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- So You Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities?
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Category Archives: Analytical Skills
Faculty members interested in teaching different approaches to professional and workplace writing are invited to a meeting at the CUNY Graduate Center to establish a cross-disciplinary, cross-campus forum or “faculty inquiry group” focused on the unique challenges and opportunities of this effort.
DATE: Friday, April 23, 2010
TIME: 12-30 pm – 2:30 pm (Lunch will be served)
LOCATION: CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
219 West 40th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues)
While there is ample evidence that students struggle with writing academic papers, many of us are also keenly aware of the special demands posed by workplace writing. Being able to complete workplace or professional documents usually requires knowledge of specific narrative conventions, formatting rules, and reasoning sequences-often taken-for-granted in various fields. In order to enter this very competitive job market, our new graduates are expected to hit the ground running and be competent in these writing styles. Emerging work on pedagogies of professional writing is laying some of the groundwork for addressing this gap in academic and career preparation. We hope that by bringing together faculty from a range of professional and academic fields, we can create a collaborative forum for sharing teaching approaches and piloting and identifying best practices to help students master these critical skills.
This effort is being led by Bonnie Oglensky, Associate Professor in the Social Work Program at York College. She has collaborated with colleagues on an approach to psychosocial assessment writing in social work called “Writing in the Field.” If you have questions about the upcoming meeting and the creation of this forum Bonnie can be reached by phone, 718-262-2612, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
When students are having trouble, I often suggest that they come to work with me one-on-one so that we can figure out where they are going wrong and fix it. We go through an example of a basic and core problem, such as a simple supply and demand problem in economics. I ask them to explain things to me step-by-step so that I can see at what point the difficulty or mistake occurs. When we get to a point where they don’t know how to answer a question or where they have a misunderstanding, I jump in and explain. Then we do another example—or several more—so that they have a chance to do it themselves. Students usually find where their misunderstanding, or missing understanding, is.
Some students feel upset at being “put on the spot,” and some just avoid coming in to do this. I know that it is important that students don’t think that they are innately stupid and can’t learn. And I worry that highlighting their lack of understanding can undermine students’ confidence. But this method of finding out what students don’t know is generally very effective. Afterwards, they frequently enjoy a major leap in performance and understanding.
One student response, however, undermines the process and raises a red flag: “I understood that” right after saying something that showed not understanding. If you don’t realize that you don’t understand something then you can’t fix it. In my experience, such a response indicates a student who is unlikely to learn and improve either from our interaction or in other settings. Over the years, I have come to repeat things like: “Knowing what you don’t know is the key to learning”; “In economics (research methods, etc.) many problems are hard, and I often don’t understand them at first. It takes work. You need to be comfortable with not understanding things. Not understanding doesn’t mean anything is wrong, just that you need to work at it.”
But these are things that I say primarily in my office with individual students and only rarely to the class as a whole. Even when I speak to the class as a whole, I don’t really offer concrete methods for helping a student who does not recognize what they don’t understand to gain that recognition. I would like to have a more systematic way to help in this process.
Therefore, I read with interest an account of a CUNY project on self-regulated learning, described recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education here . The article describes how in a basic math course at City Tech, “when students make errors, they need to be coached to reflect on exactly where they went wrong…students are required to rework at least two of their incorrect quiz problems…[and] write a sentence or two about the correct strategy.”
What do other instructors think? How do you respond to students who don’t recognize when they don’t know or understand something?
Should all undergraduate business students study spreadsheet-based modeling?
For the past two years I’ve been thinking about this question, first as a member of the Provost’s Task Force for Quantitative Pedagogy, and now as a member of two follow-up efforts (the Weissman School’s “implementation committee” and the Zicklin School’s “quant group”). If you’ll bear with me, I’d like to share some of what I am hearing.
First, I asked young alumni as well as hiring managers who recruit Baruch’s BBA graduates.
They told me that to compete for the best entry-level professional positions, one needs spreadsheet fluency (some said that PowerPoint presentation skills and Access database skills are key too). And once on the job, according to Accountancy’s Harry Davis, young Excel and Access database “whiz kids” are receiving promotions earlier, especially at smaller firms where such skills are invaluable. Just yesterday someone told me that she perceives a double standard on Wall Street: all else being equal, Ivy League entry-level job candidates can say, “sure, I can learn MS-Excel visual basic macros” whereas a Baruch candidate would probably receive additional scrutiny over such statements.
Next, I surveyed our undergraduate BBA students (i.e., my MGT 3121 students.)
Students tell me that they want stand-alone courses in Excel modeling and they want Excel deeply embedded in business courses where it makes sense. I’ve heard this so many times that it motivated this article for my professional society’s monthly magazine.
Next, I asked Patricia Imbimbo and C. May Reilly at Baruch’s STARR Career Development Center.
They tell me that the need for spreadsheet and modeling skills are so great that they developed their own training program. The two-dozen or so students who qualify for the Financial Leadership Program (FLP; formerly called Wall Street Careers) receive three half-day Excel workshops on shortcuts, pivot tables, if statements, solver, vlookups and visual basic macro programming. In addition, Training the Street gives FLP participants additional modeling instruction. If our most promising graduates need such training, what does this say about the other 2000 BBAs who expect to graduate this year?