Saturday, February 28, 2015

How Do Lincoln Graduates Measure Up Against Expectations?

A recent article in Inside Higher Ed, entitled “Well-Prepared in Their Own Eyes,” summarizes an Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) survey that found—good news for liberal arts institutions like Lincoln!—that employers care less about student majors than they do about their range of general skills in thinking, communication, and team work.
It also found—here’s the negative side—that students leave college feeling they have gained better job skills than their employers judge them to have.
What struck me more than this perhaps-to-be-expected disconnect between student self-assessment and employer perceptions, however, was the table showing the skills that employers find least available.
Fewer than one-fifth of the employers surveyed agreed that college graduates are well prepared in
  • working with people from different backgrounds (18%),
  • staying current on global developments (18%), and
  • foreign language proficiency (16%). 
The lowest score of all (15%) was given to “Awareness/experience of diverse cultures outside US."

How do you think our Lincoln students fare against this national profile?  What makes you think that? What are we doing to create/develop/enhance our students’ skills in these four underrepresented categories?  What could we be doing better?  If we were creating an academic master plan for the future, what must it include to ensure that our students leave college with the skills deemed necessary for success?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Standardized Testing

New Education Initiative Replaces K-12 Curriculum With Single Standardized Test
The Onion  NewseducationNewsISSUE 51•07 • Feb 19, 2015 

WASHINGTON—Citing the need to measure student achievement as its top priority, the U.S. Department of Education launched a new initiative Thursday to replace the nation’s entire K-12 curriculum with a single standardized test.

According to government officials, the four-hour-long Universal Education Assessment will be used in every public school across the country, will contain identical questions for every student based on material appropriate for kindergarten through 12th grade, and will permanently take the place of more traditional methods such as classroom instruction and homework assignments.

“By administering one uniform test to our nation’s 50 million students, we can ensure that every child is evaluated by the exact same standard, regardless of background, age, or grade level,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan, explaining that students will be able to take the test at any time between age 5 and 18. “It’s absolutely crucial for us to know where our kids stand, and eliminating the teaching model will provide us with the most affordable and efficient means of measuring student proficiency.”

“There is no better way to ensure consistency in America’s schools,” Duncan added.

The new test will reportedly cover all topics formerly taught in K-12 classrooms, including algebra, World War I, cursive penmanship, pre-algebra, state capitals, biology, letters of the alphabet, environmental science, civics, French, Newtonian mechanics, parts of speech, and the Cold War. Sources said students will also be expected to demonstrate their knowledge of 19th-century American pioneer life, photosynthesis, and telling time.

“By doing away with the overly complex program of full-length school days and lessons stretched out over 13 academic years, we can concentrate on increasing the reliability of our data and determine just how each student stacks up,” said Patrick Herlihy, an education researcher who helped design the test. “This is the best, most comprehensive way yet of holding our schools accountable.”
“This initiative also has the potential to help level the playing field,” Herlihy continued. “Kids in Mississippi, for example, will have literally the exact same educational opportunities as kids in Massachusetts.”

Officials confirmed the test will consist mostly of multiple-choice questions, though it will also include an essay section in which students will be able to choose from one of several prompts, ranging from “Describe the American system of federalism,” to “If I could be any animal in the world, I would be a…,” to “Write a book report on Lois Lowry’s The Giver.”

Jeff Escudero, a 10-year-old from Winamac, IN who plans to take the test and hopefully complete his primary and secondary education next month, admitted to reporters that the new standardized exam was a source of stress for him.

“There’s a lot riding on this,” Escudero said. “Still, I think I’m pretty set. I just have to learn the periodic table, be able to explain what triangular trade is, and remember that it goes egg, larva, pupa, butterfly. It’ll be hard answering all those questions about Richard III and the New Deal, but at least I’ve already got the numbers up to 20 totally memorized. And once I’m done with the test, I won’t have to go to school anymore.”

Officials said the initiative would also focus on improving teacher performance by tying teachers’ salaries to the test scores of the students they hand the assessment to.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

When Your To-Do List Is Longer Than Your Day

While struggling with the minutiae of daily professorial life—writing those minutes from yesterday’s committee meeting, grading the last few student assignments before class, preparing for the umpteenth meeting of the week, checking lesson plans to make sure they have the right mix of activities, responding to online discussion postings so as to let students know I am reading and valuing their ideas, [fill in your own overwhelming list]—I was struck by the seemingly simple message from Kerry Ann Rockquemore, President of the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity: Pay Yourself First.
She acknowledges our need to be super teacher, super researcher, super colleague, super public intellectual, super institutional change agent, etc., pointing out, however, that these needs tend to conflict and overwhelm, and reminding us of the importance of clarifying our long-term goals and then setting aside the time to work towards them.  We need to “pay ourselves first,” finding the time to work on our own personal goals amidst all the demands of others. 

For instance, if tenure or promotion is your main long-term goal, then publications can’t keep being pushed aside by all the short-term demands of the day.  Rockquemore suggests starting every day with 30 minutes of writing, reserving that time before even looking at the day’s to-do list. 

Easier said than done, right?  But I would be interested in knowing what tricks you have developed for working on your long-term projects.  Any good time management tips you can share?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Seat Time or Skill Demonstration?

A short while ago, I got a notice from Facebook that Prof. Dohohue had mentioned me in one of his comments. While I confess that I rarely log in to Facebook and generally ignore Facebook’s messages trying to get me to, I couldn’t resist this time. 

