Thursday, June 28, 2012

A word from the Fab Four

Yes, ISW turns five years old today.

In honor, here's our first post. As I said then, we're aiming here "to stimulate dialogue and disseminate ideas about the teaching of philosophy as an academic discipline." How are we doing?

And here are some of our most popular or noteworthy posts:

Also, let me take this opportunity to ask readers:

  1. Are there other ISW posts that you've found particularly insightful or useful? Perhaps we could create a 'Greatest Hits' link in the right sidebar?
  2. What would you like to see more discussion of here at ISW? What teaching-related topics would you be most interested in hearing more about?

Monday, June 18, 2012

AAPT Conference-Workshop

American Association of Philosophy Teachers (AAPT)
19th Biannual Workshop-Conference
July 25-29, 2012
Saint Edward's University
Austin, Texas
The International Workshop-Conference on Teaching Philosophy (IWCTP) is a four day conference for philosophy teachers at every educational level. We emphasize workshops that are practical and interactive, and that cover a wide range of subjects related to teaching. 
Concurrent with the IWCTP is a selective and highly popular teaching seminar for graduate students, co-sponsored with the American Philosophical Association. 

This year's keynote speaker is Barbara Millis, director of the Teaching and Learning Center at University of Texas, San Antonio.

For the full program and to register for the conference, see the AAPT website


Reflections off Lake Wobegon: What faculty see about grade inflation when we look in the mirror

I'm utterly fascinated by this study on how faculty perceive grade inflation. The researchers interviewed 25 faculty members about grade inflation. The main findings:

  • "faculty thought grade inflation was more of a problem at their institution than in their department, and only two reported that grade inflation was a problem in their courses. Those perceptions aren’t particularly surprising, but then it starts to get really interesting. More than three-fourths of the faculty in this cohort reported that they were tougher graders than colleagues in their department. The researchers note that although it is possible that some in the cohort might be tougher graders, given criteria used to select participants “there is no reason to believe that the interviewees as a group actually were ‘tougher’ than others in their own department.”
  • The explanation for this discrepancy is that faculty routinely think they assign lower grades than they in fact do: "Nearly all of the interviewed professors believe their grades were lower than they actually were: they underestimated the number of A’s and overestimated the number of lower grades in their classes. In the most extreme case a professor estimated grades equivalent to a 2.31 GPA when in fact the actual GPA was 3.53.”

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Inside Out Prison Exchange

Tomorrow I begin training as an Inside Out Prison Exchange instructor.  Inside Out trains teachers to lead courses where half of the students are from a college (outside) and half are incarcerated (inside).  The goal is not to help the inside students (any more than teaching helps all students, and teachers) or to study inside students.  The goals are many - but the primary goal is to take one's teaching, learning and study into a unique space that brings together groups of people that are often kept apart.

I'll check in from time to time to let you know what I learn.  I assume I'll be learning a great deal that is unique to this program but also learning a great deal that is generalizable to all of our pedagogy.

My personal goal is to teach a course or courses through this program at my SLAC (Small Liberal Arts College).  So perhaps my posts on this will continue for some years - that's the hope!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A humorous take on student evaluations

Zachary Ernst has posted some funny suggestions for questions that might improve the typical student evaluation forms:
I occasionally complain about the uselessness of most quantitative measures of quality for complex activities like teaching or writing journal articles. But that's not to suggest that I'm against course evaluations. Far from it! In fact, I offer the following suggestions for new questions on the evaluations:

  1. How much do you regret taking this course? 
  2. If you overslept and missed class, would you consider that a good thing or a bad thing? 
  3. If you had to choose clothing to represent how much you cared about this course, which of the following would you wear to class?

    • Suit and tie
    • Clean shirt
    • Dirty shirt
    • Sweatpants
    • Pajamas
     4. Would you recommend this course to someone you don't like very

Monday, June 4, 2012

Better teaching = better grades?

The PEA Soup folks have had a lively discussion of how to adjust students' grades when we improve as teachers. Doug Portmore sets up the question:

Suppose that I’ve become a better teacher. Suppose, for instance, that I’ve used the same bank of test questions over the years and that, due to implementing certain non-substantive changes in my PHI X course, students taking that course from me this year are doing a better job answering those questions than students who took the same course from me in previous years. So the material that I’m trying to get the students to learn and the technique that I’ve been using for assessing whether they’ve learned it hasn’t change, but I’ve become more effective in that my current students are, on average, leaving the course with a better understanding of the material than students who took the same course from me in previous years. 
The question, then, is: Should I (A) adopt higher standards with respect to what level of understanding I expect from them so as to earn certain grades or (B) keep the same standards and give higher grades on average than I had been giving in previous years?