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As a fourth year doctoral candidate, in addition to having completed comprehensive examinations and prospectus and working on the dissertation, my thoughts are also turning towards the job market and securing that first academic position. This purpose of this blog is to chronicle the trials and tribulations of completing my Ph.D. and finding that first job.

Monday, March 12, 2007

More On AECT And Graduate Students

Well, as a follow-up to the message I posted about two or three weeks ago about AECT no longer allowing graduate students to be full reviewers for conference proposals (see Graduate Students Snubbed by AECT).

As a follow-up, to that original post a recent graduate forwarded me a copy of this from the AECT Newsletter which he had received via e-mail (not sure why all members didn't get this newsletter, but that's another story):
Dear AECT Member,

It is my pleasure to report that the elections for AECT national officers are completed. pproximately one-fifth of the AECT membership voted in the election this year. This number is consistent with recent AECT elections.

The two candidates for President of AECT were Dr. Mary Herring of Northern Iowa and Dr. Nick Eastmond of Utah State. Mary received the greater number of votes.

The two candidates for Board of Directors at Large were Dr. Angela Benson of the University of Alabama and Dr. Kay Persichitte of the University of Wyoming. More people voted for Kay.

We appreciate the willingness of all four outstanding candidates to serve as leaders in AECT and congratulate the winners. When one runs for national office, one does not run against the other candidate. Rather, one runs for the good of AECT. We feel confident that both Nick and Angela will continue to lead in AECT and we look forward to seeing their names on the ballot again in

Ward Cates, President
Convention Proposal
Reviews in Progress

By now all divisions are in the process of reviewing their collection of proposals for the 2007 Anaheim convention. At the close of the Call for Proposals more than 700 proposals had been submitted.

While division planners do meet monthly in a conference call, the leadership of each division are free to set up their own review process. The common factor among all divisions is that decisions are based on a “peer” review process. Recently our definition of “peer” has been in question: whether graduate students qualify as “peer” reviewers. On the one hand, we might ask whether students have the background and depth of experience to evaluate proposals, but on the other, there is valid reason to include students because reviewing can contribute to their professional growth.

Division planners have responded individually for their divisions to the concern about graduate student reviewers. In most cases, they have established a review process that ensures that any one proposal will be reviewed by a combination of professionals and graduate students. Some division planners have encouraged a mentoring process for graduate student reviewers.

There are currently 639 graduate student members of AECT – about 30% of the total membership. Many of them hold division offices and volunteer their help at convention and in other activities. They represent the future of the organization. I applaud the division leaders for creating a process that allows them to participate in the review process as we prepare for AECT 2007 in Anaheim.

Pat Miller,

Okay, I'm still wondering what this process is exactly - at least with my own division (which is Distance Learning). I'm a four year Ph.D. candidate. I'm submitting my dissertation in less than a month. I'm starting a job as an Assistant Professor in less than six months. I've reviewed for AECT for two years now and have been reviewing for six others conferences for up to four years now. The process tha my division leader has created is that I can get one of my own faculty members to review proposals and I can shadow review their proposals.

This is not to be applauded but to my frowned upon. This is simply a way of making a third of AECT's membership second class members. What would happen next year if all graduate students decided not to attend the annual convention? AECT would incur a massive debt from the event, in addition the convention itself would be one of the worst on record because the graduate students that assist in the tech support, that man the registration desk, that collect the feedback forms, and generally serve as gophers at the convention wouldn't be there to keep things runnng smoothly on behalf of thefirst class members!

What would happen next year if all of the graduate students decided not to renew their membership? Well, I give AECT less than five years of life simply because they aren't able to attract new faculty members and people outside of the academy. The biggest problem now is that a third of the membership are two to three year members (i.e., while they are graduate students and that's it). AECT is a way to network to get a job for some many graduate students and unless you can find meaningful ways to involve them in the organization once they have that job there is no need for them to maintain their membership. Making them second class members is not the way to engage them in meaningful ways.

The reality of this situation is that if AECT really believes that graduate students are the future of the organization, the organization needs to do more than simply pay lip service to graduate students and stop the discrimination that it has within what some members are able to contribute and other members can't. Seems kind of hypocritical that AECT has no problems with grduate students serving on the executive and even running various divisions, but graduate students can't be trusted to review a 1500 word proposal!

Please note, The Opinions Expressed...

