Saturday, November 29, 2008

Clickers in Mind

Adam CarleAdam Carle

Department of Psychology

Lately, you may have noticed that UNF has begun “clicking” its way into the new century. Students use clickers (also known as classroom response systems) to answer a professor’s questions and the clicker system provides the professor with real time feedback about the class’ answers. Theoretically, these systems allow students to more fully engage with the material and learn better, especially in large classes. As a result of this theory, UNF and its students have invested substantial resources in clickers. For example, during Spring 2007, 1969 students used clickers. The clickers cost students $20 and students spend $13 each semester to register the clickers. So, in Spring 2007 students spent approximately $65,000 on clickers at UNF.

Astoundingly, little to no research has examined whether students actually learn better when using clickers! Rest assured, research has shown that students and professors both enjoy using clickers and students indicate that they learn better with clickers. But, until recently, no studies directly assessed whether students demonstrated higher achievement when using clickers. To cut a long story short, Mayer and colleagues (2009) recently addressed this problem. They compared college students in a class where students used clickers to answer 2 to 4 questions per lecture to two other groups of students, students in a class without clickers and students in a class without questions. Though their design limits strong causal conclusions, their results showed that students in the question-clicker class scored significantly higher on course exams than students in the other classes. Great news, considering we’ve already asked students to spend a tremendous amount of money on these systems (and UNF has too)

However, like most educational tools, the tool’s effectiveness depends on informed implementation. In the same way that simply handing students a book (or a computer for that matter) won’t directly lead to learning, simply handing students clickers won’t necessarily result in increased learning. Mayer et al. (2009) based their technique on a large educational literature. They built on active and generative learning methods that show that students learn better if they: answer conceptual questions while learning, practice taking tests, and engage in self-explanation while learning. Thus, they had all students in the clicker-question classroom respond to questions. Then, one student explained their answer to the class. Finally, the professor explained how to answer the question, and why.

What does this mean for you and your students? It means a fledgling research literature has begun to demonstrate that clickers can lead to increased learning. It means that you might boost your students’ achievement using clickers if you adopt clickers carefully. You should build on you and your course’s strengths and incorporate clickers in a way that fosters generative and active learning. You should develop your clicker use with the educational literature in mind and utilize evidence-based teaching practices. Finally, you should collect data. See how (or if) your class’ averages change across time as you implement the clicker system. Base your teaching practices on evidence. After all, you wouldn’t buy a $65,000 car without data, or would you?

Mayer, R. E., Stull, A., DeLeeuw, K., Almeroth, K., Bimber, B., Chun, D., Bulger, M., Campbell, J., Knight, A., & Zhang, H., (2009). Clickers in college classrooms: Fostering learning with questioning methods in large lecture classes. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 34, 51-57.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Research in Mind

Adam CarleAdam Carle

Department of Psychology

Have you ever tried to define research? As UNF continues to grow and change, research has become an increasingly discussed aspect of UNF’s institutional setting. Our mission statement notes that we “support and recognize research and creative endeavor as essential university functions.” And, heck, I’m told it’s part of our responsibility as faculty members to conduct research. Given that I regularly conduct research, I thought it might be fun to try and define research. I thought I’d try and define research in a way that encompassed as many of the academic fields and sciences as possible. It turns out, I’m having an awfully hard time! In this installment of the blog, I thought I’d ask for your help, and, hopefully, generate some discussion. Please, read my (bad) attempt at defining research below. Then, tell me what you think. What does it miss? What does it overstate? How does it relate to what you do (or don’t do) here at UNF? I can’t wait to read what you have to say.

Research, broadly defined, encompasses systematic and organized approaches to accurately describe, predict, and understand the heterogeneous aspects of existence. These efforts include basic and/or applied settings, quantitative and/or qualitative efforts, and cover the vast array of academic disciplines. Regardless of field, these endeavors use a set of planned procedures to examine their topic and arrive at accurate conclusions.

Programmatic research differs in that it typically seeks to break a large research topic into smaller, more manageable pieces. This often allows more stringent control and more detailed, fine grained analyses. Programmatic research addresses each piece sequentially in an effort to build an encompassing and coherent picture from the smaller studies’ findings. Programmatic research allows investigators to incorporate their findings into the discipline’s field at large and build upon others’ research. Programs of research support sustained, long term, focused efforts.

Sponsored research refers to research funded by an external research organization. Because of its nature, programmatic research often needs material resources an investigator or institution cannot easily or continuously supply. Relatedly, sponsors may lack sufficient human capital (knowledge or otherwise). As a result, sponsors, investigators, and investigator’s institutions enter into partnerships to overcome these boundaries. Research and sponsorship often go hand in hand and sponsorship suggests that a topic and method have achieved recognition, especially when the funding process includes peer review. Nevertheless, not all research needs funding to proceed, nor must funding exist to consider an endeavor as research. As a result, though investigators often require sponsorship to conduct research, sponsorship itself proves neither necessary or sufficient as a definition of research.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Crisis of Ignorance

Carolyn WilliamsCarolyn Williams
Department of History

When it began to materialize for me, the enormity of the economic problem we face, the first thoughts that popped into my head were “greed” and “lack of oversight.” Now that we have been bombarded with words and images of the scramble for a solution, the other phrase that keep rolling around in my head is “crisis of ignorance.” From the top down, it seems that no one really knows what is going on or what to do.

So maybe this is the big “wake up call” for us to do what the founders urged, that is, to be informed and engaged citizens. If all of us took more time to understand economic issues from our daily lives to the big engine that drives the nation, we would make better decisions about our personal finances, have a real comprehension of government policies, etc., ask pointed questions, demand clear and substantive answers and hold our representatives to greater accountability.

As we try to avoid a catastrophe, let’s follow the advice of the Founding Fathers-eternal vigilance-to make sure our rights to life, liberty and property are preserved and protected. Faculty and others with knowledge, insight and expertise here at the university can contribute to creating a new vigilant citizenry that can be of use to the present crisis and help prevent future disasters.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Answers In Mind

Adam CarleAdam Carle

Department of Psychology

Do you believe in common knowledge? I’m beginning to feel that I don’t. It seems a wealth of common knowledge about test taking exists, but the educational psychologist in me knows that too little research has empirically examined much of the common lore. As we enter the final week of summer session, I’m sure a few of our students have tests on their mind. As they study and prepare, many of our students ask us for advice.

