Friday Recommended Reads #2


Quotes of the week from Joan Strassmann:

In my current biggest class there are 52 students… No one should email the professor or the teaching assistants more than three times in a semester. If you have already done that, there is a problem. Have some consideration. We have a lot to do.

I might suck it up and just deal with it if it only impacted me, but I get cranky when my wonderful teaching assistants agonize over their overflowing in boxes. They need every second of their time to learn how to teach, how to mentor, and how to do research.

If you haven’t seen it yet, an XKCD from last week was breathlessly gorgeous and poignant.

A non-link I’m providing are the academic job wikis. I don’t know if these are common knowledge. Because search committees are so slow to let candidates to know the outcome of searches (sometimes for reasonable reasons), applicants have taken the matter into their own hands by creating wikis in which people can list the status of searches on a big master template. This is actually a good place to find out about open jobs, and not so much for accurate information about the status of searches.

In the politics of publishing, Mick Watson just resigned from an academic editorial slot in PLoS One, because the journal took a few months to handle an appeal to a rejection one of his manuscripts.

More on the politics of publishing, Çağan H. Şekercioğlu published a little piece in Current Biology about the academic cost of the Rejection-Resubmission cycle. It reads like a blog post but it’s found in the pages of a for-profit Elsevier journal. It’s interesting how often posts about papers, like this one about another post about the Şekercioğlu piece, seem to garner more attention than the papers themselves.

Even more on the evolving publishing landscape: Some of the new, huge, journals are not discipline-specific, and the discipline-specific ones with good readership are now becoming far more selective than they used to be. So, papers on a specialized topic, designed for a specialized audience, might have trouble connecting to that specialized audience. This could be a problem, and this blog post at the Computational Evolution Group asks some good questions.

There’s an overt piece about “belief” versus “knowledge” in the context of science education over in the Sci-Ed blog (my favorite site about informal science education). Even more interesting and useful is the classy and substantial response by Holly Dunsworth who was interviewed for the Sci-Ed piece in which her words were used selectively in a way that misrepresented her.

There was a great comment from Steve on this week’s post on undergraduate mentorship in R1 vs. SLACs. He pointed out that SLACs may create more doctoral students because their students are a lot less likely to be aware about what the day-to-day life of a grad student is like. (This is also another important reason for undergrads to become friends with grad students.)

The last item is more than three years old, so might have seen it already. If you are particular about type, then you might not be a big fan of Comic Sans? You might want to see what Comic Sans has to say for himself. Beware, he has a potty mouth.

3 thoughts on “Friday Recommended Reads #2

  1. If I ever get a student that emails me for every single problem, I typically start linking them to websites that cover the topic and show examples. I think it makes them realize that there are more ways to get information besides the text book and the teacher. They usually stop emailing me so much at least.

  2. If students are emailing often about procedural stuff in mass numbers, it’s probably because communication is so poor that students don’t know what’s going on. If a student asks a question that can be answered in a syllabus, it takes just 15 seconds to respond with a friendly sentence and a copy of the syllabus attached. If students are asking factual questions about content that can be found in the textbook, I look up the page in the text that has the answer and let them know that in the reply. (Or, if it’s not in the book, there are a variety of approaches depending on the specific question.) If students want to know when I plan to finish grading, I simply tell them.

    For context, the context of the quote was from an anti-student rant, in which students were compared to toddlers. Most students don’t like to email at all, in my experience, so if they’re emailing about a question it probably is important to them even though it seems annoying to the instructors. If my TAs were getting a fountain of emails, I’d be asking about how they are managing their classrooms that leads to so much insecurity on the part of students.

    I find it hilarious that the author of that quote has several TAs, it seems, when the largest class is only 52 students. I don’t get any TAs whatsoever unless I have >72 students, and then it’s just one TA for that class.

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