For New Students: Getting Ready for College

Today and tomorrow I get to meet some of our new freshmen students. I enjoy this process (though I’m not a big fan of our unnecessarily complicated course registration system which we all have to use). The students here are really a key to making this such a fantastic job for me.

Last year, I wrote a post with “advice for new students”. I would mostly stress the same points again this year (you can reread the original post for more detail):

  1. Ask questions
  2. Focus on learning how to learn
  3. Learn skills, especially writing and quantitative reasoning
  4. Challenge yourself
  5. Get involved with university life, but not over-involved
  6. Consider study abroad
  7. Connect with students, staff and faculty

Wesleyan can really provide all of you with an incredible start to your adult lives and post-baccalaureate careers. So take advantage of this experience! It really is whatever you want to make of it.

For Teachers: What I’m Reading

I’ve been doing a little reading online to gear up for the new term.

  1. One of my favorite annual online visits is to the Beloit College Mindset List. They provide “a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.” As a professor of international relations and african politics, some favorites from the list are:
    • 32. Czechoslovakia has never existed.
    • 41. American companies have always done business in Vietnam.
    • 43. Russians and Americans have always been living together in space.
    • 64. The U.S, Canada, and Mexico have always agreed to trade freely.
    • 68. They have never worried about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.
  2. Profhacker has become a favorite web resource this past year. They have a great roundup of posts about getting ready for the new semester.
    • One of the articles mentioned raises a possible conundrum for those of us who are thinking about how to be successful teachers and get tenure. Daniel deVise, writing for the Washington Post, tells us that “highly rated professors are … overrated”. He cites a UC Davis-NBER-US Air Force Academy study (available as a PDF here) that found that professors rated highly by their students tended to give higher grades AND imparted less knowledge. Given that tenure at most liberal arts colleges is partly based on teaching evaluations, is this something we should worry about? I would definitely like to see more studies like this (this one may be limited by the fact that it focused only on teaching at the Air Force Academy).
  3. Also at the Chronicle of Higher Education, I was intrigued this summer by Adam Evans’ piece on non-western teaching strategies. Unfortunately, it was so brief that it mostly appeared to provide superficial stereotypes. But it did prompt me to think a bit about how I approach the classroom experience and whether my approach is truly “Western”.