“How should I study for the final?” (Don’t cram, space your studying)

“How many questions will it have?” (Enough to reliably and validly measure your achievement)

“Do you have specific advice on how to take the final?” (?)

Common testing lore (among students and professors) would have you answer that last one something like, “Don’t change your answer on multiple choice tests. Stick with your initial impression.” But, recently, some investigators decided to put this advice to the test. It turns out that this is ill founded advice. In a series of elegant experiments, Kruger, Wirtz, and Miller (2005) showed that, on average, students who changed their answers on tests faired no worse than if they’d kept their initial answers. In fact, on average, switched answers (when students doubted their initial answer) lead to better scores on average. This goes against what many of us have learned and what many of us believe we’ve experienced.

How can this happen? Relatively simply. Kruger, et al. suggest (and go on to show) that students more easily remember times when they changed a correct answer to an incorrect answer. As a result, they overestimate the number of times this occurs. They often don’t notice when changing an answer led to a correct response. Why should they? Most of us attend more strongly to negative feedback. Students do too. Because students painfully feel switches to wrong answers, students quickly and easily remember their occurrence. They overestimate their prevalence; misestimate their own experience; and subsequently choose a poor test taking strategy.

What can we do about this? The obvious. We can start telling our students that, when they doubt their answer, they should change it. We can start by telling our students that their initial impression may be wrong. We can start giving our students empirically grounded advice. Unfortunately, Kruger, et al. also showed that students didn’t want to change their test taking strategy, even when professors explicitly suggested the better strategy (switch) and even when professors showed students evidence for switching’s effectiveness. Kruger, et al. suggest that, in the end, students find a life’s worth of misleading personal experience hard to conquer.

However, I’m left wondering. What if all their professors gave this advice, not just one? What if they gave it regularly, not just once? What might happen then? Let’s find out.

Kruger, J., Wirtz, D., & Miller, D. T. (2005). Counterfactual thinking and the first instinct fallacy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 725–735.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Communication in Mind

Adam CarleAdam Carle

Department of Psychology

Did you hear the one about the two professors who walked into a bar? The third one ducked…. I know. I know. I can hear you groaning now. Silly me. I love that joke. But, I didn’t write it for that reason alone (though I might do something like that). Rather, I wrote it to make a point. Did you know I had started a joke? If so, how? If not, did you find yourself suddenly concerned for my welfare? More so than usual? (Did you know that I meant that as a joke?)

Why should you care? Well, it turns out, we humans don’t communicate nearly as well as we think we do. In a series of intriguing experiments, Justin Kruger and his colleagues (2005) explored some of the limits of our communicative abilities. Generally, we have a tendency to overestimate the extent to which people understand our expressions and we simultaneously have a tendency to overestimate our ability to understand others’ communications. They found that this problem becomes particularly pronounced across email communications, i.e., communication where we don't see the other person. To simplify, they found that senders well overestimated the extent to which recipients would realize they’d written a joke in an email. And, on average, recipients well overestimated their ability to perceive jokes and humor sent via email. Thus, people often failed to realize that someone had sent them a joke. Likewise, people often failed to realize that the implicit joviality of their email had not translated across the electrical medium. Jokes and sarcasm met in one nasty accidental brawl.

So, when communicating via email, we don’t do so well. We think people know what we mean and we think we know what other people mean. And, here comes the kicker, we respond in kind. We get angry because a colleague, friend, or professor has sent us this ridiculously mean or sarcastic email, when in reality we never realize they’d intended their statement as a joke or gentle prod. Moreover, the colleague, friend, or professor has no idea that we, the student perhaps, missed their joke and that we’ve responded angrily because we misinterpreted their email.

What does this mean for you? As modern academics we do a tremendous amount of communication without direct interaction. As we move through the summer months, many of us will probably communicate with our peers and students via email more often than usual. Work like Kruger’s suggests that we regularly fail to convey and perceive the jovial nature of communication. We know we’ve told a joke. Surely the recipient knows it too. Moreover, it shows we frequently misinterpret others’ attitudes and emotions that they express to us via email and that we rarely realize we’ve misinterpreted the communication. We know how we would feel if we wrote that; they must feel the same way too. All this work suggests that we should work harder to explicitly state the nature of our communications. When we make a joke, we should preface our statement with a disclaimer noting as much. Moreover, when we receive ‘one of those’ emails from students and we think, ‘they can’t possibly mean that seriously,’ perhaps they don’t! We should ask others what they meant. We should work to clarify our communications as much as possible. And, I suggest, we should cut each other a little slack. We should assume the best in our colleagues and students. We should suspect that the angry note or stunningly awkward statement reflects the inadequate medium of email as communication rather than attributing it to a lack of character on the other’s part. After all, someone needs to pick us up after we walk into that bar....

Kruger, J., Epley, N., Parker, J. & Ng, Z. (2005). Egocentrism Over E-Mail: Can We Communicate as Well as We Think? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 925–936.

The “Good” Teacher

Dan RichardDan Richard

Office of Faculty Enhancement

I have never been one for labels. Something just feels wrong about putting a label on someone, as if everything they are can be summed up in one word, one category. At dinner parties, when people ask what I do for a living, I often tell them that I am a scientist or that I teach just to avoid the strange, wide-eyed looks and awkward pauses that follow when I tell people I am a psychologist. It seems that the category of “psychologist” carries with it a host of ideas and responses that, by its invocation, immediately turns every learning theorist, comparative psychologist, biopsychologist, developmentalist (-- and social psychologist) into a couch-toting, ego-peddling, Freudophile.

These cocktail-party experiences, coupled with a symphony of adolescent label-drama (I will spare you the details) and my familiarity with 1Henri Tajfel’s work on categorization and group behavior, have left me with both a healthy respect for and a general dislike of using category labels for people.

It was a surprise to me, then, at a checkout counter in a large membership warehouse store, that I was hoping, anticipating, and even wishing that someone would assign such a label to me.

It started as it usually does, with a quizzical look, a feeling of familiarity and anticipation that comes from an area of your being that is somehow secret and mysterious (I know this person from somewhere, but where?). As these feelings typically resolve themselves, I realized that I was standing face-to-face with a former student. I teach large sections of Social Psychology, so I have many occasions to come in contact with former students. During these times, I never know if they will be happy to see me (i.e., they did well in my class) or if they would rather avoid me (i.e., they did not do so well). The person at the checkout counter was smiling. This was a good sign.

