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Why do academics blog? An analysis of audiences, purposes and challenges

November 5, 2013 Comments off

Why do academics blog? An analysis of audiences, purposes and challenges
Source: Studies in Higher Education

Academics are increasingly being urged to blog in order to expand their audiences, create networks and to learn to write in more reader friendly style. This paper holds this advocacy up to empirical scrutiny. A content analysis of 100 academic blogs suggests that academics most commonly write about academic work conditions and policy contexts, share information and provide advice; the intended audience for this work is other higher education staff. We contend that academic blogging may constitute a community of practice in which a hybrid public/private academic operates in a ‘gift economy’. We note however that academic blogging is increasingly of interest to institutions and this may challenge some of the current practices we have recorded. We conclude that there is still much to learn about academic blogging practices.

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Professors’ Facebook Content Affects Students’ Perceptions and Expectations

May 1, 2013 Comments off

Professors’ Facebook Content Affects Students’ Perceptions and Expectations

Source: Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking

Facebook users must make choices about level of self-disclosure, and this self-disclosure can influence perceptions of the profile’s author. We examined whether the specific type of self-disclosure on a professor’s profile would affect students’ perceptions of the professor and expectations of his classroom. We created six Facebook profiles for a fictitious male professor, each with a specific emphasis: politically conservative, politically liberal, religious, family oriented, socially oriented, or professional. Undergraduate students randomly viewed one profile and responded to questions that assessed their perceptions and expectations. The social professor was perceived as less skilled but more popular, while his profile was perceived as inappropriate and entertaining. Students reacted more strongly and negatively to the politically focused profiles in comparison to the religious, family, and professional profiles. Students reported being most interested in professional information on a professor’s Facebook profile, yet they reported being least influenced by the professional profile. In general, students expressed neutrality about their interest in finding and friending professors on Facebook. These findings suggest that students have the potential to form perceptions about the classroom environment and about their professors based on the specific details disclosed in professors’ Facebook profiles.

Creating A Faculty Culture of Student Success

February 13, 2013 Comments off

Creating A Faculty Culture of Student Success
Source: Aspen Institute

This guide describes how leading community colleges have created cultures in which faculty members consistently work to reform and improve their teaching in ways that measurably improve student learning. It provides a look at some innovative approaches, including the unusual tenure process at Valencia College – winner of the 2011 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence – which is built around a system that requires faculty members to use data and experiment with their own teaching in ways that will improve student learning, and supports them along the way.

EU — The Professionalisation of Academics as Teachers in Higher Education

January 25, 2013 Comments off

The Professionalisation of Academics as Teachers in Higher Education (PDF)

Source: European Science Foundation

From press release:

A new ESF position paper identifies needs and steps to improve teaching skills in Higher Education.

A new position paper, The Professionalisation of Academics as Teachers in Higher Education, has been published today by the European Science Foundation.

In Europe, where over 19 million students are in tertiary education, it is becoming crucial to look at, study and improve the teaching skills of scientists in order to teach more effectively the next generation of innovators. This is not only of interest to the Social Sciences but an issue of basic importance to all domains of science and to society as a whole.

The publication exposes current developments and challenges in the European Higher Education landscape. The authors establish a set of nine principles of good teaching and recommend that universities that strive for quality education offer educational development opportunities for their teachers. They claim that well-designed educational development programmes lead to increased satisfaction of teachers and changes in attitudes, behaviours and teaching practice.

The position paper underlines that “excellent teachers are made, not born; they become excellent through investment in their teaching abilities. Leaving teachers to learn from trial and error is a waste of time, effort and university resources.”

The publication therefore highlights six recommendations for important advances to be made toward the professionalisation of teaching and student learning:

  • define professional standards for higher education teachers;
  • measure teaching effectiveness and provide constructive feedback for academics;
  • establish the institutional support base for educational development locally;
  • promote the idea of the ‘teacher researcher’ and recognise research on teaching as research activity and teaching excellence in hiring and promotion decision;
  • allocate meaningful funding for educational development;
  • establish a European forum within a currently existing institution that pools and shares resources and existing expertise.

