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.


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