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Contents contributed and discussions participated by Ed Webb

Ed Webb

Lucy Kellaway: what my students have taught me about race | Financial Times - 1 views

  • By the time I left the FT I had spent the best part of six decades associating almost exclusively with people who had been to top universities and did grandish jobs and were all white. I sometimes felt sheepish about this but never thought it was my fault. I was merely a product of class, generation, education and profession. 
  • this uncomfortable audit began, not with the killing of a black man in Minnesota, but three years earlier, when I started teaching in a school in Hackney. At the age of 58 I was lifted out of a world in which everyone was like me into a world where I was in a minority as a white Brit. My pupils’ families came from all over the place: first-, second- and sometimes third-generation immigrants from Nigeria and Ghana, from the Caribbean, from Turkey and Bangladesh and Vietnam.
  • It wasn’t a question of being “politically correct”. The matter was as simple as this: if I say something that causes offence, then I have to learn to stop saying it. Right away. 
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  • I know my heart is in the right place on race, but I also know my heart is an irrelevant organ when it comes to traversing this minefield. I need instruction. 
  • what things used to be like is an irrelevance to these young women. What matters to them is the present — and their account of it is both important and distressing.
  • In the absence of any better ideas, all I think I can do for now is to listen to my students talking about their world, while continuing to talk to them about mine. I am educating them. And they are educating me.
Ed Webb

The academy's neoliberal response to COVID-19: Why faculty should be wary and... - 1 views