We exchanged recognition statements – “I had you for my psychology class,” and “Yes, social psychology.” Now the real test begins. What will this student say about the class? What will the student say about me? Will I hear the words I so long to hear? Will I be categorized and labeled by this person?

Then, I heard the words, sweet and enchanting: “You’re a good teacher.” He must have noticed the change in my smile, from awkwardly apprehensive to graciously gleaming. He put me in the category of good teachers. All of the ISQ (course evaluation system) ratings and comments could not accomplish so much in such a short period of time as that one LABEL. Why did this arbitrary label (a label that I am sure the student did not give a second thought) mean so much to me?

Well, it may have something to do with how the brain works. Some models of the brain suggest that concepts operate as nodes (or connecting points) and that each concept is linked (through neural connections) with other concepts. One of the most important and frequently accessed concept in the human brain is “the self.” We know much about who we are because we spend a whole lot of time with ourselves. People learn about new concepts in the world often by figuring out how our “selves” relate to these concepts (see 2Kihlstrom, Beer,& Klein for a discussion of how this works). One thing that people know about who they are is that they are “good.” Humans place a high price on knowing that as individuals, we are connected to the concept of “good.” I guess that is why this student’s comment meant so much to me. I, and most other people, want to be categorized as “good.”

So, when you receive those not-so-positive ISQ (student rating) results, and you read those not-so-flattering comments, remember that the uneasy feeling you have is just your brain having trouble connecting your self-concept with those concepts. Too often, negative comments or evaluations can have such a negative impact on our emotions and motivation that we fail to take advantage of constructive criticism. If it helps to keep you motivated during ISQ season, just think back on those times when students made you feel that the world made sense by saying, “You’re a good teacher.”

1Tajfel, H., & Forgas, J. P. (2000). Social categorization: Cognitions, values and groups. New York: Psychology Press.

2Kihlstrom, J. F., Beer, J. S., & Klein, S. B. (2003). Self and identity as memory. New York: Guilford Press.

Greenwald, A. G., Banaji, M. R., Rudman, L. A., Farnham, S. D., Nosek, B. A., & Mellott, D. S. (2002). A unified theory of implicit attitudes, stereotypes, self-esteem, and self-concept. Psychological Review, 109, 3-25.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Journey of Thousands of Miles Is the First Step

Chiu ChoiChiu Choi

Electrical Engineering

There is a Chinese saying: “a journey of thousand miles begins with a single step.” I went to Taiyuan University of Science and Technology in Taiyuan, China for a short visit last month. I was accompanied by our Associate Dean Dr. Merckel. The purpose of the trip was to learn about their academic programs, infrastructure, resources, and to discuss with their leaders about exchange programs. The experience of this trip is unique. After this travel of thousands of miles, we have gotten the first step toward building a good relationship with the Chinese university.

After stepping off the plane, I noticed air pollution in Taiyuan. I was forewarned about it in prior web-browsing on the city of Taiyuan. The success of the local coal mining and other heavy industries comes with the price of polluted air. Air pollution is common in China as we all know. Even in non-industrial cities like Hong Kong and Macau, their air is also polluted. It is due to the movement of polluted air into those cities from the neighboring Pearl River delta areas, which are the heart of the “factories of the world.”

The hospitality provided by the university was superb. They treated us very nice and gave us much convenience in our few days of stay at Taiyuan. We had the opportunity to meet with their university president, vice presidents and college deans. We discussed with them potential collaboration and exchange programs. They showed us their resources and infrastructures. They have a good number of laboratories supporting a wide array of majors in engineering. Their flagship programs appear to be manufacturing of heavy machinery and material engineering. These majors are relevant to and very well supported by the local industries.

The university arranged for us a tour of a heavy machinery factory and a stainless steel plant. The heavy machinery factory produces construction and excavating equipment. To me it is sort of the John Deere of China. They also made the launch platforms for the rockets used in the Chinese space program.

The stainless steel plant was also very impressive. The heat was more than intense when the steel came out of the furnace. The literally red hot steel was rolled to thin sheets eventually. It was amazing to see how they got pressed and rolled over and over again and chopped into sizes suitable for shipping and handling. In the guided tour, I saw just a few workers in the production line. The manufacturing process was obviously automated. This plant was one of the largest in the world in terms of the amount of steel produced per year.

The administrators of Taiyuan University indicated that their graduating engineers became productive shortly after getting onboard these plants and others. It was because these graduates received education closely matching these manufacturing processes. Such approach reflects the old Russian style of engineering education according to the administrators. In the U.S. according to the national engineering accreditation criteria, we tend to focus on the fundamentals and give the students a more balanced education.

To appreciate the local culture and tradition, the university arranged a tour of several ancient sites for us to see. One of the historic sites was a walled city owned by a family for generations. This family compound was huge and looked extremely affluent at its time. They accumulated their wealth through tea trading with Europeans. They picked the tea leaves at one corner of China and shipped them across China to Eastern and Western Europe. The caravan navigated the first third of their journey along the Chinese rivers and continued the rest of the journey through the deserts and mountains by camels. A typical trip took three years to complete. The World War I and the extension of railroads into China from the West brought down this family business.
We have accomplished our goals of this trip. A cooperation agreement that promotes academic exchanges was jointly signed. Information about academic programs at both universities was shared. Most importantly friendship was built that will facilitate the success of our cooperation in the future.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Meaning of a Bachelor’s Degree

Gordon RakitaGordon Rakita
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
When I was a graduate student, I was assigned by my program as a teaching assistant to one of the archaeology faculty. I was thrilled because TAships were rare in my program and represented one of the few chances we graduate students had to develop valuable “teaching experience” for our résumés. I was somewhat less thrilled by the fact that I was assigned to a faculty member with a reputation. Professor X was quite a drinker, smoked constantly (even in the non-smoking building where his office was located), and was not above making the occasional inappropriate comment about female archaeologists. He was, to put it mildly, and unreconstructed, dinosaur-ish archaeologist of the old-school. I hesitate to point out that Professor X was very prolific, perennially published peer-reviewed articles (at least one per year), was a popular instructor with many undergraduates, and saw more of his graduate students successfully defend and acquire jobs than most other faculty.

