[Plant-education] The state of higher education

ssinger at carleton.edu ssinger at carleton.edu
Sun Aug 14 15:06:22 EST 2005


Jim,
I've just been to the ESA education symposium and am currently attending a BSA
education forum. Not 5 minutes ago the same discussion arose here. We all want
more inquiry based experiences for our students, but the "market" seems to be
driving text and lab manual adoptions the other way. Perhaps as members 
of this
listserv we are all already members of the choir that believes the evidence
from learning science and supports inquiry based learning. How do we reach the
others that are adopting less innovative curricula?

As the plant biology educators, aren't we the market? I think we have some
obligation collecitvely to change this.  I think both you and your editor are
correct and that's a sad state of affairs.

Susan

Quoting "Perry, Jim" <jperry at uwc.edu>:

> Dear Members of Plant-ed:
>
>
>
> My spouse, another colleague, and I are authors of a laboratory text
> that accompanies a general biology textbook that is among the top of the
> market. In response to our editor's request, the last significant
> revision of our laboratory manual included many more investigative,
> experimental exercises. We sought to challenge students to think beyond
> rote memorization and cookbook stuff (although there is still plenty of
> that). Now this same editor is complaining that our work is "too
> complex," really in response to the fact that there is another lab
> manual that people are buying instead of ours because he says the other
> is "simpler."
>
>
>
> The editor and I are having a major go-round about his desire to "give
> 'em what they want" (and of course sell books) and my desire to live
> with my conscience concerning what I think general education should be
> about, and the expectations we should be upholding, especially for
> students who may never take another biology course.
>
>
>
> I would appreciate your take on what he has said to me. Is it possible
> or probable that what he says is true? How could we determine if his
> anecdotal statements are on the mark or if he's talking to the wrong
> people? Is traditional higher education really in as much trouble as he
> suggests, especially within 2YCs (Two-year colleges)? I'm at a 2YC that
> is strictly liberal arts, so I know he's off mark on the requirements of
> my campus. But I don't know about other places, or even comprehensive
> four-year colleges or doctoral institutions.
>
>
>
> This is not being sent to you with a desire to sell more books. But I
> would like to figure out if I should be listening to him. And if he's
> not correct, how I go about convincing him of that.
>
>
>
> I said:
>
>
>
> "I know that most of the adoptions are from community colleges. But
> community colleges are becoming the primary entry point for future
> bachelor-degree holders, meaning the students who start at a CC have to
> transfer and be up to par with the students that started at the
> four-year campuses. We have data that demonstrate that our [campus name]
> students are even better prepared. (Admittedly, we are not a CC, but we
> are a 2YC.) If those CC folks teach and accept high school (or less)
> proficiency, trouble is brewing for the students. At what point to we
> have a responsibility to the future of the nation to do the right
> thing?"
>
>
>
> He said:
>
>
>
> "As far [as competitor] goes yes [competitor's] books have too many
> errors including the text as well as the lab. That frustrates me as well
> but it [sic] the simplicity of [the competitor's] presentation and lack
> of some detail that wins professors over and I am positive that we are
> more detailed given the reactions I get to our manual and all the reps
> who say they want a lower level manual.
>
>
>
> Profs in general don't care nearly as much about errors as they do about
> simplicity and helping students get through the course ...  Over the
> last 3 decades I have been equally frustrating [sic] dealing with profs
> that use [the competitor's] texts as they don't know enough or care
> enough to object to [the competitor's] errors ...
>
>
>
> The low level of courses is all being driven by pressure from college
> administrations for retention, prof's concern about poor course
> evaluations, and their unwillingness to do the work to access [sic] the
> students through homework and more rigorous testing. As publishers all
> we can do is give them what they want. We can't change them as that will
> have to come from within your ranks. I DO hope it comes but I'm
> skeptical.  Professors have always wanted to give the masses a college
> education. Now that they are doing that they are unwilling to maintain
> rigor so that in effect they are teaching high school. They don't want
> to admit that but for the most part during the first two years it's
> fact.  When tenure is finally eliminated it will help overcome two of
> the three issues.  Publisher's new assessment tools which do all or most
> of the grading would also help. Online courses may also help as they
> might be a way to monitor the rigor by national standards which might
> start to influence on campus courses."
>
>
>
> My spouse and I have talked this over. We attend national conferences
> that deal specifically with science and laboratory education. We do our
> best in our own courses to challenge students to go higher in Bloom's
> Taxonomy of learning. We're wondering if, in general, too few faculty,
> both those at 2YCs due to lack of time and financial resources or care,
> and those at 4YC&Us due to demands to focus on bench research, have the
> concerns we have.
>
>
>
> I just came back from a SENCER conference where there is a tremendous
> enthusiasm for educating students beyond recall or simply preparing
> students for the next biology course, so maybe I am a little over
> sensitive. I did not go to AIBS or BSA, and am wondering if the
> attendance at teaching-related sessions has improved since the last time
> I went some time ago.
>
>
>
> Maybe the people who are part of Plant-ed are part of my choir (or a
> better choir). I know how tempting it is to react negatively to some of
> his comments, especially about tenure (which I have by the way as a
> back-up to my administrative position). I appreciate your
> thoughtfulness, and suggestions on how we might find out what the
> situation is and/or should be.
>
>
>
> jim
>
>
> James W. Perry, Ph.D.
> Campus Executive Officer and Dean
> University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley
> 1478 Midway Road
> Menasha, WI 54952-1297
> 920.832-2610 (voice)
> 920.832-2674 (FAX)
> http://www.fox.uwc.edu <http://www.fox.uwc.edu/>
>
>
>
>







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