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Forum on Public Policy Online

Vol 2011 no3 (Posted November 2011)


Global Insecurity || Higher Education || Religion, Ethics and Values || Women's Issues

Higher Education


Methodologies for Motivating Student Learning Through Personal Connections
Craig E. Abrahamson, Professor of Psychology, James Madison University

This paper focuses on the premise that within the instruction process of higher education, the classroom context needs to create an atmosphere of motivational learning that is founded in part on a relationship between the students and professor that is formatted on the concept of mutual sharing of personal experiences, values, beliefs, and obviously course content.  This process needs to begin with the instructor getting to know each student, even in large classes with more than 100 students. Through these personal connections, the content can become personally meaningful for the students.  Over the past 35 years I have continued to develop and refine guidelines to facilitate this process of creating a significant connection between myself and students, students within and between themselves for each course that I teach.  This paper will illustrate these essential and specific techniques, demonstrate methods in helping students to conceptualize course content within this methodology.

Disillusionment with Higher Education In the Middle East and the United States
Judith A. Cochran, Professor, University of Missouri–St. Louis

University graduates in the Middle East and the United States of America are disillusioned with their higher education degrees. Youth expect to be well employed upon graduation and to improve their social status. Employment has been guaranteed from the earliest university certificates granted in Middle Eastern yeshivas, Houses of Learning, and universities. Their graduates were employed as rabbis, ulemas and judges. Likewise, the earliest universities in the United States were affiliated with religious orders to educate the elite in legal, religious and military knowledge. Although employment was not guaranteed in the United States, it was not difficult to obtain if one had the very prestigious university degree.
Today, employment can no longer be guaranteed in the Middle East, initiating years of waiting for university graduates in order to obtain a low-paying but secure position in the military or as a government employee. While the guarantee remains, the governments of Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt can no longer pay the thousands of graduates who lack the skills to enter the private sector marketplace. Only the government will hire them. The social and political mandates of providing education to all youth has overcrowded existing facilities and overwhelmed professors. In the United States, the recession that began in 2008 has exacerbated unemployment or underemployment of recent graduates. Unlike Middle Eastern university students whose education is free through the doctorate, Americans’ educational expenses leave them thousands of dollars in debt, which they must begin to repay upon graduation. Universities are beginning to implement reforms to address the disconnect for university graduates between their university education and the marketplace requirements in the United States and throughout the Middle East.



High School Graduation Rates of Potential First Generation College Students:  A Qualitative Case Study
Jacqueline O. Dansby and Gloria Dansby-Giles

Educational reform in the United States has focused on several factors such as academic achievement, performance on standardized test scores, dropout rates, the mandate of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 (Dee and Jacob, 2010) and other changes. A new call for a broader and bolder strategy for educational reform that focused on enrichment programs, workshops for parents and school health services was issued by Steen and Noguera, 2010. They also encouraged school counselors to seek out and connect with programs in the community that offered enrichment activities outside of school hours. 
Given the importance of out of school enrichment programs, this presentation explores the experiences, practices and perceptions of first generation college students that enhanced their desire to remain in school and graduate.  In addition, it will examine the influence of academic factors and practices as well as extracurricular experiences and participation in Upward Bound, a special enrichment program, on their graduation rate.

Critical Concerns for Oral Communication Education in the United States and the United Kingdom
Richard Emanuel, Professor of Communication, Alabama State University

An examination of oral communication education in the U.S. and U.K. identified four critical concerns:
1. Today’s college students are not getting adequate oral communication education.
2. Oral communication education is being relegated to a “module” in another discipline-specific course.
3. When an oral communication course is included in the general education curriculum, that course tends to be narrow rather than broad in scope.
4. An increasing number of college faculty who teach oral communication courses do not have a graduate degree in the discipline.
Solutions to each concern are offered and suggestions are provided about how decision-making bodies can address these concerns. 
This article first examines the essential role of oral communication before identifying four critical concerns and offering suggested solutions for oral communication education in the United States (US) and, to some extent, the United Kingdom (UK).  These concerns may be indicative of similar issues affecting oral communication regionally, nationally and even internationally.  If so, then the suggested solutions offered herein may provide direction.  If not, then being proactive rather than reactive may prevent some or all of these concerns from becoming reality.