TAing for Professor X was not an unpleasant experience, and I did learn quite a bit from him about managing classrooms of undergraduates, preparing lectures and exams, and negotiating the bureaucracy of a major university. One afternoon, as we walked to his Introduction to Archaeology course, Professor X made a statement that has stuck with me ever since. You see, the state government had recently instituted a lottery scholarship program (not unlike Florida’s Bright Future’s system) and our university (the flagship state institution) had seen a tremendous upsurge in undergraduate enrollments. Class enrollments were bulging, internet systems were taxed, and the student union was jammed with kids who six months earlier had been riding herd on their parents’ ranch. So it was in this context that during our stroll to class, Professor X turned to me and said, “You know Gordon, most of these students don’t belong here…and it’s our job to let them know that.”

I was fairly shocked by this statement. I had never contemplated the idea that anyone would not belong in college. You see, in my family, the unstated expectation of both my brother and me was that we would attend college and would (at a minimum) earn our Bachelor’s degree. From this perspective, I had viewed the state’s decision to develop a method to help fund everyone’s University education as a good plan. The idea that it might be misguided never crossed my mind. And further, I think this expectation that all young adults should be college bound is becoming much more common among states and households these days. The expectation is that most individuals will go to college.

Recently, two articles in education journals reminded me of this statement by Professor X and started me thinking about the meaning of a Bachelor’s degree. The first, was Michael Wesch’s “Anti-Teaching: Confronting the Crisis of Significance” in Education Canada ( Wesch is fairly famous in both anthropological and education circles as the producer, along with the students in one of his classes, of “A Vision of Students Today” which can be seen on YouTube ( The second was Marty Nemko’s “America’s Most Overrated Product: the Bachelor’s Degree” in a recent issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education (

Wesch makes the very interesting observation that if we replace the word “school” with the word “learning” in the phrase “..some students are just not cut out for school..” we end up with the rather provocative phrase “..some students are just not cut out for learning..” Ah ha! Here is the rejoinder to Professor X’s comment. By saying that some individuals don’t belong in college, Professor X was arguing that some students are undeserving of learning. Or was he?

I am sympathetic to Wesch’s point. I would never want to say that any student is not cut out for learning. He has a point; and his article is well worth reading. He makes a convincing argument for what is wrong with some of the teaching that goes on in higher education and advocates persuasively for teaching that facilitates learning. Indeed, reading his article has made me think anew about my upcoming Fall classes.

However, in another way, I think Wesch misses a point about a college education. Namely, he ignores the point that a Bachelor’s degree represents more than just learning about course materials, general education outcomes, or even specific skills imparted within the classroom. When I am introduced to someone with a Bachelor’s degree I have no idea if they can work a differential equation, dissect the rhetorical symbolism in Ulysses, or explain how collections of humans create a society by their individual actions. They may be able to do those things, they may not. What do I know about someone who has successfully completed an undergraduate degree? I can be fairly certain that this is someone who has set a 4+ year goal for themselves and has completed that goal. I know that this is someone who has learned to manage their time fairly well and has learned to prioritize various aspects of their life. I know that this is someone who has had to deal with peers and supervisors (some of whom they don’t like) and has successfully negotiated those relationships. I know this is a person who has managed bureaucracies, paperwork, course materials, and personal interactions that were potentially unpleasant and vexing and yet persevered. I know that a person with a Bachelor’s degree has invested time, energy, and money into their own development and has succeeded. In some regards, these sorts of experiences and knowledge (read as: learning) are much more important than differential equations, Ulysses, or the nature of society. I can teach them these latter things. I can not teach them the former; they must be experienced. A college degree is so much more than what’s taught in the classroom and we faculty are narcissistic if we think that student’s lives should revolve around us.

Lest you think that my observations are the subjective musings of a blogger, I direct you to Rebekah Nathan’s My Freshman Year (Cornell University Press, 2005). Nathan is the pseudonym of an academic Anthropologist who took a sabbatical and entered a university as a freshman. Her experiences formed the basis for her ethnography of undergraduate culture. Her research led her to several conclusions. For example (p. 140), “most professors and administrators overestimate the role that academics plays in student culture, and as a result they magnify the impact of teachers and classes on student life and decisions.” Indeed, after returning to her life as a professor, Nathan came to the noteworthy conclusion (p. 136) that “my just one of the many balls being juggled in the time management challenge faced by each student.”

Finally, I’ll go one step further about Wesch’s argument. Perhaps one step more than I should go as this is the most cynical and pessimistic of ideas. I’ll even argue that Professor X was right in all senses of his comment that “most of these students don’t belong here.” Here I derive support from Nemko’s article. Nemko notes that “Today, amazingly, a majority of the students whom colleges admit are grossly underprepared. Only 23 percent of the 1.3 million high-school graduates of 2007 who took the ACT examination were ready for college-level work in the core subjects of English, math, reading, and science.” Nor do four years in college necessarily improve the situation. Nemko reports that “A 2006 study supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that 50 percent of college seniors scored below "proficient" levels on a test that required them to do such basic tasks as understand the arguments of newspaper editorials or compare credit-card offers. Almost 20 percent of seniors had only basic quantitative skills. The students could not estimate if their car had enough gas to get to the gas station.”

These statistics may seem outrageous to those of you who have never taught a freshman survey course with 200 students. Perhaps it’s a matter of sampling size…my classes are larger than many, so I see more of these under/un-prepared freshman…but they are there. Further, it’s not only that they are intellectually unequipped to deal with college; they are unequipped on emotional and maturity terms as well. Some students are simply not ready or willing to take on the responsibility of pursuing a Bachelor’s degree.

I will provide you with a bit of data and some anecdotal evidence. This Spring term I taught a section of our Anthropology 101 course (ANT2000 here at UNF). The course enrolled up to its cap with 200 students. Student grades were based on three measures; 4 surveys (12.5%), 6 classroom activities (12.5%) and three exams (25% each). The exams were the largest percentage of a student’s final grade. Each exam was given after approximately 5 weeks of lecture and I dedicated the class period after the exams were taken to return them to students and discuss the results. I also had those exams that were not picked up with me the second class after the exam was taken in case any students were absent the day I gave the exams back. Any student who missed their chance to retrieve their exam (and learn what grade they got on the exam) could pick up their exam during my office hours.

