In the previous issue, we looked at the importance of advising and social infrastructure and institutional support for student success. In this issue, we look at the importance of the people whom students see two or three times a week: the teaching faculty. After all, typical USF student who attends a course regularly will spend thirty-five hours in the same room with teacher over a semester.
The next chapter elections are next spring: the Call for Nominations will go out in January. All UFF members, and only UFF members, may participate by running for office or representative seats, and / or by voting.
The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at noon at CDB Restaurant at 5104 E. Fowler Ave., just east of USF Tampa. There will be pizza (and salad). All UFF members are invited to attend. Come and check us out.
USF UFF night at the Tampa Bay Rays. Join us for an exciting night of baseball with the Tampa Bay Rays. We have purchased a block of tickets for UFF members for the game versus the Baltimore Orioles on July 1, 2019. We will be sitting together in a group section (222) along the right field line. The game starts at 7:10 PM. To Reserve your tickets, contact Cecil Greek. Please indicate how many tickets you need. You will be sent an email with a link to download and print the tickets directly from the Tampa Bay Rays website (or you can form an account on their side and have the tickets sent to your phone.) If you have any questions, you can email Cecil or phone him at: 850-339-4268. We have only a few tickets, so contact us asap.
Tailgate at the August 30 Game. UFF will host a tailgate tent at the August 30 football game between the USF Bulls and the University of Wisconsin Badgers. This NCAA game will be at the Raymond James Stadium, and attendees are responsible for getting their own tickets to the game. The UFF Tailgate Tent will is free to all UFF members and their families (we will have membership forms for UFF USF employees who want to join on the spot), and will open three hours before the game in Area 6D. Since we need to know how much food to order (and since attendees will probably want directions to the tent), please RSVP to the Tailgate organizer.
Download, fill in, and mail the membership form. Benefits of membership include the right to run and vote in UFF chapter and statewide elections; representation in grievances (UFF cannot represent a non-member in a grievance or litigation); special deals in insurance, travel, legal advice, and other packages provided by our affiliates; free insurance coverage for job-related liability; and the knowledge you are supporting education in Florida. Come and join the movement.
If you have been the victim of a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, you have thirty days from the time you knew or should have known of the violation to file a grievance. If you are, and at the time of the violation were, a dues-paying member of the United Faculty of Florida, you have the right to union representation. To contact the UFF USF Grievance Committee, go to the online contact form. For more information, see our web-page on grievances; see also the recent article accompanying the announcement of a Grievance Training Workshop on Thursday, June 13, 9:30 am, at Perkins Restaurant on 5002 E. Fowler Avenue, just east of USF Tampa. We will provide breakfast, and all UFF members are welcome.
Visit the United Faculty of Florida at USF Facebook page. This page is a place where UFF members can exchange thoughts and ideas. The page is "public", but only dues-paying UFF members are eligible to post items on the page. If you are a UFF member, ask to join on the page, or contact the Communications Committee. The Committee will invite every UFF member that asks to join. So check us out. UFF members are welcome to join, and non-members are welcome to look.
Ever since industrial assembly lines gave tycoons the means to produce vast supplies of guns, clothes, crockery, pork, and automobiles with armies of semi-skilled labor, education reformers have dreamed of using similar techniques to teach generations of schoolchildren on the cheap. As Meisenger & Dubeck observed (p. 12), the principal difficulty for budget planning in higher education is that it is "beset by low gains in productivity." They explained for non-MBAs that, "Increased productivity here is defined as an increase in the value of services without a concomitant increase in costs to the consumer of those services." (Or, ahem, decrease in cost without concomitant decrease in value.)
During the four decades since Meisenger & Dubeck wrote their book, many colleges and universities have attempted to increase productivity, improve metrics, and impress industrial assembly fans with technology and auxiliary operations. Some of latter, as noted in the previous Biweekly, have materially benefitted students. But meanwhile, tenured and even permanent non-tenured teaching faculty have been replaced by temporary teachers to whom colleges and universities make no long-term commitment. The apparent hope is that this would not undermine the lower division courses that are no longer taught by permanent faculty.
Education researchers are beginning to look at the results. Most of the research has been in K-12: a recent study in California found that, "aside from socioeconomic status, a major predictor of student achievement is the preparedness of teachers," where preparedness was measured by credentials and experience. This conclusion is not that much of a surprise, but contrary to much conventional wisdom, some recent work suggests that fifteen years of teaching experience often means greater student success than five years experience. On the other hand, other work suggests that sometimes it's the first five years of teaching experience.
Perhaps it's not just experience; just as Nineteenth century physicians discovered that the secret to being a good doctor was to use appropriate diagnostic and therapeutic regimes, being a good teacher may require using appropriate pedagogical techniques. And just as Nineteenth century physicians discovered new regimes that worked far better than those their predecessors had been using for eons, so educators are discovering new pedagogical techniques more successful than the traditional lecture method. "Only recently has research established a connection between faculty development and student success," begins an ACE report on faculty development. New pedagogical techniques are being developed, and instructors who learn the successful ones, and hone their skills in implementing them, are often more successful in class. Some of the more successful techniques rely on faculty-student engagement (here is a somewhat polemical overview of the effects of faculty-student engagement in and outside of class). All of which raises the awkward question of whether the goal is student success or increased productivity (as measured by politically expedient metrics).
So if yet another think tank's overview is correct in asserting that "Teaching experience is positively associated with student achievement gains throughout a teacher's career," perhaps that is true of teachers who continue to develop their technique. After all, as Robert Weisberg pointedly observed, one reason why many creative people are more creative in their first five years is that after that they fall into a rut.
We should be careful about what this does not mean. Several years ago, a study at Northwestern produced the headline that Adjuncts Are Better Teachers Than Tenured Professors, Study Finds. What that study found is that adjuncts who had been working almost solidly for decades teaching lower division courses were doing a better job in those courses, than many tenured professors. Perhaps this means that contrary to some conventional academic wisdom, mastery of the field is not the same as being able to teach it, especially if the target audience is adolescent. This study suggests a more nuanced view of credentials as a signal of teaching preparedness.
The denigration of teaching experience and skills often accompanies announcements of cost cutting measures. See, it's not so bad, we didn't really need to spend that money, anyway. But we should not delude ourselves about the fact that we get what we pay for.
Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, June 21, at noon, at CDB Restaurant, 5104 E. Fowler Ave., Temple Terrace.
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