From the category archives:

The Academy

2 Institutional Options for Teaching Differently

by Dr Davis on October 10, 2013

First idea:
Summer boot camp for students who are at risk.

My thoughts:
This would require institutional investment, so it is a bit beyond my teaching scope, but I would enjoy being a faculty mentor for first-generation students. (We do have these and have them identified at my college. I will look into this and see if there is a mentoring program for these folk.)

I am not sure how much I would like doing this for developmental writers, though, which is the original idea from the book I was reading. Six weeks to do what we now have two semesters to teach? That would be difficult.

I do have some ideas, gleaned from other professors, which I have taken advantage of in my general classes which were actually originally aimed at at-risk students. It would be good to be able to use these for the students they were originally designed for.

Second idea:
Remote adjunct.

This is also an institutional investment.

It is also an idea that my university is considering (not necessarily strongly).

As a former adjunct myself, I like the idea in some ways and dislike it intensely in others. It would definitely be better than flying the highway. However, it would not be as good as a hybrid or face-to-face course. Neither would it be as good an idea as paying a living wage to those instructors who are teaching for the university.


Fast and Furious: De-humanizing…

by Dr Davis on December 4, 2012

I’ve been reading Dr. Lee Skallerup Bessette for several years now. She’s become famous enough to warrant an Inside Higher Ed blog and it’s there that she wrote about the dehumanization of adjuncts and zombies. (Okay, it was about the dehumanization of adjuncts and how zombies helped re-humanize her life. Maybe.)

I’ve written and presented about how the real power of “the digital” comes from being able to re-assert our humanity through this kind of intimate and informal contact with one another; simply sitting together (even virtually) and not doing much is a way to find our dignity, our humanity, in a system that works hard to dehumanize and decontexualize ourselves at every opportunity.

They also talked about people searching for dignity through their peers, and how this validation has turned us all into workaholics.

And there we have it… The real issue that I relate to these days. The workaholic, who is too afraid to not do too much because I realize my job is not very much more secure than it was on the non-tenure track, even though I’ve gotten publications and presentations.

I’m not dissing the problems of being an adjunct. I’ve been there.


What I Want to Tell my University as we Re-trench

by Dr Davis on November 18, 2012

People come to the Apple Store for the experience — and they’re willing to pay a premium for that. Ron Johnson in Harvard Business Review

Social Media success stories


A World in Flux: How Can a University Re-create Itself for Success?

by Dr Davis on November 14, 2012

Change is one of the least thought about topics in university because the university is, as it exists now, reactionary. It studies change after the world has exploded its shape into something the old patterns can no longer recognize.


This is something I want to think about.

It is very relevant to the current state of my university.

Change in the university. Is it always reactionary? No. Is it often reactionary? Possibly.

Is change usually a moving away from or a moving toward sort of thing? I think that depends on the people or the institution.


What Can You Do with a Graduate Degree?

by Dr Davis on November 13, 2012

Let’s take Klondike’s “Five Second Challenge to Glory.” Do something hard for five seconds. Brainstorm (that’s something we do well, right?) answers to the question: What can you do with a graduate degree in English? Go!

research– anything that needs it, even be a dramaturgue
write– analyze, evaluate, discuss: anything that needs to be long and involved, but could write shorter on demand
edit– excellent at finding the organizational or grammatical flaws in work already written
think– but not outside the box, perhaps at the edges of the box: a good thinker in an area where most of the work has been done and people are trying to finish it up
– also can come up with new reasons (interpretations) for things: This is someone who will not let the first word be the last. This can be useful to help others get out of their boxes.

I came to this challenge from a post on Why Grad School is a Trap, though it has been relabeled, and the statement that most intrigued me (as someone who escaped the trap and “made good” twice over):

But higher education is too formalized to be called pure learning. It is too geared towards the production of new knowledge, new scholars, new theoretical interventions to be a place where thinkers come to dialogue and to sit and converse in the garden.

Just thinking on the internet.


What Does a Week in the Life of an Academic Look Like?

by Dr Davis on October 25, 2012

I don’t think this is a typical week. I am not sure there is a typical week. But here is what my week has looked like.

Grading papers for return on Tuesday.
Meeting with HR about benefits issues/questions.
Meeting with librarian for resources for R&R.

Student appt at 8 am.
Teaching classes from 9:30-11, 1:30-4:20.
Professional development luncheon, learning a new application for the iPad.
Student appt at 4:30.

Student appts from 8-11.
Two lunch meetings. Attend one till 11:30 and then attend the second one, which will last till 1.
Grading for Thursday.
Student appts from 2-5.