  • In the neoliberal economy, workers are seen as commodities and are expected to be trained and “work-ready” before they are hired. The cost and responsibility for job-training fall predominantly on individual workers rather than on employers. This is evident in the expectation that work experience should be a condition of hiring. This is true of the academic hiring process, which no longer involves hiring those who show promise in their field and can be apprenticed on the tenure track, but rather those with the means, privilege, and grit to assemble a tenurable CV on their own dime and arrive to the tenure track work-ready.
  • The assumption that faculty are pre-trained, or able to train themselves without additional time and support, underpins university directives that faculty move classes online without investing in training to support faculty in this shift. For context, at the University of Waterloo, the normal supports for developing an online course include one to two course releases, 12-18 months of preparation time, and the help of three staff members—one of whom is an online learning consultant, and each of whom supports only about two other courses. Instead, at universities across Canada, the move online under COVID-19 is not called “online teaching” but “remote teaching”, which universities seem to think absolves them of the responsibility to give faculty sufficient technological training, pedagogical consultation, and preparation time.
  • faculty are encouraged to strip away the transformative pedagogical work that has long been part of their profession and to merely administer a course or deliver course material
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  • remote teaching directives are rooted in the assumption that faculty are equally positioned to carry them out
  • The dual delivery model—in which some students in a course come to class and others work remotely using pre-recorded or other asynchronous course material—is already part of a number of university plans for the fall, even though it requires vastly more work than either in-person or remote courses alone. The failure to accommodate faculty who are not well positioned to transform their courses from in-person to remote teaching—or some combination of the two— will actively exacerbate existing inequalities, marking a step backward for equity.
  • Neoliberal democracy is characterized by competitive individualism and centres on the individual advocacy of ostensibly equal citizens through their vote with no common social or political goals. By extension, group identity and collective advocacy are delegitimized as undemocratic attempts to gain more of a say than those involved would otherwise have as individuals.
  • Portraying people as atomized individuals allows social problems to be framed as individual failures
  • faculty are increasingly encouraged to see themselves as competitors who must maintain a constant level of productivity and act as entrepreneurs to sell ideas to potential investors in the form of external funding agencies or private commercial interests. Rather than freedom of enquiry, faculty research is increasingly monitored through performance metrics. Academic governance is being replaced by corporate governance models while faculty and faculty associations are no longer being respected for the integral role they play in the governance process, but are instead considered to be a stakeholder akin to alumni associations or capital investors.
  • treats structural and pedagogical barriers as minor individual technical or administrative problems that the instructor can overcome simply by watching more Zoom webinars and practising better self-care.
  • In neoliberal thought, education is merely pursued by individuals who want to invest in skills and credentials that will increase their value in the labour market.
  • A guiding principle of neoliberal thought is that citizens should interact as formal equals, without regard for the substantive inequalities between us. This formal equality makes it difficult to articulate needs that arise from historical injustices, for instance, as marginalized groups are seen merely as stakeholders with views equally valuable to those of other stakeholders. In the neoliberal university, this notion of formal equality can be seen, among other things, in the use of standards and assessments, such as teaching evaluations, that have been shown to be biased against instructors from marginalized groups, and in the disproportionate amount of care and service work that falls to these faculty members.
  • Instead of discussing better Zoom learning techniques, we should collectively ask what teaching in the COVID-19 era would look like if universities valued education and research as essential public goods.
  • while there are still some advocates for the democratic potential of online teaching, there are strong criticisms that pedagogies rooted in well-established understandings of education as a collective, immersive, and empowering experience, through which students learn how to deliberate, collaborate, and interrogate established norms, cannot simply be transferred online
  • Humans learn through narrative, context, empathy, debate, and shared experiences. We are able to open ourselves up enough to ask difficult questions and allow ourselves to be challenged only when we are able to see the humanity in others and when our own humanity is recognized by others. This kind of active learning (as opposed to the passive reception of information) requires the trust, collectivity, and understanding of divergent experiences built through regular synchronous meetings in a shared physical space. This is hindered when classroom interaction is mediated through disembodied video images and temporally delayed chat functions.
  • When teaching is reduced to content delivery, faculty become interchangeable, which raises additional questions about academic freedom. Suggestions have already been made that the workload problem brought on by remote teaching would be mitigated if faculty simply taught existing online courses designed by others. It does not take complex modelling to imagine a new normal in which an undergraduate degree consists solely of downloading and memorizing cookie-cutter course material uploaded by people with no expertise in the area who are administering ten other courses simultaneously. 
  • when teaching is reduced to content delivery, intellectual property takes on additional importance. It is illegal to record and distribute lectures or other course material without the instructor’s permission, but universities seem reluctant to confirm that they will not have the right to use the content faculty post online. For instance, if a contract faculty member spends countless hours designing a remote course for the summer semester and then is laid off in the fall, can the university still use their recorded lectures and other material in the fall? Can the university use this recorded lecture material to continue teaching these courses if faculty are on strike (as happened in the UK in 2018)? What precedents are being set? 
  • Students’ exposure to a range of rigorous thought is also endangered, since it is much easier for students to record and distribute course content when faculty post it online. Some websites are already using the move to remote teaching as an opportunity to urge students to call out and shame faculty they deem to be “liberal” or “left” by reposting their course material. To avoid this, faculty are likely to self-censor, choosing material they feel is safer. Course material will become more generic, which will diminish the quality of students’ education.
  • In neoliberal thought, the public sphere is severely diminished, and the role of the university in the public sphere—and as a public sphere unto itself—is treated as unnecessary. The principle that enquiry and debate are public goods in and of themselves, regardless of their outcome or impact, is devalued, as is the notion that a society’s self-knowledge and self-criticism are crucial to democracy, societal improvement, and the pursuit of the good life. Expert opinion is devalued, and research is desirable only when it translates into gains for the private sector, essentially treating universities as vehicles to channel public funding into private research and development. 
  • The free and broad pursuit—and critique—of knowledge is arguably even more important in times of crisis and rapid social change.
  • Policies that advance neoliberal ideals have long been justified—and opposition to them discredited—using Margaret Thatcher’s famous line that “there is no alternative.” This notion is reproduced in universities framing their responses to COVID-19 as a fait accompli—the inevitable result of unfortunate circumstances. Yet the neoliberal assumptions that underpin these responses illustrate that choices are being made and force us to ask whether the emergency we face necessitates this exact response.
  • The notion that faculty can simply move their courses online—or teach them simultaneously online and in person—is rooted in the assumption that educating involves merely delivering information to students, which can be done just as easily online as it can be in person. There are many well-developed online courses, yet all but the most ardent enthusiasts concede that the format works better for some subjects and some students
  • Emergencies matter. Far from occasions that justify suspending our principles, the way that we handle the extra-ordinary, the unexpected, sends a message about what we truly value. While COVID-19 may seem exceptional, university responses to this crisis are hardly a departure from the neoliberal norm, and university administrations are already making plans to extend online teaching after it dissipates. We must be careful not to send the message that the neoliberal university and the worldview that underpins it are acceptable.
Ed Webb

