Read On: One Teacher Educator’s Practice

As the school year gets underway, a teacher’s job makes the difference. Priscilla Nelson, associate professor of early childhood and elementary education, says reading instruction is linked to all other learning and models it in her classes at Gordon. She outlined her experience in an article for the summer 2012 Action in Teacher Education issue of the Journal of the Association of Teacher Educators. Below is the abstract for Nelson‘s article entitled, “Activating the Need to Know in Reading Instruction: One Teacher Educator’s Practice.”

Abstract: “This article examines one teacher educator’s teaching of reading methods at a university that was recognized for exemplary reading instruction. Data collected over the course of one semester indicated that she modeled the teaching of reading and served as a catalyst in activating preservice teachers’ need to know about how to teach reading by helping each one make a personal connection to the content through assignments, feedback, class sessions, and field assignments. This teacher educator’s practice can inform others who seek to establish closer and more productive links between coursework, fieldwork, and prospective teachers’ teaching.”

From the Provost: The Challenge of Creating Margins

Editor’s note: Gordon’s new provost Janel Curry offered the following thoughts and goals at the 2012-2013 faculty workshop:

The Challenge of Creating Margins

By Janel Curry, August 21, 2012

The frame for my comments today is “The Challenge of Creating Margins.”  But before I specifically define what I mean by margins—not marginal costs, and not being “on the margins”—I want to talk about living an academic life.

The phrase I use to best describe the Academic Life is this: It is the best of lives and the worst of lives. It allows for the development of a rich life, which integrates all aspects of our existence—service, intellectual thought, spiritual growth, and family life.

For instance, when I was traveling back from New Zealand with my daughters after a semester long sabbatical, one of them asked me, “Where are we going on our next sabbatical?” As a geographer who does cross cultural comparisons in research as well as teaches about other cultures, my work has involved travel, and often my daughters.  I have to admit that when they were young they complained about our spring break trips always being “educational.”  But we have become who we are as a family because of the cross-cultural experiences we shared together.  This is the rich benefit of the academic life.

But the nature of the rich integration of spheres of life that come with an academic career also lead to the challenge of balancing roles and tasks.  Your job is never done. I once had an 8-5 job and it was the only time in my life where I could leave it all behind at 5 and know I was finished.

In higher education, you have never done enough, read enough, prepared enough, written enough, know enough.  There is always more that you COULD do. So it is the best of lives and it is the worst of lives!

What’s more, there are numerous additional changes that add to the richness and the challenge of an academic life.  Pressures from outside have grown, leading to accountability for defined learning outcomes, external program reviews, greater competition for students and continual technological change. Students are engaged in inquiry-based learning—this is the most effective way of learning. But inquiry-based learning involves changes in pedagogy, and is often more time-intensive.

Obviously, Gordon has a goal of becoming a more diverse place. But our faculty then must take into account increasingly diverse student learning styles and backgrounds—it is no longer one size fits all. Our faculty carry out university-level research with undergraduates, but they do this alongside comparatively heavy teaching loads and a strong commitment to teaching.

In the past, people could tell what they had to do and whether it was complete, but presently we live in a fog of accumulating open-ended obligations with the boundary between personal and professional becoming even fuzzier, and a growing ambiguity between what is done and what remains undone (Fallows 2004, 171). I describe this as trying to walk forward while juggling, trying to decide which balls are worth keeping in the air, which in my back pocket, and which I should just let drop. 

Given all this, as well as the increasing challenges and changes in higher education, the Provost’s office theme for the year is:  Creating Margins. We want to construct institutional practices and curricula that build margins into our lives to aid student learning and to help us serve as models for students.

Richard Swenson’s book Margin provides the definition for what we are working toward: “Margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits. It’s something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. It’s the gap between rest and exhaustion, between breathing freely and suffocating.”

In light of this, I want to share with you five goals that the Provost’s office identified in our planning retreat: Continue reading

Summer Film Review: The Bourne Legacy—Fun, Pretty and Impossible

Editor’s note: This is the last of a series of stories exploring what Gordon professors were up to in between semesters, and alas, a symbol of the summer’s end—but with more film reviews to come in the fall. Communication arts professor and film critic, Rini Cobbey, takes a look at why the Bourne Legacy—the fourth film in the trilogy—is a wild and impossible ride:

Bourne Legacy: “I really have no idea what’s going on.”    