Tags: AECT 2007, AECT, blog, blogging, blogs, graduate student, graduate students, graduate school, higher education, education

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Blogger Chris said...

I found the AECT update e-mail to be interesting and disturbing. I understand how the definition of "peer" can be something of question. So maybe the organization needs to define for the organization what "peer" means.

What I find really disturbing is that major decisions such as who is going to be allowed to review proposals is being made by a "very" small group and representing a whole division. This is an example of a policy that should have been brought to the whole division so that everyone could have a say.

I am a faculty member and I personally am appalled by this policy. It truly sets a tone for divisions that could hurt them and the organization.

4:20 PM

Blogger MKB said...

I couldn't agree more Chris...

In less than six months I'll be a faculty member. I've spent two (maybe three) years on the executive on one of the divisions. I'm an ect Intern and Mentor scholarship winner.

What has this policy resulted in for me, I've resigned my executive position from the division I belong to. Not only have I not encouraged one of my faculty members to sign up to review proposals in my division so that I can shadow review them, but I have refused to review for other divisions that still allow graduate students to be full members. And this is the beginning...

As a current intern and this decision having come after the call for proposals, I'm sort of committed to AECT for the next seven months. But after that, particularly with higher faculty membership rates, when I have to make some decisions about which organizations I really need to belong - I'm not entirely positive that AECT will be in the mix.

As an organization, it hasn't done anything to push it ahead of other technology focused organizations such as NECC, ISTE, AACE, AMTEC, etc..


4:50 PM

Blogger Chris said...


Your posting go me thinking. As an intern I think it would be appropriate (if you haven't already) to send your comments about what has happened regarding graduate students to the ECT Foundation. As you well know, the internship is more than just during the conference. It occurs throughout the whole year. Reviewing proposals is part of the service that many intern applicants list. Also, I believe reviewing proposals is part of the leadership development process for both faculty and graduate students.

Keep up the work. Your peers are listening!

5:31 PM

Blogger MKB said...

While not unappropriate, because of the fact that the interns are having an active year thus far - a Tech Trends article, a ect Cornerstone manuscript, a conference proposal, a proposal for the creation of a Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) in the next month or two, a direct mail fundraising campaign for the ect Capital Campaign in the next month or so, and other things still on our agenda - I do think that I don't want to speak with a single voice.

What I hope is that once the GSA is created, this is something that they will take up at the official voice of graduate students within AECT. But given what happened at the convention, I'll wait until after Anaheim before I do too much on my own.


5:46 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am one of Gary Morrison's students this semester at ODU. I am a first year doc student and first year member at AECT. Gary says, and I agree, that we are not his peers. Having his proposals reviewed by grad students makes the conference not a peer conference and no longer part of his accepted service for his tenure contract. I believe he has mentioned this outside of class. It is a problem for others as well. Rather than killing the organization, or turning it into a student group, there must be some middle ground that respects all parties.

8:01 AM

Blogger MKB said...

As a first year doc student I would have agreed with you, which is why inthat year I shadow reviewed proposals for four different conferences (including AECT). The fact of the matter is simple, at what point does mentoring only serve to hinder the growth and development of a beginning academic?

It serves me no purpose to shadow review someone else's proposals when I have been reviewing proposals on my own to AECT for three years. It adds nothing to my development when I sit as a reviewer to two academic journals. All it does it tell me that AECT isn't interested in my service anymore, that somehow after three years of service to the organization my professional judgements and opinions are somehow suspect because I am still a student.

In simple terms, all it does is isolate me from the other, "regular" members and from the organization.

BTW, if you (and Dr. Morrison) feel that having a tenure track professor's proposal reviewed by a graduate student is somehow not peer review, that tells me a lot about the low value you place on the knowledge and expertise of graduate students within AECT.


8:29 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the contrary, I do not have a low value of graduate students within the AECT. I am one. I simply do not see myself as the peer of my very experienced professor, nor do I see you as having achieved that status...MKB, yet...

Accomplished though, and I very much see your point - the work you have done might not be available to me if the participation of graduate students were to be limited, thereby limiting my opportunities. hmm...

Not in the interests of the field - but Neither is lowering the threshold for participation at the 'top' of our field.

The perception and perhaps practice of participation in the association as a means to academic employment also limits the growth that is possible through congregation and exchange via the organization.

