Recommended reads #90


An obituary for climate scientist Gordon Hamilton, who died in a field accident in Antarctica.

Here’s yet another editorial about how metrics of scientific success get in the way of good science. With stories about folks implementing common sense policies to fix things.

Sara Goldrick-Rab’s new book Paying the Price is a call for people to wake up to the rising cost of college. You might be thinking, yeah, duh, of course, college is expensive. But I had not appreciated the depth and extent of the problem and what it means for people going to college now, particularly relative to the effect of college on future income. And how so much of what we have is the legacy of a big investment into higher education by the federal and state governments decades ago, and that support has atrophied or been pulled away. I’m only partway through, and it’s an eye opener. I thought I was pretty informed about these issues, but I realize that didn’t really understand things adequately. This is a data-rich book and also filled with several detailed stories emerging out of a research framework.

How universities are using analytics to inform academic advising and increase graduation rates and time-to-graduation. In my experience, shared with this article, when universities buy into these analytics, they also invest more into academic advising. How can you separate out the effect of more academic advisors and the effect of the analytics?

The Cognition and Chemistry blog, which has some great ideas about how students learn and how we might teach. The posts aren’t that frequent but it’s still worth a good browse.


Here’s another story about how if you want to enter the professoriate, then you better be sure to go to grad school to a prestigious grad program: “History is full of examples of important discoveries that were slow to catch on because they came from academic outsiders, from continental drift to the origin of eukaryotic cells to the existence of quasicrystals. Thanks to the restrictive nature of the academic system there may be many more innovations that are languishing in obscurity, and they will continue to do so until our universities find a way to apply the principles of diversity they espouse in building student bodies to their hiring practices as well.”

Why you might love working at a teaching college. I think this piece downplays the role of research in a teaching-focused institution by not bringing it up —  but the overall point is spot on.

Double solitude.

Do you use the Student Assessment of Learning Gains tools to measure the effectiveness of your teaching?


The perennially awesome Zadie Smith writes about dancers and writing. The title has Beyoncé in it.

How to approach faculty members who find your administrative buzzwords insufferable”

I’ve complained on twitter a few times about how the American Geophysical Union — the most visible academic society in this realm — takes money from a major carbon polluter that intentionally misleads the public about the fact of climate change. It’s nice to see that some big time climate scientists are taking the lead on this issue after AGU has abdicated its responsibilities to its members and the public.

On cursing while teaching.

What do you do when you don’t get tenure? If you’re this guy, you write all about it on your site. I don’t recommend this approach, for what that’s worth.

Do parents invade the privacy of their children when they post photos online? I heard this on NPR and thought it raised a lot of interesting topics in an even-handed and fair manner.


What to do with tiered lecture theaters if your university now realizes that sitting in an auditorium receiving a unidirectional lecture isn’t the best approach to learning? Here are some ideas.

I’m here to take your guns. I think this is kinda funny.

Tiffany Martínez wrote a great blog post about her professor who thought she plagiarized because her writing didn’t suck. Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a similar story from other students. This isn’t an isolated incident, it’s just one in which the student shares her perspective in an engaging manner. You know, because she can write so well.

Have a great weekend! And pretty pretty pretty please if you’re a US citizen, make plans to vote if you haven’t already. Consider maybe giving class an alternative activity and giving them time to vote? (I have been shocked and amazed when I ask my students on the Wednesday after an election, who voted? and get a raise of hands. Very few hands. Even when state funding for our university is on the ballot and the outcome of the vote would greatly affect their tuition.) Vote vote vote.


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