Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Costs of academic travel culture

Great blog by Race MoChridhe, London School of Economics and PoliSci, on how academic travel culture is both bad for the planet and also bad for equity and diversity in research:   https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2019/03/19/academic-travel-culture-it-is-not-only-bad-for-the-planet-it-also-bad-for-the-diversity-and-equity-of-research/ 

This paragraph resonates with me, given the 5 - 6 weeks per year that my husband subsidizes my conference and committee travel, and an additional 36 - 48 evenings or weekend days of academic leadership commitments, and takes on the entire burden of home and childcare during my absence:

These burdens fall primarily upon women because, whether they are the wives of academics or are academics themselves, they are far more likely to be primary caregivers for relatives of all kinds (including their own children) and are generally responsible for a far greater share of the other domestic work that keeps a household together. When we tie professional advancement in the academy to participation in conferences and on committees that require extensive travel, we are too often asking for what is simply impossible to give, either in terms of their own time or of a spouse’s. This is an arrangement that disproportionately favors those without family commitments, which is much more likely to mean men. Just as there is a certain degree of myopia, if not outright hypocrisy, in our collective professional agitation for action on climate change, while maintaining our jet-set lifestyle, so too the continued reliance on conference and committee travel in the digital age discredits our claims to desiring greater gender equity.

I agree with Race that meeting face-to-face at conferences has value; however, with contemporary technology we can be much more creative in the ways we gather together groups of academics to share ideas, offer feedback and critique and build original knowledge in ways that reduce the academic travel footprint on the environment, and remove barriers to equity and diversity in research engagement.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Dr. Ann Sherman, An Inspiring Academic Leader and Dear Friend

It is with deep sadness and a heavy heart that I write about the death of my dear friend, Dr. Ann Sherman.

Yesterday, I received the news: University of New Brunswick dean of education Ann Sherman died on Wednesday, August 2. From the UNB website, "It is with heavy hearts that we confront news of the passing of Ann Sherman, who has served as Dean of the Faculty of Education at UNB since 2010," said Dr. George MacLean, Vice-President Academic of the Fredericton campus, in a message to university members issued Thursday.

Ann Sherman was an empowering and powerful leader in education who brought hope, creativity and inspiration to the many communities of which she was a part. Ann Sherman was such an important mentor to me; she was an inspirational leader and role model, a generous and giving teacher, and, most importantly, a dear and kind friend who had a beautiful laugh and infectious sense of humour. I will miss Ann a great deal, and I mourn her loss. What gives me comfort is that while Ann is no longer with us physically, she will live with us forever in spirit, and I know that her impact and influence lives on in the many educational and international initiatives, projects and programs that she led, the many people who she mentored, challenged and taught throughout her life, and the extended family and broad community of friends who cherished her, loved her and got to share in her bright light. #changemaker #exceptionalteacher #empoweringleader

Dr. Sharon Friesen shared the following to mark the passing of Ann Sherman:

Ann received the news of her prognosis in true Ann fashion—fully of courage, determination, and adaptability. In her final days she wrote: “I want you to know that I am very accepting of this all and can only think about the most amazing life that I have had. I have such incredible friends and family. I think of all the experiences I have had…travel, meeting kings, children in arctic villages, prime ministers, on every continent except Antarctica. I am so excited about the life that I have had and you all know how crazy I am about my nephews and nieces and great niece and nephews!”

Comfort is a great word, etymologically derived from two Latin roots: con, meaning with, and fortitude, meaning strength. We move strongly together, bound to one another with fortitude, determination and power. We deeply be-hold and are be-held.

With strength,

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Exploring the Future of the Doctoral Dissertation

The Innovative Dissertation
As the PhD / EdD is reconsidered as preparation for diverse career trajectories in addition to / beyond academia, the idea of the dissertation as monograph written for only for a scholarly audience comes into question. On May 31, 2016, five outstanding new scholars made brief presentations at the 2016 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, held at the University of Calgary, describing their innovative dissertation form, their reason for selecting this form, and how their research is being received. The following videos have been made available by NUTV, University of Calgary.
  • The Experiential Dissertation Faye Bres, PhD candidate, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary; Presentation: 2016 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Calgary:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lV2BEb40W1c
  • Faye Bres’ research, based on a study conducted with The City of Calgary to examine how the City interacted with the environment during the 2013 flood. Funded by a MITACS internship, Faye examined how situations during the flood brought forth evidence of adaptive capacity that could be formalized to supplement environmental risk control with adaptation.
  • The Public Scholarship Dissertation Kirk King, PhD candidate, University of British Columbia; Presentation: 2016 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Calgary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Mzmfg87Whc
  • Kirk’s research, part of the UBC Public Scholars program, includes development of a website to tell the story of Okinawan folk singer Kadekaru Rinsho, taking an approach to ethnography in line with Okinawan traditional modes of knowledge transmission that rely on public storytelling.
  • The Community Engaged Dissertation Sarah Nickle, PhD, Simon Fraser University:  Presentation: 2016 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Calgary; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jHWhkQTO2Q
  • Sarah’s dissertation was a community-engaged study of a twentieth-century pan-tribal political organization, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. It used new ethnohistorical and critical oral history methods to understand the history of pan-tribal unity in BC.
  • The Graphic Dissertation Nick Sousanis, Post-Doctoral Scholar, University of Calgary; Presentation: 2016 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Calgary; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cJ1e1SoEkg
  • Nick’s Columbia University EdD dissertation, Unflattening, was presented entirely in comic book form. It has now been published as a book with the same title by Harvard University Press.
  • The Noir Detective Novel Dissertation John Williamson, PhD, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary; Presentation: 2016 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Calgary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6q0mCy6pq3c
  • Written as a fictionalized hard-boiled detective story, John’s dissertation drew on experiential data, primary sources, and interviews to examine the categorization of and programming for students labelled as “slow learners.” John was awarded the Chancellor’s Graduate Medal 2016 (Doctoral).
CAGS - Canadian Association for Graduate Studies

Earlier this year, a Canadian Association for Graduate Studies working group released a whitepaper entitled “The Doctoral Dissertation—Purpose, Content, Structure, Assessment.” The paper outlines challenges the traditional dissertation presents in light of changes to the academic work environment and the likely career trajectories of PhD students. Does the dissertation serve its intended purpose? How could it be changed to better suit the needs of students and the academy? From the report:

The challenge for supervisors, examination committees, and all those involved in graduate education is to find ways to allow (or even encourage) the inclusion of diverse forms of scholarship and scholarly products in the dissertation, while ensuring the rigour of the research.(4)

AECT - Association for Educational Communications and Technology

A sign that this conversation is underway elsewhere in North America is an upcoming AECT Webinar, "What are we preparing our students for? An argument for alt-format dissertations"

March 8th at 4:00 PM EST - [Webinar Registration]
Hosted by: Feng-Ru Sheu, Kent State University
Presented by: Rick West, Brigham Young University

Most scholars agree that the main purposes of the dissertation are to train students in proper research methodology and to contribute original findings to research. However, some worry that the traditional dissertation format is not conducive to either of these goals. Research has shown that dissertations rarely get disseminated into academic journals, and academics rarely cite dissertations that have not been published as articles. Additionally, some scholars argue that the traditional dissertation format is a poor training tool because it does not prepare scholars for future professional pursuits. Many departments, including mine, now offer alternative-format dissertations, including the option of defending a series of articles. In this webinar, Dr. West will share some of the research about alternative-format dissertations and our experience at BYU. He will discuss what lessons we have learned, and engage you in a discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of the alternative-format dissertation and how it might be used to improve scholarship in our field.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Value and Contribution of Sessional Instructors - Diverse Expertise and Relevant Professional Experience

Great 2014 article by Usher on sessionals on the Higher Education Strategy Associates' Blog: http://higheredstrategy.com/sessionals/

In the blog, Usher outlines reasons why sessional instructors are a growing proportion of academic staff in higher education: universities are paid to teach, and spend a great deal of time also doing research. The part that most interested me, however, was that in which Usher described two broad categories of sessional instructors: those who have full-time employment elsewhere and recent PhD graduates. This quote about the first category of sessionals resonates with my experience in our School of Education, especially the part where we are much better for their presence: 'First are the mid/late-career professionals who already make good money from full-time employment elsewhere, and who help provide relevant, up-to-date content based on practical experience in programs like Law and Nursing. For them, sessional teaching is a way to pick up an extra cheque, and maybe have some fun doing it. Outside Arts & Science, this is the dominant model of sessionals, and universities are much the better for their presence".  The second category of sessionals include recent PhD graduates looking to get a tenure track position in academia.

