Higher Education

If Not Now, When?: Students and Difficult Reading

Source: Pixabay

Many professors bemoan the failure to do the assigned reading on the part of their students. But is that a reason to shy away from giving students challenging texts?

After regaling readers with the common experience of encountering students in the classroom who have not done the reading, Theresa MacPhail offers a solution in a recent piece for The Chronicle of Higher Education. She suggests assigning less reading: “Long story short: Don’t assign too much reading–and don’t assume you know how much reading is too much for your students.” Why? Because students are pressed for time and, “read only if they have time and if the readings are relatively easy to digest.” Moreover, she suggests that professors avoid long texts:  “It may be the biggest reason students are no longer reading the things we assign. They have complained over and over again that a lot of assigned texts are just too boring or too long or–the deadliest of combinations–both at once.”

In her own classroom, MacPhail incorporates other kinds of material, including documentaries and podcasts. She only has students read a few scholarly texts during the course. The result: “My student are getting the information–but in formats with which they are most comfortable. Instead of reading more, they are doing more research and writing.”

There are two things that struck me. One is the idea that learning should be easy and comfortable.  Whereas learning shouldn’t be torture, it also shouldn’t be without discomfort. I’m a proponent of meeting students where they are. At the same time, the goal is also to move the student forward, even if it’s just a little bit, and that often means taking the student out of a comfort zone to a new place that is unfamiliar and sometimes scary. But that’s ok! The unfamiliar then becomes familiar; then we move on to more unfamiliar things.  What we should be doing is making students comfortable with being uncomfortable, with ambiguity, with not knowing and confident enough to charge ahead and grapple with difficult texts or challenging readings.

The other idea that struck me was placing reading in opposition to research and writing.  As a person who designs and implements research programs for undergraduates and trains them to work on my own research, I know the value of reading for research. I know some academics who look down on basic bibliographic research, but that research is the foundation for any subsequent research. An inability to read well at this stage does not bode well later down the road.  I have seen students who have never been asked to grapple with a “difficult’ text that challenged them. As a result, they lack the confidence and ability to do so. If a student never has to grapple with a dense text, then a student will never learn how to grapple with a dense text. But it’s about more than grappling with jargon or a boring text. It’s about developing critical reading skills that they can use anywhere.

Rather than denigrating difficult texts, perhaps what we should teach students is how to read smarter, which would really make the best use of their time and engage them with the material.   Miriam E. Sweeney offers some great insights in her post, “How to Read for Grad School.” Instead of a cursory review of the material, these suggestions offer a reading strategy to ensure the reader understands the material at a sufficient depth to be able to engage its ideas. There are probably others who have written similarly.

In the 1970s, I remember seeing public service advertisements for the Reading is Fundamental program, which was designed to increase literacy rates. Reading is still fundamental. The way to address student reading is not to encourage students to avoid difficult reading, but to teach them how to engage it.

Sources

MacPhail, Theresa. “Are You Assigning Too Much REading? Or Just Too Much Boring Reading?” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 27 Jan 2019, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Are-You-Assigning-Too-Much/245531 (21 Mar 2019).

Miriam. “How to Read for Grad School.” Miriam E. Sweeney. 20 Jun 2012, https://miriamsweeney.net/2012/06/20/readforgradschool/ (21 Mar 2019).

Project Updates

PROJECT UPDATE: K-pop Producer Yoo Young Jin

The new exhibit on KPOPCULTURE, Yoo Young Jin, provides an overview of one of K-pop’s most influential music producers. Not only has Yoo worked on some of the most recognizable and enduring K-pop songs, he has also produced his own material. The exhibit provides an overview of his most popular work as well as a Curated Playlist that delves into other tracks with the groups with whom he works the most, including SHINee, TVXQ, Super Junior and Shinhwa (when they were on the SM Entertainment label).