The truth is - I beleive the activities of the association should continue to contribute to the work and professional standing of tenured faculty. Service to the organization could function as development for graduate students, and yes I very much value your particiaption and the opportunity to participate while at the graduate level - but we need more to come from such a large collaborative effort than fat vitae.
(not that I don't want to feed mine)

11:38 PM

Blogger MKB said...

Okay, this is almost getting comical. As a fourth year doctoral candidate, what is it I lack in knowledge or expertise right now, that I will somehow possess in July when I am officially an Assistant Professor at Wayne State University? What magical scholarly piece will I read, what mind-blowing seminar will I participate in, what sublime mentoring will I receive in the next four months that will make me ready?

See,you have to place a low value on graduate students, if you believe that they can't contribute the same as a tenure-track faculty member. And keep in mind we aren'ttrying to compare the first or second year student with the Tom Reeves', Michael Moores, David Jonassens of the field.

The way in which Dr. Morrison has made this decision (and I put it that directly because there are divisions that stil allow graduate students to review, others that still allow upper year graduate students to review, and yet more than allow graduate students who have reviewed in the past to review), he has basically said that all graduat students do not have the knowledge and expertise to be trusted to review these proposals at the same level as any faculty member. And I have a problem with that.

What is the difference between where I am now in my knowledge and expertise and where I will be in six month as a first year Assistant Professor? What is the difference between any third, fourth or fifth year doctoral student and a first or second year Assistant Professor? I would argue that in many instances there are very few. Let's take a specific example beyond myself. Nathan Lowell was President of the Distance Learning Division as a graduate student. This meant that like Dr. Morrison now, he was responsible for putting together the entire convention program for his division. Should he not have been able to review proposals? I mean he was the final judge of what was accepted and what wasn't accepted, as the proposal reviewers merely provide guidance to the President Elect in reality.

I agree that there are probably many differences between a first year doc student, like yourself, and most tenure track faculty members. In the same way I agree that there are many differences in the knowledge and expertise between someone like myself and the Tom Reeves', Michael Moores, David Jonassens, and even the Gary Morrisons of the world. I don't agree that there are a big differences in the knowledge and expertise between an upper year doctoral student and a rookie Assistant Professor - and if it lowers the threshold of quality to allow one to participate than it must also do so for the other. Do you also believe that the participation of rookie Assistant Professors cheapen the level of quality of AECT?

The second biggest problem that I have with the actions of Gary Morrison with this decision is the all or nothing approach that he has taken. There are many good middle groud approaches that anumber of other divisions have taken. For example, some divisions are requiring that graduate students have reviewed or shadow reviewed proposals in the past, to ensure that appropriate mentoring and experience has occurred. Even if AECT followed their own procedure, this wouldn't be a problem!

The way in which the system is supposed to work is that each proposal is assigned to three reviewers and only one should be a graduate student. This way at least two reviews per proposal are coming from tenure-track faculty members. The thinking behind this was that if the graduate student's review was simply too hard or too easy, that the program planner (i.e., the President Elect)could exclude that one from their decision making process as they put the program for that division together. If everyone does there job, there should be no problem.

The problem has arisen in the fact that a lot of people don't complete their reviews. And in many cases, these people are the tenure track faculty members. So many proposals are left with only one or two reviews (I know personally in submissions to three previous conventions, I have never received three reviews). Tis means that you may only have one tenure-track faculty review and one graduate student review, or even just a single graduate student review, on which to base the decision for the proposal on.

You see the problem with the system isn't that graduate students do not have the knowledge and expertise to do these reviews, the biggest problem with the system is that there are far too many people that simply blow off this review process (and it appears that a higher percentage of these are the tenure-track faculty members). But instead of trying to address the root of the problem and allow the system to work as it should, Dr. Morrison made the decision to get rid of the graduate student involvement from the process. And I believe that this knee-jerk reaction was the wrong way to address this problem!!!

4:44 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ooohhh I am so new, and young, and naive....it is true, really, except the young part.

I do think the credential is more important on some level than the quality of performance. From the outside it bears a mark of validity that cannot be as subjective as personal capacity, talent, or knowledge.

I don't agree with that, but it is the way of the world.

I do not anticipate my credibility to come from my talent, but from my achievements as measured by others, in terms of my credentials. Thats why I have sought them.

I do not know the history of grad student involvement - my master's program did not involve us with the conference activities.

I do know that the definition of peer reviewed was explained to me to be a matter of credential - not capacity.

