Post by Ken Kolb ‘Using SI to measure “intellectual curiosity”’

Using SI to measure “intellectual curiosity”

-Ken Kolb, Furman University

When was the last time you looked at your school’s promotional materials?  You know, the endless stream of pamphlets, calendars, and application packets?  Odds are, they mention the words “intellectual curiosity.”  Why?  Well, because that is what we – as college professors – supposedly teach our students.  Wait, “teach” is too simple a word for the public relations folks.  Let’s try again.  Okay, in our classrooms, we “instill,” or “infuse” our students with a deep seated “intellectual curiosity” that drives them to become “lifelong learners” with an insatiable desire for more knowledge.  Sound better? Well, if that is what your school is selling to your students (and their parents), how will you know if you are delivering on your promise?  What is “intellectual curiosity” after all?  If a student has it, how will you know?  If a particular feature of our curriculum is designed to produce more of “it,” what evidence will indicate that you have achieved your goal?

The concept of “curiosity” has been studied for ages.  Dewey wrote about it in his 1910 book, How We Think.  Nowadays, the concept is entrenched within the domain of psychologists.  They have developed countless quantitative survey instruments to determine whether—and to what degree—people are curious.  However, there is one shortcoming in their logic (from a symbolic interactionist perspective); almost all of these studies treat curiosity as a state or trait that presumably leads to future action—without ever actually measuring said action.  Our paper, “Intellectual Curiosity in Action: A Framework to Assess First-Year Seminars in a Liberal Arts Setting,” takes the opposite approach.  First, we measure the behaviors students are engaging in, and then we dig deep into the school’s promotional materials to infer the meaning of those behaviors from the perspective of the designers of our curriculum.

Take reading, for example.  Our university (and presumably yours) sees reading as a good thing.  We want students to complete their reading assignments.  However, after analyzing our school’s promotional materials, we found that our institution wants more than that.  We advertise to prospective students and their parents that our curriculum (specifically our first-year seminars) will lead students to become intrinsically motivated readers; that taking our classes will makes students want to read more, on their own, for their own benefit.  You know, get them to enjoy reading for reading’s sake.  Thus, what kinds of reading do you think would best indicate a students’ “intellectual curiosity”?  Well, we argue that intellectually curious students seek out extra reading, on their own, above and beyond the required amount.

In the end, our method to measure intellectual curiosity was pretty simple.  We interviewed students at the beginning and end of their first-year seminar, and asked them to describe recent times that their seminar had led them to engage in intrinsically motivated extra-curricular activities.  We then ranked these behaviors according to what they meant to the designers of the first-year seminar program (as indicated by the materials administrators used to promote the seminar as means to “cultivate” intellectual curiosity within our students).  By comparing students pre and post test responses in their interviews, we developed a means to measure a tricky (but important) concept that most people take for granted.

Love it or hate it, assessment is here to stay.  We can either defer to the psychologists, or offer our own approach.  Symbolic interactionists are good at analyzing subtle, nuanced, and complex phenomena.  Measuring the outcomes of classroom experiences is something we can—and should—do.

 

For more, see:

Kolb, Kenneth H., Kyle C. Longest, and Jenna C. Barnett. “Intellectual Curiosity in Action: A Framework to Assess First-Year Seminars in Liberal Arts Settings.” The Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 25(2): 131-156  (log-in required)

If you have difficulties accessing the article please contact the author at ken.kolb@furman.edu

http://Ucpress.edu/go/moralwages

 

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Updated Constitution of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction

The updated constitution of SSSI has been published on the Society’s website. You can download it here:

SSSI Constitution

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Election Result!

Thank you to all those members standing for election this year and to those participating in the elections. The results are as following:

President-elect: Dennis Waskul

Vice President-elect: Patrick McGinty

Publication Committee Members: Julie Wiest, Peter Hall, Scott Harris, and  Steven Ortiz

 

 

 

 

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Was G.H. Mead familiar with Virginia Woolf’s novel “To the Lighthouse” (1927)?

When reading Virginia Woolf’s novel “To the Lighthouse” (1927) Tom Scheff noticed similarities with the process of role taking as discussed by George Herbert Mead. He therefore wonders whether any Mead Scholar might know if Mead was familiar with Woolf’s novel.

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If any Mead scholar has any information that could help Tom with his query, please post it here or get in touch with Tom at scheff@soc.ucsb.edu

 

 

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SSSI Notes – 2014 Newsletter

Dear SSSI Member, Future SSSI-Members and All,

William Ryan Force has put together the  latest edition of SSSI Notes, our society’s newsletter. The newsletter contains reports from the Couch-Stone Symposium in Texas and SSSI sessions at the conference of the Pacific Sociological Association, information about elections and voting on changes to the constitution, as well as the Schedule for the SSSI 2014 conference in San Francisco.

SSSI 2014 Notes Vol.43 Issue 1 can be downloaded here.

Officer Voting ……………………………………………………………………………………………2

Constitution Voting ………………………………………………………………………………………3

Couch-Stone Symposium ………………………………………………………..…………………….7

Pacific Sociological Association ……………………………………………………………………….8

SSSI 2014 Program Summary ………………………………………………………………..……….9

Hotel Accommodations in San Francisco …………………………………………………………..23

Banquet and Student Travel Grants ………….…………….………………………………………..24

2013 SSSI Awards ……………………………………………..………………………………………25

Other Awards and Announcements ………………………………………………………………….26

Future Issues …………………………………………………………………………………………..32

 

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SSSI 2014 Conference in San Francisco – August 15th to 18th

The SSSI 2014 Conference in San Francisco is approaching. It will be held at Hotel Nikko in San Francisco. Patrick Williams, the Vice-President of the Society, has put together a fantastic programme which can be downloaded here. As in the past years, the programme reflects the wide scope of interactionist research.

On  Saturday afternoon (4pm – 5.30pm) Phillip Vannini, Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Public Ethnography and Professor in the School of Communication & Culture at Royal Roads University in Victoria, BC, Canada, will give this year’s Distinguished Lecture “Documenting Culture: Doing Public Ethnography in the Age of Digital Video”. Phillip’s lecture will be followed by the Dinner Banquet.

If you would like to attend the Dinner Banquet you will need to register early.

 

 

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Reflections on Couch-Stone 2014 by William Ryan Force

Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction - Blog:

Joe Kotarba organised a splendid Couch-Stone Symposium devoted to “Symboli Interactionsim meets Music”. The success of the event has been captured very well by William Ryan Force’s blog that was recently published on our music blog sssimusic.wordpress.com

Originally posted on Symbolic Interaction Music Blog:

When I learned that Couch-Stone 2014 would take place within about 60 hours between a Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon in San Marcos, Texas, my first concern was that I would have no time to indulge in the local culture in an area I’d wanted to visit for so long. Too often conferences are confined to up-tight spaces cloistered away in a sterile university conference room or corporate hotel—totally separate from the food, art, and (let’s be real) bars that characterize the social life of a city. Anyone who participated in Couch-Stone this April will testify that we experienced an amazing array of the local flavors and sounds thanks to the incredible planning of Joe Kotarba and his crew.

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((Rob Gardner (guitar), Maggie Cobb (guitar), Gene Halton (harmonica)                                    and Lori Holyfield (guitar))

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