Monthly Archives: May 2012

grading feedback

I’m finally done with grading. Well almost done. I’m still dealing with grade appeals. So what’s on my mind is some suggestions about grading, and I may write several posts on this theme. It is important to give students feedback along the way about what your records show for them, especially if the grade depends heavily on lots of small things like daily attendance or homework. Even for test scores and such it is good to let the students see what your records show. The fact is, we sometimes make mistakes in recording grades. A system that assumes you never make a mistake is a bad system. If a student is going to challenge the accuracy of your records, you’d like that to happen in a timely fashion, not after grades have been submitted. And you shouldn’t be happy about students getting the wrong grade just because they didn’t challenge you. One way to give students feedback is your school’s on-line grading system. I don’t use ours because the interface is slow, clunky, inflexible and cannot handle the way I grade. Instead, I find it easy to use Word and Excel for this.

If you are part of the Microsoft/Windows world, you can easily generate grade reports for your students using Excel (or Access), Word, and Outlook. This is easy to learn to do and produces very high student satisfaction. Here are the basics. Continue reading

brave, cute, or self-destructive?

After all their hard work last year to call the world’s attention to how evil Scott Walker is, Madison’s teaching assistants have declined to support Scott Walker’s opponent in the recall election. They don’t like the person nominated to run against him. Awhile back, in the primary, they also declined to support the person the other unions were endorsing who lost to this guy they are now declining to support.

Example response from a soon-to-be-celebrating pro-Walker Wisconsin blogger that highlights sociology here.

asa baseball 2nd chance

Did you miss your chance to order tickets for the ASA baseball game? Maybe you didn’t know about your trip schedule, or you didn’t want to take a chance on missing Just Desserts. Perhaps you were so excited about THE HUB that you couldn’t dream of walking away from the beating heart of technology information. It’s okay; we understand. But, alas! Here is another chance for you. I am ordering another batch of tickets, and if we act now we can all get seats together.

The game is Friday, August 17 at 6:40pm. We can walk there from the conference center. Tickets will cost you $18. What are you waiting for? Email me if you want a ticket: fetner@gmail.com.

fox/msnbc parity

A study making the rounds from the Farleigh Dickinson University polling outfit is headlined “What you know depends on what you watch.” It’s a national version of the same group’s earlier study of New Jersey residents, both of which purport to show that

exposure to partisan sources, such as Fox News and MSNBC, has a negative impact on people’s current events knowledge

compared not just to viewers of high-knowledge sources like the Sunday morning talk shows, NPR, and the Daily Show, but even to non-viewers.

Color me skeptical. According to data from Pew, which my colleague Neal Caren thoughtfully pulled out and sent to me, the difference in education between Fox and MSNBC viewers is quite substantial (fully 83% of MSNBC viewers have at least some college, compared to 60% of Fox News viewers). The FDU study

control[s] for the effects of partisanship, age, education and gender, all factors, which commonly predict vote choice.

which means, if I understand correctly, that MSNBC viewers start out smarter and stay that way, while Fox News viewers start out dumber and get a little dumber by watching Fox. (I’ve asked the FDU outfit for the raw data to see if I can model this alternative hypothesis but haven’t heard back yet.)

This all plays into the nice narrative that MSNBC and Fox are the same beast on different sides of the aisle, a claim that reproduces the dueling-viewpoints view of American politics and avoids the obligation to evaluate the actual content of the two. I suspect that a dispassionate consideration of MSNBC and Fox would reveal differences in the degree of factual (mis)information, insinuation, and misleading claims.

verifying results

Lisa Wade recently made me aware that a group of psychologists have decided to try and verify the results of every article written in three journals in 2008. I think this is a great idea. And the likelihood that the results can be replicated look pretty unlikely. As the Chronicle piece I’ve linked to points out,

Recently, a scientist named C. Glenn Begley attempted to replicate 53 cancer studies he deemed landmark publications. He could only replicate six. Six! Last December I interviewed Christopher Chabris about his paper titled “Most Reported Genetic Associations with General Intelligence Are Probably False Positives.” Most!”

If only 6 out of 53 cancer studies can be replicated, I shudder what to think what the social science data will say (in part because there is so much more noise in a lot of our research design).  Continue reading

tea worthy

The Tea Party movement claims the mantle of Revolutionary forefathers to fight for liberty against the despotism of a distant ruler. They take their name from the Boston Tea Partiers who protested Britain’s taxation of Americans without representation in Parliament; a Parliament whose members nevertheless asserted power over the colonies “…in all cases whatsoever”.

If this is the mantle they wish to claim, I have a fight worthy of these modern-day Samuel Adamses: revolt against the despotism that subjects women in Washington, D.C. to laws created by an Arizonian.

