The Life of a Wannabe Academic

Detail of the life a new academic. The progress from graduate training to professor. Includes reflections on the job hunting process, research in technology and education, and what it is like to be a new college professor.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Spring break looms

It is the week before spring break here and I have been in a bit of an unusually good mood so far this week. I'm sure part of it has to do with a nice vacation soon to begin, but I have also had a pretty low-stress work week. I have been caught up on grading now since late last week and there have been very few assignments, test, papers this week.

With some of the newly freed time I will have time to start preparing a couple of poster presentations and a manuscript. Last semester I conducted a comparison study between my two developmental psychology sections. One class used a personal response system and the other did not. All other aspects of the course here held constant (assignments, reading questions, questions asked in class, tests, etc.) the only difference is that the 'clicker' class answered questions via the response system and the other class did it the old fashioned way.

I predicted no difference in test scores or class performance but possibly a higher measure of engagement. I found neither to be the case, however, I have some qualitative data to support that the students enjoy using the clickers.

My hypothesis now is that it is the issue of the 'wetware' or personnel in the classroom that really has the largest impact on student learning. The hardware may enhance this slightly, but no hardware will compensate greatly for bad teaching. This is not a new argument, but i know of little research that was designed in this manner that would allow for a speculation such as this. I taught both sections and there was little significant difference in the performance and engagement level of the students. Now I am also assuming that I am a decent instructor and not a bad one, I suppose that would be a logical additional variable, but probably unethical for me to teach two more classes poorly.

So for most of the rest of the day I will begin my writing process. It is not a process I necessarily enjoy, but I do get excited about sharing my ideas. I need to at the very least have my two posters ready by April as I travel at the beginning and middle of may for my two conferences.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I can see the light & feel the ocean breeze!

Once again I am embarrassed at the date of my last post (Jan 25th). I do have to admit that these past 4 weeks have probably been the busiest that I have had thus far. I find it amazing how easilty time is sucked away from all of the other responsibilities of the job. For instance, it was my responsibility to go to breakfast and dinner with a number of job candidates for psychology this past month. I am still of the mindset of college and grad school that when food is offered and paid go! But this takes up mornings and evenings when I can be doing something like....oh grading and prepping.

However I have learned that these 'unofficial' events of the job interview is where many important things are learned. Does the person fit socially as well as academically. Fit is vital, especially in a small department like ours. We work closely together and we do this best when we all get along.

Then there are all the little meetings and other events that take your afternoon time away. Committees, stdents meetings, event meetings, faculty meetings, department meetings, etc. Plus I've been very good about keeping up with my fitness and going to the gym at least 3 days a week. More time away for that, but time well used.

With all of this and the crazy business that has been this year I am really looking forward to my spring break which officially starts at about 3:30 next Friday for me! My husband and I are going to a tropical location for a vacation by ourselves. We have not had a big vacation on our own for several years. It will be very nice.

I can also tell that the students are ready for a break. Being a private college, we do not have the typical federal holidays off that the publics usually do, so no 3-day weekends thrown in here and there for MLK jr. day or President's day. Just another day at work for us. I never realized how nice those little 3-day weekends were until I had lost them. Some students seem to be at a breaking point. A little time away will be healthy for everyone.

I was also contacted by a grad school friend this week to help with her dissertation. She says she reads this so "Hi Alison!" So far it is looking promising and what a neat experience for some psyc students to be a part of someone's dissertation research! I hope it all works out. It's very cool to still have the connections at UND and that I can still be of help to folks up there!