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Inside the global teaching machine

MOOCs, academic labour and the future of the university

Michael A. Peters

Abstract

This special issue focused on ‘Digital Media and Contested Visions of Education’ provides an opportunity to examine the tendency to hypothesise a rupture in the history of the university. It does so by contrasting the traditional Humboldtian ideals of the university with a neoliberal marketised version and in order to ask questions concerning evaluations of the quality of higher education within a knowledge economy. Theorising the rupture has led to a variety of different accounts most of which start from an approach in political economy and differ according to how theorists picture this change in capitalism. Roughly speaking the question of whether to see the political economy of using social media in higher education from a state perspective or a network perspective is a critical issue. A state-centric approach is predisposed towards a reading that is based on a critical realist approach of Marxist political economy (). By contrast an approach that decentres the state and focuses on global networked finance capitalism ironically grows out of a military-university research network created by the U.S. government. Arguably, networks, not states, now constitute the organising global structure () and while state-centric theory with hierarchical structures are still significant, relational, self-organising and flexible market networks have become the new unit of analysis for understanding the circuits of global capital (; ). However, states still have a role to play in norming the networks or providing the governing framework in international law.

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Introduction

Digital Media and Contested Visions of Education

Wesley Shumar and Susan Wright

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Liminal spaces, resources and networks

Facebook as a shaping force for students’ transitions into higher education

Sally Baker and Eve Stirling

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As technological developments accelerate, and neoliberal ideologies shift the ways that universities ‘do business’, higher education is facing radical changes. Within this context, students’ need to ‘succeed’ at university is more important than ever. Consequently, understanding students’ transitions within this shifting higher education landscape has become a key focus for universities. It is now pertinent to explore how social-networking sites (SNS) influence students’ experiences as they transition into university. In this article, we offer two ethnographic case studies of how students use one SNS (Facebook) as they travel through their first year of undergraduate study. We suggest that Facebook is used not only for dynamic participation in the social fabric of university life, Facebook is the go-to space to organise their academic and social lives, using it as a hybrid space to negotiate between home and university. As such, Facebook offers student-users a ‘liminal tool’ for negotiating and facilitating resources and networks within the first year at university.

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Alienating students

Marxist theory in action

Megan Thiele, Yung-Yi Diana Pan, and Devin Molina

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Karl Marx’s revolutionary call, ‘Workers of the World Unite’, resonates with many in today’s society. This article describes and assesses an easily reproducible classroom activity that simulates both alienating, and perhaps more importantly, non-alienating states of production as described by Marx. This hands-on learning activity gives students the opportunity to experience and process these divergent states. In reflecting, students connect their classroom experience to societal forces surrounding wage labour. A quasi-experimental design implemented across eight sociology classes at two U.S. university campuses – one two-year and one four-year college – points to the effectiveness of the activity. Evidence suggests that students are better able to grasp Marx’s theory of alienation, retain the knowledge over time and apply it to their own lives with this experiential learning activity.

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Assessment rubrics

Thinking inside the boxes

Cary Bennett

Abstract

Assessment rubrics are being promoted and introduced into tertiary teaching practices on the grounds that they are an efficient and reliable tool to evaluate student performance effectively and promote student learning. However, there has been little discussion on the value of using assessment rubrics in higher education. Rather, they are being gradually and (seemingly) uncritically mainstreamed into tertiary teaching expectations and practices, often through professional development workshops. This article investigates the pedagogic value and validity of criteria-based assessment rubrics and the instrumental rationality and goals informing them. Drawing on a small body of criticism, the article explores an emerging discourse that contends that assessment rubrics are not capable of measuring and evaluating complex thinking skills. Rather, they limit the independent responses of students and the professional judgement of markers, encourage compliance jeopardising student commitment and creativity, and promote a false sense of objectivity in the marking and grading of student work.

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Sintayehu Kassaye Alemu

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Penny Welch and Susan Wright

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From steward to leader

A decade of shifting roles for the PhD student

Corina Balaban

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Making the best of an inappropriate textbook

Using an ‘international edition’ to teach critical thinking and intercultural understanding

Kristina C. Marcellus

Abstract

In this report, I outline and provide examples of an approach to using an international edition of an introductory sociology textbook to facilitate cross-cultural learning and critical thinking skills in an EFL (English as a foreign language) environment at a small engineering university in the United Arab Emirates.

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Naïve scientists and conflict analysis

Learning through case studies

R. William Ayres

Abstract

Much of our teaching about conflict relies on theoretical ideas and models that are delivered as finished products. This article explores the supposition that what students need is not already-formed theoretical ideas, but exposure to more real-world cases of conflict from which to build theory. The article presents an experiment in pedagogy: teaching a conflict resolution class using only case studies. This approach was expected to have two benefits: better understanding of the underlying concepts and a significant contribution to students’ knowledge about the world. The case-only approach appears to be at least as good as the theory-based version of the class, with some significant side benefits beyond comprehension of the material.