By Rini Cobbey, associate professor/chair of communication arts

I tried to explain the premise, as I understood it from previews, of The Bourne Legacy to my friend as we walked into the theatre to see the fourth movie in the Bourne trilogy. As far as I can tell, I was successful.

Jason Bourne was never really a real person, or at least not who he seemed to be, or Jason Bourne wasn’t his real name, and he had a lot of identities when played by Matt Damon in the first three films and in his role as a part of The Program, run by the U.S. government, or by corporations, or rogues, so it’s okay that there’s a new actor (Jeremy Renner) now in the same role, except it’s not the same role, but . . .

Wait, let me start over.

A few minutes into my viewing of the fun, action-packed, pretty-to-look-at, sometimes cleverly-scripted, but just as often cliché-ridden Bourne Legacy, I started to track dialogue that explicitly acknowledged the story is convoluted, but who cares? My notes include the line, “I really have no idea what’s going on,” in quotes – but I have no recollection of who said it, when, or why. Continue reading

Connecting to History: How a Social Work Professor Found a Hero

Social Work professor and author Jim Trent

While researching for another book, James W. Trent Jr., professor of social work and sociology, came across the story of a little-known Boston doctor, abolitionist and advocate for the disabled who lived from 1801–1876. His name was Samuel G. Howe.

Trent found in Howe “an unexpectedly progressive voice” because of his perspectives on integrating disabled people into the ordinary patterns of community life. He spent the next eight years scouring historical records at places like the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston (which Howe founded), Williams College, Brown University, the Massachusetts Historical Society, Harvard University, Boston Public Library, and the Maine Historical Society. In the process, Trent came across many letters—which some of the collections didn’t know they had—from luminaries such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Lyman Beecher, Daniel Webster and others.

The result is the first full-length biography of Howe in more than fifty years. Published this month by the University of Massachusetts Press, The Manliest Man: Samuel G. Howe and the Contours of Nineteenth Century American Reform explores Howe’s life through private letters and personal and public documents. Trent has been invited to speak on Howe to the Disability Studies Learning Community of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Mt. Holyoke, Smith, and Hampshire Colleges on October 13, 2012. On October 16, 2012, he will speak at the Perkins School for the Blind about the book.

“Howe embraced a notion of manliness that included heroism under fire but compassion for the oppressed,” Trent said.  “This research gave me the chance to explore a person who, though at the edges of the ‘American Renaissance,’ was an important agent of change and social progress during the period.”

Married to Julia Ward Howe, author of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Howe counted among his friends Senator Charles Sumner, public school advocate Horace Mann, and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, all of whom helped him become a lifelong champion of the underdog.  According to the publisher, Trent’s book “offers an original view of the reformer’s personal life, his association with social causes of his time, and his efforts to shape those causes in ways that allowed for the greater inclusion of devalued people in the mainstream of American life.”

Center for Balance, Mobility and Wellness Strengthens the Community . . . in More Ways than One

Sean Clark, far right, with a member and students at the Center for Balance, Mobility and Wellness.

What began ten years ago as a great idea to restore and maintain health for older adults has grown into an effective clinic that reaches the North Shore and merges scholarship with practice. Directed by Sean Clark, associate professor of kinesiology and chair of the department, the Center for Balance,Mobility and Wellness is located adjacent to Gordon’s Brigham Athletic Complex, and “offers clinical, academic and research expertise in treating individuals with neurological, vestibular (inner ear) and gait and balance disorders” as well as promoting healthy, active aging.

