on the blackboard?
I. Do you rehash the book?
I. Do you use blackboard illustrations?
I. Are your blackboard illustrations clear?
I. Do you keep illustrations up-to-date?
I. Do you bring in curious information and the odd?
I. Do your statements leave doubt or questions in the minds of your audience?
I. Do you ever relate any personal, outside experiences of your own?
II. Is your body position correct, head erect, do you speak out, use gestures?
6. Are you nervous or shy?
6. Do you fiddle with objects, twirl your watch chain around your finger?
3. Do you move around during the lecture and thus keep the student's
eye occupied? (Best to move around)
2. Are your actions such that interest follows them instead of the lecture ?
I. Do you look out of the window for inspiration while lecturing?
I. Do you stand in one corner of the room?
I. Do you have disconcerting habits of walking about?
I. Do you walk up and down and so disturb the attention of the class?
I. Does your constant playing with chalk distract attention?
I. Have you irritating habits, do you look at your watch too often?
I. Do you have a mental handicap?
25. Do you use a little humor?
3. Are your jokes poor?
3. Are your attempts at humor painful?
I. Do you try to be too funny?
4. Can you keep order?
2. Are you irritable at small noises?
I. Do you become impatient and sarcastic?
I. Have you noticed the temperature of the room?
I. Are you extremely stern in disciplining your classes, thus making the students feel like kindergartners?
I. Do you scold too frequently?
I. Do you sound irritable?
I. Are you fairly strict with the class?
I. Do you continually call down students for their lack of cooperation?
I. Do you lean toward favorites?
I. Are you too lenient?
I. Do you give too much "blarney"?
ATTITUDE ON QUESTIONS
5. Do you ever call for discussion?
5. Do you give an opening for questions?
2. Do you question and get reactions from the class?
2. Do you hesitate in answering questions?
2. Do you answer questions immediately or wait until the next class?
I. Do you allow any one person to ask too many questions?
I. Are you frank?
I. Do you try to answer a question when really you do not know the answer yourself ?
I. Do you have an antagonistic attitude toward questions?
I. Do you refuse to explain points unless the whole class so asks?
Happy New Year and update
2013 has been a year of positive and welcome change on the job front. On the home front things have been less than straightforward, and since September I have been a weekly commuter living in Brighton during the week and returning to Southampton (and the family) at weekends. Currently the situation is complicated further as our proposed house purchase in East Sussex has either stalled or fallen through completely. We decided to go ahead with the sale of our house in Southampton and just before Christmas my wife and I and our two sons has temporarily moved in with my parents—they are still in the family the home and have space for us, but being further away from Brighton than I started was not exactly Plan A. The move all took place very quickly and I have had to apply for a school place for my eldest son in my parents’ village. Moving twice (or three times) was the thing I wanted to do least but it seems that the way it’s going to be.
I’m not a victim in this of course. I am fortunate to have loving parents who are both willing and able to take us in for a short time. I have a good job I enjoy and have the advantage of the house sale in Southampton having done through making us ‘chain-free’ in estate agent parlance. My main gripe of the past few months has been cursing the English house buying system which allows either party the opportunity to pull out until the last minute. Despite this, my mental health has vastly improved over the past few months.
I’ve just reached this third paragraph aware that this is more of update on my own situation than a useful post for anyone else. I won’t over analyse anything and just leave it here.