I was surprised to find at the end of the semester that 13 of the 186 students (7%) who completed the course did not pick up either of their first two exams. 9 of these 13 (69%) students who did not pick up their first two exams earned a D or F in the class. Put another way, of those who earned an F, 20% did not pick up their first two exams and 31% of the Ds did not pick up their first two exams. Why? Why didn’t these students pick up their exams? I can only assume that they were entirely uncurious about how they had performed on these exams. Moreover, they were not even interested in knowing if they were doing so poorly that their best interests would be served by dropping my class and trying another course. Note, I have not hidden their grades from them. I have encouraged at every turn that they consider their grades and their time management issues and make informed and rational judgments about their education. I provide them an Excel spreadsheet that calculates their expected final grade on the basis of their performance on course assessments. I am supportive of those students who contemplate dropping my course or who seek my advice about passing my (or any other) course. I often express my understanding that mine is not the only course they are taking and that they have many academic, professional, and personal responsibilities to balance. Despite this, I can only conclude that 7% of my ANT 2000 students don’t belong here.

I think we need to distinguish between schooling and learning as per Wesch’s article. I think both are important. But while I think he makes the point that we should not confuse the two, I do think he ultimately does conflate them in ways that gloss important issues. Or perhaps more precisely, he assumes that learning is the only thing that students should do in college. My students have a wonderful cognitive dissonance about college. 91% of the students in my last ANT 2000 course agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “A college education should make students into well-informed, thoughtful, and engaged citizens, not simply prepare them for a particular career.” And yet, in the same survey, 63% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “The important thing about a college education is receiving a degree so that I can obtain a high paying job.”

I even had a student in one of my other classes, say “all I need out of UNF is a piece of paper” when I expressed to him that he wasn’t performing up to his potential. Mind you, this is an incredibly bright student. Yet his goal for his college education was that piece of paper. He wanted (to use Wesch’s terms) schooling, not learning. To my mind, this student doesn’t belong in college, and he doesn’t deserve a Bachelor’s degree, no matter how many courses he skates through. He may be ready to earn that degree sometime in the future. I sure hope so. Be he’s not ready now.

In this sense, Professor X was right. Some students don’t belong in college. And what’s worse, the idea that everyone belongs in college is a myth perpetrated on these individuals by our society. I personally think this myth is very problematic. Not because I don’t think that all individuals should have a chance or opportunity to go to college. But because I think it implies that if you don’t go to college and get your degree you are somehow not as good/smart/valuable to society as someone who did. It implies that if you don’t have your Bachelor’s degree you can’t be productive, happy, informed, creative, and bright; that you can’t make a valuable contribution to your family, community, and the nation. It suggests that those with jobs that do not require a college education are somehow less important than those who’s jobs do. I am no more important to the workings of this university than the person who tends the grounds, or keeps the air conditioner working, or delivers the mail. Indeed, we all depend upon these folks far more than we depend on the President or Provost or the Trustees.

Finally, a college education might not even improve a person’s lot in life. Nemko states that “Colleges trumpet the statistic that, over their lifetimes, college graduates earn more than nongraduates, but that's terribly misleading. You could lock the collegebound in a closet for four years, and they'd still go on to earn more than the pool of non-collegebound — they're brighter, more motivated, and have better family connections.” College is a valuable experience. College should be a place of learning not just schooling. A Bachelor’s degree may say so many things about those who own the piece of paper. But I think I agree with Professor X.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Testing In Mind

Adam CarleAdam Carle

Department of Psychology

Why do we bother to give tests? Our students hate them. We often hate them. And, let’s be honest, both students and instructors sometimes come away feel a little angry at each other once the process ends. So, what point do tests serve? Before you read ahead, pause for a few moments. Reflect. Ask yourself, “Why do I give tests? What do I think they accomplish?”

Welcome back. I bet your answer included the notion that we give tests to measure memory. In other words, we give tests to examine what students learned. We write tests to see whether our students learned anything during our course. We implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) assume that testing doesn’t play an active role in learning. Tests don’t help students learn, do they? Class assists learning. Studying for tests helps students learn. But, does taking a test facilitate learning? Recent work by Karpicke and Roediger (2008) sheds some new and interesting light on the learning process and testing’s role in it. Believe it or not, taking tests adds to the learning process.

Karpicke and Roediger wanted to know several things. First, they wanted to know whether repeated studying following correct recall leads to improved long term retention. Once students learn information, does repeatedly studying it lead to long term retention? Second, they wanted to know whether testing plays a role in retention. Once students learn information, does requiring them to recall the information lead to increased retention? Lastly, they wondered whether they might find a joint effect; do repeated studying and testing uniquely lead to long term recall? Do they interact?

To examine this, they worked with students learning 40 Swahili/English word pairs and manipulated two things, one: whether word pairs remained in a study list following correct recall on a test, and, two: whether the test covered the entire set of words or only incorrectly recalled words. They randomly assigned students to participate in one of four conditions and tested them repeatedly. In the first condition, students studied the word pairs and then took a test to examine how many of the words they recalled. After the test, the students resumed studying the entire list, regardless of which pairs they’d remembered correctly. At the end of the new study period, they took a new test covering the entire set of 40 word pairs. They did this a total of four times. In the second condition, students also studied the list and then took a test. In this condition though, the students resumed studying after the test, but only studied words they’d missed. They no longer studied pairs they’d remembered correctly. At the end of the new study session, however, they took a test covering the entire set of 40 word pairs. They too did this four times. In the third condition, students received four study and testing sessions as well. These students studied the entire list in each study session, but each new test only examined words the students missed on an earlier test. In the last condition, students studied the pairs and took a test on them four times. In this condition, though, once they correctly identified a word pair, they stopped studying it and stopped getting tested on it. Essentially, as soon as students correctly recalled a word pair, they no longer studied it or received a subsequent test on it. At the end of the sessions, all students took a test covering entire list. Nearly all of the students could recall all of the pairs correctly. Thus, regardless of the type of learning, students had nearly perfect recall before leaving. Great. Wonderful. Right? Not exactly, I hope my students remember things later. I hope they show long term recall. I bet you do to. Not surprisingly, Karpicke and Roediger (2008) mostly wanted to examine how the different learning phases would affect long term recall. And, now, folks, it gets interesting.

One week after the learning phases, they tested the students again. Guess what they found. Seriously. Take a second and think about what you would expect. Think about the tests you give. Do you continue testing your students on the same material across the semester? Or, do you give a test once and move on to new material? You response gives your expectation. So, with your current practices in mind, who do you think showed the best long term recall? Let me tell you.

