Self Promotion or Sharing Knowledge?
by Dr. Sharon Short
Most people would agree that individuals who brag about themselves are obnoxious. “Showing off,” “tooting your own horn,” even “calling undue attention to yourself” are generally deemed unacceptable social behaviors. Descriptors such as “blowhard,” “loudmouth,” and “windbag” come to mind, and none of them are complimentary. This negative sentiment about “putting oneself forward” can create considerable dissonance for someone who is seeking employment and is suddenly expected to become an aggressive self-promoter.
In his book Become a Recognized Authority in your Field in 60 Days or Less, author Robert Bly (2002) describes the marketing of oneself as establishing one’s “guru status,” and in his book he outlines a strategy for positioning oneself as a “guru” in a particular field. In Bly’s words, “Gurus are not born, they are ‘manufactured’ through self-marketing and promotion.” (p. 21).
Many job seekers might find such strategies odious. We do not want to be the kind of people who boast about themselves! Fortunately, in this situation a subtle shift in perspective can make a world of difference. Bly explains that what he means by a “guru” is someone who has gained significant mastery over a specific discipline, and is able to communicate this knowledge “in a clear, understandable, and useful manner to a well-defined target audience” (p. 9). Bly goes on, “You build your reputation as an expert in your field by giving your knowledge away [emphasis added] in a variety of forums—articles, books, seminars, speeches, newsletters, e-zines, Web sites, and information products” (p. 41). If building a professional reputation in order to gain a desirable position can be redefined as sharing one’s useful knowledge with others, then the odium of “marketing oneself” is greatly diminished.
I can enthusiastically endorse the premise of becoming an expert in a well-defined niche and then sharing that knowledge in many different ways. If that is what a guru is, then bring it on! What I can not get excited about “selling,” “marketing,” or “promoting” myself. I am not a commodity to be bought and sold, nor do I want to be regarded and treated as such. Sharing my knowledge, though, is an altogether different and more positive mission. That sounds like something I would be glad to do.
Line of Research
By Dr. Sharon Short
In the course of my doctoral studies, I observed a variety of attitudes toward their dissertations among professors, authors, and colleagues. One of my instructors, for example, commented that after she finally finished her dissertation she wanted to take it outside and bury it. The author of a book I read remarked that she wished the library copy of her dissertation could have been bound on all four sides. Some—perhaps many—doctoral graduates set their finished manuscripts on a shelf with a grateful sigh of relief and move on with their lives.
For others, however, dissertation studies produce a more profitable outcome: for these scholars, the monumental amount of work that they poured into literature reviews, investigations, and analyses endures in an ongoing journey of learning, writing, and teaching about their area of research. Another professor I know, for example, regularly uses data from her research in the master’s courses that she teaches, and she involves her students in collecting new data using the interview protocol that she designed for her investigation. Similarly, the instructor of my qualitative research methods class described how she continued to build on the research that began with her dissertation. This professor encouraged us to establish a “line of research” based on our dissertation work to which we intended to continue contributing all our lives.
A great deal depends, of course, upon what subject one chooses to research. I am blessed to still be fascinated by the topic of my research, and to still enjoy working with this subject matter. My dissertation has already provided me with meaningful content to present in the form of papers at two different conferences, in addition to a research report already published in a journal and a chapter in a newly-published book. I look forward to developing and extending my findings into a book that will benefit a larger audience than the small sphere of scholars who currently have access to it.
Not that the journey so far has been completely straightforward and linear! The dissertation topic that I finally investigated was my third attempt. I entered my Ph.D. program with one research issue in mind, which I continued to pursue for most of the first year. In my second year I jettisoned that idea completely and took off in another direction, for which I wrote a 75-page dissertation proposal before concluding that that topic was not tenable either. The third try, finally, had that proverbial “charm” that has kept me engaged and intrigued ever since.
In short, doctoral student, follow your heart, keep looking for something that excites you for the long haul, and don’t be afraid to change direction if necessary. Certainly it is important to get that dissertation done, but it is even better if its completion inaugurates a lifetime of fruitful scholarship.
Recognizing the Needs of Your Students
by Timothy Howe
Student needs are important. Students bring a lot into the classroom other than books and ideas. They come into the classroom with a whole host of issues with which they are dealing. This is part of life. Each one of us approaches our job affected by a variety of factors – our mood, recent news we have received, physical illness or tiredness, concerns, etc. Students are the same way. Part of the maturation process requires them learning to deal with various struggles while performing at an acceptable level. Yet, as educators, we can help them in to learn this process to great degree. We do so through a combination of demonstrating compassion while holding them accountable to their work. A large part of the educator’s task is recognizing what are the real needs of the student versus plain old laziness or apathy.
