Blackboard Sessions

Faculty Book Club: A continuation of What the Best College Teachers Do

Watch for more sessions to be planned for after Spring Break.

Faculty who did not attend the Fall Book Group are welcome to join the Spring Book Group. Register by Monday, February 18 to receive the book.

What makes a great teacher great? Who are the professors students remember long after graduation? The short answer is—it’s not what teachers do, it’s what they understand. Lesson plans and lecture notes matter less than the special way teachers comprehend the subject and value human learning. The best teachers know their subjects inside and out—but they also know how to engage and challenge students and to provoke impassioned responses. Most of all, they believe two things fervently: that teaching matters and that students can learn. In stories both humorous and touching, Ken Bain describes examples of ingenuity and compassion, of students’ discoveries of new ideas and the depth of their own potential. What the Best College Teachers Do is a treasure trove of insight and inspiration for first-year teachers and seasoned educators alike.

Concordia Faculty Seminar with Mark Looker and Michael Kalmes
27 Degrees of Separation: Social Network Analysis and Literary Texts

Wednesday April 10, 4:00 - 5:00 in Krieger 107

Registration link

Our project adapts UCINET, a software program for doing advanced social network research, to explore what it might reveal or highlight about the relationships of characters in novels through the lenses of such categories as family, race, gender, social status, and geographical location. The resulting data, once entered into UCINET and pushed through a related program called NETDRAW, provides a unique way to sort out, compare, and visualize social relationships of various kinds in fairly dramatic fashion.

As we began to see the range of possibilities in adapting UCINET to the analysis of literary texts, it struck us that a) the modifications that we had made to the software might be used with any kind of text, and b) a simplified version of the process could be adapted for use in the classroom as an additional pedagogical tool. In fact, just the process of creating the Excel files—asking students which attributes (e.g., gender, age, race, centrality, and the like) are important to a novel and why, which relationships in a novel are most intense and why, etc., before entering them into an Excel sheet—can stimulate classroom discussion and debate (as borne out by trial runs in two courses during spring 2018 and spring 2019). One of the things we’ve noticed is that such analysis can make readers more sensitive to various kinds of diversity, encouraging them to think about texts in a way that reveals hitherto unlooked for patterns and trends and raises unexpected questions. Given the importance of visual learning in today’s educational environment, the resulting ability to visualize the generated data and make hypotheses about a novel based on that could be a powerful pedagogical tool in middle and secondary English classrooms as well as university-level (with the bonus that a basic version of UCINET is available for free).

Concordia Faculty Seminars are informal interactive presentations and conversations on faculty projects including grants, research, and service designed to promote scholarship, spark new ideas, provide opportunities for meaningful discussion, and increase collaboration.