Technology is gradually replacing cursive instruction—but have we taken stock of what we’re losing?
Should cursive writing still be taught in our schools? The old debate is back with a vengeance as schools shift resources from the intricate, painstakingly rendered script to keyboard skills.
Art is one of the most underutilized resources in today’s ELA classroom. The Roman poet Horace claimed, “A picture is a poem
without words” meaning art and written word are different mediums of expression. Art offers students a break from written words while continuing to develop the same skill set needed to be successful readers through challenging students to think both critically and analytically.
BY UNDERSTANDING HOW THE BRAIN WORKS, educators are better equipped to help students with everything from focusing attention to increasing retention. That’s the promise of brain-based learning, which draws insights from neurology, psychology, technology, and other fields. Bringing this information to the classroom can help teachers engage diverse learners, offer effective feedback that leads to deeper understanding, and create a rich learning environment that attends to students’ social and emotional needs along with their developing brains.
Chances are, you already know more about brain-based learning than you think you do. When you introduce topics to your students, do you begin by activating prior knowledge? That helps learners build on what they already know, strengthening connections in the brain. Do you use tools like graphic organizers, songs, or rhymes? These strategies help students represent their thinking visually, kinesthetically, and phonetically. These techniques all deserve a place in your tool kit because they get the brain primed for learning.
When presented with new material, standards, and complicated topics, we need to be focused and calm as we approach our assignments. We can use brain breaks and focused-attention practices to positively impact our emotional states and learning. They refocus our neural circuitry with either stimulating or quieting practices that generate increased activity in the prefrontal cortex, where problem solving and emotional regulation occur.
Teachers can help students strengthen their brain's executive function with "workouts" in which they practice pausing, prioritizing, improving their working memory, and mapping their options.
One academic’s journey in search of new perspectives.
What you are about to read is an argument for inviting more academics, and academic administrators, to second themselves for periods of time to new roles within and beyond the university. It’s a reflection on three mid-career adventures that taught me more than I bargained for. Returning now to teach tax law and policy at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, I realize just how much I’ve learned on the road and how it is energizing my work as a faculty member. Paradoxically, I’m also keenly aware of what I missed by being away. Out of this strange mix, a few ideas are emerging about why we should promote a stronger culture of secondments in academia.
Attention now turns to the upcoming report of the fundamental science review panel chaired by David Naylor.
The Trudeau government tabled its second budget on March 22, promising to address economic challenges facing the country and cultivate a nimble workforce through investment in education and skills development. Among its many elements, the budget expands the Canada Student Loans and Grants program and earmarks $90 million over two years for Indigenous students. However, the budget included no new funding for the three major research granting councils – the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research – dismaying many in the research community.
One thing about student evaluations that troubles me is how they give students the impression that it’s the teacher who makes or breaks the course. A few instruments query students about their own efforts, but I’m not sure those kinds of questions make it clear that what happens in any course is the combined result of teacher and student actions. Early in my teaching career, I heard a wise colleague tell students, “It’s not my class. It’s not your class. It’s our class, and together we will make it a good or not-so-good learning experience.”
More than half of the college students who visited their campus counseling centers during the 2015-16 academic year reported symptoms of anxiety, according to a survey by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors.
This marks the seventh year in a row that anxiety has been the top complaint among students seeking mental health services. This year, 51 percent of students who visited a counseling center reported having anxiety, followed by depression (41 percent), relationship concerns (34 percent) and suicidal ideation (20.5 percent). Many students reported experiencing multiple conditions at once.
No one has ever criticised a hammer for being a hammer; it is an invaluable tool when that is what you need. But it is useless or destructive if used for the wrong purpose, and university rankings can be the same.
There are three main problems that make international rankings a poor mechanism for assessing, improving or differentiating any but the top few dozen universities in the world.
Research shows that women perform better than men on four out of five traits of effective leaders, says Øyvind Martinsen
Graduate school, the job market, the tenure track, and every other stage in an academic career are so fraught with challenge that you cannot afford to dawdle too long on foolish ventures or waste time holding out for perfection when "pretty darn good" will do.
The first supreme hurdle — the one that scares off many potential academics and cripples the progress of others — is, of course, the dissertation. What counts as a dissertation and how long you should take to complete it vary across disciplines, institutions, and committees. But that you must complete it — and that others must approve it before you can move on — is essential.
Early in my career, I sat on a doctoral committee in a field outside my discipline for the first time. I recall being startled at the dissertation defense when professors in the young man’s department began delivering scorching assessments of his theory, method, cases, and conclusions. As the incendiaries kept flying I grew concerned about his health. He whitened, started sweating visibly, and several times laid his forehead on the table. When it came my turn to speak, I froze and ended up sputtering, "Well, you have answered all my questions!" and fell silent.
If you had to pick a cliché that best describes completing a dissertation, "it ain’t over till it’s over" would work well. So far in this series we have discussed finishing a submittable draft and successfully defending the dissertation. But as every doctoral candidate knows, no matter how well the defense goes you are very likely not quite free and clear yet.
One of the sadder conversations I have had in my 15 years of writing about academic careers is, unfortunately, a common one. It usually happens when I’m at a workshop or a conference and people approach me who are enduring a rocky patch in graduate school, on the job hunt, or on the tenure track. At some point I will ask them, "How are you using your dissertation to move your career forward?"
What will you be expected to publish from your dissertation?
For the past 18 years, I have worked at the same university. I see some distinct advantages in that — most notably, that I haven’t had to look for another job in all that time. There is also something to be said for avoiding the pains of relocating. And staying put has allowed me to establish really rewarding ties with the surrounding community.
But there are also serious problems for any academic who pursues a faculty career in one place. As my Twitter friend John Warner recently noted, perhaps the most common way for professors to get a raise is to apply for a job elsewhere. Then, if you get a job offer, you take it to administrators at your current campus and try to get them to match the salary and benefits you would receive if you changed jobs.
When I recently returned to my department after a decade in administration, I looked forward to reconnecting with former colleagues, getting to know the grad students, going to lectures and colloquia, teaching undergrads, and yes, even serving on departmental committees. But when I moved into my faculty office and began my work schedule, I had only one question as I looked around my department: Where did everybody go?
Academic program reviews — or APRs, as they are known in administrative-speak — are both a blessing and a curse.
A well-executed internal review can be a blessing when it leads to a helpful external review that allows your department to shine and be appreciated for its strengths. The curse, of course, is that someone (often the department chair) has to convene a committee (not another committee!) of faculty members (already feeling overburdened) to write a self-study before any external reviewer can be brought to campus for a "tweed on the ground" evaluation of your program.
As a former university professor, and as a historian of higher education, I’m gratified (mostly) by the vigilant defence of academic freedom proffered by journalists and others in the wake of the Andrew Potter episode at McGill University. Academics who speak or write controversially should be protected, not sanctioned.
Still, there is too little understanding of what academic freedom means. It is not absolute and it is not the simple equivalent of “freedom of speech.” All citizens have, or should have, the latter, but only individuals who have specified educational and professional qualifications are entitled to academic freedom within universities. In the words of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), they are granted the “freedom to teach and discuss; freedom to carry out research and disseminate and publish the results thereof; freedom to produce and perform creative works; freedom to engage in service to the institution and the community; freedom to express one’s opinion about the institution, its administration, and the system in which one works.”