Making news at Congress 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ryan Saxby Hill, Media Relations
Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

If you happened to read a newspaper anywhere in Canada over the past two weeks, it’s likely that you got a taste of the research being presented at this year’s Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. When you put over 5000 of Canada’s top researchers in one place for 9 days of intellectual discussion, dialogue and debate – the media takes note. I’ve often pointed out that issues in the social sciences and humanities take up significant column inches in our national papers and Congress helps remind us that the researchers investigating these issues have something important to say. Here are some of the stories from the past few weeks that have kept us busy and motivated. These are our Congress newsmakers.

Questioning question period - Researchers Alex Sévigny and Philip Savage of McMaster University, and Andrew Laing of Cormex Research released the results of their study of civility in Question Period – and made national headlines with a call to action for re-thinking the way parliamentarians behave during the most important few hours in Canadian political debate. Read more in the Toronto Star.

Easing into retirement or victim of the labour market – Gordon Cooke, along with a talented team of researchers and grad students, is working to better understand the dynamics of an aging labour market. Cooke and his team reported that for older workers, temporary work is starting to be the norm. The story gets more complicated, however, as Cooke and his team found that in many instances these workers were happy with their employment status and had intentionally made a decision about the type of work/life balance they were willing to accept. Read more in the Vancouver Sun.

Learning from history – If history can teach us about the future, school boards may want to pay attention to work from Christopher Grieg of the University of Windsor. He looks at where all-boys classrooms were tried in the past and has some cautionary notes for administrators looking to bring back the same-sex education model. Read more in the National Post.

Time management for busy teachers – How teachers spend their time can affect how students are taught. Researcher Ronald J. MacDonald from the University of Prince Edward Island found that although teachers were working just as much as before, less of this time was being spent in the classroom. This is an important trend to track as more and more demands are placed on classroom teachers. Read more in the PEI Guardian.

It must be true! I published it on Wikipedia – Brenna Gray found that Wikipedia can improve student learning – but not in the way you might think. When asked to publish on the popular user-generated encyclopaedia, Grey found that students felt a significant responsibility to ensure the accuracy of their work. It turns out that the conventions on Wikipedia are not so far from those taught by college English professors. It looks like Wikipedia might have a place in the classroom, just not in the citations of first-year students’ papers. Read more on Maclean’s Campus.