The Progressive Stack and Standing for Inclusive Teaching - The Tattooed Professor - 2 views

  • There are two fundamental truths about Inclusive Pedagogy: it is an eminently desirable set of practices for teaching in higher ed, and it is an eminently difficult set of practices for teaching in higher ed
  • Put simply, the Progressive Stack is a method of ensuring that voices that are often submerged, discounted, or excluded from traditional classroom discussions get a chance to be heard
  • There are personal, cultural, learning, and social reasons people don’t speak up in class.  Students of color and women of all races, introverts, the non-conventional thinkers, those from poor previous educational backgrounds, returning or “nontraditional students,” and those from cultures where speaking out is considered rude not participatory are all likely to be silent in a class where collaboration by difference is not structured as a principle of pedagogy and organization and design.   Who loses?  Everyone.  Arguments that are smart and valuable and can change a whole conversation get lost in silence and, sometimes, shame.  When that happens, we don’t really have discussion or collaboration.  We have group think–and that is why we all lose.
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  • Taking “stack” just means keeping a list of people who wish to participate—offer a question or comment—during the Q & A. Rather than anxiously waving your hand around and wondering if you’ll be called on, if you would like to participate, signal to me in some way (a gesture, a dance move, a traditional hand-in-the-air, meaningful eye contact, etc.) and I will add you to the list. However, we’re not just going to take stack, we are going to take progressive stack in an effort to foreground voices that are typically silenced in dominant culture. According to Justine and Zoë, two self-identified transwomen who were active in the movement, progressive stack means that “if you self-identify as trans, queer, a person of color, female, or as a member of any marginalized group you’re given priority on the list of people who want to speak – the stack. The most oppressed get to speak first.” As I take stack, I will also do my best to bump marginalized voices and those who haven’t yet had a chance to participate to the top.
  • As with any tool that confronts the effects of privilege and power head-on, the Progressive Stack makes some people uncomfortable
  • In a complete social and historical vacuum, level-playing-field equality is an excellent proposition. But in the actual lived world of our history, experiences, and interactions the idea of treating everyone uniformly “regardless of gender” or without “seeing color” simply strengthens already-entrenched inequalities
  • As the increasing number of targeted online harassment campaigns has shown us, once a concept or issue has traveled through the right-wing Outrage-Distortion Complex, there is little hope of reclaiming rational discussion. It’s been permanently stained. One might dismiss the frothing lamentations of white-genocide-via-classroom-pedagogy that bubble up from a subreddit, but the insidious trope of “reverse racism” has put its thumb on the scale enough to have distorted the conversation around the Progressive Stack
  • because the Progressive Stack calls attention to existing structures of inequality by replacing them with another structure entirely, it forces those of us who identify as white (and, particularly, male) to confront the ways in which we have been complicit in maintaining inequality
  • When you’re accustomed to privilege, even the suggestion of equality will feel like oppression
  • google “progressive stack.” Almost every result you get will take you to the fever swamps of right-wing Reddit and warmed-over piles of gamergate droppings. The common denominator is that “Progressive Stack” is simply anti-white “racism” dressed in fancy intellectual clothes
  • Giving up power, it turns out, is hard for some people. Especially when that power has been historically-constructed to be so pervasive as to render it unquestioned and indeed unseen in its hegemonic sway. Pierre Bourdieu calls this symbolic power: “For symbolic power is that invisible power which can be exercised only with the complicity of those who do not want to know that they are subject to it or even that they themselves exercise it”
  • It means there will be times when people who are not accustomed to their identity being a source of discomfort and exclusion will have to learn–in a managed and intentional space–what that feels like.
  • there will be friction and messiness and uncomfortable adjustments, because any education worth the name involves friction and messiness and uncomfortable adjustments
Ed Webb