Continue reading

ego-networks on twitter

Neal Caren of UNC Chapel Hill has written up a handy guide to deriving the ego-networks of Twitter users as part of his series of tutorials on text analysis for social scientists. Neal uses my twitter account as his starting point, so you may find some familiar names in the network. I recommend the whole series, but of course, “Two Degrees of Tina Fetner” is my favorite.

Being a heterosexual white male is like playing a video game on “Easy”.

I so wish I could take credit for that observation but it is, in fact, the work of sci-fi author John Scalzi. He doesn’t just mention it as a one-liner, though, but instead takes the whole notion to its logical conclusion:

Continue reading

ask a scatterbrain: self-citation in works in progress

Is there a standard way to indicate that an author has cut and paste a chunk of text from an earlier work into a work-in-progress?

As I move from one part of a larger project to another, I like to plunk down chunks of text as placeholders to frame the argument, provide theoretical or historical context, etc. I italicize this text as a shorthand to myself. As I share my work-in-progress with others attending a small conference, would it be bad to leave it in italics with a note that it is copied from my other published and unpublished work? Is there a norm for (or against) doing this?

herb gans interview

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Herb Gans and interviewing him on a forthcoming article, as well as his career in sociology. The interview is now online, alongside his article (which is provokative, and gave me a lot to talk about). I hesitated to post this because I worried that it would seem like shameless self-promotion. But the reason to read it is Gans, who has strong opinions. He also provides a nice overview of his career (a fuller version of this is provided in his Annual Review piece). Herb is someone I admire enormously. At 85 he’s still going strong. He’s even teaching our field research class this fall (as he does every fall)!

the riley flap and anti-intellectualism

For those who haven’t been following it thus far, Horowitz wannabe Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote a screed about black studies as a paid blogger for the Chronicle of Higher Education, following up on the Chronicle’s generally positive news story about the discipline. There’s nothing particularly special about the screed; it’s garden-variety right-wing anti-intellectualism, peppered with a well-honed tone of marginalized sanctimony. Given its subject matter, it’s clearly racist too, but as far as I can tell the racism is not the primary cause of the argument but a result of its defiant ignorance. Continue reading

who’s guest blogging at the atlantic?

Gabriel Rossman, that’s who. You already read his blog, Code and Culture, and you are going to read his book, Climbing the Charts, as soon as it comes out. Now, for a short time only, you can read his posts on the lamestream, smarty-pants magazine of the lefty elite while sipping Pinot Grigio and eating arugula bruschetta, too.

(h/t: Jay Livingston)

nc’s awful amendment one

It appears that, despite lots of work and fundraising by the forces of good and reason, my (adopted) state will allow its redneck-goober id to prevail over its progressive-sophisticated superego tomorrow. This despite the fact that the amendment’s sponsor said:

he wanted a more narrowly worded amendment but was “overruled” by “national experts” he identified as the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal advocacy group.

…and the state’s most respected polling firm demonstrated that people who actually understand the amendment oppose it by a greater margin than the state as a whole supports it. The state’s big-business community has come out against the amendment, and the Republican speaker of the state house has said he expects the amendment to be repealed within 20 years, acknowledging that anti-gay bigotry will no longer be a mobilizing issue once another generation of young people are in the electorate.

In the meantime, though, the rest of us are left ashamed of our state.

graphics warning

Last week I was on a committee to give out a “best paper” award. Of the six nominated papers, two contained graphs that were completely incomprehensible because they had been produced in high-res color but were given to the committee as photocopies. In fact, I think this was 2 out of 2 of all the papers in the competition that had graphs. I’ve seen this happen a lot. I myself have an AJS article whose gray scale graphics, while legible in the original printed journal, are completely illegible in the low-res JSTOR version, or any photocopy you might make of that article. Having been bitten badly by this problem, I am very attuned to it.  Printing on a low-res printer has the same problem as photocopying.   Lots of journal reviewers print out the papers they are reviewing. I personally use “fast draft” to save ink and time when I’m printing most stuff. What do you use?

Advice to the wary: Microsoft standard colors and gray scale are just not going to be distinguishable after photocopying or being printed on a low-res monocolor printer. Some of the colors will be indistinguishable from white, and even the difference between black and light gray will disappear in a photocopy. Simple line graphics with markers are much better.

If you are sure you only want your work read on line, you don’t have to worry about this. Otherwise, the word to the wise is test for readability under adverse conditions.

are sociologists too nice?

Alan Sica argues that perhaps it is. One quote:

Our special and newly formed version of Nice-Nellyism is different, in banishing to the outhouse scholarly criticism that might be interpreted by somebody or other as “harsh” or “unfeeling” or “off the wall” or “unsupportable,” et cetera. If an entire generation of bright young scholars is schooled to believe that one should only write complimentary commentary about research which falls squarely within one’s zone of competence, the future for serious thought and analysis does not look promising; worse, those so socialized will have been cheated of their right and their responsibility as intellectuals: to tell it like it is.

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