Preparation for Thursday classes 8-9:15.
Teach from 9:30-11, 1:30-4:20.
Professional development luncheon from 11:30-1.

Which is our fall break day, so there are no classes. Staff are all on campus, however.
Meeting over IRB I am submitting at 10.
Begin grading the in-class essays from Thursday (40).

Every day isn’t crazy, but every day is usually full.

This semester my workload has been lighter because I taught only one new preparation.

Next semester I will technically have no new preparations, but I will have four different preparations and two of the classes are using totally different books and one of the classes is using a new edition of the book and the class needs an overhaul from how I did it last year. The fourth class I have been asked to change significantly in order to accommodate the undergraduate research projects. (I am not sure I will actually be able to do that, but we shall see.)

Really, right now, I am supposed to be writing on my dissertation -> book. So, I am going to stop this post now.


Women in Academia

by Dr Davis on October 23, 2012

Just this last year I realized that I chose to become an English professor (which I love) because of a gender bias in the environment in which I was educated. I’m a thinking woman. My grandmother was a victim of gender bias in higher education, so I have almost always been aware of it. But apparently, I did not recognize the gender bias I had imbibed through the educational system.

When I was a sophomore, I was taking classes at a university where–due to the vagaries of the bureaucracy–I was unable to take the classes I had intended to take. So I ended up in several junior and senior level biology classes. They were hard. But I adored them! (One had 70 students in it. Of those 70, 9 passed. I made a C–even though I had never taken a chemistry class in my life and both college biology and chemistry were prerequisites for the course.) I fell in love with biology.

However, I wanted to be a professor. My choices, as I saw them, were to be a biology researcher OR a professor of English. I chose English. I don’t usually regret that choice. It was certainly easier to reenter the field of English than biology would have been. But I do think about how limited I was based on what I saw and understood to be happening around me. I didn’t even realize I should be able to choose to be a biology professor.

Mostly there are women in every field now, even if they aren’t there in equal numbers. But what about what needs to be done to get T&P? I had not thought about that much. (A little, but not a lot.) Then I saw this post in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. It talks about the gender gap with women in publishing in academia. It brought up several points I wanted to discuss.

Scholarly publishing, more than anything else, is the measuring stick of professors’ research productivity. In the humanities, it’s usually the monograph. But in the hard sciences and in many social sciences, it’s journal articles.

Yes, it is true that R1s especially expect a monograph in the humanities. However, SLACs and CCs expect publications these days too. It does not, however, have to be a monograph.

The proliferation of journals, many not available in JSTOR (which the study used), proves that publishing is becoming more of a do and/or die situation.

Also, JSTOR data did not include (among others) English, which is my field. That means the data is not generalizable to the entirety of academia but only to those fields covered by JSTOR. That is an important thing to note because it relates back to biology (as a hard science) and the number of women academics and authors.

The data show that over the entire 345 years, 22 percent of all authors were female. … About 19 percent of first authors in the study were female. Women were more likely to appear as third, fourth, or fifth authors.

Where an author’s name comes is significant in some fields and not in others. Usually, however, if there are more than two authors, the work becomes known by the first author’s name.

I did not know about that in school. I wonder if folks assume we have figured it out now or if they are telling students.

From 1990 to 2010, the percentage of female authors went up to 27 percent. In 2010 alone, the last year for which full figures are available, the proportion had inched up to 30 percent.

So parity is getting closer. But we’re not there yet.

We want to watch this carefully–and not just because of women in academia. The number of women in college is now greater than the number of men. If there are more women in the population, that is great. If there are not, however, we may be inching toward an opposite disparity. Wouldn’t it be good to look out for this and stop it before it becomes as significant as the problem women have faced?

The same year that the share of female authors in the study reached 30 percent, women made up 42 percent of all full-time professors in academe and about 34 percent of all those at the most senior levels of associate and full professor, according to the American Association of University Professors.

What does that mean for women in the field? It means we still don’t have parity in the profession, but I am not too surprised about that. The senior levels often include those (still) who were professors when I went to college. Those are mostly men.

I would be interested in seeing the numbers broken down for how many women are in ft positions at the assistant professor level. Is there equality there? If so, then I think we have to say it is good. We can’t retroactively make women accepted in academia–either as students (like my grandmother) or as professors. What we can do is make sure there is parity going forward.

Now, I don’t think that we should hire an unqualified woman over a qualified male (or vice versa) under any circumstances. I do think, however, that the disparity in authorship indicates that perhaps the potential for equality of outcome is not yet there, even if we now have equality of opportunity.


