Let Summer Read 2016 Begin!

copyright 2016, U of Toronto Press

Happy July, true believers! As promised nine days ago, the shiny new Teaching Prof in Progress Book Club is launching an inaugural Summer Read virtual book discussion. And everyone who teaches (or cares about teaching and teachers) in higher education is invited… So let’s get this party started!

4thofjulyspeedodude

promise that guy will not be there.

Our first Summer Read will be a discussion of Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber’s The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy (2016, University of Toronto Press) on the Goodreads social media site. And getting involved is super easy:

Participation will also be easy.  I will post discussion questions on the Book Club’s page, and we’re off! You can respond, post your own discussion questions, and engage one another throughout the month of July until August 8 as your summer schedule allows — flexibly, on your own time.

To give you a teaser of what we’ll discuss, here are the questions for the Introduction to the book — a tad provocative, if I do say so myself? [And sorry, but no page numbers for the quotations… I’m reading the Kindle edition.]

(1) The Introduction points out the familiar 1-2 punch that motivated the authors to write the book:

  • “Flexibility of hours can translate into working all the time, particularly because academic work by its very nature is never done.”
  • “When we look at studies of academic stress, we are struck by how many situations identified as sources of work stress are about lack of time.”

Let’s start the conversation by addressing the elephant in the room: is this problem, ultimately, unfixable? What have been your experiences with this dilemma? Thoughts?

(2) At one point the authors observe, regarding policy change at our institutions,

  • “A surprising common thread in studies of the corporate university is an emphasis on change being in the hands of individual professors.”

Potentially empowering, sure, but adding to our stress? What kinds of related observations and/or experiences have you had? Thoughts?

(3) What else struck you as important in the Introduction? Observations? Questions for the group?

Intrigued???? Hope so!  Come join the club, tell your friends, colleagues and grad students about it (and the TPP blog, and the Facebook and Twitter platforms), and let’s meet in the salon!

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Best outcomes for interdisciplinary goals: Double-down on silos?

I teach and research in Communication Studies, which has been described both as an academic discipline and an interdisciplinary field. Even those who insist on the “discipline” label as a matter of scholarly identity will admit that the discipline is internally quite “interdisciplinary”: there are not only numerous and diverse sub-fields (e.g., relational/interpersonal, organizational, rhetoric and public address, mass communication, cultural media studies, etc.), but numerous and diverse approaches to study (e.g., close textual analysis, qualitative ethnography, quantitative content and audience analyses, experimental design, etc.). One of the things I love about my discipline is the potential it has to put diverse scholars in conversation with one another in areas of common interest — for me, for example, political communication, media studies or visual communication. But like any discipline, it has its devotees of narrow research silos as well. And these folks are often accused of insularity and an unwillingness (perhaps an incapacity?) to speak to others outside their silo when cross-silo collaboration should be encouraged.

Moreover, some of my best friends are in interdisciplinary area studies! (How’s that for a backhanded compliment?) Fields such as gender studies, Africana studies, environmental studies and so on are rich with possibility not just for interdisciplinary research, but for teaching and public advocacy as well. And the growing economic and social pressures on colleges and universities have sometimes led to the encouragement of interdisciplinary collaboration for scholars in disciplines whose silos are having difficulty meeting market demand in areas such as student enrollment (he said with some distaste).

But while interdisciplinarity is enjoying a moment of seemingly uncontroversial approval in higher education, the champions of academic disciplines are pushing back… and with some compelling reasons. From my tomorrows-professor e-mail listserv (have you subscribed yet?), here’s a provocative piece originally in Inside Higher Ed (which you should also follow… details below).

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Folks:
The posting below offers a counter argument to the emphasis on interdisciplinary research in higher education. It is by Scott Jaschik and it appeared in the February 26, 2014 issue of Inside Higher Ed, an excellent – and free – online source for news, opinion and jobs for all of higher education. You can subscribe by going to: http://insidehighered.com/. Also for a free daily update from Inside Higher Ed, e-mail <scott.jaschik@insidehighered.com>. Copyright 2014 Inside Higher Ed. Reprinted with permission.

Regards,
Rick Reis  (reis@stanford.edu)

A Call to Embrace Silos

Everyone, it seems, wants to promote interdisciplinary work. College and university presidents love to announce new interdisciplinary centers. Funders want to support such work. Many professors and graduate students bemoan the way higher ed places them in silos from which they long to free themselves, if only they could get tenure for interdisciplinary work.

Jerry A. Jacobs, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, wants to end the interdisciplinary love fest. His new book, In Defense of Disciplines: Interdisciplinarity and Specialization in the Research University (University of Chicago Press), challenges the conventional wisdom that academe needs to get out of disciplines to solve the most important problems and to encourage creative thinking. The most significant ideas (including those related to problems that cross disciplines) in fact come out of specialized, discipline-oriented work, Jacobs argues. Further, he says that the idea that disciplines don’t communicate right now is overstated — and that such communication can be encouraged without weakening disciplines.

[more after the jump]

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