Students who received repeated testing on the entire list showed markedly better retention than students who did not receive repeated testing on the entire list. Students who repeatedly received testing on the entire set of items recalled about 80% of the words. Students who only got tested on words they’d missed barely recalled 30% of the words. Moreover, this did NOT depend on the type of studying students did during the learning phases. Regardless of whether students studied the entire list or whether they only studied words they’d missed, one week later students who’d received repeated testing on the entire set of items showed much better recall than students who only tested themselves on words they’d missed earlier. Repeated retrieval in the form of repeated testing increased retention, regardless of whether students repeatedly encoded (studied) words. Testing makes a difference. A big difference.

What does all this mean for us? Among other things, it suggests that we might want to reconsider how we construct our tests. We should probably put more thought into what we test. If we want students to remember important concepts, we should make and include mainly these concepts on the test. We should test our students on these concepts repeatedly. If we want students to retain more esoteric aspects of the course, we should make sure we cover that material on the test. And, again, we should require our students to retrieve those concepts from memory repeatedly. At the least, we should let ourselves feel less guilty for “forcing” our students to take tests. We can take comfort that a series of well-designed tests should help our students remember the material later, above and beyond “just” studying. As Karpicke and Roediger conclude, the “benefits [of studying]… clearly depend on the process learners engage in during repetition.” I don’t know about you, but I feel responsible for creating and maintaining this process. I know I’m going to spend some time between now and the start of the next semester thinking about my tests. You?

Karpicke, J. D., & Roediger, H. L. (2008). The Critical importance of retrieval for learning. Science, 319, 966 - 968.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Gordon RakitaGordon Rakita
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
I write this from Vancouver, Canada where for the past four days I have been attending the annual Society for American Archaeology (SAA) meetings. (And yes, the city is beautiful and it did snow while I was here!) As with other meetings of this genre, they consist of long uninterrupted blocks of presentations by scholars. The presentations are clustered into topical symposia and there are typically a dozen symposia running concurrently in both the morning and in the afternoon.

To give you a sample of a typical day, on Thursday I participated in a symposium in the morning that had approximately 10 papers (2.5 hours). There was an hour break for lunch, and then I attended a symposium in the afternoon, logging another 2.5 hours of sitting in a darkened room watching presentation after presentation. Presentations vary at the SAA meetings. Some are highly theoretical; others describe the results of recent excavations. Some present the results of sophisticated chemical analyses; others explain sampling strategies or statistical results. Some symposium are scheduled for large ballrooms as the organizers expect a large audience of interested members, others are placed in more modest sized rooms. 95% of presenters use PowerPoint these days.

These meetings can be very draining. By the end of the second day, most of us respond to inquiries about our wellbeing with phrases like “I don’t think I can sit through another paper today.” Bare in mind, this is not because the presentations are bad; indeed they are often quite good. It is simply that the amount of information we attempt to absorb during this four day bacchanalia of archaeology is overwhelming. Most of us are physically and mentally exhausted when we gratefully climb on the plane home.

But sitting in the back of one of those dark rooms one day I let my mind wander to a comparison of attending these sorts of meetings and attending classes at a university. The similarities are considerable and I think illuminating.

Let’s take for example the schedule of a hypothetical, full-time, freshman. She enrolls in five, 3-credit hour classes. This means that she will have 15 hours of class time to attend each week. Typically students will try to arrange their schedule to meet other commitments or interests, but let’s imagine that our student has spread her courses across the full working week. That’s three hours of class time each day.

Now what does our intrepid student’s class time consist of? Well, since she’s a freshman, most of her courses are going to be surveys or introductory courses. Some will be large lecture hall classes with 200 students; others will be smaller, say with 25 classmates. Many of these courses will be heavily lecture-based, with the professor presenting information using PowerPoint slides filled with text and images. Individual classes will range from 50 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes long.

So, our hypothetical student is essentially attending an SAA-style symposium each and every week day. If I asked my colleagues here at the meetings if they would like to do that, they’d look at me as if I had had too many over-priced ales at the hotel bar last night (as a matter of fact, I did). Simply put, they would react with horror at the idea. Why? Because, as I mentioned earlier, these meetings are draining. Well, why?

Here’s my point. Despite the fact that we are archaeologists attending symposia on topics of great interest to us, the presentations we attend are not that much different than any lecture. Presentations are filled with ideas and information that we are desperately trying to assimilate and retain at high speed. Most presentations are good, but some are not so good. The presenter rambles, goes over time, uses cruddy slides or tables of data. Some presenters do not articulate an overarching important question that frames their talk. Others talk in monotone. The darkened room is stifling with people and the blur of presentations makes your eyelids heavy.

The same things that make a presentation at a professional meeting a draining experience are the same things that make a lecture at a university draining. We faculty attend these sorts of events for a few days each year; students attend them five days a week for 16 weeks. On the other hand, the things that make for an interesting and engaging symposium apply to university lectures. Good presentations have a well crafted question or goal or theme. This question/goal/theme should be presented in such a way as to draw the listener and make him or her interested in the content of the presentation. Good presentations walk the audience through the material cleanly and clearly. And in the end, good presentations return to the question/goal/theme and tie up loose ends. But overall, a good presentation is engaging, compelling, and entertaining. Yes, I said entertaining.

My brother likes to refer to what I do as “edu-tainment.” I’m not sure I have a good rebuttal for that. On the one hand, I know that when students are engaged and attending to the activities in a class, then they learn better. So if a bit of entertainment does that, who am I to scoff at it. On the other hand, I do know that by brother’s term has a more pejorative connotation. That I’m actually a very low paid entertainer (do stand up comics make more that college professors?) and that perhaps the entertainment aspect of my classes might degrade the actual learning. I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that I appreciated those speakers this week who took the time to develop and engaging and entertaining presentation. Because if you asked me if I wanted to spend 2.5 hours each day attending presentations, I’d ask you if you had too many over-priced ales at the hotel bar last night.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Engineering Education

Chiu ChoiChiu Choi

Electrical Engineering

In January I directed one of the design teams in my EEL4915 Electrical Engineering Design II course to participate in a national engineering design contest (the Freescale Green Design Challenge). Three weeks ago we were notified that our team was listed among the top ten finalists. It was very good news because the ten finalists were selected from 65 participants from the United States, Canada, Mexico, and other countries in Central and South Americas. UNF is the only university selected in the United States.

Last week I received a call from one of my former students. He told me that he read about the news in the Times Union website and congratulated me. He then asked me to read the responses from the readers. (

The first response was: “nerds.” It did not bother me because there were nicer comments from other readers. But it did raise a question for me: “Is there any correlation between engineering education and nerdy behaviors?” I did some research and found a publication[1] written by a former President of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. In the paper, the author argued that modern engineering education reflected a liberal arts education. If this were true, then the correlation is minimal because liberal arts education has not been known to produce nerds.