CC v SLAC: One Year Each

by Dr Davis on October 11, 2012

Overview of two ft positions, one non-tt, one tt:
I guess, having looked at the work I did as an adjunct (2009-2010) and as a full-timer, I am actually doing more in my new tenure-track position (2011-2012, 2012-2013) than I did in my full-time community college position (2010-2011).

I was concerned, having been at Houston Baptist the year before–when the provost laid off long-term faculty in job lots, that my CC job would not continue long-term. However, they did hire to replace me, so I guess it would have. Also, while one CC system in Texas was closed by the legislature, Houston Community College is vibrant and growing, serving a huge population, and appears to be in no danger.

I did not receive a raise at the SLAC this year, which I would have at the CC.

I do have my own office, which I would not at the CC–even though I often had the eight-person office to myself, but this year the CC moved everyone to a new building and into cubbies in a single office for all the English professors.

The SLAC said I would teach a grad course a year and have a 3/4 for the grad course; this has not worked out. Instead, I have only taught part of one grad class. There was no reduction for the course, but I only had to meet the class for five weeks, have the students observe me, and grade one long and two short papers.

The only committees I was on at the CC met once a semester, maximum, and almost all the work I did depended on myself alone, so that I did not have to attend meetings. (The only exception were QEP meetings.) Even our department, the largest in the CC, only met one time a semester. At the SLAC, on the other hand, they apparently believe in meetings for everything. This week alone I have missed four departmental, college, and university meetings; I will make another one scheduled for today.

Both the CC and the SLAC paid for one conference a year. I received more money from the CC, so I was able to plan to go to a bigger conference. However, the SLAC has monies available, if you meet the early and not well advertised application deadline, there is some supplemental conference money. If I had a national conference (which I did last year), I could also apply for presidential funds. This year, though, I am only a chair at a national conference, so I don’t expect to have that paid for and I am fairly sure that I will have spent my conference money before then, even though I am driving to both the other conferences and staying with my father for one of them.

My colleagues at the CC were friendly and helpful. Several of them were very encouraging. I adored the departmental secretary, who was stolen by force and sent to another department this year. The chair was amazing at keeping politics away from the rest of us; he retired last year, upon having a major medical issue, so he is gone, though.

My colleagues at the SLAC are friendly and helpful. Several of them are very encouraging. I know people in administration. I was assigned a mentor my first year who I knew as an undergraduate and we get along well. We have met socially outside of school functions.

Students at both schools were very motivated. There were different preparation levels, but the courses also required different loads.

Composition Courses at Both:
I taught developmental writing at the CC. I had four classes which met four hours a week each. The students wrote six papers, all in the 2-3 page range, and we did them as a process, so that I saw multiple drafts of each.

At Houston Community, I taught in the computer lab. I was scheduled for all my courses in the computer lab for my second year and the chair made my schedule so that I would have an extended lunch time to meet my father for lunch each day, if I wished.

I teach fyc at the SLAC. I teach the mid- to lower-range student here. All the higher level students have tested out or taken the course as dual credit. We have a requirement of four papers a semester, most in the 4-6 page range. We do them as a process and I see multiple drafts of each. However, my students actually compose six essays: one diagnostic essay, three 1200-word essays, and two 800-1000 word essays. In addition, they compose a group digital essay and an individual computer-animated essay.

Based on yesterday’s post, I obviously need to see about revising this schedule.

For the second semester fyc at the SLAC, the students write an annotated bibliography of sixteen works (full page of annotations for each) and a research paper, so the four pages end up being: 4-6, 4-6, 16, and 10-12.

None of my classes at the SLAC are in a computer lab, but most of my students have computers or iPads that they bring to class. Those who do not have computers are able to use the computers in the library, which can be checked out and used in the learning commons area.

You can see that the grading load at the SLAC, even though I teach fewer papers, is quite a bit higher.

As I mentioned, the courses at my CC were in a computer lab. The courses at the SLAC require students to have their own mobile devices for papers.

My first semester fyc courses at the SLAC have two digital compositions. One is a group analysis of a commercial. The students write an evaluation of the commercial individually after the analysis is complete. The second is an individually created Xtranormal video, using Xtranormal’s software and pre-set stages, voices, and actors, proposing a solution to a problem. Then they write a justification essay over their proposed solution composition. It covers both their solution and their choices in Xtranormal.

Outside of Class Contact:
At the CC, I answered emails and had ten office hours a week. Students came in to my office rarely and generally only when I required them to.