Education Department Grants Coronavirus Relief To Small Colleges : Coronavirus Live Upd... - 0 views

  • The 20 institutions that received the most amount of money from the unmet-need fund serve less than 3,000 students combined, and about half are religious schools — including Bible colleges and seminaries — several of which serve less than 100 students.
    • Ed Webb
       
      Fewer than... But the point stands
  • Much of the CARES Act's more than $14 billion for higher education is being distributed according to the number of full-time low-income students a college serves, which is measured through federal Pell Grants. The $350-million unmet-need fund followed a different formula. Miller says for this particular pot, schools that did not receive $500,000 or more from other available CARES Act funds were given the difference between what they did receive and $500,000 limit. "So the result is that the smaller you are and the less money you've already gotten, the more you get from this program," Miller says. But $350 million can only go so far. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was given the discretion to choose which schools would benefit from the fund, and by how much.
  • Brad Smith, the president of Bakke Graduate University in Dallas, which was allotted $497,338 in federal aid, says he didn't learn of his school's eligibility until he was contacted by NPR. "I don't know anything about this," Smith says, noting that his school hadn't asked for additional federal help. "I'm taking responsibility to find out what it means."
Ed Webb

Why hard work and specialising early is not a recipe for success - The Correspondent - 0 views

  • dispelling nonsense is much harder than spreading nonsense.
  • a worldwide cult of the head start – a fetish for precociousness. The intuitive opinion that dedicated, focused specialists are superior to doubting, daydreaming Jacks-of-all-trades is winning
  • astonishing sacrifices made in the quest for efficiency, specialisation and excellence
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  • Most things that people want to learn do not resemble language, golf or chess, but rather a game in which the generalist has an advantage. A hostile learning environment
  • Seemingly inefficient things are productive: expanding your horizons, giving yourself time, switching professions. 
  • early specialisation is a good idea if you want to become successful in certain fields, sports or professions. In fact, in some cases, it’s the only option. Take chess, for example: if you don’t start early, you won’t stand a chance at glory.
  • learning chess is not a good model for learning other things. Epstein explains this using the work of psychologist Robin Hogarth, who makes the distinction between friendly (kind) and unfriendly or hostile (wicked) learning environments.
  • In a friendly learning environment, such as chess, the rules are clear, the information is complete (all pieces are visible on the board), and you can (ultimately) determine the quality of every move. In other words, the feedback loop
  • friendly learning environments are the exception. The world is not as clear-cut as golf or chess. So early specialisation is often a bad idea. 
  • In hostile learning environments without repetitive patterns, mastery is much harder to achieve. The feedback loop is insidious. Unlike chess, experience does not necessarily make you better. You may stick with the wrong approach because you’re convinced it’s the right one. 
  • The better a teacher scored on their own subject (i.e., the higher the grades their students got in that subject), the more mediocre students’ scores were across the complete programme (all modules). The explanation? Those teachers gave their students rigidly defined education, purely focused on passing exams. The students passed their tests with high marks – and rated their teachers highly in surveys – but would fail later on. 
  • In learning environments without repetitive patterns, where cause and effect are not always clear, early specialisation and spending countless hours does not guarantee success. Quite the opposite, Epstein argues. Generalists have the advantage: they have a wider range of experiences and a greater ability to associate and improvise. (The world has more in common with jazz than classical music, Epstein explains in a chapter on music.)
  • Many modern professions aren’t so much about applying specific solutions than they are about recognising the nature of a problem, and only then coming up with an approach. That becomes possible when you learn to see analogies with other fields, according to psychologist Dedre Gentner, who has made this subject her life’s work.
  • Another advantage generalists and late specialists have is more concrete: you are more likely to pick a suitable study, sport or profession if you first orient yourself broadly before you make a choice.
  • Greater enjoyment of the game is one of the benefits associated with late specialisation, along with fewer injuries and more creativity.
  • which child, teenager or person in their 20s knows what they will be doing for the rest of their lives?
  • Persevering along a chosen path can also lead to other problems: frustrations about failure. If practice makes perfect, why am I not a genius? In a critical review,
  • The tricky thing about generalist long-term thinking versus specialist short-term thinking is that the latter produces faster and more visible results.
  • specialising in short-term success gets in the way of long-term success. This also applies to education.
  • (Another example: the on-going worry about whether or not students’ degree choices are "labour market relevant".)
  • Teachers who taught more broadly – who did not teach students readymade "prescribed lessons” but instilled "principles" – were not rated as highly in their own subject, but had the most sustainable effect on learning. However, this was not reflected in the results. These teachers were awarded – logically but tragically – lower ratings by their students.
  • the 10,000 hour gang has considerable power with their message "quitters never win, winners never quit".Epstein’s more wholesome message seems weak and boring in comparison. Some things are simply not meant for everyone, doubt is understandable and even meaningful, you can give up and change your choice of work, sports or hobby, and an early lead can actually be a structural disadvantage. 
  • "Don’t feel behind." Don’t worry if others seem to be moving faster, harder or better. Winners often quit.
Ed Webb

