An Ideal First Year?

I think a lot about what students need to know to be successful.  And more and more I feel that the old elective model does a huge disservice to first year students. I was reading this article about the differences in perspective between educators and employers. I think that we need to think less of education as being discipline specific and think of it more as being general leading to specific. So the first year would be a more general education, the second being general within the chosen discipline, and the third and fourth years being the same as they are now.

I’d like to propose a standardized first year regardless of program. This curriculum assumes that the student is attending an English speaking university.

The guidance behind this is taking a liberal arts concept and applying it to the key soft skills of oral communication, written communication, reading, basic math, working in teams, thinking skills, and computer use.

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Disrupting Higher Education?

Talking about the university system as if it’s doomed is fairly common. Here’s an article from three years ago outlining some common metaphors about the end of the post secondary system. The author’s disdain for them has been proven right so far. And yes, there are some for profit colleges running into problems because they were going for the quick money and shareholder support rather than looking at the long view the established PSIs have. And yes a small liberal arts college decided that it would rather close than leverage their endowment to reinvent itself. Whether that was a good or bad idea isn’t the point here.

The most important thing to remember about all of this is that we wont wake up one day with the university system crumbling or even disrupted. There will be warning signs.

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Remembering Suzanne

April 4th 2007 Suzanne Klerks passed away. I met her in 2002 when she taught my first year writing course at UCFV. Near the end of the semester I asked for a one day extension on a paper. She responded by giving me a copy of the Little Brown Handbook and telling me I could have a week as long as there wasn’t a single comma splice in the entire paper, a problem I’d been having all semester. I point to that as the pivotal moment in my University experience.

Her guidance over the next few years was key to my progression. It was her who planted the idea of me working in Higher Education, though she originally was encouraging me to look into teaching in Higher Ed. It was her influence that led me to consider my career not as a teacher, but as an educator, something that has led me from high school teaching into Student Affairs with no regrets.

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A Response to “Dear #sachat”

Tim St. John had an interesting post this morning. The part that’s getting a lot of shares on Twitter is:

“Our students and our academic colleagues do not care about your favorite icebreaker. They don’t care about what you think “professionalism” means. They care that you show up to work, do your job, and do your damn best for your students and your campus community.”

That is a great comment. But it then goes on to say

“When articles comment on the inflation of administration – they are talking about us! Yet, we are too busy talking about other things to notice. “

Um… actually I do. See here. or Here. Or honestly any article I post.  I rarely talk solely about student affairs, because student affairs doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

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Soft Skills and Standardized Tests

The governor of New York recently proposed that 50% of teachers evaluations be based on the results of standardized tests. I’m not going to go into great detail about how much of fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of standardized tests that is. The short version is that standardized tests give the most useful information when disaggregated, so for example looking at a district by district sample, or by selecting randomized classrooms from the entire state/province to give an overall picture. Other people have explained what a problem it is to hold teachers responsible for things they don’t have full control over. I’m not going to go into that today. Instead I’m going to focus on the labour market.

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