The blog resonated with me because I am privileged to work alongside a cohort of sessional instructors in Graduate Programs in Education, and I make these observations about my highly valued colleagues:

· The majority of GPE Sessional instructors hold full time employment elsewhere, and teach one or two courses per year with Werklund School of Education.

· Contrary to the national public discourse on sessional colleagues as under appreciated, underpaid individuals who “want to be on the tenure track”, the sessional instructors who teach in GPE are not seeking a tenure track position and they report high levels of satisfaction in their teaching roles, experience success in their teaching, and feel valued for what they contribute to graduate students' learning and development

· Each of our sessional instructors bring deep expertise in their discipline, broad experience in their profession, and current knowledge and highly relevant insights from their employment elsewhere, all of which greatly enriches and expands our graduate program offerings

· Sessional instructing also offers diverse and expanded opportunities for our doctoral students to develop teaching experience in higher education, as well as contribute their unique expertise and diverse strengths to the graduate program.

I encourage you to read Usher's blog - it offers a different perspective on the debate about sessional instructors.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

My response to: Are there too many PhDs? Turns out, maybe not: A look at where PhDs end up after leaving the Ivory Tower

Here is my response to the National Post article by:  Catherine McIntyre: http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/are-there-too-many-phds-turns-out-maybe-not-a-look-at-where-phds-end-up-after-leaving-the-ivory-tower?

Along with Danny and Stephanie, PhD candidate, I was a panelist at the CSSE session June 1 during which we discussed the changing contexts for graduates from doctoral programs. As the Associate Dean, Graduate Programs in Education, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, I can offer the academic perspective that is largely missing from this article. I contend that Schools of Education have already re-imagined doctoral education to reflect the needs and reality of our changing global contexts by preparing diverse doctoral students, who bring diverse career goals and expectations, for diverse career outcomes. For example, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, offers three different doctoral degrees. First, we offer a professional Education Doctorate (EdD) in Educational Research that prepares scholars of the profession who lead and study change in diverse learning contexts, from schools, to health and corporate settings, and in diverse disciplines in higher education. Werklund School of Education also offers the Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Educational Research, which is a research degree that prepares scholars of the discipline who aim to research and teach in higher education. Third, we offer the Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Educational Psychology that is a professional research degree that includes a one-year internship; graduates from this program aim to teach and research in higher education or to lead and study change and innovation in professional psychology settings. In Education, at least, I argue that we need to rethink the call to rethink the PHD because we have already done so with the creation of the Professional EDD and the Professional PhD with Internship. Education already provides high quality research and professional doctoral programs that meet respond to global trends and the demands of disciplines and professions in transition by being Accessible, Agile, Flexible, Responsive and Collaborative. Graduates who hold an EDD or a PHD enjoy the highest employment rates amongst all undergraduate and graduate degree holders in Canada. While I fully agree that universities must prepare students for life within AND beyond the ivory tower, and for careers beyond the professoriate, I disagree that the current employment rate of PhDs as professors is a cause for alarm – graduates from doctoral programs contribute their deep expertise, their critical and analytical thinking, and teaching and research experience across higher education, public education and many other sectors. While many doctoral students do plan for a life in the academy, a substantially higher number of students who pursue PhDs and EDDs are not planning on a life of higher education teaching and research. Like Education, faculties across disciplines should probably consider how they might provide different pathways to the doctorate. Academic faculty who are already experts at promoting a culture of research and teaching do a great job of preparing doctoral students for the academy; across Canada, Universities need to invest in expanding faculty capacity to promote and support a culture of research informed professional practice and leadership of innovation and change across sectors. 
Dr. Michele Jacobsen, dmjacobs@ucalgary.ca, http://werklund.ucalgary.ca/gp...

Friday, July 4, 2014

Best offers a superficial analysis at best in: Are Universities Gouging Online Students?

Thanks to my colleague, John, for pointing me to Best's (2014) essay.  The "comments" sure counterbalance the essay's argument ....

