→I woke up and did not even have to talk myself into getting up, so I must be improving. I have had good dreams for two days. I still say I threw my life away. However, I am only teaching three classes and they are all interesting.
→This blog gathered together some interesting old posts, including two by me, on a question the Spanish Professor has taken up again. How would I now respond to the original question?
• My university, one of those hardest hit by the 2008 crash, is improving now from my perspective, and so am I. But we are on an entrepreneurial model and I can only say things are improving because they had been so bad for so long — since this region’s crash in the 1980s, I am told.
• I have written a certain amount on the state of the university under my own name. I am not repeating those discussions here. The immediate problem is defunding, and the larger problems are longstanding. But I do not believe our universities are “failing.”
• Some in the adjunct movement want non-tenure-track jobs on long-term contracts, with lower pay than tenure track. They want this for everyone, permanently. I am against such measures for labor reasons, among others. That is an enormous ideological difference.
• My unit doesn’t use adjuncts, of course, and my own project is to turn instructorships into tenure-track and tenured lines. But I want to fill these with people interested in doing a little more than inventing ways to bend to corporatization.
• My university and department are an interesting hybrid of a liberal arts college, a community college, and a large public research institution, and I think we have potential as a place for this reason. Perhaps, precisely because we are so obscure, we can remain somewhere a non-elite person can get the kind of education that now will normally be available only at the very best schools.
→ More interestingly, I have derived a marvelous insight from Shedding Khawatir: the fact that we have a lot of demand for lower division courses, and a lot of dissatisfaction with the nature and quality of the ones we offer, is a very good argument for hiring more Ph.D.s, on the tenure track. It is not true that we just need more attractive, workhorse instructors, or an SLA czar: we just need more people with Ph.D.-level training, and that kind of commitment to development. This is very intriguing and it is not something my administration or colleagues see; I hope I can teach them.
This is the post and comments thread on teaching that I am still considering. Shedding says we should have common syllabi and assessments, but make our own “lesson plans.” The assessments have to be very good, not just something a committee throws together by (probably false) “concensus” and without research.
She has chapter tests and no midterm. Each chapter test is part “traditional” (grammar and vocabulary) and part proficiency based (focused on reading, listening, speaking, or writing). So it is (short) traditional test + listening text or oral exam or writing prompt or reading text. She makes the traditional part very short so there is time for the rest, and can be done in 50 minutes. The final exam contains all of these parts, although the oral part is not at the same time.
To make the proficiency based exercises “objective” she uses a grading rubric, and in the case of the oral examination, she records the groups so that she can listen to them later and grade them. Importantly, it is impossible to pass the test without doing well on the proficiency section as it is always worth 50% or more of the grade.
In terms of lesson planning, she suggests a common language goal across sections for each lesson (e.g., activate the past tense in interpersonal communication, global listening, etc.) but says the actual implementation should be up to the teacher based on the context.
The syllabus should not include instructions like “cover page 2″ or “do drill 6,” she says, because this can lead to varying interpretations. However, if the teacher knows the students are going to be tested on their listening skills, for example, they are more likely to have them do an actual listening activity rather than, say, dictation.