7 Major Learning Styles and the 1 Big Mistake Everyone Makes - LearnDash - 1 views

  • while the learning style theory—that individual students might have a style that helps them learn better—may be complete bunk, presenting material in a variety of ways does have a lot of merit.
  • just because a person learns one item of information according to a certain style doesn’t mean they can only learn through that style, or that that style is their best learning tool.
  • important not to conflate preferential learning styles with diagnosable learning disabilities. Someone who is dyslexic doesn’t have an aural learning style, they have a reading disorder that hinders them from being able to process textual information rapidly. Similar can be said of learners with visual or auditory impairments. They will need to access your content through a variety of different methods, not because they prefer one style over another, but because they are unable to consume certain kinds of content.
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  • you shouldn’t try to optimize material for one kind of learning style over another, but rather, you should present course materials in a range of learning styles so that all learners can engage with it on multiple fronts.
Ed Webb

Seventy-One Stories About Being Trans in School - 0 views

  • (a) some of the biggest challenges trans students face are infrastructural, both bricks-and-mortar structures (the housing of trans students; bathroom facilities), and digital architecture (course information software, transcripts, diplomas and email databases all routinely misidentify students);(b) an overwhelming majority of students and graduates described the experience of being misgendered and/or deadnamed by their professors as an extremely common experience.
  • I do think there’s real value in hearing stories of what it feels like to be misgendered or deadnamed
  • Anti-trans academics who claim that their rights are being infringed are heard far more frequently in the mainstream media than are the students who are apparently doing the infringing.
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  • academic freedom is a value of deep institutional importance to the independence of the University from entrenched power. Free speech demands no such institutional defense, and is rightly deprioritized when in conflict with other interests such as equity of access to education, or the health and wellbeing of students
  • To listen to trans students and graduates is to be sure that, whatever the British gender critical academics argue, the training of the professoriate on this issue is woefully inadequate
  • Many trans and non-binary students reported challenges finding built environments where they could feel safe at college. “They keep housing me with men,” wrote one trans woman; another trans woman reported that, despite being roomed with “transphobic students,” her administrators “weren’t, in general, willing to cut me a whole lot of slack because I hadn’t legally changed my gender marker.” A trans man reported being “placed on an all-girls floor even though I stated clearly on my housing form that I’m a trans guy.” Another student described the non-accommodation of trans students as an official policy: “my school matches roommate based on assigned sex, and refuses to accommodate trans students.”
  • Many students wrote with great enthusiasm about LGBTQ support centers on campus, which provide trans students with community and guidance. One writes that “younger uni empoyees and employees who were queer or allies were actually pretty great”; another says “the campus LGBT centers at two of the institutions where I experienced […] discrimination were amazing”; another writes that “the gender equality center is really working to help students and we have queer profs and Pride programming.” Another describes the vibe at the LGBTQ center as “quite tumblr but very supportive.” Students reported valuing the opportunity to invite speakers and guests themselves, though some report a wish that more resources for such programming were available.
  • A number of students wrote to express their dismay at the poverty of counselling resources for trans students
  • A large majority of respondents – close to all - explicitly reported experiences with “deadnaming” and “misgendering” by their academic advisors – their professors and mentors. Some of these instances were “deliberate,” “malicious,” “continued,” or “transphobic,” while others were merely “ignorant” or “accidental.” One respondent reported having been taught by two kinds of teacher: “profs who never asked for pronouns and always misgendered me, and profs who asked for pronouns but would still misgender me every time and apologize every time under the guise of ‘trying their best’.”
  • Sometimes being misgendered at a key moment in one’s school career throws students into emotional disarray at an inopportune moment.
  • colleges and universities are failing to establish adequate infrastructure for trans and non-binary students (especially in respect of digital architecture, which perhaps receives less attention than bricks-and-mortar)
  • staff and faculty, far from being the mindwiped drones of the gender critical academics’ fantasy, are mostly pretty incompetent at addressing and discussing trans students
  • I have a responsibility as a teacher to ensure minimum standards of care and equitable access to education for all my trans students, but also that I have a responsibility to push back against those institutional disincentives
Ed Webb

