Friday, August 26, 2005

Stealth Prof

There's a book coming out by an anonymous college professor who enrolled as an undergraduate to do undercover research on students' social lives, studying habits, and gossipiness:
The book [My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned] has been all the rage of the ivory tower set and is into its third printing despite not even being released yet. But it's also drawing criticism on ethical grounds, because the author's name was changed and it was printed by an institution of higher learning.

According to a draft copy of the book, obtained by the Sun, [the author] wrote that she used the pseudonym to protect the privacy of the students she interviewed.

In a posting to the Inside Higher Ed online magazine, she wrote:

"The purpose of this approach is not exposé; it's understanding and compassion."

[The author], after 15 years of teaching, wrote in her book that she had become increasingly confused by the conduct of students in her classroom, many of whom ate, slept, took no notes and refused offers of assistance.

Now the author has been outed as Northern Arizona University anthropology professor Cathy Small. Link. What she found comes as no surprise to this particular recent college student:
• Nearly two-thirds of what students learn comes outside the classroom in work, relationships and living situations.

• Students tend to make close friends in groups of five in relationships normally formed early in their freshmen years. But people don't necessarily bond for a larger purpose, such as supporting the Lumberjacks football or basketball teams.

• Although universities have preached diversity for decades, members of the same race almost exclusively hang out together, especially the Anglo students.

• Students exchange vast amounts of information on professors, and one of the keys in finding an instructor, in addition to easy grades, is finding someone who won't bore them in class.

• There's an abiding lack of curiosity among today's college students.

Link. I think what might have given the NAU prof's identity away was her incognito school's nickname: AnyU.

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