Cross Talk: Social Science Edition

Political Science/International Relations emphasis!

~9 Questions about Syria: Prepare for intervention talk; with a handy, fascinating chart about the Middle East; also, here is a look at two sides of the American debate.

~Gender Bias in Political Science: the political turns out to be personal after all!

~The New Power Map: In January I read a book my Dad gave me called, The Revenge of Geography; been fascinated by the geographical influence on geopolitics ever since.

~Geopolitical Insecurities and Territorial Grievances in East Asia: Not convinced geography matters? Check this one out.

Social Science and David Brooks

David Brooks has written another column on Social Science research of all sorts, to go along with his new book, The Social Animal.

I like these columns of his and like to read the research, so I was mildly interested in his book and thinking about getting it until I read reviews of it by a scientist and by a philosopher. They were, shall we say, less than delighted with his work, which is good because I have a shelf full of books already…

Social Science Is Fun!

It’s true, and the New York Times’ David Brooks provides the evidence!

Check it out:

Every day, hundreds of thousands of scholars study human behavior. Every day, a few of their studies are bundled and distributed via e-mail by Kevin Lewis, who covers the social sciences for The Boston Globe and National Affairs. And every day, I file away these studies because I find them bizarrely interesting.

He then goes on to provide a series of summaries of recent research findings, some of which you might have seen, some of which you haven’t–most of which might be interesting fodder for thinking about your teaching and classes.

Some examples:

Classic research has suggested that the more people doubt their own beliefs the more, paradoxically, they are inclined to proselytize in favor of them. David Gal and Derek Rucker published a study in Psychological Science in which they presented some research subjects with evidence that undermined their core convictions. The subjects who were forced to confront the counterevidence went on to more forcefully advocate their original beliefs, thus confirming the earlier findings.

Or this one:

People remember information that is hard to master. In a study for Cognition, Connor Diemand-Yauman, Daniel Oppenheimer and Erikka Vaughan found that information in hard-to-read fonts was better remembered than information transmitted in easier fonts.

There are more, too. Have fun with them (and think about signing up for the Kevin Lewis email mentioned at the top of the column–sounds like great stuff).



End of Assessment Week

Thanks to everyone who made Assessment Week so successful. Upwards of 800 students took the Social Science Assessment, designed by HWC faculty, and with lots of help from committee members and computer lab staff and volunteering faculty and willing, volunteer students and the tremendous leadership (and sacrifice) of Michael Heathfield (he practically lived in the computer lab this week), this semester’s Assessment Week was a tremendous success.

And just in case you’re wondering what Assessment Week is all about and why it matters, I thought I’d throw this piece from the Chronicle out to you.

UMBC specializes in the task that every parent, pundit, and lawmaker in America most wants universities to accomplish: teaching young people to become great scientists and engineers. It may already be better at this than the Ivies and Research I universities that everyone knows.

But without reliable, public assessment information to prove that to the world, UMBC has few ways of elevating its standing to a level that matches the quality of its academic work. Right now, universities’ reputations rest on wealth, fame, and selectivity. UMBC can’t hit up rich alumni for giant donations because it hasn’t existed long enough for many of its alumni to get rich. Starting a big-time sports program is a bad bet, as the scandal-plagued basketball program at Binghamton University, a fellow America East Conference member, shows. If UMBC becomes too selective, it risks sacrificing diversity and its obligations as a public institution. And it will be hard for whoever follows Hrabowski to match his particular talents.

Without a good measuring stick, great public universities can’t prove their greatness.

Thanks to all who contributed toward our efforts to both improve student learning and measure our success at helping students learn.