Best, R. (2014). Are Universities Gouging Online Students? Inside Higher Education. Available online: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2014/07/03/essay-calls-end-charging-online-students-same-person-students

The comments from professors who teach online and students who benefit from the accessibility and diversity of online programs are right on point.  I have taught online for 16 years and believe that I have achieved some of my best teaching online - I also love teaching on campus, and believe I offer an engaging and interesting experience for students no matter what the delivery method.  What I have learned over the past 16 years is that to design, develop and teach an online course tends to take me at least double the amount of time that it takes me to design, develop and teach an on-campus course. Part of the extra time is spent on the design and development of the online learning environment itself, and then supporting the immersive, interactive and engaging knowledge building activities that I have sponsored in online discussions and case groups. Part of the extra time is meeting 1-2-1 and 1-2-many with my online students to discuss assignment expectations, review assessment criteria and provide feedback and support when work is returned. On campus, I can often meet with groups for this kind of interaction. Part of the extra time online is the preparation for an active and engaging synchronous session, carrying out the session and then the follow up required after each session. On campus, I can follow up with students who have questions right after class in the hallway.

As the Associate Dean, Graduate Programs in Education, I have deep knowledge of the organizational and governance structures, the program design, development and delivery structures, the program office staffing and resources needed, and the academic expertise and experience required to offer blended and online programs. With a little reflection, I was able to assemble this partial list of the additional investments that Werklund School of Education and Graduate Programs in Education make in order to design, develop and offer high quality, robust and accessible blended and online professional graduate programs and provide excellent support and service to our global community of graduate students:
  • Double the number of Graduate Program Assistants
  • A Distance Delivery Coordinator
  • A Team Lead
  • A Practicum and Internship Coordinator
  • An additional Graduate Program Director (academic)
  • A Director, Professional Programs (academic)
  • Academic Coordinators for every cohort in every program (academics)
  • Ongoing, professional learning and development opportunities for staff and instructors (academics and graduate students)
  • Release time for new program / course development (academics)
  • Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning, who provides leadership and support with high quality teaching in the Werklund School of Education
  • Two Distance Technology support staff in the School, and the army of staff in the Taylor Family Institute for Teaching and Learning Center  who provide technical and pedagogical support for students, staff and academics
  • Over 80 full time, tenure track academic staff and 60+ contingent term academic staff who hold the expertise and experience to teach courses online using engaging and appropriate signature pedagogies
  • Graduate Assistant Teachers, who are doctoral students who are mentored and supported in their own development as post-secondary educators, who provide support for online courses
I will keep adding to this list -- it is a complex, multifaceted enterprise when higher education offers blended and online programs. Ongoing orientations, research events, blended symposia, online resources and tutorials and integration with contemporary learning technologies is part of the human and technological infrastructure that underpins good quality blended and online learning experiences.  There is a large list of additional investments that need to be made in order for Graduate Programs in Education, Werklund School of Education to be able to consistently offer high quality, research informed and research active learning experiences in our professional programs -- we are very proud of the quality of students in our programs, we are proud of the quality of courses and programs we offer, and we are focused on continual improvement and expansion of services. 

I appreciate the essay written by Mr. Best even though I feel it is, at best, a superficial analysis of the issues and needs associated with offering blended and online programs in higher education.  I am sure Best's (2014) essay will provoke a range of comments and reactions over the next few weeks, which is likely the most important point - to get a thoughtful conversation started.  I appreciate the opportunity and motivation that Mr. Best's essay provided for me to reflect upon the human and technological infrastructure and essential conditions required to offer high quality blended and online graduate programs. 

UPDATE: A great contribution to the conversation:  Online Pricing, by Matt Reed, July 6th: http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/confessions-community-college-dean/online-pricing#disqus_thread

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Great Quotes about Research

As a researcher, I have always understood research to be a form of disciplined inquiry -- when I conduct research, I usually start by surveying what is known - by talking to colleagues, by attending conferences, by reading journal articles, books and resources about the topic or problem of interest. Based on the review of literature and consultation with other researchers to survey what is known, I can identify what questions that other researchers are asking, what themes are emerging in the literature, what findings have been achieved, what new problems are arising, and where the gaps are in current knowledge.  Based on the review of what is known, I can design a research protocol to explore what is not known.

Thanks to Jenn McKay, EDD Candidate, for sending along these great quotes about research:

“Research is creating new knowledge.”  ~ Neil Armstrong

“If we knew what it is we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”  ~ Albert Einstein

“Research is formalized curiosity.   It is poking and prying with a purpose.”   ~ Zora Neale Hurston

“You'd be amazed how much research you can get done when you have no life whatsoever.”  ~ Ernest Cline