Later today our class leaves for our Jan Term course on the Art, Science and Culture of Brewing in Europe. We are all excited, especially after a successful brew day yesterday. I’m really looking forward to spending time with this group of students, and especially a colleague, Gudrun Hommel, whom I’ve really enjoyed setting this class up with. One of the things that I love about Linfield is that I’ve been able to tech a course about brewing. It’s a class that all of the students in it are excited about, and that makes a huge difference in the atmosphere of the class (General and Physical chemistry aren’t usually like this). Being able to have the class go to Europe for a month is almost unfair. But I’ll take it.
For me, the following will be some of the personal highlights:
I’m currently finishing up and assembling materials for the January 2012 edition of my non-science major’s brewing course. This year the title and identifiers are a little bit different: CHEM/MLGR 398: The Art, Science and Culture of Brewing in Europe. Yes, Europe. In exactly 14 days our class of 10 Linfield students and a wonderful colleague from the German department will board a flight in Portland bound for Amsterdam and then to Berlin.
What is College For? – Opinionator NY Times Blogs “First of all, they are not simply for the education of students. This is an essential function, but the raison d’être of a college is to nourish a world of intellectual culture; that is, a world of ideas, dedicated to what we can know scientifically, understand humanistically, or express artistically.”
December 17th is National Growler Day – The Beer Mapping Project ”We have declared Saturday, December 17th 2011 to be National Growler Day! Get out today, support a local business and buy some fresh craft beer.”
A Friday Thirsty on Common Readers – College Misery ”I’m curious what your thoughts and experiences have been with a common text on campus. Do you have one? If so, how is it used? What has made it a successful program (or not)? Have you had any particular success with a specific text you think we could adopt?”
Yesterday I read James Lang’s two articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education about Teaching and Human Memory (part 1, part 2, other resources). Lang’s articles were prompted by his reading of Michelle Miller’s article in College Teaching (you will likely need a subscription for access) and summarize what cognitive scientists currently know about how people store information in short or long term memory and the ways they can more efficiently retrieve information. These articles came at just the right time – when I and my colleagues are assessing what we did this term, and beginning to think about the next term and what and why we would change our approaches in the classroom.
In this post, I’m interested in thinking about how to apply what is suggested in Miller’s work (as reflected in Lang’s articles) to general chemistry. I want to focus on what seem to be the main points:
- Retrieval from long term memory relies on cues.
- Information that we understand and care about is easier to store in long-term memory.
- Frequent low-stakes evaluations actually help reinforce storage and retrieval of information
- Students who can recite and test their own understanding of material (without referring to textbooks or notes) tend to remember more of the material.
- Studying in small blocks of time (and at different times in different places) is most effective.
Another semester is in the bag. I’ve obviously not been blogging much, not that I ever really have blogged with any real frequency, so what has been going on? Normal academic life, that’s what:
- Teaching: my normal fall load of General Chemistry (one lecture section and one lab) and Physical Chemistry (a lecture section and the lab).
- Research: I had seven students in all working on research projects – either my own, or joint projects with one of my colleagues in the department.
- Chairing a working group in our strategic planning process. Somehow, people thought it would be a good idea for me to chair the enrollment working group. Weird.
- Brewing. I haven’t brewed as much as I’d like to, but I have managed to make three batches this fall.
- Preparing for a January Term course, to be taught with a wonderful colleague in our Modern Languages department. The course’s title is “The Art, Science and Culture of Brewing in Europe”. We leave Jan. 4 with 10 students and will visit Berlin, Munich and Brussels, with several day trips from the main locations.
One of our former students is almost done with a Ph.D., and asked me some questions about teaching at a predominantly undergraduate institution (PUI). So here’s my response, for any one who is interested. If others have advice, please post it in the comments!
Ok, as promised I’m taking a little more time to respond to you now that I’m back from the PKAL summer leadership institute. First off – Linfield does keep me busy, perhaps busier than it should. Work-life balance is an area that I really need to pay attention to (one of the things I learned last week). One of the things that helps me achieve that balance is brewing – ever since I started the brewing course in JT I’ve been brewing much more. I plan on brewing up a Saison this weekend. Want to fly in and help?
My first bit of advice to you is to follow YOUR passion, which might change throughout your life. Find out as much as you can about different possibilities from as many people as you can, and be open to opportunities. Above all, don’t be afraid to start over. You can, despite the people who seem to think you can’t.
I’m reading Academically Adrift - the report by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa that has been generating a bit of attention in the press. As usual, press reports don’t really tell the whole story – which is much more nuanced than “college students aren’t learning”. In fact, many college students are learning. I’m only on the third chapter, so I’m going to hold off on a big summary, but one of the parts in the first chapter caught my attention – trends in the number of hours college students report studying outside of class. Here’s a graph of the amount of time students reported spending outside of class studying from 1961 – 2010 (based on information pulled from the bottom of page 3 of Adift ):
I’ve been reading “Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids and What We Can Do About It.” because the authors mention Linfield specifically (in quite glowing terms) and because I remember being interviewed by Claudia (no, I don’t get any shout outs, so they don’t need to pay me). In general, my feelings about the book are mixed. Especially the chapter on tenure (I think their analysis is simplistic – but that’s a post for another day).
I was making copies today, and reflecting back on an interesting copy experience I had several years ago. I had sent a job to the copier from my computer. When I went to pick it up, I couldn’t find it. Anywhere. Evidently, my job had started right before someone else (who doesn’t work here anymore) wanted to start a job. This made that person very angry. So, what do you do when that happens? You hide the other person’s copy job. Evidently you can have a Ph.D., but still act like a 3 year old. I’m glad that doesn’t happen any more.
This post at Professor in Training made me thankful that I am not at a research university. I mean, who wants to drink that much tea? Anyway, I thought I’d poke my nose above the water long enough to outline a typical day (M,W,F anyway) in my life. Here goes: