Friday, August 31, 2007


Warning: spoilers for the novel, don't read this if you intend to read the novel Overshoot by Mona Clee!

I just re-read this book, and wonder if her idea of an "empathy" gene which mutated and got passed along to most of the population as damaged, could be close to the truth. Why are there only a minority of people who look for and understand the point of the view of others? Why do there seem to be so many people who can do harm to others without seeming to care or understand? And her idea about finding the gene through mapping, repairing it, and then spreading it to the world's population via a cold-like virus...marvelous as long as it was for good but scary since it could so easily be used for evil!

So what does it mean to be obedient? To listen for that still, small voice, to discern the message, to act on that knowledge? If we could only agree on what is "good," or when that voice truly comes from God and the message is meant to be acted upon, and our interpretation valid. If only we were more able to listen openly to those with whom we regularly disagree and take their viewpoints into consideration...REALLY take them into our hearts for discernment!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Joy and Responsibility of Teaching Well

This morning I attended our Pew Faculty Teaching & Learning Center’s annual Teaching Conference, at which the keynote speaker was Dr. L. Dee Fink, who spoke on “The Joy and Responsibility of Teaching Well.” Here are my notes.

Colleges should be ranked on: meaningful general education, good pedagogical practices, high student engagement, and quality learning.

Joy comes from the things that are important to us, and from the feeling that we did them well.

Is what we’re doing as college teachers important?

  • the new world economy is highly knowledge-intensive—we have to keep learning or we fall behind.
  • the global problems get worse unless our students (or graduates) work on solving them.

How well are we doing in higher education?

  • employers say that our graduates can’t solve problems, work with diverse co-workers, or work collaboratively in small groups
  • the National Study of Adult Literacy reports that 2/3 of college graduates are functionally illiterate
  • data from the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) can be interpreted to mean that seniors are not reading, analyzing, interpreting, or applying information in their class assignments
  • “Declining by Degrees” –students don’t learn how to engage in critical thinking
  • Derek Bok says in “Our Underachieving Colleges” that students are not learning and that there is a lack of overarching purpose in undergraduate curricula.

What can we do? Re-examine:

  • what we teach
  • how we teach
  • how we gear up to teach
  • who we are as teachers (see Parker Palmer’s work)

What we teach:

· what we want students to learn is not just knowledge about the discipline

· significant learning comes from a combination of foundational knowledge, application, integration, human dimension (working with others and knowing oneself), caring (new interest, feelings, and values), and learning how to learn.

· Liberal Education – America’s Promise (LEAP)’s Essential Learning Outcomes—engage the big questions in addition to the above combination

How we teach: course design includes learning goals, teaching & learning activities, feedback & assessment

· is there significant learning? active learning? educative assessment (reflective and forward-looking=how will you apply this knowledge?) [we librarians should use minute papers to ask not only what students learned as the most important point in library instruction sessions and what they still have questions about, but also to ask how they will apply their new knowledge to future research]

· criteria & standards=rubrics [we library faculty should work with classroom faculty to encourage them to design rubrics which address the quality of resources students include in their papers and how well students integrate those resources]

· teaching strategy=combination of activities, in a sequence that matters

o readiness test (have they read the material?)=individual, then immediately following the same test in small groups

o application problems=small groups

o exam on content and application

o culminating project

o all of this leads not just to “exposure” to the material but also to understandings, the ability to use the content, and to valuing the content

· President Haas said that faculty are “professional educators”

· all professionals value their own professional development very seriously—

o learn

o use

o assess

o share with colleagues

o reflect

o repeat

o how much time should faculty spend on learning about teaching & learning? Airline reservations employees spent at least 4 hours/month (48 hours/year) in professional development to learn new skills & about changes in the industry

o our job as professional educators is to:

§ be human alchemists

§ change the ordinary into the special (i.e.,—transforming students into confident, capable, caring people

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Same-sex Marriage, Wedding, Wife

As I've been reading about Friends at New England Yearly Meeting grappling with LGBT issues regarding FUM's sexual ethics personnel policy, I am moved to share my joy in our monthly meeting's support, acceptance, and engagement with the lesbian and gay members and attenders. A & I were married 4 weeks & 2 days ago "under the care of the Meeting," "in the manner of Friends," the whole nine yards.... It is marvelous, wonderful, amazing to be taken for granted. To follow a process already in place. To use the same words (marriage, wedding, wife) that other people use. We had some variations, to be sure: our "best girls" ran the show unobtrusively and our overseers read a passage about same-sex marriage as they explained the Quaker process to those unfamiliar with Friends' weddings. I was most moved by the verbal ministry of one of A's aunts when she spoke about love and partnership and welcomed me to the family, because I had had an impression that she was not friendly to same-sex relationships. Yet she, too, was moved to take me/us for granted. Maybe Friends in FUM will be able to unite someday to take us for granted--so that we will no longer need to marvel, wonder, or be amazed.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Meeting space

This morning I dreamt about feeling that I have been missing the experience of Sabbath--I haven't been feeling particularly rested or connected to God and nature. Today I am going with A to meet some of her family-like friends in Chicago--I will try to be more deliberate about being mindful and aware, resting, being present, meeting each person, and that of God within them, graciously and gracefully.

Our Friends Meeting is also seeking a place to rest (or is it roost?). As happened last time, every possibility seems to be falling through, and probably the one which will work for us will come at the last moment, so I trust. At work, we senior faculty struggle to identify when to trust, and when to act decisively to lead. There is a lot that goes into finding a meeting place for our spiritual community; so too with creating a space in which to find common understanding with our junior colleagues who have more formal authority in our library organization but far less experience. We experience being broken open and re-formed again, as individuals and in community, inextricably part of forming relationship, be it with Spirit or each other. (Both/and, one of my colleagues/friends would remind me.) May this struggle give all of us a spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that, with the eyes of our heart enlightened, we may know what is the hope to which we are called (see Ephesians 1:17-19; thanks to Micah Bales in his July 8 post in The Lamb's War for reminding me of this passage and to look for connections). Hope, a constantly deliberate act of will.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Back to work; converging quakerism

It wasn't as difficult as I had thought it might be to return to work--there is plenty to do, and I am trying to figure out what to propose for a sabbatical project. I want to finish my book and get it published, but as it isn't about libraries, I'm not sure how my colleagues will respond to that. I'd like to study theology (Quaker theology specifically), or even Spanish, at the MA level--that could be tied into my being an Arts & Humanities librarian. Maybe I can make the case for the book in that it goes toward both scholarship and A&H--and may help me to understand my A&H colleagues' professional lives better, and help me to mentor my younger librarian colleagues in the scholarship & publishing aspects of their jobs.

P.S., why do I consider myself a "convergent" Quaker? Because, despite my liberal tendencies and membership in a FGC Meeting, I experienced a calling to study and worship with an evangelical-type Christian church in a very different and newer tradition than liberal Friends, which continually took me out of my comfort zone, and let me learn an enormous amount about the Bible. Because I visited an evangelical Friends meeting and felt the lack of connection between us. Because I believe in dialogue rather than dismissal, and understanding rather than merging.