University of Akron offers buy-out to 47 percent of faculty - cleveland.com - 2 views

  • No law school, polymer science, or engineering faculty can take the offer.
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    "No law school, polymer science, or engineering faculty can take the offer."
Ed Webb

More Colleges Are Asking Scholars for Diversity Statements. Here's What You Need to Kno... - 0 views

  • diversity statements tend to be more useful to search committees when institutions provide a definition of diversity and explicit expectations for what should go into the statement.
  • reframing the prompt to focus more on fixing systemic discrimination in academe. Candidates would submit a reflection on the history of their discipline. That would necessarily include discussion of equity and diversity, he said. And it would make clear that departments are grappling with the question of what needs to be done to change their respective disciplines.
  • Plenty of scholars, like Flier, the former Harvard dean, would rather do away with the statements altogether. "The more the expectations become influenced by critical race theory and related concepts, and the more they are used to hold back or reject faculty who fail to echo the latest expectations, whatever they might be," Flier wrote in an email, "the greater the chance for damage to academic credibility, and the opportunity to erect politically tinged litmus tests."
Ed Webb

Do universities liberalise students? Why education should be taken seriously in politic... - 0 views

  • data at the individual level has repeatedly shown that having a degree level qualification is the strongest predictor of a Remain vote
  • UKIP’s support was concentrated among those with education levels below degree level, gaining 16% of the votes of this group in 2015. The Liberal Democrats, in contrast, have historically been better at securing the votes of the degree-educated section of the electorate. In 2010, the party secured one in three votes among this group and were the most popular choice of party for voters in this group.
  • Between 2010 and 2015 the Labour share of the vote among the degree educated rose while its share of those without degrees fell. A result was the move of (some of the) ‘not degree’ group to UKIP while the degree educated deserted the Liberal Democrats after the formation of the coalition government. It is important to stress this happened while Ed Miliband was Labour party leader and before the EU Referendum – this is neither a Corbyn nor a Brexit effect.
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  • the relationship between political values and voting behaviour. While the traditional ‘left-right’ value dimension which focuses on economic justice and power barely distinguishes Leave and Remain voters, there are much larger differences according to ‘cultural’ values which relate to issues of authority, tolerance, and the rule of law.
  • This suggests that there is something specific about the experience of higher education which produces more liberal values. This appears to be something which is independent of the subject of study
  • A more fruitful line of enquiry is to seek a deeper understanding of the connections between education and values: to understand how education liberalises
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