Clark’s research interests include balance assessment tools in athletes and older adults as well as effective treatment strategies to improve functional balance performance in older adults. Working with the community at the Center, he said, provides great opportunities both for students interested in kinesiology and for members who want to maintain or improve their physical condition.  Here’s some of the most recent data from Clark about the Center:

Scholarship in Action: The Center for Balance, Mobility and Wellness

By Sean Clark

The Center is a busy place. In terms of outpatient physical therapy, just in the 2011 calendar year, we’ve had over 750 new evaluations and over 5,000 patient visits. From January 2009 through May 2012, we gave 2,500 new evaluations and saw over 17,000 patient visits.  The word’s getting out within the medical community—over 400 physicians have referred and 150 regularly refer their patients to the Center. We’ve also seen a growing number of physicians from Boston, including MGH and MEEI (Mass Eye and Ear) who regard the Center as the preferred place to send their North Shore patients. This is especially true for neurologists and some PCPs, and even BU’s Medical Center views the Center as the preferred site for individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

Most patients are from towns throughout the North Shore, but they also come from as far away as Chelsea, Revere, Saugus to our south, Reading, Lynnfield, Woburn to our west, and Haverhill, Amesbury, Andover to our north, with occasional visitors from Maine and New Hampshire. And we’re beginning an exciting partnership right now with a local family physician who is also a Gordon alumni and a board certified sports & exercise medicine specialist to develop a post-concussion rehabilitation protocol.  (Details to come!)

The Center, though, also helps older adults maintain their health and wellness. Continue reading

Seeing Beyond Perceptual Representations

Brian Glenney, assistant professor of philosophy, has long been interested in matters related to sensory perception. Consequently, the History of Philosophy Quarterly published Glenney’s article, “Leibniz on Molyneux’s Question,” in its July 2012 issue. The paper fills a gap in Leibniz scholarship as Glenney looks at three issues of Leibniz’s account of perception: whether perceptual representations are a species of thought, how perceptual representations are employed in their task of relating the perceiver to the external world, and how and to what degree perceptual learning influences perceptual representations. He believes the paper will be of interest to those concerned with how perceptual representations are integrated, a topic known today as “cross-modal integration.” Below is the introduction to his article:

Leibniz on Molyneux’s Question

By Brian Glenney, associate professor of philosophy

Gottfried Leibniz interposes William Molyneux’s question within his New Essays on Human Understanding

Suppose a Man born blind, and now adult, and taught by his touch to distinguish between a Cube, and a Sphere of the same metal, and nighly of the same bigness, so as to tell, when he felt one and t’other, which is the Cube, which the Sphere. Suppose then the Cube and Sphere placed on a Table, and the Blind Man to be made to see. Quære, Whether by his sight, before he touched them, he could now distinguish, and tell, which is the Globe, which the Cube. (RB II.ix.8, 137)

Its prior publication in John Locke’s Essay included “not” replies, both by the question’s author Molyneux and Locke himself. Leibniz, however, replied “yes” for reasons yet to be directly discussed with any depth, a lacuna this paper seeks to address.

Read the rest of Glenney’s article here.

Summer Scholar: The Muscles of Music Performance

Peter Iltis, second from left, with Jeff Nelson, second from right, and colleagues at the Fearless Performance Advisory Group in July.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories exploring what Gordon professors are up to in between semesters.

Most people might not think about the intricate muscles around a musician’s mouth as he or she plays the trumpet or French horn. But when those muscles—known as the embouchure—aren’t working the way they’re supposed to, well, suddenly music takes on a scientific and medical dimension.

Enter Peter W. Iltis, professor of kinesiology and horn, who in February 2012 published an article on music performance anxiety for the journal of the International Horn Society (IHS). Based on research he’s done over the past several years around movement and muscle disorders in musicians, Iltis (who is also the medical and scientific editor for IHS’s The Horn Call) connected his findings to the level of anxiety musicians often face when they perform. The result?  Iltis got a call from world renowned horn player and ‘fearless’ performance coach, Jeff Nelsen, who is also a full professor at the prestigious Jacob School of Music at Indiana University and speaker at the TED Talks in July 2011.