At the SLAC, I am required to respond to emails within 24 hours. I have seven office hours a week. Students come in to my office occasionally and when they do, they tend to stay for about an hour. They also come in for required, regular conferences. (Two a semester.) I have the fyc students to my home, an expectation of the university. I also give them my cell phone number. Or I intend to. This year I gave them both mine and, accidentally, my husband’s. So far they have not abused that and they don’t call after 9 pm or before 9 am–the hours I established.



by Dr Davis on October 10, 2012

I am overwhelmed by the work I am doing. I am not sure it is more than I have done before, but I am just too busy to even sit down and think most days.

So, I decided I would try to figure out what I was doing and what I had done and see if I just forgot how busy I was before.

Three years ago I taught a 5/5/2 load; wrote and had published six articles, two reviews, one chapter, and one book; created and published a digital poem; gave ten conference presentations, seven of which were national or international conferences; mentored a new PhD through multiple conferences; read entrance exams for the graduate business department; served on the writing committee; spent six hours a week in office hours; held those office hours on a couch after the hurricane destroyed several buildings on campus and did severe damage to the one I was officed in; lost my mother; and wrote and presented several poetry readings.

Two years ago I taught a 4.5/5.5 at an inner city community college, including two totally new preparations; created, launched, and arranged a monthly update for an online literary journal; organized a panel for a national convention; gave three regional, one national, and one local conference presentations and one invited talk; served on the Executive Council for a regional conference; read for AP Language; won a competition for creation of a proposal and white paper for the college’s QEP plan; attended QEP meetings and wrote a complete QEP proposal and white paper; served on the committee for online textbooks; held office hours ten hours a week; created and published a digital poem; and wrote and published two articles, two poems, one review, and two chapters. This was while driving in one-hour each way from the suburbs to downtown and taking my stroke-limited father to lunch at least once a week. (Thank you, HCC-Central, for working on my schedule so I could do that.)

Last year I taught a 4/4 load, which included having four classes of students to my home and teaching five composition classes (four fyc and one business writing); taught four new preparations, including a course in an area which was a minor interest in undergraduate and PhD, but whose topic had been off my radar for over twenty years; spent two hours a week in a conference learning to teach that preparation; resurrected an honors society and held four events with the newly re-created group; created and updated the honor society blog; contributed to the departmental blog; wrote one article which was published and two chapters which are in press; published three poems; wrote four grants and won two of them; gave four conference presentations and did three original poetry readings, two digitally; served on the Executive Council for one regional conference; created and updated the website for a regional conference, including creating original art for the site and acquiring online payment abilities; was chair and organizer for two regional panels; read for AP Language; created and gave a presentation for graduate students on conference presenting; acted as a graduate student mentor for two in-coming graduate students, which included reviewing papers, suggesting conferences, having them over to my house, and taking them out for lunch; participated actively on the departmental library committee, with full responsibility for rhetoric, composition, and linguistics acquisitions; participated in the composition committee; read for freshman and graduate student assessment evaluations for SACS; took a digital story-telling professional development class; took two photography professional development classes; attended twelve professional development luncheons; beta-tested a new CMS; held office hours seven hours a week, met in conference with all my fyc students twice, and stayed in contact by email and texting with the students from 9 am to 9 pm seven days a week; and studied twelve professional development books.

This year I am teaching a 4/4 load, including one new preparation this semester of a graduate class in the history and theory of rhetoric and four different preparations next semester and teaching one of the classes with totally online texts; classes next semester include a new book, so a total revamp of a class I have only taught one semester before; creating an iBook for Early British Literature; teaching a class with the brand new iBook; serving on the Executive Council for one regional conference; updating the website for a regional conference, including changing the online payment and registration abilities; creating the program for the regional conference and organizing and creating a digital presentation showcasing student work from our university; advising students!!!!; participating actively on the library committee, the UG research committee, the composition committee, and the business writing committee; presenting for two conferences, both regional and both on technology–the focus of a grant I won…

I am behind in my writing and being accepted to conferences. I received an R&R I have not gotten to and I am supposed to be revising my dissertation and getting it to the publisher by the end of the year. I have no conferences next semester and no abstracts out for writing or presentations.


Busy, busy

by Dr Davis on October 3, 2012

I have been crazy busy, but I have some things I am thinking about and readings that I want to incorporate.

I am going to include the blog posts here so I don’t forget them. Hopefully I will be able to get to this soon. I think it is important.

Dr. Skallerup or Ready Writiing’s To Blog or Not to Blog?

My own Live Blogging

Ethics of Live-Tweeting

Advice on Academic Blogging, Tweeting, Whatever