News from the social sciences and humanities

Friday, January 20, 2012

Milena Stanoeva
Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Inside Higher Ed featured an essay on the current debates about the usefulness of the humanities. Authors Paul Jay and Gerald Graff argue that some academics in the humanities disdain arguments about the humanities’ applicability to non-academic jobs, which ultimately sells humanities students short. Commenting on the essay, Andrew Sullivan highlights a chart of unemployment rates for all university degree holders. According to the chart, the rates for degree holders in the humanities are fairly in line with unemployment rates for other degrees.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) is launching a new research funding initiative in partnership with Industry Canada. The Knowledge Synthesis Grants, which have a value of up to $25,000, will be granted to initiatives that synthesize existing research on the best ways of leveraging public investment in R&D to stimulate innovation. The application deadline is January 27th.

Increasingly, university professors are questioning the lecture-format of higher education. Pamela Rutledge argues for a move to a more participatory, collaborative and interactive learning model, similar to the way students use social media to express themselves and interact with their social circles. Todd Pettigrew, on the other hand, defends the traditional lecture, arguing that there is value in acquiring knowledge from someone who is an expert in a particular field. As a student or a teacher, what do you find works best in your classroom? Let us know in the comments below.


SSH news


You are raising great questions for discussion. The move to a more participatory and collaborative learning model doesn't preclude acquiring knowledge from someone who is an expert. It does, however, change how you think about the responsibility of information exploration and delivery. Participation implies that you are engaging with the material and therefore, as a wide array of research shows, increases internalization and learning. Socrates, often held as a pinnacle of great teaching, wasn't much of a lecturer. But the point is more a state of mind or perspective toward education for the 21st century, the difference between the "sage on the stage" vs. "guide on the side" model educators often cite. An interesting question is: in a rapidly changing, globally-connected world, who is best in a position to decide what is relevant and valuable for students? Since the answer is probably neither one, it makes collaborative learning a very reasonable solution.