The author stated that “the term liberal arts was derived from Medieval Latin, viz., artes liberales, which included studies in the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and the quadrivium (geometry, astronomy, arithmetic, and music).” It appears that trivium is concerned with developing literacy and communication skills and quadrivium is for dealing with the physical world. The author said that “modern liberal arts programs had evolved from this foundation and continued to focus on developing critical thinking skills, an ability to communicate, and the capacity for continuous learning.”

The author further stated the following. “The Engineering Criteria 2000 of ABET[2] may be interpreted in terms of artes liberales. Criterion 3 Program Outcomes specifies eleven specific attributes that graduates of accredited engineering programs must attain at graduation. These attributes can be rearranged according to their membership in the trivium and quadrivium.

-Ability to function on multidisciplinary teams
-Understand professional and ethical responsibilities
-Ability to communicate effectively
-Understand impact of engineering solutions in global and societal context
-Ability to engage in lifelong learning
-Knowledge of contemporary issues

-Ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering
-Ability to design and conduct experiments, analyze and interpret data
-Ability to design a system, component or process to meet desired needs
-Ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems
-Ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practices.

In addition, Criterion 4 Professional Component requires a general education component to complement the technical content that is consistent with both program and institutional objectives. Consequently, there is some validity to the claim that a modern engineering education reflects a liberal education.”

It will be interesting to hear the comments from our colleagues regarding such interpretation of engineering education.

[1] Edward Parrish, “Issues for Engineering Education,” Proceedings of China-US Bilateral Seminar on Engineering Education for a Global Economy, Oct. 20-24, 2002, Shanghai and Beijing, PRC, pp.197-201.
[2] Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, the recognized accreditor for college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Measurement In Mind

Adam CarleAdam Carle

Department of Psychology

Have we left our college students behind? Have we failed them? Hopefully not. Surely we meet their needs. And, perhaps, just perhaps, we surpass minimal contributions and provide deeply transformational and enriching experiences. But, how would we know? Colleges and Universities around the country have begun to feel the reverberations of the No Child Left Behind Act. Nationwide we’ve begun to feel a push to document that we actually make differences in the lives of our students, post-secondary students and otherwise. And, boy howdy (as we used to say on the farm), has this caused a stir.

As a scientist, particularly a social scientist, I find much of this discussion, controversy, and dissatisfaction strange. Why? Quite simply, I don’t understand why so many of us seem to resist the notion of defining and measuring educational outcomes. Why do we resist attempts to identify and define our goals in a measurable form? Don’t we want to know whether we’ve affected our students, positively or negatively?

Without operational definitions that make educational outcomes concrete and observable, we’ll never know if we’ve made a difference in the lives of our students. I believe that many of us want to transform our students’ lives and understandings. I fundamentally appreciate the inherent difficulty in operationally defining transformation. Trust me. I genuinely feel the struggle to develop reliable and valid measures of our constructs once we do identify and define them. Believe me. A large part of my research program uses quantitative methods to empirically investigate the reliability and validity of measures used in science. I’ve devoted my research career to this I feel it so deeply.

As a scientist, I want to articulate what I intend to measure, describe how I’ll measure it, and decide whether I’ve measured it. As a professor, I want to know empirically that I’ve positively affected my students. I want to know that the methods I’ve chosen to affect my students led to that change. I can’t do that unless I define what I intend to change and specify how I’ll measure it. Can you?

It seems to me that many of us argue about whether we should define outcomes or not, rather than arguing about the adequacy of our definitions. We argue about whether we should measure, rather than how well we’ve measured it. I wish we could use the newly forming atmosphere to engage in fruitful thinking and discussion about what we’d like to see our students achieve, understand, and master by the end of a class, the end of a semester, and the end of their college career. I wish we could use this time to talk to each other about the different things each of us value and how we might define and measure those values so that we can know whether we’ve achieved them as professors. To that end, what do you hope to accomplish in a class? What do you hope to change in your students? How do you know that you’ve realized your goals? What definitions and measures do you use? I’d love to read your responses; I’m sure your peers would too.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Bridge

Casey WelchCasey Welch

Department of Sociology & Anthropology

Though overwhelmed, as most of us are, with myriad demands, I am honored that Dan Richard invited me, a sociologist housed beneath psychology's lofty third-floor offices, to participate in this new pedagogical project he has set up.

Teaching is both a profound endeavor and a mundane task. The profundity bubbles up from what Adam Carle and Rakita Gordon both describe as the pursuit for knowledge. This involves the search for truth, the subjugation of truth to hermeneutics, the recognition of our sub-rational ontology, and on and on into the boundless universe of ideas both sagacious and loopy. Education, of course, is not exclusively a Socratic search for knowledge. We are enveloped in a bureaucratic and mechanistic educational system that has schedules, specified subjects to teach, boundaries between departments, accreditation requirements, attendance, exams, academic discipline, and students with varying needs, demands, desires, and abilities. It is also a system that issues certifications or degrees that will get students better paying jobs. Because of these two often competing aspects of education, we find ourselves pursuing the high-brow aesthetics of knowledge while turning the knobs of the low-brow machine. And this is why Jules Henry, in his book Culture Against Man, describes modern education as simultaneously "fettering and freeing the human mind."

This split in our academic reality can be managed with thoughtful pedagogical philosophy. Indeed, I believe this is one of those areas where philosophy really does matter because it will guide us in disentangling the mess of reality and rearranging into a productive operation. In the contemporary pedagogical zeitgeist, one of the eminent concepts is student outcomes. Active learning is no longer measured solely by nifty course designs. On this issue I am aligned with popular discourse. To wit, taking into account, even measuring, student outcomes is an appropriate consideration in teaching philosophies.

In light of this popular and personal shift in pedagogy, I have been involved in several new course designs, including panel presentations, meeting with small groups of students to discuss their work, assigning students to structured study pairs and having them take the exams together, and bridging two courses in different departments. I would like to spend a moment describing the last course design, which John Davies and I call the Bridge Design.

When John, who is in Communications, and I began this project, we realized that his media course came from a psychological angle, and mine more from a sociological angle. Our first thought, then, was that the students from both classes would benefit from learning the information from the other class. That's the side of knowledge. We wanted to facilitate the exploration of endless ideas.