Classroom: When students are first entering into the classroom is a good time to assess how they are doing. The look on their face, their body motions, their interactions with other students and their preoccupation with objects not associated with the class (such as cell phone) can all be good indicators as to whether or not there is something with the student beyond what meets the eye. Furthermore, interaction within the classroom with the professor or other students can give more clues. How a student responds to question – does she give quick, short answers when normally she is full of ideas, or is he hostile when normally he is pleasant – can reveal what is going on internally. Since, everyone has a bad day or feels “blah” from time to time, this might not set off alarm bells initially. However, the repetition of such behavior can communicate that a student is in need of assistance.
Silence Speaks Loudly: Most people do not want to communicate their problems. They hold them in and put a mask on for the world around them. One way that people communicate their difficulties is precisely when they do not speak out. When a student seems to shut out others and avoid communication, this is a good time to pay attention to what might be going on in his or her life.
Anxiety Affects Performance: A sure sign that a student has had a need develop is a drop in performance. Anxiety affects performance. When a normally well-performing student suddenly starts to perform poorly, this should be a hint that something is not right. It might be as simple as not understanding the assignments, an easy thing to fix. It is likely to be a lot more complex.
What concern is the student’s problem to the professor? So if a student is having a problem, is that a concern of the professor. People go into education to improve the lives of others. This is done primarily through helping others to grasp knew levels of understanding. It is also accomplished through experience. So, yes, it is a concern of the professor if the professor wants to be a real influence in the life of the student. Learning takes place in so much more than the imparting of factual data. Students learn much from professors they perceive as caring about them. Learning will be enhanced when these problem areas are no longer in the way.
So, how to help?
Face the problem head on: People often times will avoid a problem and hope that it goes away rather than deal with it. This strategy rarely works. If a professor suspects that a student is struggling with a need that is of direct bearing on the course, a good approach usually is to communicate directly with that student about the suspicion in a sensitive fashion. If the need is classroom related, the student might feel relieved to get the issue in the open. If the issue turns out to be non-classroom related, but it still affects the classroom, then the professor is able to get the student the best help available.
Over-communicate: The professor should not assume that one try to communicate about the problem will be sufficient. Neither should there be an expectation that once a problem is diagnosed that it is fixed. Intentional follow-up is necessary and this includes clearing up any missed assignments or completion of material agreed upon to get the student back on track. The professor will need to over-communicate to be sure that the student is back on the right track.
Encourage: Students can become overwhelmed and think that they are too far behind or incapable of doing the work. An encouraging word of a professor carries a lot of weight in such a situation. Professors can take on a mentoring role to not only help the student through the course, but also through life. Many students still refer to past professor’s as mentors in their lives years after the last course they took with him or her.
Resolve the Need: Where it is possible, help the student to resolve the need, not just become aware of it. Their seems to be a tendency to analyze a situation and not do much more than explain it. Real problems need real solutions. If a professor is able to help a student chart the course to solving a real problems, the professor has just passed along one of life’s most important skills.
Social Science and Scripture (Part II)
by Steve Huerd
Missed Part 1 of the Series? Read it here.
Integration begins with the notion of reconciling all things together in Christ. In the world today, there seem to be separate things which either do not relate together or compete with one another in their truth claims. For example, is homosexuality a learned behavior or a genetic issue? What is the best form of government? How should we as a country prepare for retirement in the future? Just read the latest headlines and you will come up with many issues demanding immediate answers. These myriads of issues requiring integration for the Christ-follower can be personal, corporate, or even conceptual in nature.
Central to the concept of integration is the notion of unity in all things since Christ is king over all the created order. For example, in Col. 1:16, Paul says of Christ that, “all things were made by him, for him, and through him.” This truth obviously implies that all things must necessarily then relate to Christ in meaningful ways since he created them, empowered them, and was the purpose for their existence. We also know from this passage that all things will be eventually reconciled to Christ (Col. 1:20), or brought back into their proper perspective in relation to him. The later verse also seems to imply that now, in the present, everything is not reconciled to Christ, being perhaps the reason we experience difficulties in reconciling them together in our minds. In C.S. Lewis’s fictional series, the Chronicles of Narnia, “Aslan” has not yet appeared to unfreeze the winter covering the earth.
Thus we press on continually trying to see the connections and disconnections between the findings of social science, or any other truth claim for that matter, and that of scripture. If we hold to the view of the scriptures being the primary and foundational source of truth, then other truth claims must be evaluated and carefully analyzed by what we know is true in the pages of the Bible and the mind of God.
The honest Christ-follower then must perpetually do what Duane Litfin, the former president of Wheaton College suggests, “The Christian’s intellectual task is to use his or her God-given apprehension and correlation to discover truth about God and truth about the spiritual, moral, and material dimensions of the world he created” (Litfin, 2004, p. 173).