What Bill was pointing out was an NPR program on the rise of competency-based education programs. The article described the growing trend of universities offering credits for skills developed and demonstrable, even though those skills did not necessarily grow out of an interaction between a student and an instructor in a school setting. The obvious beneficiaries of this trend are older adults who can save time and money if they can earn degree credit for skills gained through work and life experience. 

The Chronicle of Higher Education just reported that Pennsylvania’s community colleges have begun a statewide project to let adult learners earn college credit for previous training or work experience, a program called "College Credit FastTrack."

Lincoln is participating in a small way with its Bachelor of Human Services/FLEX program. BHS students can earn up to 45 Prior Learning Assessment credits. 

So Bill (and others), pretend we're having a Facebook conversation. Here's what I would have asked. Is this a direction Lincoln should consider for other programs? Are there other majors that we offer that would appeal to adult learners if we could award them some percentage of credit for skills earned and thus ease their path toward a degree? What are the worries you see if we move down this path? What are the advantages? How is the BHS working? What similar programs might we add? Should we care where a student learned something or just if a student learned something? 

It’s a great topic of discussion and an important issue to explore for strategic planning purposes. I am eager to hear where Lincoln faculty and staff stand.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Learning about Copyright and Fair Use

by Brenda Snider

Many people think the purpose of copyright is to prevent others from stealing the work of individuals.  This misinterpretation threatens the advancement of knowledge and learning (Loren, 2010). The Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8, states that the purpose is to promote the progress of knowledge and learning. Those who view copyright as an asset to the economy are destroying the main purpose. It is not about making money. Copyright law was originally written to further knowledge.
“Most colleges rely on section 110 of the copyright statute (17U.S.C. section 110). The first part of this section governs performance or display of a work in the course of face-to-face teaching, and the second part covers materials transmitted in distance education. However, these sections specifically state that they only apply to nonprofit educational institutions. As a result, the educational exceptions in 17 U.S.C. § 110(1) and 17 U.S.C. § 110(2) may not be used by for-profit schools” (Carson, 2008, p. 57).
As I begin to learn more about copyright and fair use in instructional design, I am wondering if anyone is teaching copyright and fair use in their classes.  Do our students know that if they create a work, i.e. article, video, graphic, etc. for a company they are working for, they cannot use that work in their portfolios unless they obtain permission? The company they are working for owns the copyright. 
Has anyone used A Fair(y) Use Tale (Faden, n.d.) in their classes as part of an assignment on fair use, for example asking your students to analyze the video based on the four factors that judges consider when determining fair use: the purpose and character of use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion borrowed, and the effect of the potential use on the market?
Carson, B.M. (2008). Legally speaking—Copyright and for-profit educational institutions.DLPS Faculty Publications. Paper 9. Retrieved from

Faden, E. (n.d.) A Fair(y) Use Tale. Retrieved from
Loren, L.P. (2010). The purpose of copyright. OpenSpaces Quarterly. Retrieved from

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Feedback Sandwiches and other Unhealthy Fare

Reading the first Faculty Focus article of the new year, “Is Praise Undermining Student Motivation?” caused me to rethink one of my long-held beliefs, the idea that it’s important to start a student comment by pointing out positives, then add the constructive feedback, and end on a positive and encouraging note.  Effective Commenting 101, right?  Well, apparently not.  According to Orlando,
The model is used under the belief that it keeps up the student’s spirits, but in reality it only confuses the message. The student reads only the positive at either end and ignores the real message in the middle that they need to hear in order to improve, or they recognize the dissonance between the conflicting messages and wonder how they really did. “Gee,” they say to themselves, “the beginning and the end tell me this is great, while the middle says that there are all sorts of problems, so which is it?” The feedback sandwich can even reduce respect for the instructor since students will soon learn that no matter what they hand in, the instructor will praise it along a predictable formula, making the feedback meaningless and something to be ignored.
The trick, apparently, is to praise the process rather than the product, the effort rather than the ability that went into the assignment. It’s all about seeing praise not as motivation but as a way to encourage student growth.
What do you think?  Do you use the feedback sandwich model?  How/where/when do you give feedback? What works for you and your students? 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Scoreboards and Applause: Another Role for Assessment

Assessment, as Gloria keeps reminding us, has multiple functions.  On one level it is needed to prove to ourselves and others that our students are accomplishing the goals we set for them.  On another though, as L. Dee Fink discusses in Chapter 3 of Creating Significant Learning Experiences, Revised and Updated: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses, assessment has psychological functions. As Fink puts it, students need both a scoreboard and applause.
One example of the applause side really stood out for me.  A music professor described how he uses “tribute letters” to help students focus on the skills that they already bring, rather than just explaining the skills that need to be developed. The student and the professor together write a letter, which the professor then sends, to a teacher or mentor whom the student identifies as having been instrumental in the student’s development.  Fink explains,
In addition to creating extremely good public relations between the university and the public at large, this simple device had an unusual impact on both the students and the teacher.  For the teacher, it shifted his focus from "what is not good in this student's playing that needs to be improved" to "what is good that be commended?"  This in turn resulted in a much more positive general relationship with the student. For the students, it developed a more positive view of themselves.  The more positive tone of the interaction with the professor led them to think things such as "I have a good base of learning, and from that, I can continue to build toward an even better level of performance."  This in turn created an appreciation of the people who had contributed to their own learning and - as a result of the proceeding - a more positive attitude toward continued learning.  

I wonder what effect it would have –on Lincoln’s PR and on our students' confidence—if we were to try some version of that assignment. I often have students write about a mentor but never thought of then sending out a letter of thanks to that person.  It’s something to consider.  Can you see it fitting into your coursework?