Letters – 1 November 2018

November 1, 2018

Electoral win is not only route to political impact

Your feature “Power drill” (25 October) reported on US scientists who have sought to get themselves and other like-minded scholars into elected office.

I am a biochemist and was nominated three times to be the Democratic candidate for the US House of Representatives for my district. Each time there was a competitive primary election, and each time I won handily. My district is overwhelmingly Republican, but I had the objective of bringing attention to certain issues, even though I knew that I was unlikely to win the general election. My campaign included volunteers who were participating in political campaigns for the first time and who have gone on to their own productive careers in politics. I am now an elected city councillor.

Winning an election is not the only possible potential achievement in becoming a candidate for office, and scientists/academics who make the effort should be celebrated and encouraged.

Via timeshighereducation.com

Teaching’s value

The author of the article “Is REF moving the goalposts for early career working-class researchers?” (timeshighereducation.com, 24 October) reports how he, as a doctoral student, “obtained some sessional ‘teaching only’ work with several institutions” in England.

We, the primarily teaching academics, remain – in spite of the teaching excellence framework – poor relations to “research-active” colleagues. But I would rather be valued by students and staff than play an absurd, inward-looking, outdated “game” of “how many publications do you have?” in some arcane journal that is read by three people and a dog, and published a year or two after the event.

James Derounian
Principal lecturer, applied social sciences, and national teaching fellow
University of Gloucestershire

Flip is a tough sell

A recent news story reported that the “Flipped classroom struggles to catch on in Europe” (News, 25 October). The advantage of the flipped classroom over traditional models is that students go over learning materials before they meet in class, which allows class time to be used for discussing and applying information rather than acquiring it. However, this depends on motivated students who are prepared to make the effort to get that information into their heads.

The model can be used to good effect, but you need to be organised and do things such as opening the session with a quiz (to ensure that students have done the work) and then providing well-structured activities that engage and stretch the students…probably using group work and discussion, with a system that supports directed activities and tests continually.

Done properly, it works well – but it is tough, which means that students often rate it harshly, not because they do not learn but because it is demanding.

Via timeshighereducation.com


Students less likely to drop out if taught via lectures, study finds”, reports a recent news story (18 October). This very interesting piece of research could well have been connected to the lovely contributions from those who lecture. In one way, it’s no surprise: the flipped classroom advantages the talkative, the assertive and the acclimatised. I’m not against participatory approaches, but I have always found that the obsession with the bored student at the back rather ignores the fascinated students front and centre.

Farah Mendlesohn
Stoke on Trent

Non-partisan pipes

I’m sure the writer of the article “Universities must walk their decolonial talk” (Opinion, 25 October) has her heart in the right place. However, I have difficulty with the idea that “pipeline” is an offensive term. Surely pipelines are, in themselves, morally neutral, and those who protest against a particular pipeline may quite happily enjoy the benefits of pipelines in other contexts. I for one am quite happy to have pipelines to bring me fresh water and carry away foul. In any case, if the Tiny House Warriors object to the term, presumably they can speak for themselves rather than having the writer take offence on their behalf.

Via timeshighereducation.com

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