The LSU Top 5 #15

This is the fifteenth of our weekly links to the top 5 interesting bits and pieces we’ve found from around the internet.

(Linking doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with these articles!)

Professor says students can’t identify continents on mapCBC News

Associate Professor Judith Adler of Memorial University in Canada had always assumed that her students’ general knowledge was sufficient to understand the more complex ideas in her class, until she one day tested it. We’re not talking about complex ideas here – we’re talking about putting continents on the map – but some students still aren’t doing well:

“The Atlantic Ocean is labelled as the Mediterranean Sea; Africa is circled and labelled as Europe, with Spain and Italy being put in the middle of Africa,” she said.

She doesn’t blame the students, saying that the education system has failed them.

There’s a lesson here in not assuming what our students do and do not know.

But hey, the situation’s better than described in this (unembeddable) video from the Onion!

Link (Onion)

Link (CBC News)

The China Conundrum: a Student PerspectiveThe Chronicle

A Chinese student who studied in the US warns that many of his peers are gaming the system, getting high marks without actually learning much:

Some [of my Chinese peers] don’t have the idealistic view of college as a place for personal growth and self-discovery. They often approach American colleges with the utilitarian mind-set that getting the highest grades is the only thing that matters. As a result, it’s not unusual for some of them to graduate with impressive grades without having learned very much at all.


Twenty terrible reasons for lecturingOxford Brookes University

This very readable and thought provoking paper by Professor Graham Gibbs takes an uncompromisingly critical look the central role of lectures in university education. The author concludes:

I would not like to leave the impression that I feel that there is no justification for ever lecturing. I lecture myself (though seldom for more than fifteen minutes at a stretch and then seldom when written substitutes are available). I believe there are circumstances when a well structured, well paced, varied, lively lecture can be the most efficient teaching method. But I do believe there is far more lecturing going on than can reasonably be justified by the evidence concerning the efficiency of lectures, especially bearing in mind the nature of the educational goals we claim to be striving for.

Note that while the Top 5 usually looks at things in the news or recent commentary, we’re making an exception for this paper, first published in 1981.


Should academics appraise their bosses?The Guardian

Academics at some UK universities are asking for more 360-degree feedback, i.e. to be able to give feedback on their bosses. Management, though, seem reluctant, with one boss saying it was “going out of fashion.” Daniel Kane, a union executive committee member at the Sussex University staff union, doesn’t see why upward feedback should be a problem:

“We’re expected to act on what [students] say [on teaching feedback]. And we do. We are simply asking for the same rights and same respect that our students have. But we aren’t being given the basic dignity of being able to say what works and what doesn’t. What are they afraid of?”


Promoting Student Success Through CollaborationFaculty Focus

When a student created a Google document with her course study guide and invited her classmates to do it together, she worried that her class’s results would be too good and her professor would think that they had cheated.

So, is collaboration blamed for cheating if it helps everyone succeed? What can teachers do to help their students learn collaboratively while making sure that this is not perceived as cheating? The author suggests ways to boost collaboration, including making learning expectations explicit and avoiding grading on a curve.


We love hearing your thoughts on these articles, so feel free to comment below!

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