. . . and unlike other Democrats, who shall remain nameless, I sure as heck know how to use it! I’m off to a lovely weekend in Boulder with Dr. Mister, who is taking me out to the fab “new” restaurant we’ve been talking about going to for years now, but have never thought far enough in advance to get a darned reservation. Well, this summer he did–and yum! I can’t wait.
Meanwhile, I thought I’d let you know that the discussion about “Outcomes Assessment” this week inspired by Clio Bluestocking has spurred some other contributions. Sisyphus at Academic Cog questions the value of quantitative information in evaluating humanities teaching. She asks, “[s]o is outcomes assessment just another part of the factory university speedup? The whole point of humanistic study is to read and think in depth and then to talk about it, and to train our students to read and think in depth as well —- and then to communicate what they have discovered through writing and speech.* That’s it. It’s a model that doesn’t lend itself well to Taylorization, rationalization and efficiency.” Then Dance at Prone to Laughter chimed in with a useful idea, “enhanced grading,” which would offer more information about student effort and achievement than a bare letter grade or G.P.A. without being too burdensome for each faculty member:
[M]y department could create, say 5 characteristics that we value—1) mastered the content 2) generated original and creative ideas 3) showed real talent in writing 4) made discussion better 5) worked very hard—and professors could give students a rating in each of these, probably on a 1-4 scale plus Not Applicable—or, even simpler, just “strong/adequate/weak.”
And, don’t forget–Another Damned Medievalist, who offered a spirited defense of “Outcomes Assessment” in the comments at this blog and at Clio Bluestocking’s, has promised to deliver a post of her own this weekend on this subject. Meanwhile, check out her very thoughtful post on the incredible awesome awesomeness of tenure (not?):
Yesterday, as I processed in borrowed regalia, a junior colleague (in the sense of still a probationer, rather than age or time at SLAC — there are several people who have been here as long or longer than I, but haven’t gone up yet) said, “Ah, ADM, it must be a wonderful feeling!” “What?” “You have tenure (or its equivalent)! You have no more worries!” “You know? It’s not like that.”
I can’t blame hir for thinking this, though. We’re trained to think that we are simply jumpng a series of hoops, with tenure as the brass ring* — oh, it will be great after coursework! No, it will be great after comps! No, it will be great after the thesis is done! Oh noes, everything will be fantastic as soon as I get a job! Oops! Maybe it will all be perfect when I have tenure and promotion!
Somewhere along the line — I think about halfway into my probationary period, it occurred to me that the brass ring, didn’t really exist. Instead, each hoop is a gate, or door, that grants us access to another set of possibilities, for success AND for failure. Before you think I’m going to get all self-help-y, don’t — I’m not about to start saying that we need to look upon stress as an opportunity for growth, or any of that crap. But anyway, back to the wonderful feeling.
(Emphasis Historiann’s.) I think that’s exactly right–academic careers, like life, are about the journey, not the destination. We’re like sharks–we always have to keep moving, or at least, find a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Besides–tenure and promotion are just one stop on the “Stations of the Cross”–there’s promotion to Professor, then there’s that fancy new job, then the feeling that you have to justify having gotten that fancy new job, then anxiety about winning that NEH grant/Macarthur “genius” Grant/National Book Award/Pulitzer Prize. Priorities, people! Priorities! Back to work, all of you.
Well, maybe it can wait until Monday morning. Have a great weekend, kids! You know I will. Cheers!