Teaching Tips & Links from Professor Jane

May 19, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Posted in Films/Documentaties, Teaching & Mentoring | Leave a comment

Signs announces a new publication reviewing films for the feminist classroom. Check out the reviews in issue the first issue.

Included films: My Daughter the Terrorist, No! The Rape Documentary, Living on the Fault Line, Where Race and Family Meet, Slumdog Millionaire, The Breast Cancer Diaries

And Jessie over at Thinking at the Interface has a fantastic list of documentaries for classroom use.

The New York Times has an article on the video “The Story of Stuff” about the effects of consumption.

Tomorrow’s Professor has a great article on testing and grading strategies.

A few guidelines about testing and grading can help instructors to: (1) strengthen the process of instruction, (2) clarify the diagnostic value of testing, (3) make a fair assessment of what each student knows, and (4) report this achievement through grades.

And the Everyday Sociology Blog has a great piece on “cognitive dissonance” and sociology classes. I’m tempted to send my summer students as required reading. What do you think?


Preparing for Your 3rd Year Review [From the Hey Jane Archives]

April 27, 2009 at 1:07 am | Posted in Hey Jane Column, New Faculty, Teaching & Mentoring, Tenure | Leave a comment

I am preparing for my 3rd year review and am wondering how to best address negative student course  evaluations in my statement. I’m particularly concerned that some comments seem to be a reflection of  the student’s perception of my personal characteristics and feminist teaching style rather than a reflection  of how much they have learned during the semester.  Help!

The first and most important piece of advice is: don’t be defensive in the framing of your teaching evaluations.  Instead, think of this as an opportunity to outline how you plan to improve.  Hopefully there will be at least one item or aspect of teaching for which you have scored well.  Start by pointing that out. Then, for items where your scores were not as high as you would have liked, be prepared to outline a specific plan for improving those scores.  Your plan might involve visiting your institution’s teaching resource center, subscribing to a teaching journal, or attending a teaching workshop at an ASA or SWS meeting. Your plan might be even more concrete, such that you propose a curriculum change or altering a current classroom practice.  By outlining your plan for improvement, when it’s time for your next review, hopefully you’ll be able to narrate a success story.  For a specific example, the excerpt below comes from my 4th year review statement:

On the overall evaluation item, the range of my scores changed from 3.4-3.9 for my 2nd year review to 3.6-4.6 with 4 out of 9 classes being above a 4 since the last review.  In the past I have been concerned with the evaluation items that purport to measure “points of view other than own,” “encouraged and responded to questions” and “respect for students.”  I have always done very well in these areas.  The last two years, I have focused on improving my evaluations on the items that claim to measure “lectures consistent with objectives,” “exam questions correspond with class material,” “unbiased grading,” and “informed class of grading criteria.”  Since I have been focusing on these items, my scores have been consistently high, ranging from 3.7 to 5.0 with most falling above a 4.0.  In the spirit of encouraging students to “claim their education,” rather than passively receive it, I have started asking introductory students at the beginning of the semester to articulate what expectations they have of their professors.  This usually leads to lively discussion.  In addition to helping the students formulate and articulate their expectations, this exercise helps me know what their expectations are at the beginning of class rather than waiting until the end of the course to see if I’ve lived up to those silent expectations.

It can also be useful to give some context to the evaluations.  One of my evaluators put it nicely by writing:

The committee notes that “Jane” teaches courses on deviance, crime, gender and health – courses that tackle issues of contemporary moral and political concern and in doing so raise the hackles of some students.  One of Professor “Jane’s” goals is to present students with a wide range of views on course topics.  Her success in meeting this goal may be seen in some comments written by students.  For example, Professor “Jane” is simultaneously too much of a feminist and not enough of a feminist.  Course content has a liberal spin and is even handed.  The committee reads these assessments as an indication that “Jane” is doing a good job of presenting a reasonably balanced perspective on topics covered in her courses. Continue Reading Preparing for Your 3rd Year Review [From the Hey Jane Archives]…

Jane Recommends [Links]

March 30, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Posted in Finances, Graduate School, New Faculty, Teaching & Mentoring, Technology, Writing | Leave a comment

GayProf over at Center of Gravitas has a great post with advice for newly hired faculty.

Gina at the Academic Ladder has a great piece on avoiding writer’s block.

For those still in grad school or still paying off loans, consumerist has posted a “big ass” list of student loan resources.

Career Advice: Dancing with Kate Smith at Inside Higher Ed has some great syllabus tips.

Historiann interviewed the editor of the journal Gender and History, Ruth Mazo Karras. Both posts have excellent general advice on publishing in academic journals.

Dave over at Academic Hack has some great tips on academic branding and creating an online portfolio.

Best Advice: Teaching [From the Hey Jane archives]

March 24, 2009 at 2:19 am | Posted in Hey Jane Column, Teaching & Mentoring | Leave a comment

Hey Jane! is a monthly advice column on the SWS listserv that addresses issues of interest to feminist sociologists and sociologist-activists. The name honors Jane Addams, a feminist sociologist not always recognized enough. This Q&A is hosted by the Career Development Committee, who solicits anonymous questions and responses from multiple SWS members.

Column 23 (January 2008)

For this month’s Hey Jane! Column I asked you to send me your “best” piece of advice.

At a teaching university, I was advised, kindly and gently, that my students are not my reference group.  Whatever students may appear to think of me (or may say to me directly) has more to do with who they are than with who I may be.  This advice really helped me to disengage from student response to the courses I teach. I spend 12 hours a week in a classroom and I am required (by contract) to post 4 hours per week of office hours.  And students do expect that professors are available for a chat, a pep talk, a review session, all manner of things, even outside of posted office hours.  So, remembering that my reference group does not include students allows me to keep some emotional distance and focus on my big-picture goals (for educating the next generation of sociologists, as well as my own research interests). Actually, I’ve found that I need emotional distance even from students who think I hung the moon.  Most young people are still figuring things out and I try to avoid the seduction of being the “well-liked professor.”  I believe this supports my efforts to be the “respected professor” who offers students significant learning experiences.

As a graduate student I was being chastised for grade inflation.  I was told that if you don’t distinguish between “A” students and “B” students and “C” students and “F” students, in the long run you do the students a disservice.  It took several years for that advice to truly sink in, but now I really appreciate it.

Any self-criticism you make in the classroom will show up on your student-teaching evaluations.  For example, I used to occasionally say “I’m feeling frazzled” today and inevitably I would receive multiple written evaluations that said “she was often frazzled in class.”  It was the specific use of the word frazzled that clued me into the mimicking behavior of the students.

Always have multiple mentors.  At different stages of your career you will need the advice of different people.  Also, you can be a mentor at every stage of your career.

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