Posted by: Gregory Linton | 09/04/2019

Higher Ed Resource of the Week: College Teaching at Its Best

PalmerReleased on May 10 by Rowman & Littlefield, College Teaching at Its Best: Inspiring Students to Be Enthusiastic, Lifelong Learners by Chris Palmer provides a thorough introduction to all things related to college teaching. Although it is especially helpful to beginning teachers, experienced teachers may find new encouragement and wisdom in the book. This is a practical, how-to book, which is my favorite kind. The thirteen chapters cover a wide range of topics, including creating a syllabus, grading, caring for students, active learning, working with introverted students, variety in the classroom, and other relevant topics. Palmer is retired from his position as director of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University. He is a noted wildlife film producer.  The 248-page book is available on Amazon for $28.29 and in Kindle format for $26.88.

Posted by: Gregory Linton | 09/04/2019

Higher Ed Quote of the Week: 9/4/19

“Changing a curriculum is like moving a graveyard—you never know how many friends the dead have until you try to move them!”—Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), President, Princeton University

NeemOn August 13, Johns Hopkins University Press released What’s the Point of College?: Seeking Purpose in an Age of Reform by Johann N. Neem. Neem is professor of history at Western Washington University. In response to the multitude of ideas about how to reform and improve higher education, Neem encourages stepping back to consider the foundational question of why institutions of higher education exist in the first place. What is their purpose? How can they achieve that purpose? What virtues must they cultivate to achieve their purpose? Neem offers a guide to considering these deeper ethical questions in order to better inform higher education policy. The book consists of four parts on Context, Curriculum, Teaching, and Scholarship with a conclusion titled On the Future. Three essays are included in each of the four parts. The 232-page book is available on Amazon for $22.95 and in Kindle format for $21.80

Posted by: Gregory Linton | 08/30/2019

Higher Ed Quote of the Week: 8/30/19

“The stakes in educating underprepared students, in particular, are extremely high. If our education system were better able to assist more underprepared students to undertake and complete college programs of study, we would almost certainly witness an increase in economic productivity and a concomitant reduction in unemployment, incarceration, and racial tension. Moreover, successfully educating more underprepared students would serve to reduce some of the social and economic disparities that we currently see among different races and social classes.”—Alexander W. Astin, Are You Smart Enough?: How Colleges’ Obsession with Smartness Shortchanges Students (Stylus, 2016, p. 103)

Posted by: Gregory Linton | 08/24/2019

My advice to teachers of first-year students

At the start of each academic year, I send an email to instructors at our university who will be teaching freshmen classes. This email provides tips for engaging and retaining first-year students. I have include the text below in case these suggestions are helpful to others.

In my role as Retention Director, I am sending this email to all instructors of first-year students to provide some tips about how to teach and engage those students. The first year is crucial for retention. Most students that an institution loses from its first-time, full-time cohort are lost in the first year. Faculty members play a key role in encouraging retention of our freshmen, so here are some friendly suggestions that I hope you will consider.

  • Require the freshmen to complete team projects or put them in discussion groups so that they get connected with other students. If you can identify commuter students, put them in their own groups.
  • Remember that most of the freshmen are making the difficult transition from high school to college, so consider how to ease them into that. Make sure that your course content, requirements, and readings are pitched at the foundational, first-year level.
  • Bear in mind that we get mostly average and underprepared students. Elite students can go to highly selective, prestigious colleges for almost nothing, so we don’t get many of them here. View it as your mission and privilege to develop smartness in students who have been disadvantaged. I highly recommend the little book by Alexander Astin titled Are You Smart Enough?: How Colleges’ Obsession with Smartness Shortchanges Students.
  • Remember that many of our students are from low-income households, and most of those are first-generation students. If you assign an expensive textbook or access codes in your class, many of them will not be able to purchase them. Try to keep your course affordable.
  • If any students stop coming to class or are not submitting assignments, please fill out an Early Alert Form so that Academic Support can follow up.
  • A major contributor to retention is students connecting with instructors outside of class. I know this is challenging, especially for part-time faculty members, but try to think of ways to engage with students outside of class also.

Thank you for dedicating yourself to educating and mentoring our students. I am always available if you need any advice or encouragement.

Posted by: Gregory Linton | 08/24/2019

Higher Ed Quote of the Week: 8/19/19

“Whereas most hospitals are designed and equipped to treat seriously ill patients, most colleges and universities are not well designed to educate the less-well-prepared student. Faculty tend not to welcome such students and typically gear their college courses and their teaching methods to the smartest ones. Less-well-prepared students are expected to sink or swim, and many of them sink.”—Alexander W. Astin, Are You Smart Enough?: How Colleges’ Obsession with Smartness Shortchanges Students (Stylus, 2016), p. 61

Posted by: Gregory Linton | 08/15/2019

Higher Ed Resource of the Week: The Missing Course

GooblarOn August 20, Harvard University Press will release The Missing Course: Everything They Never Taught You about College Teaching by David Gooblar. Gooblar is Associate Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching at Temple University and publishes a column in Chronicle of Higher Education titled “Pedagogy Unbound.” This book attempts to address the lack of instruction on pedagogy in most doctoral programs, which prepare faculty members to be researchers but not teachers. The eight chapters of the book distills result of research on learning and effective teaching. It promotes the design of student-centered classrooms where students take control of their own learning and become active participants in the process. The 272-page book can be pre-ordered on Amazon for $29.95.

Screenshot_2019-08-15 How America Pays for College 2019 Study - HowAmericaPaysforCollege2019 pdfLast week, Sallie Mae released its annual report titled How America Pays for College. Conducted by Ipsos, the report summarizes the results of 2,000 online interviews of 1,000 parents of 18- to 24-year-old undergraduate students and 1,000 18- to 24-year-old undergraduate students. The list below distills some of the key findings reported in the press release, infographic, and full report.