This exhibit is part of the KPOPCULTURE digital humanities project, which curates modern Korean popular music (K-pop) and the culture that surrounds it through digital exhibitions of music, choreography, fandom and industry.

Higher Education

Creative Activity as Undergraduate Student Research

Source: Pixabay

Many institutions, including my own, include creative activity from art, music, theatre and other disciplines as part of undergraduate student research. Given the creative nature and output of these disciplines, what can this look like?

A recent discussion on the Council on Undergraduate Research Member Forum addressed this very question. Most participants seemed to agree that creative output was radically different from more “traditional” research. They also agreed that under the rubric of undergraduate research, it must go beyond the performance or the production of art.  Iain Crawford, Shirley Huston-Findley, Peter Mowrey, and Kitty McManus Zurko argue that there are aspects of research undertaken by students in the fine arts that mirror undergraduate research at large, including mentorship by a faculty member and the development of a research question. In addition, students such as those in theatre “apply their research in a laboratory setting–in this case, on stage–and test their hypothesis through artistic engagement. . . . The result for most majors is a keen awareness of the historical, theoretical, and analytical components necessary for artists to move from investigation to application” (24). Crawford et al apply the language commonly associated with STEM-based research, the language of experimentation, to performance.

Crawford et al also link the inquiry-based nature of undergraduate research to music performance:  “Student performers are expected to have undertaken a thorough review of literature (written and musical) and significant research into historical context, style, and performance practice prior to (and during) the preparation of their culminating recitals. . . . Some of this research will make it into their required accompanying documents, which usually take the form of extended program notes addressing selected aspects of the recital program for a theoretical and/or musicological perspective” (28). While all students may be required to undertake a recital as part of their music major, those involved in undergraduate research undertake additional work that grounds and contextualizes the performance.

In both cases, creative activity as undergraduate research represents something more. It is a systematic and deliberate approach to performance and art, which is at the heart of the research process. The result differs from more traditional research in that its evaluation may be more subjective. Yet, because the student engages in the major parts of the research process, they receive the same benefits from the high impact practice as their counterparts in other disciplines. At the same time, students engaged in creative activity also produce products that parallel that of other disciplines, such as artist statements and program notes for recitals, both of which reflect “a serious review of literature, a high degree of critical thinking, experimentation, thorough evaluation of alternatives, creativity and great attention to detail” (Crawford et al, 26).

 

Sources

Crawford, Iain et al. “Undergraduate Research in the Fine Arts at the College of Wooster.” Creative Inquiry in the Arts and Humanities: Models of Undergraduate Research. Eds. Naomi Yavneh Klos, Jenny Olin Shanahan, and Gregory Young. Washington, DC: Council on Undergraduate Research, 23-32.

 

Project Updates

PROJECT UPDATE: New Asian Drama Digital Humanities Project


OMO!: Korean and Chinese Drama and Commentary is my newest digital humanities project, which curates information on dramas and the global response to them in the form of reviews. It represents not only resource creation but also an examination of how global audiences make meaning of this transnational popular culture.

The project also includes the work of undergraduate researchers, providing the valuable experience of working on a research project. The first exhibit, City Hunter (2011), includes an analysis of the promotional poster as well as an overview as well as short-form and longer reviews compiled by De’siree Fairley, undergraduate research assistant. Users can view complete reviews in Evernote. As the project includes more dramas, we hope that we can determine a pattern in the consumption of dramas by global audiences.

News

Panelist, “Black American Music and K-pop,” KCON 2017 LA

I’ll be a panelist at KCON 2017 LA! Panel 502B, “Black American Music and K-pop”, will be on Sunday, August 20, 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Hope to see you there!

In the meantime, check out some of my work on Black American Music and K-pop.