Heterogeneity in Discrimination?: A Field Experiment

September 27, 2012 Comments off

Heterogeneity in Discrimination?: A Field Experiment
Source: Social Science Research Network

We provide evidence from the field that levels of discrimination are heterogeneous across contexts in which we might expect to observe bias. We explore how discrimination varies in its extent and source through an audit study including over 6,500 professors at top U.S. universities drawn from 89 disciplines and 258 institutions. Faculty in our field experiment received meeting requests from fictional prospective doctoral students who were randomly assigned identity-signaling names (Caucasian, Black, Hispanic, Indian, Chinese; male, female). Faculty response rates indicate that discrimination against women and minorities is both prevalent and unevenly distributed in academia. Discrimination varies meaningfully by discipline and is more extreme in higher paying disciplines and at private institutions. These findings raise important questions for future research about how and why pay and institutional characteristics may relate to the manifestation of bias. They also suggest that past audit studies may have underestimated the prevalence of discrimination in the United States. Finally, our documentation of heterogeneity in discrimination suggests where targeted efforts to reduce discrimination in academia are most needed and highlights that similar research may help identify areas in other industries where efforts to reduce bias should focus.

Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2011 and Student Financial Aid, Academic Year 2010–11 – First Lo ok (Provisional Data)

September 25, 2012 Comments off

Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2011 and Student Financial Aid, Academic Year 2010–11 – First Look (Provisional Data)

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

This provisional First Look is a revised version of the preliminary report released August 7, 2012. it presents fully edited and imputed data findings on the number of staff employed in Title IV postsecondary institutions in fall 2011 by occupational category, length of contract/teaching period, employment status, faculty and tenure status, academic rank, race/ethnicity, and gender. The report also contains data on student financial aid, including the number of undergraduate students receiving aid and the amount of aid received by those students for the 2010-11 academic year.

How Academics Face the World: A Study of 5829 Homepage Pictures

August 16, 2012 Comments off

How Academics Face the World: A Study of 5829 Homepage Pictures

Source: PLoS ONE

It is now standard practice, at Universities around the world, for academics to place pictures of themselves on a personal profile page maintained as part of their University’s web-site. Here we investigated what these pictures reveal about the way academics see themselves. Since there is an asymmetry in the degree to which emotional information is conveyed by the face, with the left side being more expressive than the right, we hypothesised that academics in the sciences would seek to pose as non-emotional rationalists and put their right cheek forward, while academics in the arts would express their emotionality and pose with the left cheek forward. We sourced 5829 pictures of academics from their University websites and found that, consistent with the hypotheses, there was a significant difference in the direction of face posing between science academics and English academics with English academics showing a more leftward orientation. Academics in the Fine Arts and Performing Arts however, did not show the expected left cheek forward bias. We also analysed profile pictures of psychology academics and found a greater bias toward presenting the left check compared to science academics which makes psychologists appear more like arts academics than scientists. These findings indicate that the personal website pictures of academics mirror the cultural perceptions of emotional expressiveness across disciplines.

AAUP — 2011-12 Report on the Economic Status of the Profession

April 12, 2012 Comments off

2011-12 Report on the Economic Status of the ProfessionSource: American Association of University Professors
From press release:

Officially, the Great Recession ended almost three years ago. Unfortunately for many, the improvements in the economics of higher education are barely noticeable. This academic year is the third in a historic low period for full-time faculty salaries, which failed to meet the rate of inflation again this year. Some who work in part-time faculty positions have justifiably criticized the lack of information about their situation, even as they have become the majority within the faculty. Our students are facing escalating tuition bills and student loan debt, and wondering what’s driving those increases. And the “Occupy” movement has drawn a new level of attention to the issue of income inequality, an issue the AAUP’s annual economic status report has taken up for many years in the context of colleges and universities.

A Very Slow Recovery: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2011–12, released today, is now available. The AAUP’s annual report has been an authoritative source of data on faculty salaries and compensation for decades.

In addition to listing average salary by faculty rank and gender at 1,250 colleges and universities, the report provides an important perspective on the economic challenges facing higher education.