Consequently, if we are to “know the truth” as the “truth will set us free” (John 8:32), then this task takes on greater significance as it affects not just our salvation but how we live here on earth. If all truth is unified coming from the mind of God where there is no confusion, then regardless of the source, all that is truthful should cohere and fit together with whatever else is truthful. This logically implies that truth discovered via social science should cohere with truth being revealed by God in the scriptures wherever possible. And, correspondingly, wherever truth seems to contradict or not fit with scriptures, we need to proceed with caution.
While the masses may follow the crowd, we as Christian educators and scholars should be most thoughtful in how we put things together in our thinking. We need to lead the church and this next generation through our careful scrutiny of today’s truth claims for “all who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly” (Prov. 16:13 NIV).
Litfin, D. (2004). Conceiving the Christian college: A college president share his vision of Christian higher education. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Social Science and Scripture (Part 1)
by Steve Huerd
Brad Pitt played the entrepreneurial Oakland A’s baseball manager Billy Bean in the film Moneyball in which he goes against conventional wisdom by following the advice of a statistician in changing his team. Though the film was nominated for six academy awards including best actor and best picture, it raises interesting questions we must address in Christian Education.
For example, how do we really know what is true? This is not a new question per se, as the study of epistemology in philosophy directly studies these phenomena. But, it does pose continual questions as we in academia seek to lead and influence the new generation in discovering truth.
For centuries the church based its epistemology upon revelation or the idea that truth was directly given to us by God through the writing of the Holy Scriptures. However with the rise of the Enlightenment period, man’s reason gradually grew to occupy a more central place in the search for truth. This led to the rise of science, which while being originally created to study God’s universe, eventually became an alternative means of discovering truth in the world. Francis Schaeffer (1976), in his classic book How Should We Then Live, traces this independent and autonomous thinking back to the Renaissance period, placing man in the center of the universe.
Today, centuries later, science and the scientific method of investigation have largely supplanted revelation in the secular world as the chief means of discovering truth and knowledge. Revelation as a means of epistemic knowing has been subjugated to the realm of person opinion or even superstition as there is no way to empirically verify its findings through experimentation.
Thus, when it comes to doing research in the social sciences of academia, empiricism and the scientific method rule. You can’t really say anything unless you can support it with empirical evidence.
Those of us in Christian education, who still hold to God’s revelation through scripture as a means of knowing, must constantly wrestle at the task of integration. We maintain that all truth is God’s truth whether it is found in nature through general revelation (i.e. empirical research) or in special revelation (i.e. the Bible). If we have as our premise the knowledge that “all truth is one and all ways to truth are one because the Author and End of truth is One” (Green, 2007, p. 63), then integration becomes an essential task we must engage with great care.
And, like Billy Bean of the Oakland A’s, we face constant temptations to ignore conventional wisdom in favor of a more scientific approach. Even in the writing of my dissertation, I confess to spending far more time reading and summarizing empirical research than I did in writing about how the scriptures interact with my topic. Yet, if we truly believe that God has revealed truth in the Bible to us, than this truth must have supremacy over human reason being argued through statistically based empirical research.
Integrating truth discovered through empirical research with truth being revealed via scripture is no easy task. The scriptures will always hold epistemic supremacy for me in my thinking, but anyone who has ever read the Bible knows that the Bible doesn’t speak about every little truth God has created. For while God has given us everything we need for a life of godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), there remains much more truth to be discovered in the universe. Social science and scripture need not conflict and it’s not always one or the other, nevertheless we in Christian education need to be prepared so that we don’t lose our way in the midst of the fog in our search for truth.
Schaeffer, F. A. (1976). How should we then live? The rise and decline of western thought and culture. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company.
Green, B. (2007). Ch. 3: “Theological and Philosophical Foundations,” in Shaping a Christian worldview: The foundations of Christian higher education, ed. David Dockery and Gregory Thornbury. Broadman & Holman.
Qualitative Research Sampling
By Sharon Warkentin Short
To me, one of the most intriguing aspects of qualitative research is the selection of the sample with whom to conduct the study. In contrast to the probability or random sampling that is standard for quantitative investigations, qualitative researchers generally rely on “nonprobabilistic” (Merriam, 1998) or nonrandom sampling to determine their research participants. That is to say, rather than selecting individuals or groups in such a way that each member of the population under study has an equal chance of being chosen, qualitative inquirers deliberately seek out respondents who have the most to contribute: “the goal is to select cases that are likely to be ‘information-rich’ with respect to the purposes of the study” (Gall et al., 2003, p. 165). This selection approach has sometimes been labeled “purposive” or “purposeful sampling” (Merriam, 1998).
