Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Research Skills of Administrators

The Research Skills of Administrators

By Professor Doom

Statistical Analyses

--From the course syllabus. Two letter grades for this course is based on the student’s understanding of statistical analysis. Gosh, that sounds it’ll be a lot of work.

     Administration’s gross salaries are justified, in part, because they have advanced degrees, just like faculty (curiously, administrators see no problem with offering degreed faculty minimal salaries whenever possible). Having seen so many administrators that, clearly, have no understanding or appreciation of anything in higher education, yet have advanced research degrees, I took an advanced, 8000 level, research, administration course, the most challenging course an administrator will need before writing his dissertation and getting his doctorate.

     And, so far, the course has been a total joke. The textbook is very basic, there are no tests, the papers are laid very simply (even if I decided not to just hire a writer to do it all for me for a few hundred bucks). Nothing so far is on the level of a first year college course, though certainly much of it could pass as remedial.

3.6.1 The institution’s post-baccalaureate professional degree programs,

master’s and doctoral degree programs, are progressively more

advanced in academic content than its undergraduate programs.

--from SACS’ Principles of Accreditation, though all accrediting bodies have similar language regarding graduate programs. This is one of the very few lines in accreditation that are even remotely related to education, albeit “more advanced” is certainly a matter of opinion.

     Because of what I know about accreditation, I fully expected this course to be more challenging than the undergraduate statistics courses I’ve taught many a time. I had no reason to believe it would match a “real” graduate level statistics course…but still, I thought the coursework would require some effort.

      So it must be time to look at the coursework:

  • Descriptive Statistics, Problem #1.
  • Crosstabulation and Chi-Square Analyses #1.
  • T Tests #1, 2, and 3.

--The third assignment comes from the SPSS manual, for 20% of student grade. While a tiny assignment, one might think there’s some validity to it since here the answers could possibly be wrong, unlike the papers where there’s very little to go wrong.

     So, five questions are all a doctoral student in administration need answer to be qualified to make judgments about research that will influences millions of dollars’ worth of student tuition. They’d best be complicated, then. Let’s go over them.    

     The Descriptive Statistics problem is to read output from a collection of data and analyze if the data is reasonably normally distributed; this is a trivial process. While this topic isn’t in every undergraduate introductory statistics course, all that need be done is identify if some values are between -1 and +1, eliminating data that doesn’t fit this description…hardly difficult, and often ignored in undergraduate courses because it’s so trivial to do with software (but not so easy a task to calculate the numbers by hand).Seriously, the question is to use the SPSS software to do a single problem, and hope the administrator can look at a number and determine if a number is larger than 1, or less than -1.

     The chi-squared test is also something that you don’t see much in undergraduate statistics courses…but mindlessly simple with the software, once again figuring out if a number is too big, or too small.

     The final questions, at least, cover something in every undergraduate statistics course: hypothesis tests. My undergraduate students in my statistics course perform dozens of t-tests; in my course, they use a pocket calculator, but similar courses at other institutions often use software that performs the tests. At the undergraduate level, students need to demonstrate they can perform a T-test in-class on a test, showing that they understand hypotheses and p-values, and that they truly understand what it means to accept or reject a hypothesis in a t-test. T-tests are a critical and very common form of statistical procedure, nearly every statistical result that makes the news uses some form of T-test. This is a concept of critical importance to a researcher, and yet no examination in this graduate course verifies that the students understand, or even have a marginal familiarity with, the underlying concepts. Instead, the students get to do a tiny handful of problems, not even 10% of what undergraduate students must do…and the doctoral students don’t even have to demonstrate they even understand what they’re doing beyond pressing buttons on a machine and hoping the right answers come out.

     Still, unlike the Freshman-level (i.e., not even sophomoric) papers, it’s possible to get the problems wrong, somehow managing even this limp amount of work. Oh wait, my bad, no student can get these problems wrong.

     The complete answers to all problems in the book are provided online by the publisher. The book directs the student where to go to get the answers. Any student that invests five minutes into it can just get the answers online, and submit those. From the syllabus, that five minutes of effort is 20% of the grade for the course. The answers are presented so that a student without the software can still provide them.

     And now I know why my Ph.D. administrators don’t have a clue about what goes on in my undergraduate courses. For them, “challenge” means “take five minutes to look up the answer.” I’ve taught and tutored for at least half a dozen different graduate and undergraduate courses that use statistics; not a single assignment in any of them is as flaccid as this.

     The SPSS software, by the way, is very good, able to take vast amounts of data and perform a wide variety of analysis on it quickly and with little effort. It’s a very useful tool, although students in this course don’t actually buy it (assuming they get it at all), they rent the license for six months. Considering students get no opportunity to learn the underlying ideas, get no real training, and won’t even exit the course owning the software that they (might) learn how to use here, it’s puzzling what the benefits are to this course.

Project Name: Writer needed fo an important exam assignment
Project Description:
Hi, I have an exam that's due April 21 regard leadership management. Take a look 
at it please and tell me how much would you charge me for it please. Thanks
Your exam should be indeed sent before the due day/time. Your typewritten 
responses should be a maximum of one page FOR EACH QUESTION, and a minimum of 3 
paragraphs long FOR EACH QUESTION (3 sentences = a paragraph). Please note this is not a group exam, this is an individual exam… 

--Student in an online administration course (“Leadership Management”) looking to hire some “help.” At least the exam is not a group project…

     At the advanced graduate level, administration students learning how to use research methods need only answer three T-test questions…and the answers are provided. No interpretation of the results, the actual relevant part of statistics, occurs. Students in this course need not demonstrate in any way that they know something about the statistical tests, assuming they don’t just hire someone else to do it all for them. No wonder administrators and educationists keep on using terrible statistics to advance their schemes.

     To judge by the numbering of 8000 level, Educational Research Methods is one of the most advanced courses, if not the most advanced, in the curriculum. The primary assignments for this terminal course are simple papers demonstrating not actual research, but the ability to read and follow basic instructions from a book, and answer a handful of basic statistics questions that are undergraduate level in difficulty, or would be if the answers weren’t specifically provided.

      The writers for hire site I’m registered with isn’t for paper-writing (more of a business writing site) but I’ve included a few examples above of “clients seeking writers” that are quite obviously students looking to hire writers, and are often graduate students hiring writers, especially in online courses. The website I’m with gets a relative few such students, as there are several sites dedicated to writing papers for students, on demand, quickly, that attract most of the students willing to pay for “help,” and my site is for professional, legitimate freelance writers.

     Even if the material and difficulty of this course were not trivial, there’s no reason whatsoever not to expect a fairly significant proportion of the students are cheating by hiring someone else to write the papers, basic as they are (I’ll leave it to the reader to decide if it’s cheating to use the answers to the statistics problems that are provided online).  In any event, this is an example of what I’m told is the most challenging course in the curriculum. Two short papers, five quick problems (answers provided).

     The threat from the Education course I took earlier, about online courses requiring 50 page papers seems pretty silly now, no more a threat than the boogeyman.

     Should so much of tuition go to support a caste of administrators that know basically nothing about education? That’s a loaded question, of course, but I’ll be looking at tuition soon so the reader can judge for himself if, indeed, the rising costs of tuition are somehow related to the rising administrative salaries. But should education be ruled by people with no education?

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