We also wanted to make the courses more interesting for students and more fruitful for them. With that in mind, and with a some preliminary research, we felt our courses would benefit from more student-to-student interaction. In other words, we wanted to improve student outcomes. We wanted students to enjoy the course, get personal attention, and improve their grades. This is taking into account the mechanistic reality of bureaucratic education--how to make a 75 minute chunk of time interesting and useful--and the student issues of varied learning skills and the desire for good grades.

Our third philosophical goal was that we wanted to be able to monitor both the delivery of knowledge and the impact on students. We wanted our courses to allow for more formative assessment.

Our new student-centered course design emerged out of an intricate collaborative faculty effort. The Bridge design allows students from two courses to teach students in their partner class. Students from one class, the summary class, read an assigned seminal article, discuss it with their professor, and then type a summary and critique of the article, which is posted on Blackboard for all students in both classes to access. These summaries become the teaching tools for their classmates: all students from both classes read and discuss them. Later, a panel of students from the second class, the panel class, presents to the summary class concepts they have learned in their own class that extend or otherwise critique the article. This course design allows for dialogue-based, active learning that crosses departmental boundaries and affords professors a formative assessment tool. Preliminary qualitative data indicates strong positive student outcomes.

Clearly this design has a variety of pedagogical philosophies under girding it--active learning; student-centered learning; dialogue-based education; student-teacher interaction; faculty collaboration; and formative assessment.

Philosophies alone, however, are not entirely adequate. We cannot assume outcomes are an automatic function of intentions. Our next step is to measure the impact on students. We are currently analyzing quantitative data that measures academic performance, student attitudes, and student collaborative behaviors.

When we finish coding the data and crunching the numbers, I hope to update you on the statistical measures of student outcomes.

For the time being, you can link to our first article, which describes the course design and qualitative findings.

Thanks for your interest,
Casey Welch

Friday, February 22, 2008

Just an Anthropologist

Gordon RakitaGordon Rakita
Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Hello! My name is Gordon Rakita. I’m an Assistant Professor of Anthropology here at UNF. While I like to think of myself as a scientist like Adam, as an Anthropologists, I’m also aware of multiple ways of understanding a given phenomena. As I tell my students, one of the wonderful things about the discipline of Anthropology is that we can use a range of epistemological standards including the sciences (both the ahistorical and historical ones), social sciences, and the humanities. Anthropologists study human culture and biology in all its global diversity. That seems like a pretty tall order, and it is. I joke with colleagues that Anthropology is the real central discipline in the College of Arts and Sciences and that all other disciplines are just derivative. (We know this isn’t true, but it does make us feel good.)

I was trained as an Anthropologist. I spent nearly a dozen years as an undergraduate and graduate student learning the empirical, methodological, and theoretical aspects of the discipline. But in all that time, not once did I take a course in education. I was never encouraged to consider what being an academic at a primarily teaching institution would be like. I wasn’t encouraged to do anything to prepare myself for teaching courses. Sure I taught some courses as a graduate student; but in my program these opportunities amounted to being thrown to the wolves.

So when I first came to UNF, I wanted to learn as much as I could about the best ways to teach. Luckily, UNF has a wonderful venue for faculty to explore this aspect of their careers…the Office of Faculty Enhancement. (The OFE does much more than just help faculty with teaching, but we’ll save that for another post.) In the past five years, I’ve had the pleasure to be involved with the OFE in a variety of ways; as a faculty seeking advice and consultation on teaching and learning, as an OFE Faculty Fellow, receiving a Transformational Learning grant, presenting and participating in OFE workshops, and most recently as the chair of the Faculty Enhancement Committee.

Through my involvement in OFE, I’ve learned a small bit about good teaching practices. But I really feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. And I’m still struggling a great deal with my role as both a scholar and a teacher. Here at UNF, faculty are expected to be excellent in both endeavors. This is a tall order. But I believe there is the potential for synergy between the two. That good teaching can enhance your research and top quality research can positively impact your teaching.

Anyway, I very much look forward to reading the posts of the other bloggers and your comments on our posts.



Saturday, February 16, 2008

Science in Mind

Adam CarleAdam Carle

Department of Psychology

Do you know how your mind works? Have you ever stopped and wondered how you learn? As a Psychological Scientist, I ponder these types of questions regularly. I wonder how the brain works. I marvel at the human animal’s capability to gaze at the world and learn from it. I am continually amazed by peoples’ ability to understand the world, however limited. And, despite years of studying the subject, I remain fundamentally awed that we can sit in classrooms, read books, observe others and learn.

What does all this have to do with an Office of Faculty Enhancement blog? And, for Pete’s sake, what does this have to do with life as a faculty member at the University of North Florida? Good questions! In the coming weeks, I hope to show you. I expect to share a few of the things I’ve discovered in my pursuits and reveal why I adopt a Scientific approach in all of my professional activities, from my research, to my classroom, to my service. Yes, even my service.

Quite simply, as a Scientist and professor, I want to best understand how the mind works so that I can most effectively teach. I seek to engage the best practices in my research so that I can correctly understand the nature of the world, including human behavior, thought, and emotion. I want to accurately understand how people tend to work in groups so that I can efficaciously communicate with my peers. I feel that a Scientific approach allows me the single best method to do this. It lets me peer at myself, uncover my own weaknesses and failings, and utilize Scientific findings to correct them. In the end, this lets me give the most to my students and colleagues.

If you read that and thought, “sounds like a heavy weight to place on the shoulders of Science and research,” I suspect you remember Science as a field that forced you to memorize boring facts. Few Scientists would describe Science as memorization and most would portray it as a process of exciting and rigorous inquiry (Pinker, 2007). Please join me in the next few weeks as I travel the roads of research and Science and their relation to the classroom and learning. In the meantime, I’d love for you to share of your thoughts. Where do you turn when you consider altering your life? What sources do you consult when you make changes in classroom? And, importantly, how do you evaluate the effectiveness of those modifications? How do you know what you adjusted made or failed to make a difference?

Pinker, S. (2002). The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. New York: Viking.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Dan RichardDan Richard

Office of Faculty Enhancement

Welcome to the UNF Faculty Enhancement Blog. Faculty from a variety of backgrounds, disciplines, and interests will post items that relate to being a faculty member at UNF. Please stop by and feel free to comment. You can subscribe to this blog and receive posts in your inbox or RSS reader as they are created. If you have any questions or other issues, please feel free to contact me: