Sunday, September 19, 2010

Three Un-related Topics

All below the jump ... thoughts about perceived quality of faculty at a CC, the Gates Foundation and education, and keeping happy as a professor -- all triggered by recent items in IHE.

Faculty quality at the CC Level

Hat tip to an IHE Quick Take, pointing to this article in the Detroit News. Michigan is apparently facing the question of whether community colleges should be allowed to offer 4-year degrees in selected fields. They probably got the idea from other states where CCs now offer BS degrees in nursing or education.

Michael Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council of State Universities of Michigan, said:

"Community colleges do not have the base of professional educators needed to provide accredited bachelor's degrees."

to which I say "BS". Reminds me of nearby Wannabe Flagship, where they try to claim that our organic chem class (30 students) is worse than theirs (300 students) when our professor used to teach ... THEIR class as an adjunct!

I'll use nursing as an example, since it is an area where there remains some prejudice against licensed RNs who earned an AS rather than a BS degree. (Yes, I know that you cannot move up into surgery or anesthesiology without the BSN degree, but I am talking about entry level positions.) It is convenient because I can look at the requirements for the degree at Wannabe Flagship and see clearly that (a) they do require important non-nursing courses that are not in our AS program, and (b) our CC teaches every one of those non-nursing courses at a level that they accept for transfer students, and (c) that many of their classes are taught by adjuncts and typical adjuncts and full-time faculty have an MSN as their top degree. There are some doctorates (including an EdD or two), but those are only needed for the MS and Doctoral programs, not the undergrad BSN degree program, which explains why there are so few of them.

Our faculty are just as educated, experienced, and licensed as theirs are and could teach the same upper-division classes that theirs teach. Our program is accredited for the RN license by the same national organization that theirs is, and ours has the same high pass rate that theirs does ... and higher than some other programs in the state. Yes, we do need to hire more faculty, but that is just for our growing AS degree program. You see, Wannabe Flagship has very limited admissions and does not offer any program that can be taken by non-traditional students, so we turn away many qualified students. And there is no shortage of demand, even in today's economy.

The propagandist for the state universities in Michigan is either a liar or ignorant.

Education Research

A Friday Viewpoint at IHE posed a challenge to the Gates Foundation to fund more research, but I have in mind some nonsense embedded in the article.

The author says:
There were some 65,000 doctorates in education granted over the last 10 years for which we have data (1999-2008). During the same period, there were about 21,000 doctorates awarded in chemistry. Which do you think has had the greatest consequences, knowledge-wise?

I know that comparing education and chemistry in this way is unreasonable; for one thing, many of the education degrees were awarded to practitioners, rather than to researchers.

BZZZZT, but thank you for playing. Those persons with a chemistry PhD are all, every last one of them, practitioners. And that identifies the main problem with education degree programs. Few of them have faculty whose research is based on actually doing (say, teaching elementary school) what they teach. In contrast, that chemistry PhD actually does chemistry, including the ones who are teaching chemistry at a university. In my opinion, that is why education research has not made as much of a dent in our national K-12 problem as, say, chemistry research has improved batteries and many other important products.

I might add more (like references to what others said about Gates and accountability for outcomes from those projects), but time to move on.

Enjoying the job

Also from Friday, we have this ad dressed up as Career Advice from IHE. There are some good things in there worth thinking about, but I'll start by observing that if you get migraines as a stress reaction to the research demands of your 1-1 teaching job at an R1, you really should think about moving to a teaching intensive college or do what the author did: Join a leadership program to learn how to manage research (rather than do research) and start the move up into Provost world.

The real lesson in there, which does not require buying the book, is that you need to identify your "soulful values" and set your goals around them. Since regular goal setting is part of what every professor at my college does each year (as a way to encourage us to stay "fresh"), that is a useful way to think about how to choose among many things that one can do to improve teaching.


GMP said...

Great post, Dr. Pion!
I particularly enjoyed the education research bit. You are right on the money.

The Thomas said...

We have a "Presidents Council of State Universities of Michigan"? No wonder the state is so F'd up.

What is it, a lobbying group with pecking order? Gah.

The state universities already have the MACRAO agreement which defines transfer credits between the CCs and the state universities. What more do they need?

The reason the universities are running scared is the differential in tuition credit hour dollars.

The cost at the CCs is 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of the universities. The CCs don't have a many "odd" fees and don't have to pay to support an athletic department.

As it stand right now, the GRCC "nursing" program acts as a feeder (for those who need a kick start) to the GVSU BSN program at the top of Michigan Street Hill in the Grand Rapids Medical Mile.

With GRCC's acquisition of Davenport's old downtown campus, GRCC is now bigger than MAC was back in the 20s. GRCC has the facilities ... and after hiring the right people ... they could easily structure a decent BS degree.