Student Consensus on RateMyProfessors.com

December 1, 2011 Comments off

Student Consensus on RateMyProfessors.com (PDF)
Source: Practical Assessment, Research and Evaluation

At the same time as some faculty committees and corporations are appealing to the use of online ratings from RateMyProfessors.com to inform promotion decisions and nationwide university rankings, others are derogating the site as an unreliable source of idiosyncratic student ratings and commentary. In this paper we describe a study designed to test the assumption that students’ ratings are unreliable. The sample included 366 instructors with 10 or more student ratings. Contrary to the assumption that students’ ratings are unreliable, variance in students’ ratings about a given instructor was similar across number of raters, with 10 raters showing the same degree of consensus as 50 or more raters. Students showed the most consensus about instructors who were among the top third of the distribution in quality, and this effect occurred even among instructors rated as the most difficult. Taken alongside other investigations of RateMyProfessors.com and the broad literature on student evaluations of teaching, our findings suggest that students who use RateMyProfessors.com are likely providing each other with useful information about quality of instruction.

Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2010, and Salaries of Full-Time Instructional Staff, 2010-11

November 23, 2011 Comments off

Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2010, and Salaries of Full-Time Instructional Staff, 2010-11
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

This First Look presents data from the Winter 2010-11 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), including data on the number of staff employed in Title IV postsecondary institutions in fall 2010 by primary function/occupational activity, length of contract/teaching period, employment status, salary class interval, faculty and tenure status, academic rank, and gender.

+ Full Report (PDF)

How Much Ivory Does This Tower Need? What We Spend on, and Get from, Higher Education

November 10, 2011 Comments off

How Much Ivory Does This Tower Need? What We Spend on, and Get from, Higher Education
Source: Cato Institute

It is commonly asserted, especially by people within higher education, that the American Ivory Tower is strapped for cash and tightfisted taxpayers are to blame. Taxpayer support for postsecondary education has long been in decline, this narrative goes, and has forced schools to continually raise tuition to make up for the losses.

Tallying taxpayer-backed expenditures on higher education over the last quarter-century, and separately tallying 15 years of taxpayer burdens after accounting for student loans being paid back, reveals that this narrative is inaccurate. No matter how you slice it, the burden of funding the Ivory Tower has grown ever heavier on the backs of taxpaying citizens. Whether one examines taxpayer dollars in total, per enrollee, per degree, or per tax-paying citizen, real spending has gone up.

Unfortunately, financial costs are only part of the story. While the evidence is not conclusive, it appears that the additional spending and the additional students and degrees it has helped to fund do not ultimately constitute a net societal gain. Instead, all the coerced, thirdparty support has likely produced several damaging, unintended consequences: credential inflation, sky-high noncompletion rates, and rampant tuition inflation. In other words, the money taken from taxpayers, in total and on an individual basis, to “invest” in higher education has been on the rise, and it appears to be hurting both taxpayers individually and society as a whole. We have taken money from people who would have used it more efficiently than has the system to which it was given.

+ Full Document (PDF)

Measuring Nepotism through Shared Last Names: The Case of Italian Academia

October 1, 2011 Comments off

Measuring Nepotism through Shared Last Names: The Case of Italian Academia
Source; PLoS ONE

Nepotistic practices are detrimental for academia. Here I show how disciplines with a high likelihood of nepotism can be detected using standard statistical techniques based on shared last names among professors. As an example, I analyze the set of all 61,340 Italian academics. I find that nepotism is prominent in Italy, with particular disciplinary sectors being detected as especially problematic. Out of 28 disciplines, 9 – accounting for more than half of Italian professors – display a significant paucity of last names. Moreover, in most disciplines a clear north-south trend emerges, with likelihood of nepotism increasing with latitude. Even accounting for the geographic clustering of last names, I find that for many disciplines the probability of name-sharing is boosted when professors work in the same institution or sub-discipline. Using these techniques policy makers can target cuts and funding in order to promote fair practices.

Faculty expectations and student reporting of time spent preparing for class

September 9, 2011 Comments off

Faculty expectations and student reporting of time spent preparing for class
Source: ESM Chaperone

Education does not occur solely in the classroom. The typical full-time undergraduate student generally spends 12 to 15 hours per week in direct (face-to-face) instruction, with the nominal expectation that they will complete 2 to 3 hours of “homework” for each hour of time spent in class. Understanding the extent to which mismatches exist between student effort to the education process and faculty expectations is important to a number of federal and state program design issues, particularly those related to academic preparedness for gainful employment and institutional quality.

We used data from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE) to look at the relationship between the number of hours faculty members expect (and assume) students invest in class preparation over the course of a 7-day week, and the number of hours students report spending each week.

The NSSE data show what students report that they actually did and reflect responses from approximately 191,000 first-year college students and 231,000 undergraduate seniors collected over the 2009-10 and 2010-11 academic years. The FSSE data reflect faculty expectations and assumptions of student preparation and are disaggregated into those who primarily teach lower-division undergraduate courses (approximately 1,450) and upper-division courses (approximately 1,850). They include responses from the 2008-09 through 2010-11 academic years. Both surveys focus on institutions awarding 4-year and post-baccalaureate degrees, and an overwhelmingly large number of the institutions participating in both surveys are not for profit.

Freshmen responses

Faculty Productivity and Costs at the University of Texas at Austin: A Preliminary Analysis

June 8, 2011 Comments off

Faculty Productivity and Costs at the University of Texas at Austin: A Preliminary Analysis (PDF)
Source: Center for College Affordability and Productivity

Recently released preliminary data from the University of Texas strongly suggest that the state of Texas could move towards making college more affordable by moderately increasing faculty emphasis on teaching. Looking only at the UT Austin campus, if the 80 percent of the faculty with the lowest teaching loads were to teach just half as much as the 20 percent with the highest loads, and if the savings were dedicated to tuition reduction, tuition could be cut by more than half (or, alternatively, state appropriations could be reduced even more—by as much as 75 percent). Moreover, other data suggest a strategy of reemphasizing the importance of the undergraduate teaching function can be done without importantly reducing outside research funding or productivity.

Noting that the findings are very preliminary, the Director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, Dr. Richard Vedder added “the results are so striking that they suggest a reallocation of resources within UT Austin holds great promise as a way of containing soaring higher education costs.”

Other highlights of the study:

  • 20 percent of UT Austin faculty are teaching 57 percent of student credit hours. They also generate 18 percent of the campus’s research funding. This suggests that these faculty are not jeopardizing their status as researchers by assuming such a high level of teaching responsibility.
  • Conversely, the least productive 20 percent of faculty teach only 2 percent of all student credit hours and generate a disproportionately smaller percentage of external research funding than do other faculty segments.
  • Research grant funds go almost entirely (99.8 percent) to a small minority (20 percent) of the faculty; only 2 percent of the faculty conduct 57 percent of funded research.
  • Non-tenured track faculty teach a majority of undergraduate enrollments and a surprising 31 percent of graduate enrollments.
  • The most active researchers teach nearly the average of all faculty; increasing teaching loads of others would trivially impact outside research support.

“It’s Not Over Yet” — AAUP Releases Faculty Salary Report

May 16, 2011 Comments off

“It’s Not Over Yet” — AAUP Releases Faculty Salary Report
Source: American Association of University Professors

While the Great Recession in the broader US economy may be technically over, the same cannot be said for the higher education sector. The results of the American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) annual survey of full-time faculty compensation are only marginally better than last year and represent the continuation of a historic low period for faculty salaries. For the second consecutive year, the overall average salary level increased at a rate less than inflation, and this is the fifth of the last seven years in which overall faculty salaries declined in purchasing power.

With three full years of data now available, we can begin to assess the direct impact of the recession on faculty compensation. This year’s report examines two major aspects of the recession’s impact: the ongoing expansion of contingent academic employment and growing salary inequality, both within the faculty and between faculty members and college and university presidents.

It’s Not Over Yet: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2010–11 is now available. The AAUP’s annual report has been an authoritative source of data on faculty salaries and compensation for decades.

In addition to listing average salary by faculty rank and gender at more than 1,300 colleges and universities, the report provides an important perspective on the economic challenges facing higher education.

