Adrift without a Paddle

Academically AdriftWhile it is always good to examine evidence for or against one’s views, I strongly suspect that most college faculty greeted the recent publication of Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa with a high degree of “I could have told you so!” As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Huffington Post, some 45% of students “did not demonstrate any statistically significant improvement in Collegiate Learning Assessment [CLA] performance during the first two years of college.” Moreover, 36% demonstrated no improvement after four years. After 30 years of teaching, none of this surprises me. In truth, my experience would have predicted more dismal results. Continue reading


Making Hiring More Humane

In my last post, I advised, rather tepidly, those seeking faculty appointments to research each institution and write careful, individually tailored letters—in other words, to control what they can. Unfortunately, there is little else that they can control. Indeed, applying for employment, academic or otherwise, is unnecessarily dehumanizing and degrading. To submit an application for employment is to have it sucked into a “black hole” from which no light, not to mention information, ever escapes. Even the person hired hardly ever learns why he or she turned out to be so lucky.

Under Scrutiny

Under Scrutiny

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Coping with the Academic Job Market

The current academic job market, to state the matter as elegantly as possible, sucks. This has been its chronic condition ever since I emerged from graduate school in the 1970s. Now, of course, employment possibilities for faculty in higher education are further constrained by the dismal prospects affecting the rest of the economy. In truth, employment in general resembles the situation that occurred during the Great Depression, with little hope for significant recovery any time soon.

Percent Job Losses in Post-WWII Recessions

Percent Job Losses in Post-WWII Recessions

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The Part-Time Faculty Quagmire

Another article in The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a recent study that concludes that “conditions imposed on part-time adjunct faculty threaten the quality of teaching.” The article itself and experts quoted in it clearly state that many part-time faculty are quite good teachers, that this is most definitely not a criticism of individuals. Rather, the problem is systemic insofar as part-time faculty contend with conditions such as large class size, having to travel from one campus to another, lack of adequate office space, lack of instructional technology, exclusion from departmental decision-making, exploitative compensation, etc., that virtually ensures lower quality of instruction.  Continue reading

The Necessity of Classroom Learning in College

With the rapid growth of online course enrollments, a debate in higher education has broken out concerning whether online instruction is as good as, or even better than, traditional, face-to-face, classroom instruction. Partisans of online learning point to the success of traditional and for-profit institutions in delivering educational opportunities to cohorts of older and underrepresented students for whom on-campus learning presents otherwise

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Seaman Terrence Oliver aboard USS Ronald Reagan

insurmountable challenges because of life/work schedules or distance. Defenders of classroom-based learning, albeit with technological enhancements, often come off as 21st-century Luddites who cravenly resist threats to their lifestyle. When questions about whether online learning saves money for institutions and students are added to the discussion, you have a witch’s brew of complicated issues.  Continue reading