An instructive way to think about purposeful sampling is to view such participants as panels of experts in a specific area (Maxwell, 2005), comparable to medical specialists who are consulted regarding a difficult case. In that situation, the goal is not to get an average opinion from an entire population of doctors, but rather to hear what these particularly qualified people have to say (Merriam, 1998). At least fifteen different varieties of purposeful samples have been identified (Gall et al., 2003).
For my research I decided that an intensity sample was the best choice. Described as “cases that manifest the phenomenon of interest intensely but not extremely” (Gall et al., 2003, p. 178), such informants can be expected to provide ample useful data without seeming so rare or exceptional that subsequent readers of the research might feel the study has nothing relevant to say to them.
When I was first exposed to the whole area of nonrandom research sampling, I was very skeptical, because it sounded so contradictory to the tenets of objective, scientific research. However, it was the analogy of the panel of medical experts that convinced me. I realized that, for my study, I was not trying to discover what “average” children, or children in general, thought about Bible stories; I wanted to watch closely how one particular group of children in one Sunday school responded to the stories. The sample that I eventually studied constituted an intensity sample in that their church was field-testing a new children’s curriculum organized around the metanarrative of the Bible. This meant that the teaching materials were explicitly focused on Bible stories, and the volunteers and staff were committed to using the materials as effectively as possible. In this program they were more involved with the Bible stories than a typical Sunday school class might have been, but their involvement was not out of reach for most churches.
Gall, M. D., Gall, J. P., & Borg, W. R. (2003). Educational research: An introduction (7th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Maxwell, J. A. (2005). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach (2nd ed.). Vol. 41. Applied Social Research Methods Series. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Merriam, S. B. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education (Rev. ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Picture Yourself in a Full-Time Academic Career
That’s where your success begins– with your dream.
Everyone in higher education today started with the dream of moving into academia.
Perhaps you were told that you don’t have much of a chance in higher education because of the fact that the academic job market is so challenging. Ironically, every professor who gives that advice has, him-or-herself, landed an academic job.
We ask– “If they can… why can’t you?”
To help you get the needed mindsets and to begin the academic career-equipping process, we are offering a free 30 session video curriculum on Academii. Here’s what to expect:
Academii Gratis Course
Academii Gratis is a fast-paced 30 session Academii video curriculum series. The Gratis Membership is free simply for enrolling! Gratis serves an introduction to the Academii Community. Each person is welcome and encouraged to invite other scholars into the community of learning. Feel free to share this Gratis course with other scholars and academic program leaders who may be interested.
Sample Video Sessions in our Gratis Series
- Think Now, Not Later, About Your Academic Career (Module 1 | Session 1)
- Thinking About Types of Institutions (Module 1 | Session 2)
- It’s Not Just About What or Who You Know (Module 1 | Session 3)
- The Importance of Academic Societies (Module 1 | Session 4)
- Building Your Academic Social Network (Module 1 | Session 5)
- Doing Something Not Nothing (Module 1 | Session 6)
- Understanding What You’re Up Against (Module 1 | Session 7)
My Interview with Social Media Church Podcast
Discussion Topics from this Podcast
1. How much should church leaders/pastors think about using technology in their ministry? Should technology be more integrated into colleges/seminaries?
Part of my reply: Life is intricately interwoven with technology, and it’s never going backwards. Technology is ubiquitous and it’s now embedded in our lives. Especially in the US, but in much of the world, church leaders need to get significantly more on top of technology. Listen to the podcast for more…
2. What are some creative new trends with technology/online etc. that you think will impact the church/ministries in the next 3-5 years directly in a good way?
3. Should churches being doing more live training in person/onsite or on-demand online training?
4. Thoughts about virtual reality? Any relevance to the church?
5. Do you think seminary will be just as relevant and practical for church leaders/pastors 10 years from now with the growth of online training being available and free?
Listen Now at Social Media Church Website
Learn more about Social Media Church Podcast. Learn about their helpful Social Media Church University short-course.
Problems downloading the off-site version of this podcast? Download it here
Social Media Church Interview, Freddy Interview 2016
Portfolios: What they are and how to use them
Portfolios are a feature we have chosen to use to enhance the way we provide information. People are always looking for good content for building their personal knowledge. When we are informed, we can become thought leaders.
There are numerous areas we’ve developed in the Portfolio areas, but one of the areas of greatest interest to our Academii members and guests are the “Education” and “Technology” links on the Portfolio page and on the Portfolio drop down menu.
Click image below for details.
On those pages you will find amazing links to some of the best destinations on the world wide web for content in those respective areas. Just click and get informed. Each image on every portfolio offers a world of good that will inspire you to world-changing action. Enjoy– and here’s some ways you can help us make these resources better: First, let us know in the comment section if there are other areas you might want us to expand. Second, if you like it, share it!