Nelson read  Iltis‘s article, invited him to Indiana for a week in July, and the two—along with a select group of colleagues—discussed how they might work together, bringing science to the art of musical performance. Now  Iltis will serve as a consultant to Nelson for future coaching sessions, a video series and possible workshops. Below is the article he wrote for the February 2012 edition of The Horn Call:

Music Performance Anxiety: The Science behind the Problem”

By Peter W. Iltis

Many musicians struggle with music performance anxiety (MPA), including horn players.  Through the years in The Horn Call, we have heard from many professionals about their own individual approaches to dealing with it.  However, a review of the scientific literature on this topic has not been published in our journal to date. In her recent review of psychological approaches for treating MPA, Dr. Julie Nagel [1]observes that organic medical conditions and the symptoms they evoke may be exacerbated by psychological factors, complicating both treatment and recovery.  She suggests that therapeutic strategies for treating many disorders require acknowledging this, and developing a more holistic approach that includes psychological approaches.  While my focus in this article is on MPA itself, in a recent article on embouchure dystonia, I commented on its apparent association with anxiety.  Though the scientific community is reticent to attribute anxiety as a cause for dystonia, the association has been made [2, 3], and an understanding of factors related to and methods for dealing with MPA is warranted.  It is beyond the scope of this article to fully explore the anxiety/dystonia connection.  However, examining MPA separately has application for all musicians.  This article describes the nature of MPA, and examines samplings from the current literature to provide some general principles for understanding and coping with this condition.

The sympathetic nervous system and music performance anxiety

When we are placed in circumstances we perceive as threatening, we have a built-in mechanism for coping.  It is a branch of our autonomic (automatic) nervous system known as the sympathetic nervous system.  This is that part of our body’s automatic control system that prepares us to “fight or flee”.  Our heart beats faster and stronger, the pupils of our eyes dilate, our airways become more open, our muscles tense, and even our salivary glands begin to secrete more viscous saliva that can give us that dreaded dry mouth feeling.  While these are changes that prepare us to deal effectively with physical threats, they are counter-productive to the performing artist attempting to play a musical instrument.  The fact is, our sympathetic nervous system has responded to something that poses no real physical threat to us with physiologic adaptations that are not helpful.  Why? Continue reading

Theatre in Scotland & England: ‘A Crucible of Culture and Conversation’

Professor Mark Stevick, center, with students at All Soul’s Church in London.

If all the world’s a stage, the United Kingdom is the host and this year marks the 18th consecutive theatre trip there for Gordon professors and students. From August 10-26, 2012, Mark Stevick, associate professor of English, and Norm Jones, professor of theatre arts, will lead 30 students—the most enrolled since the course began in 1995—for a week in Edinburgh, Scotland, and a week in London, England. This year also celebrates the 300th student to participate in the study abroad seminar.

What began as a two-credit elective course has now grown into a four-credit interdisciplinary exploration of such subjects as history, art, English, creative writing, theatre, psychology, and communication, which fulfills core requirements for the aesthetics theme in the Gordon core. Here’s how poet and creative writing professor Mark Stevick reflected on the history of the class as well as their upcoming trip:

“The two-week trip is a crucible of culture and conversation, one that inspires the leaders for another year of making art, and makes some indelible life memories for the students.

We used to travel right after commencement, and in those years our itinerary included places like Dublin and Galway (Ireland), and in England, Bath (with its Royal Crescent and Pulteney Bridge—twin to the Ponte Vecchio in Florence), Stratford-Upon-Avon (home of three very different theatres and to the Bard’s crypt), Oxford (with a cooling pause at the Inklings’ Eagle & Child pub), and Cambridge (there to savor an evensong at King’s College Chapel)—and, always, London.  Day trips have taken us to Salisbury (tallest spire in the UK—at 400 feet) and nearby Stonehenge (big gray stones; little red poppies), to Ely (named for its eels, and home for a decade to Oliver Cromwell), to Coventry (with its massive Graham Sutherland tapestry behind the altar of the 1962 cathedral, itself verging on the ruins of the Nazi-bombed 14th-century cathedral), and, in Ireland, to the Aran Islands, to James Joyce’s tower in Sandycove, to Glasnevin Cemetery, chaste resting place for the 19th century’s greatest English poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and to the village of Kinvara.

In 2004, we switched to an August trip to take advantage of the thousands of theatre, dance, music, spoken word, and nearly unclassifiable performances in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival. We see as many as we can in one week: Jeff Miller, professor of theatre arts, manages three shows a day on most days.

We’ve honed our approach, so we can offer a lot of culture for a little green. Classes occur in the morning, usually with a latte, often in one of the several lobbies of London’s Royal National Theatre, or in an atrium at the foot of Arthur’s Seat at the University of Edinburgh. Continue reading