Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Emily Hess Produces Quiz for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

A number of media, including Newsweek, ran an op-ed that featured a Martin Luther King Day quiz by Emily Hess, visiting assistant professor of history and academic adviser for the Ashbrook Center's Master of Arts in American History and Government program. 
The quiz provided an opportunity for people to test their knowledge of Dr. King and the modern Civil Rights Movement as the nation observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 16.
Some of the media that published the quiz were:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Study Abroad in Chile

Sophia Leddy (a double major in International Political Studies and Spanish) studied in Chile in the fall semester.  Here's what she says about the experience: 

It is strange to blog about something so important in my native tongue after I had been blogging about it in another language entirely. There is something about being in a foreign country and speaking its foreign tongue that makes that tongue, that culture a part of you. It is in the sharing food and a living space with other people that you can appreciate structure in life while at the same time appreciating the spontaneousness of going out for pizza or drinks. It’s a strange dichotomy that makes perfect sense to those who’ve traveled.

 And so I have returned from Chile, that foreign land, with a new perspective and a heart longing for the friends I made and the mountains I used to guide me every day for over 3 months. In an effort to keep things brief, I am happy, much more so than when I left. The old philosopher talks about happiness, and I have to wonder if he had been able to travel. A philosopher, which is what university-educated students should strive to become on some level, has to have time to contemplate and space to learn. I found time sitting in my room alone or having tea with my host family. I found a space when wandering a foreign city alone, then meeting strangers and striking up a conversation over lunch. I thought hard and often about human nature and about this completely different, new people I had encountered. I’ve realized that all humans are the same at a deeper level. They seek to be happy, healthy, and to be a part of something great (with the definition varying between people of those words). 

My adventures have not ended, nor will they anytime soon. But now, after learning a new language and way of thinking about everything, I have taken Chile in my soul. Chau, amor del alma y del corazón.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What About Money?

Almost everyone involved in liberal education these days is concerned about this big question: will you get a decent job if your college major is in a liberal arts discipline?  A study by Richard A. Detweiler reported on in Inside Higher Ed answers the question about money this way:
He (Detweiler) noted that his research does back the common belief that liberal arts graduates earn less than others, but only for the first few years after graduation.
He said that his study shows a high relationship between a broad undergraduate education and financial success. Those who take more than half of their course work in subjects unrelated to their majors (a characteristics of liberal arts colleges but not professionally oriented colleges) are 31 to 72 percent more likely than others to have higher-level positions and to be earning more than $100,000 than are others
Detweiler said that his study not only suggests that the liberal arts college experience prepares students for a life well lived, but for a life of financial success.
Why this is true may be revealed in some of the other findings of the study, like these:
  • Graduates who reported that in college they talked with faculty members about nonacademic and academic subjects outside class were 25 to 45 percent more likely (depending on other factors) to have become leaders in their localities or professions. Those who reported discussions on issues such as peace, justice and human rights with fellow students outside class were 27 to 52 percent more likely to become leaders.
  • Graduates who reported that students took a large role in class discussions were 27 to 38 percent more likely to report characteristics of lifelong learners than others were. Students who reported most of their classwork was professionally oriented were less likely to become lifelong learners.
  • Graduates who reported that as students they discussed philosophical or ethical issues in many classes, and who took many classes in the humanities, were 25 to 60 percent more likely than others to have characteristics of altruists (volunteer involvement, giving to nonprofit groups, etc.).
  • Graduates who reported that as students most professors knew their first names, and that they talked regularly with faculty members about academic subjects outside class, were 32 to 90 percent more likely to report that they felt personally fulfilled in their lives. Those who reported that professors encouraged them to examine the strengths and weaknesses of one's views, and whose course work emphasized questions on which there is not necessarily a correct answer, were 25 to 40 percent more likely to report that they felt personally fulfilled.
It is probable that students who participate a lot in class or talk with their professors outside of class are the type of people who are likely to be leaders and active in their communities, but one lesson of this study for students is get engaged in discussion, especially about difficult ethical issues, both in and outside of class, and talk with your professors. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

What Elements of College Most Prompt Student Learning?

In a critical review of the current focus on SLOs (Student Learning Outcomes) as a means to measure how much students learn, Robert Shireman makes these nice points about what it is that is most effective in engaging students in university level learning:
The supportive environment (including the social, psychological, and financial elements that will be addressed by other reports in this series), however, is not enough to keep students hanging around. Studying, prompted by quality teaching, is critical. In research involving tens of thousands of students and accounting for dozens of other possible explanatory factors, including pre-college academic preparation and socioeconomic status, professor of education Alexander Astin and his team found that “the most basic form of academic involvement—studying and doing homework—has stronger and more widespread positive effects [on student outcomes] than almost any other involvement measure or environmental measure.”33 Of the fifty-seven student activities that Astin measured, the ones most associated with increased graduation revolved around the in-class experience: homework, going to class, working on an independent research project, giving class presentations, interacting with faculty, and taking essay exams (but not multiple-choice tests).
 The other activities in Astin’s research that correlated with graduation were ones that connect students more to their peers and to the college: participation in internship programs, in volunteer work, or in intramural sports. Working on campus (part time) was a positive, but working off campus (full or part time) acted as a negative. (Astin’s findings regarding alcohol consumption were interesting. More drinking was associated with higher rates of graduation, perhaps because alcohol plays a role in reducing social inhibitions and helping students to feel a part of a community. But alcohol consumption was also associated with lower grades, pointing to the ongoing campus challenge of tolerating some drinking, but not too much.)
See the full report, "The Real Value of What Students Do in College" at the Century Foundation website.