Post Academic

“Top Grad Student” moves on: Round 2, Curriculum Builder

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on July 15, 2010
Tags: , ,

Don’t know if you have the same feeling (probably not!), but watching “Top Chef “ last night got me itching to keep our summer virtual reality programming going.  To give y’all a brief update, English got the most votes (3) in Round 1, to no one’s surprise–not necessarily because lit-types are the best, but because they’re definitely our demographic here.  But there’s no immunity for the win, since it’s not like these grad students have tenure yet!  Surprisingly, History just squeaked through to the next round, getting the very last vote to be saved from the chopping block.

All this means that our Poli Sci contestant, for whatever reason, is the only one with zero supporters and has been voted off the island, to mix our reality show metaphors.  We really need to come up with a great elimination line like all the best reality shows have, which shouldn’t be too hard because getting bad news is such a part of the profession.  Post your suggestions in the comments section below!  How about this for now: “Poli Sci…[pause of dramatic tension]…your application has been…REJECTED!”

"Padma Lakshmi" by Arthur (Creative Commons license)

We’re gonna try to put a little more forethought into our absurd imaginary contest for Round 2, thanks to Mackie’s comment regarding Round 1.  I don’t know if we have a real goal or bias in eliciting responses and rounding up votes, though it might be interesting to find out what people think about different academic fields in a very limited way.  To get some semi-constructive info, we’ll set up some better, clearer parameters for each contest.

So Round 2 is going to be a team contest which I’m calling the “Curriculum Builder,” where we get our contestants from all the disciplines to work together to create a curriculum for some hypothetical freshmen.  Feel free to add your own mental picture of our contestants in some non-descript 1970s lecture hall as a bunch of frosh file in, with tense music in the background as our Padma-like host announces what our contestants have to do this time around.  The goal of the challenge is to test how well our contestants can construct a relevant intro- level course and how well folks from different fields can work together to achieve this goal.

Here are some guidelines for what you might keep in mind when you’re at your virtual “Judges Table.”  Criteria to think about would not only include classroom performance, but also intangible factors about co-existing in the academic workplace:

1. How much emphasis is put on teaching in any given discipline, particularly at a lower-division level?

2. Who could come up with an engaging, informative lesson plan at a moment’s notice?  Consider how well people from different fields can think on their feet, which is definitely part of the “Top Chef” experience!

3. Which contestant would work best with others?  You can think about who might be a good leader or administrator-type in putting together our imaginary curriculum.  On the flip side, you might also think about whether or not certain fields create greater numbers of prima donnas or contestants who might go into a shell and not play nicely with their colleagues.

OK, vote away!

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