  • 92% of parents believe education is an investment in their student’s future.
  • 71% of families say the price they are paying is fair for the education received.
  • 80% of families feel confident about how they are paying for college.
  • 44% of families have a plan to pay for all years of college.
  • In 2018-19, families spent an average of $26,226 on college.
  • College costs were covered by the following means on average: 43% by family income and savings; 33% by scholarships, grants, and gifts; and 24% by borrowing.
  • 38% of families reported the student borrowed money, and 21% reported a parent borrowed.
  • 27% of those who used federal student loans expect them to be forgiven.
  • On average, students apply to four schools and are accepted at three.
  • Cost is listed most frequently (by 77%) as a top consideration when choosing a college to attend.

In 2014, the Gallup-Purdue Index Report, based on data received from 30,000, identified six key college experiences that contribute to long-term success, engagement in the workplace, and a sense of well-being. Three of the six focused on the relationship between the student and a professor:

  • I had a mentor who encouraged me to pursue my goals and dreams.
  • I had at least one professor who made me excited about learning.
  • My professors cared about me as a person.

Connected Teaching coverThese findings show that, if professors want to make an impact on the future of their students, they must connect with them relationally and not just intellectually. A book released by Stylus Publishing on May 14 provides guidance for how to do that. Connected Teaching: Relationship, Power, and Mattering in Higher Education by Harriet L. Schwartz applies the concepts of Relational Cultural Theory (RCT) to teaching as a relational practice. RCT believes that engaging in growth-fostering interactions and relationships is essential to human development. Schwarz encourages faculty members to seek relationships with students, understand their own socio-cultural identity, and recognize the role of emotion in the learning process.

Schwartz is professor of psychology and counseling at Carlow University. She is also Lead Scholar for Education as Relational Practice for the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute. The 192-page book has nine chapters. It is available on Amazon for $32.50 or in Kindle format for $25.99.

Two weeks ago, the National Center for Education Statistics released a report with the long title “Baccalaureate and Beyond (B&BL16/17): A First Look at the Employment and Educational Experiences of College Graduates, 1 Year Later.” This report summarizes the findings from the first follow-up on a nationally representative longitudinal study of students who completed the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in the 2015-16 academic year. The follow-up was conducted in 2017 and was based on a sample of 26,500 students who represent the 2 million recipients of bachelor’s degrees in 2015-16. Here is a selection of the findings:

  • 42% of the graduates had parents who had not earned a bachelor’s degree.
  • 27% of them began their degree at a 2-year-or-less institution.
  • 44% of first-time bachelor’s degree recipients completed their degree within 48 months after first enrolling in postsecondary education.
  • 4% of all first-time bachelor’s degree recipients borrowed money to pay for their undergraduate education, averaging $30,500.
  • 69% of first-time bachelor’s degree recipients from private nonprofit institutions borrowed money to pay for their undergraduate education, averaging $32,500.
  • 65% of first-time bachelor’s degree recipients from public institutions borrowed money to pay for their undergraduate education, averaging $27,900.
  • 77% of first-time bachelor’s degree recipients had not enrolled in any additional education within 12 months of completing their bachelor’s degree. 12% had enrolled in a master’s program, and 4% had enrolled in a doctoral degree program.
  • 67% of first-time bachelor’s degree recipients were employed only, 12% were both employed and enrolled in additional education, 9% were out of the labor force, 6% were enrolled only, and 6% were unemployed.
  • Male first-time bachelor’s degree recipients who were employed full time had a median annual income of $41,600. Females had a median annual income of $37,400.
Posted by: Gregory Linton | 06/24/2019

How colleges can respond to market risks

ZemskyLast week, the American Council on Education released a brief white paper sponsored by the TIAA Institute titled “Too important to fail, too big to be complacent: An analysis of higher education market risks and stressors.” The report was co-authored by Robert Zemsky of the University of Pennsylvania and Philip Rogers of the American Council on Education.

Since 2016, twenty private, nonprofit colleges have closed, and others merged with other institutions. The pressures of declining enrollment for first-year classes and increasing tuition discounts, combined with poor retention rates, have led some pundits, such as Clay Christensen, to predict that 50 percent or more of colleges will eventually fail.

Zemsky and Rogers dispute these predictions. Their data shows that less than 10 percent of over 2,300 institutions of higher education nationwide are in serious risk of closing or merging. Another 20 percent of institutions are genuinely struggling but are not in immediate danger of closing. Of the 13 million undergraduates represented by these institutions, “just over half attended institutions facing no more than minimal market risk, roughly a third attended institutions experiencing moderate risk, and fewer than 7 percent attended institutions facing the threat of near-term closure” (p. 2). However, the greatest impact of closures would fall on students of color, Pell-eligible students, and adult learners.

Institutions have responded to market pressures primarily in two ways: (1) tuition reset where the sticker price is lowered and less student aid is provided; and (2) reducing instructional expenditures per student by at least 20 percent, usually by increasing the student-to-faculty ratio. Both of these strategies have had mixed, unclear results.

Zemsky and Rogers propose another strategy: redesigning the general education curriculum to promote higher retention of students. They suggest that, in the first year, students should take an introductory class in their preferred major and classes in practical learning skills that have a post-graduation payoff in the marketplace, such as writing, statistics, and problem solving. In the junior and senior years, students can engage in a broad exploration of topics outside, but ideally connected in meaningful ways to, their majors.

The key with these initiatives is working to overcome the growing (mis)perception that higher education does not provide value, in spite of the abundant evidence to the contrary.

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