Exporting English Pronunciation from China: The Communication Needs of Young Chinese Scientists as Teachers in Higher Education Abroad
Greta Gorsuch, Professor, Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures, Texas Tech University

China has become an exporter of material goods to the world, particularly to the United States. It is time for the exploration of a mutually beneficial relationship in a strikingly different realm, that of human capital in higher education and its contributions to the quality of university teaching. To faculty members and students at U.S. universities the human face of this relationship is Chinese international teaching assistants (ITAs) who are graduate students in science and math, and who are also being supported as teachers of basic undergraduate courses within their academic disciplines. Chinese ITAs are the largest single group of international graduate students, and they make American undergraduate education possible in chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, business, and computer science. The quality of the performance of native English speaking and non-native English speaking TAs has an impact on the learning of U.S. undergraduates, and while many in American universities praise Chinese ITAs' high levels of knowledge within their areas of study, less praiseworthy are their English communication skills. For a variety of reasons many young Chinese scholars arrive in the U.S. not able to function as content teachers who have to operate in English, and a salient feature of this inability to use English to communicate is Chinese ITAs' lack of experience with suprasegmental aspects of English pronunciation such as Discourse Intonation (DI), which is used to emphasize and differentiate ideas, begin and end topics, and express social relationships in spoken utterances. Yet English as a Foreign Language education (EFL) in China does not deal with suprasegmental aspects of English pronunciation, nor really with spoken intelligibility at all.
            This proposal describes an initial step in a three-year agenda for improving the current exchange of human capital and knowledge in higher education between China and the U.S., and, ostensibly, other countries in which young Chinese scientists seek advanced degrees, and in which English is the medium of instruction and communication. In essence, greater mutual communication and curricular exchange between American and Chinese institutions of higher education is needed. There needs to be a shift in who Chinese universities see as stakeholders for their EFL program outcomes. One possible mechanism would be a mutually developed course, "Using English to Teach Labs and Classes in U.S. Universities," to be developed and taught in China to late-career undergraduates who intend to pursue graduate study in the U.S. Two established research and science institutions will be focused on, one in the U.S. and one in China. As the initial step, one ITA educator and materials development specialist from the U.S. university will visit the Chinese university for a five month period. This report creates a context and outlines the agenda for this working visit, and for the development of the course.


Bildung in a New Context in Danish University Teaching with some Remarkable Results
Mogens Noergaard Olesen, Associate Professor, Department Of Economics, University Of Copenhagen

In this paper we will look at the pedagogical and didactic concept of Bildung and how Bildung has been used as an important ingredient of European university teaching during the last 200 years. We will also shortly look at the modern university teaching where Bildung in some important respects has been abandoned and even abolished. This, however, has had many bad consequences such as higher rates of failure. In particular, these bad consequences have been seen very clearly at The Department of Economics of The University of Copenhagen. A reorganization of the teaching of mathematics at this department began during the autumn term of 2007 where some elements of Bildung in a new modern context were included in the lectures. This had a remarkable impact. The students became more interested in the teaching of mathematics and they became more engaged and active. Their study activity improved and the rate of failure began dropping. From 2010 the classes of mathematics were also dramatically reorganized such that Bildung and study techniques were integrated elements of the class teaching. How this was practically done will be the main focus of this paper and it will be shown that Bildung is  central and important if we want to develop university teaching to such a level that the enlightenment of the academic world can continue. Furthermore it will be shown that this new way of teaching mathematics at The Department of Economics has had a substantial impact, dropping the rate of failure of the summer exams of mathematics in June 2011 to its lowest level hitherto and also improving the marks of mathematics generally.


A Longitudinal Study of School Districts’ Sustained Improvement
Pauline M. Sampson, Associate Professor, Stephen F. Austin State University

In this longitudinal study of one region in the state of Texas, there was an examination of district leadership and the sustaining of high student achievement for their districts. The results of this study suggest that sustained improvement of student achievement is very difficult. The districts that had sustained improvement had stable district leadership as well as stable campus leadership.  Further, some practices were common among the high achieving school districts.  District leaders provided strong use of the data and a clear focus on pushing for excellence.  The district leaders also encouraged a variety of ways to make the gains, but all ways were closely monitored. 

Are College Rankings An Indicator of Quality Education?
William Schmidt, Nathan Burroughs, Lee Cogan, and Richard Houang

A handful of colleges and universities sit as the uncrowned princes of the U.S. system of higher education. With enormous endowments, renowned faculty, and international prestige, there is no question that a comparative handful of institutions—most of them private—stand above the rest. These colleges are highly selective, such as the prestigious Ivy League schools, which have an average acceptance rate of under ten percent. They attract of preponderance of the highest-achieving high school graduates, as evidenced by the average SAT scores of incoming freshman (Hoxby 2009). And, as many of the top schools are private, they tend to be much more expensive to attend: the total charges (including tuition and fees) for in-state four year public colleges in 2010 was $16,000 per year, less than half of that of private non-profits at $37,000 (Baum and Ma 2010).



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