Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Has Anyone Read This (Shit?)?

Cassandra said... "I've always hated the covers to Ken Bain's _What the Best College Teachers Do_ (particularly the one to the right), because they seem to embody the idea of professor as edutainer (male edutainer, at that; I realize the book is written by a man, but it would have been nice to fit an image of a female professor somewhere on the cover, even the back). The book may be a fine one, for all I know (I own it, so I guess the publisher is happy); I have trouble getting past the cover."



21 comments:

  1. I own a copy of this book, too. If anyone wants to send me $10 through Paypal or Square or Chemical Bank or whatever, then I'll send you my copy of this book along with a good bottle of beer.

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    1. I'll take the beer. You can keep the book.

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  2. Sadly, if a woman was on the book cover, the publisher would have to change the name of the book to "What women professors do". Not so sadly, her dress would slip down when she did her handstand.

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    1. Women doing handstands would be wearing dresses just to attract the attention of a book buyer.

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    2. That's why Creepy Book Buyer Guy won't take it!!!

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    3. I thought of that, but, even if you assume the female professor would wear a skirted suit, some of the current styles (pencil skirts, I think they're called?) are so narrow they just might stay up during a handstand (the only question is how one would get into a handstand in the first place while wearing one of those things).

      I suppose I should be glad that what I suspect is meant to be the older, frumpier professor looking on in wonder at the younger one's acrobatics isn't female. I suspect there's some age analysis to be done here, too.

      Maybe be it's all meant to be a metaphor? If so, my preferred one would be juggling, not acrobatics (and students/snowflakes would be among the objects being juggled).

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  3. My college bought all the faculty a copy of this book. I tried to sell it to the Creepy Book Buyer guy. He didn't want it. Neither do I.

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    1. Oh jeez. Mine too. I haven't bothered looking at it yet; I'm on sabbatical in the fall, but I'll have to deal with the damned book in the spring.

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    2. Congrats on your sabbatical. :) Too bad your book is going to "get lost" while you're on sabbatical. ;)

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    3. Losing it will take some creativity. I took an e-book so I wouldn't have to waste shelf space on it.

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  4. This reminds me of an in-service course on alternate learning styles I was required to sit through. One of the things that was advocated was edutaining my students, including things like interpretive dances.

    At the same time, one of my colleagues was an edutainer and, because of his popularity with the students, he was regarded as an excellent instructor. Of course it helped that he had a tendency to dilute the intellectual content of his courses to the point that just about anybody who registered would be guaranteed a pass.

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    1. We have one of those. His evals on the site that shall not be mentioned all indicate how fun and great and wonderful and funny and hilarious and entertaining and EASY he is.

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    2. NLAA, I actually was able to put the interpretive dance "suggestion" to the test.

      Earlier in my career, I spent two years teaching at one of those "celebrated" hybrid performing arts high schools.

      The creative director walked through my class one day when we were discussing states of matter so I asked if he might be willing to choreograph a brief piece.

      I still feel pain where his withering "Don't bother me with idiocy" stare struck me.

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    3. A & S:

      It might work in an artistic context, but I was teaching technical courses. Doing an interpretive dance to describe mechanical design or thermodynamics would have resulted in me being laughed out of the place.

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  5. Umm, so I thought I recognized the cover of the book when I saw it. So I went home an looked. Aaaand it turns out I picked it up last year at a used bookstore.

    I'm sorry.

    If it's any consolation, I haven't opened it yet. First I was going to read another book I got at the same time, "The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success"

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    1. The Wisdom of Psychopaths would probably be a better guide to dealing with students than What the best college teachers do.

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  6. Oddly, I think I might have first encountered this book in the sidebar on CM. I don't know why in the world I bought it; I must have been suffering from some sort of new-school-year-induced form of temporary optimism/insanity.

    Given the comments above, it certainly sounds like the author (and HU Press) is/are making good money off the thing.

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  7. The Amazon review by "Anna Karenina" tells me all I need to know:

    "Bain says professors shouldn't use the word "requirements" on the syllabus. They should promise students specific valuable things, but never demand. In fact, he seems to say that the exact way grades are computed shouldn't be stated...The huge emphasis Bain puts on connecting course material to a student's personal concerns makes me wonder what would happen if a professor got up and talked about... the civil war ...computers ...botany. Can't teachers count on the inherent interest of anything?"

    "The advice in the book frequently ignores real world teaching problems. Bain is very positive about take home exams, thinking it's silly to pass up their advantages because of worries about cheating...Be tolerant of late work, he says; there was probably a good reason."

    There are adminiflakes somewhere spending U funds to buy this crap?

    And reviewer "Dr. Cathy Goodwin" had the following insight re. student evaluations, apparently dismissed by Bain:

    "I had a similar experience myself, while teaching in a large state university. I would overhear students say, "I've never participated as much as I have in your class." One group of students even organized a little party for our class -- and they were commuters. We had a great community and students learned a lot. But the course evaluations had no place to describe these experiences. Students told me openly, "I base my evaluations on the grade I get.""

    Exactly. Students know it, profs know it, admins know it, and yet the stupid things are still taken at face value.

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    1. Maybe that's why I bought it: because he's anti-evaluation. That would actually make sense.

      Of course there's the old cliche: even a stopped clock is right twice a day (well, assuming it's an analog one. Another expression current students probably don't understand).

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