Pop Quiz

How does this news story resemble this one?  Explain.

UPDATE and Bonus: try to find any mention of university administrators or “enrollments” in this article about excessive class sizes in higher education.  And try to find some supporting evidence for the suggestion that new technologies will solve this problem.

SECOND UPDATE.  Aha.  Here’s the homepage for one of the “sources” of this piece: Dr. Carol A. Twigg, who heads up the National Center for Academic Transformation, which seems to be a Pew-oriented non-profit arguing for a new surge of university investment into information technology and assessment.  The good news: they say that distance ed and large lecture courses don’t work and are” labor intensive.”  The bad news: they want universities to save money/teach more effectively by “redesigning” large volume intro courses to reflect their software/testing model, and relieve themselves of these “labor intensive” courses.  Hmmm.  Did the AP reporter just write up the press release?  And has anyone on this blog had any contact with this group?


4 responses to “Pop Quiz

  1. Well, they’re both depressing…
    They both use numbers in decidedly misleading ways…

    BTW, I found this line in the NYT utterly offensive: “Dr. Ehrenberg and a colleague analyzed 15 years of national data and found that graduation rates declined when public universities hired large numbers of contingent faculty.

    Several studies of individual universities have determined that freshmen taught by many part-timers were more likely to drop out.”

  2. Hey Sharlene,

    No offense intended, and now that you point it out, I can see that the quote seems to blame the part-timer instructors rather than the institution and its policies for the students’ failures.

    This is one of the consequences of the accountability talk I hear about all the time, where people look at a system they helped to create, and are utterly and completely surprised to discover the consequences of their own funding decisions.

    Yes, very depressing.


  3. Hi Dave,

    I didn’t mean that you offended me! But the tone of the article switched mid-point, from talking about the plight of the part-timers to talking about the blight of them on college campuses. As a full-time lecturer (who only recently moved out of part-time status), I was deeply troubled by the ways in which “part-timers” were characterized. SIGH…

    Did I fail the pop quiz, though? I’d like to know what you thought the connections were? I thought it was the use of statistics…I take it yours was about accountability?

  4. Hey Sharlene,

    After I saw your post and reread the pieces, I realized that I could be construed as arguing that part-timers were part of the “problem” because they were less qualified. On the contrary, the perversities of the job market mean that the most overqualified people in an institution are sometimes the part-timers, who are also given the fewest resources to teach their students, who unsurprisingly suffer from this kind of institutional neglect.

    My only point was that university administrators, like those Circuit City bosses, often choose a short-term gain in spite of the long-term losses, at the expense of both employees and “customers.”

    While you were responding, I updated with another, still more frustrating piece about class sizes. But I do think that accountability talk leads to all sorts of perverse results, largely because accountability tends to reside at the bottom of the pyramid, not at the top, where decision-making responsibility actually resides.