Not Just Pretty Faces: K-pop Idols and Quiet Storm Masculinity

Black Popular Music and K-pop

Ethnicity, Glamour and Image in Korean Popular Music

Bibliographic Notes

What Type of Fan Are You?: Fan Hierarchy vs. Fan Continuum

Image: Pixabay

Fan identity is at the heart of fandom studies, and one of the most contested issues revolves around differentiating types of fans based on their knowledge, behavior or both. Fan hierarchy and fan continuum are two concepts that attempt to answer this question, with different implications.

In Understanding Fandom, Mark Duffett defines a fan as “a person with a relatively deep, positive emotional conviction about someone or something famous, usually expressed through a recognition of style or creativity. He/she is also a person driven to explore and participate in fannish practices” (18). As a result, a fan differs from a general member of an audience, for “contemporary culture still marks out an emotional and rhetorical divide between the identities of the fan and the ordinary audience member” (45). By definition, fans are emotionally attached to the object of fandom, while ordinary audiences are just not as attached. Fans can be identified by what they know and how they engage in a variety of fan activities.

Perhaps it is this emotional attachment that also factors into the way fans see themselves in relation to each other. In Fan Cultures, Matt Hills refers to the notion of fan hierarchy, which he argues involves both fan cultural capital, or “the knowledge that a fan has about their object of fandom,” and fan social capital, or “the network of fan friends and acquaintances that a fan possesses, as well as their access to media producers and professional personnel linked with the object of fandom” (57). Hill’s issue is more with academics who study fans and how they arrange fans in relation to each other. Fan cultural capital is based on knowledge alone, whereas fan social capital is based on interaction with other fans and larger fan culture. This tends to lend itself to comparisons and valuing certain kinds of fans over others, privileging those who have more knowledge or more interaction with the larger fandom.

But Duffett realizes that this may not capture the complexities of fan culture. It also may reinforce a negative appraisal of fans. Remember that Duffett defines fan activity as positive. Instead, he proffers the notion of a fan continuum “that stretches between the least committed fans and the most dedicated fans” and allows for the consideration of other kinds of fan characteristics, including “fan self-identification, community participation, consumption of publicity material and archiving” (44).

This move attempts to get us away from thinking about “good” fans and “bad” fans, and more on what fans do and how they think of themselves. It recognizes as a fan anyone who has any level of the emotional attachment to the fan object. In this way, if you think you are a fan, then you are one. At the same time, it allows us to make distinctions based on how fans operate. We might be fans, but we are not the same type of fans. Some fans have a superficial engagement with the fan object, while others have deep knowledge. Hills acknowledges this when he notes that one can have high fan cultural capital, but low fan social capital. This doesn’t take away a fan’s identity, but it does describe a different mode of fandom. Fan continuum allows us to recognize the differences in fan practices without passing judgement on fans or questioning a fan’s authenticity.

Sources

Duffett, Mark. Understanding Fandom: An Introduction to the Study of Media Fan Culture. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.

Hills, Matt. Fan Cultures. London and New York: Routledge, 2002.

Project Updates

New Survey! Not the Only One: Multi-Fandoms and K-pop

Can’t decide which K-pop group or artist is your favorite? You are not alone! Global fans of K-pop tend to support several groups and artists at the same time, while their Korean counterparts tend to support only one group or artist. But why? And which groups tend to be in a global fan’s multi-fandom? This study seeks to answer these questions in survey that uses open-ended and multiple-choice questions. Take the survey and tell your friends!

Link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/kpopmultifandom

Project Updates

A Not So New K-pop Survey: Last Fans Standing: Veteran Fans of K-pop

One of the things that happens when conducting qualitative surveys is that they can raise more questions than they answer. This is what happened with the preliminary data from Last Fans Standing: Longtime and Adult Fans of Korean Popular Music (K-pop). Response rates were unusually low, which was unusual given the rising number of fans who have been fans for more than five years. I speculated that respondents may think that only adult fans who had also been fans for five years or more could take the survey. So, I revised the survey to focus solely on veteran fans of K-pop, individuals who had been fans for five years or more. The revised survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vetfans !