Monthly Archives: June 2012

students helping students.

As academics we know that the way that a class goes, how much students get out of a class, and their evaluation of the course or the material depends heavily on the students themselves. How much effort do they put in? Are they prepared to learn? Do they contribute to discussions and take the material and assignments seriously? What are their previous experiences and biases? Despite the student-centeredness of learning, most of us grossly neglect student insight. When we do ask for it, it takes the form of evaluations – of our classes and teaching, which can devolve into fashion critiques – where we (our teaching, our course) are the focus.

I wanted to briefly introduce two way that I turn the spotlight to the students themselves and then use student insight to improve my courses (and students’ experiences in them) without (necessarily) having to make a single change of my own.

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are you looking for this?

In scanning the recent search terms that have landed people at scatterplot, I think some readers might be gearing up for fall transitions (or hoping for future transitions) and are interested in finding:

The current (and last year’s) sociology job market rumor mill/forum.

Advice for assistant professors.

Advice for your first time teaching.

A thorough discussion of turning one’s dissertation into a book.

Those a bit earlier in their career might be in search of:

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bad science not about same-sex parenting

There’s lots to say about the recent article by Mark Regnerus on outcomes of adults who remember a parent having had a same-sex relationship and the other articles and commentaries surrounding it in the journal, and much has already been said. The bottom line is that this is bad science, it is not about same-sex or gay parenting, and strong but circumstantial evidence suggests its main reason for being is to provide ammunition to right-wing activists against LGBT rights. In this (long!) post I offer my evaluation of the scientific merit of the paper as well as the politics surrounding the papers’ funding, publication, spin, and evaluation.

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families and the academy.

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a week now, ever since I saw a presentation by the ASA’s Director of Research – the venerable Roberta Spalter-Roth – at the Work and Family Researchers Network (WFRN) Conference in New York City.*

But, I just wasn’t sure where to start. Until today, when a colleague sent along a piece from The Atlantic Magazine today, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.”

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ode to my father

I’m off to see my brother in London on Monday. He’s recently become a father. And it’s gotten me thinking about my own dad. He’s a pretty astonishing guy. At least to me.

My dad was born in rural Pakistan. He was born in a village, Futoke, in the Punjab region of Pakistan. You won’t find it on a map. It might have 500 people in it. Probably more like 250. I don’t know. Pretty much all of them are relatives of some kind. He was born in 1946, just before Partition (August 15, 1947). He is a child of Empire. Of course, this meant a lot and a little for his own life. His village had no running water or electricity until I was a kid (I remember when they put in “bathrooms” and got electricity). The most exciting effect of the empire on his family was that his father left back in 1957 as part of the Pakistani delegation for the Queens coronation. He was there to take care of and clean up after the horses that the military officers rode on. During that period, my grandmother had a break from having children.  Continue reading

the brains behind youth hockey

I know, I know, no one cares about ice hockey. Except Canadians, Russians, and sociology bloggers, that is. Up here, hockey is in the news because someone did a study to dispel a widely held myth so stupid that it burns. The idea is that introducing body checking in hockey at a younger age reduces the number of concussions and other injuries. If they learn to check earlier, it is held, they will be better at it, so it won’t cause as much damage. This is like saying the more you hit a hammer with a nail the more resistant the nail will become to sinking into the wood. Continue reading

enduring neighborhood

For those of you who, like me, were first introduced to the wonders of neighborhood life because Mister Rogers was kind enough to share his, this is for you:*

As usual, couldn’t have said it better myself.

* (And my apologies to those parents, who like mine, couldn’t stand the man after watching him twice a day for years on end.)

a brave new world.

This weekend the NY Times ran a story on 32 innovations that will change your tomorrow. Some are cool, others are a little scary, and more than a few are completely unnecessary (e.g., a Jetson-esque machine exclusively for washing and drying your hair). This weekend I also got an email from a textbook publisher telling me about their own innovation, or at least efforts to advance one: computer-graded writing assignments. Here are relevant excerpts from the email: Continue reading

structure and agency of graduate union activism

In the conversation about the Teaching Assistants’ Association at Madison not endorsing Tom Barrett in Wisconsin’s recall election, Jeremy wrote:

Mike: Given your experience, I would love to see a post from you on the individual/collective benefits versus time costs of graduate student unions. When I started at Madison, I was enthusiastic to get a faculty job somewhere where students were unionized, but left feeling much more ambivalent about it. Most of that shift followed from seeing the apparent costs to students in terms of time and distraction much more clearly than the benefits.

To be honest, I have thought about writing a post on this topic for a long time. Given strong negative feelings toward graduate employee unions among some faculty, I was reluctant to discuss the matter lest the post be connected to my real identity. But, no longer will I let my unruly side be sublimated by unwarranted caution so here I go…

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