+ Full Report

A Report on the Status of Women Faculty in the Schools of Science and Engineering at MIT, 2011

March 22, 2011 Comments off

A Report on the Status of Women Faculty in the Schools of Science and Engineering at MIT, 2011 (PDF)
Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

At MIT, we like data, especially data that advance our understanding of an important problem. In the 1990s, a group of MIT’s women faculty perceived patterns of inequitable resource allocation between them and their male colleagues. They collected data that demonstrated and quantified the problem, and they alerted the Institute’s leadership, in a search for practical remedies. Compelled by the evidence, MIT responded. Today , a new Report on the Status of Women Faculty in the Schools of Science and Engineering at MIT delivers the encouraging news that the process launched by these faculty women has made a lasting, positive difference for women faculty at MIT.

It is gratifying to see that MIT’s process has become a model for other institutions to improve conditions for their women faculty . The momentum of MIT’s research-based changes has helped women scientists and engineers at universities around the world advocate for equitable working environments that enable them to thrive.

This new report also highlights a number of areas where we still have work to do, from more fairly distributing service on Institute committees to enhancing training for faculty mentors. These recommendations echo several from last year’s Report of the Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity. Recurring themes in both of these reports reinforce the importance of our efforts to strengthen MIT’s culture of inclusion, so that everyone at MIT can do his or her best work.

I have enormous admiration for the faculty members who led the original study , for the many Institute leaders who have sustained the momentum since then, and for the women faculty who prepared this illuminating follow-up report. On behalf of the entire MIT community and especially on behalf of young women in science and engineering, I thank you for your important service to MIT and to the world.

Understanding Doctoral Education in the U.S.

March 11, 2011 Comments off

Understanding Doctoral Education in the U.S. (PDF)
Source: American Association of University Professors

After World War II, the United States decided to support much of its basic research through universities. That decision invigorated research with the energy, abilities, and fresh perspectives of students, while creating a fertile training ground for future researchers. Doctoral education in the U.S.—the education and training of Ph.D.s—became a combination of study and apprenticeship.

As a result, doctoral students work with faculty mentors in teaching and research, in addition to their coursework. This enables them to acquire an understanding of teaching and research techniques, and by the end of their doctoral programs, they are required to demonstrate that they can do independent research that advances the frontiers of knowledge.

Politically Controversial Academic Personnel Decisions

March 7, 2011 Comments off

Politically Controversial Academic Personnel Decisions
Source: American Association of University Professors

The AAUP today issued for comment a new report that discusses the history and character of politically controversial academic personnel decisions, identifies weaknesses in the principles and decision-making procedures that currently safeguard academic freedom, and recommends enhanced protections in the conduct of these cases. The fundamental principle is that all academic personnel decisions, including new appointments and renewal of appointments, should rest on factors that demonstrably pertain to the effective performance of the academic’s professional responsibilities. Political restrictions on academic expression must not be countenanced – even when many faculty members support or acquiesce in them.

The report’s recommendations include:

  • It is imperative in a politically controversial proceeding to tailor questions narrowly to permissible issues of academic fitness, and to avoid any inquiry into political affiliations and beliefs.
  • Collegiality is not an appropriate independent criterion for evaluation. The academic imperative is to protect free expression, not collegiality.
  • Institutions should not discipline a faculty member for extramural speech unless that speech implicates professional fitness.
  • Complaints regarding alleged classroom statements forwarded by outside agencies or individuals should be generally ruled out of consideration in initiating or conducting personnel reviews.
  • When complaints regarding alleged classroom speech arise from or are promoted by student political groups, the complaints should be respected only to the extent merited by the complaints and only when they are based on evidence from students who were actually enrolled in the course or courses in which the alleged inappropriate conduct occurred and were present to observe that conduct.
  • In the event that an academic hearing committee is convened, it should be elected or appointed by the faculty.
  • In dismissal cases, it is essential that the hearing committee provide a written reasoned opinion, consistent with the evidence and with sound academic principles.
  • The governing board would be well advised to follow the advice of the faculty committee, particularly in politically controversial cases in which academic freedom is at stake.
  • If the board does reach a determination contrary to the recommendations of a committee, or increases the severity of sanctions, the board must provide written, detailed, and compelling reasons.

+ Executive Summary
+ Full Report (PDF)

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