Should I be more conerned that as an advisee I have been asked to make copies and not shadow review, review or participate in other meaningful ways? Should this have begun in my masters program? Should I be concerned that in the planned three years of my program I will not have time to accomplish what you have and will that lower my value at the end of this program???

I do see the problem with average memberships being 3 years, and I do see a problem with limiting the value of participation beyond years needed to complete a degree or find a job. It seems that the value of participation for tenured faculty is what is being diminished by the equal participation of grad students.

I am also one of those students who had become accustomed to calling professors by their first names, and have been less than reverent in discussion. The letters after a person's name do not describe the quality of their ideas, but a state of completion of a level of professional accomplishment as distated by a credible program.

I also feel there is a disconnect between what some departments consider service and schollarly activity and what opportunities others offer.

While I see Gary's point, I see yours as well. I want great opportunities to participate as a doc student, and I want greater opportunities to participate once I become faculty. I am also willing to serve in a technical capacity where I can, but am primarily concerned with furthering my education.

I think it comes down to a basic question of the future of the organizationa and how it serves its membership. If faculty are unable to use the conference as service based on the definition of peer, the value of the conference to grad students will be limited. I do not need to attent a conference of fellow students, I need to attend a conference of distinguished members of my field including grad students.

The truth is, I am not feeling particularly valued as a grad student in my program, and while I do expect to be impressed at Anaheim, I can't afford to send myself in the future if my participation might be limited to activites that do not advance my career. I think that is Gary's problem as well.

7:47 AM

Blogger MKB said...

Why can't it be a system based on merit or talent? Every time I complete an AACE conference proposal review or a manuscript review for their IJEL publication, there is a box that I can fill out to indicate if I was assisted by someone. AACE uses this bit of data when determining whether or not to accept someone as a new reviewer - have they assisted someone else in the review process yet. When I signed on to be a reviewer for the British Journal of Educational Technology, I had to send a copy of my CV to the editor for him to judge whether or not I was qualified to conduct peer reviews based on my history of scholarship. When I first became an AERA confernce proposal reviewer, I had to be recommended by a tenure-track faculty member (who in theory was supposed to be in a position to judge my talents in this area). Why can't AECT do similar things?

There are a number of problems here, both for the field and for the organization. You are right to question who are considered peers? But is it okay for a single individual, i.e., Gary Morrison, to determine that as a four and final year doc student I am not his peer in the Distance Learning Division? Particularly after Vance Durrington judged me to be one as a second year student and Tony Pina did so again as a third year student. President Elects of the division are the ones that make the decision on how they go about planning their divisional activities for the annual convention. Does this mean that anyone who had a proposal accepted when Nathan Lowell was President Elect is somehow not seen in the same light as those who presented under Vance or Tony because Nathan was a graduate student whilehe was President Elect (along with while he was President and Past President for that matter). Does that mean for those three years the DL division was a second class division, not a peer division, because it's leadership was led by a graduate student?

And for that matter, how does having two faculty member reviews and one graduate student review lessen the quality of peer review? This is even a pattern used by one of two sections of the American Education Research Journal published by AERA - a journal that has one of the highest impact factors in education. Does a manuscript published in that journal's teaching a learning section not count as a peer reviewed article towards Dr. Morrison's dossier because the graduate student involvement no longer makes it peer reviewed.

The fact of the matter is that AECT is an organization that is struggling with a membership problem. One of the causes of that membership problem is the high percentage of graduate students (who already make up a third of the total membership) who simply use AECT as a way to make connections to get a job and then never become members once they have their faculty status. Sure there are always new graduate students to take their place, but as the regular members die off or find other jobs or simply leave AECT, there aren't as many new faculty members joining (or continuing their membership past their graduate student phase).

How do you keep students involved (and hopefully as members)? Involve them! Mentor them! Let them spread their wings! And when they are ready to fly on their own let them! AERA has figured this out, as has AACE and many other organizations. The Distance Learning Division under the leadership of Gary Morrison hasn't!

And if he is so right and so supported in this view, how come other divisions haven't followed suit. Looking across the board, there are great variations as to how divisions treat graduate students and Distance Learning is one of a few divisions on the end of treating them poorly. The AECT Board hasn't taken this drastic step, but if they did who would really stop them? At present there is no recognized body within AECT to represent graduate students. The appointed graduate student seat on the AECT is even vacant. And let's face it, AECT is the professiona organization that most people in our field belong to, so graduate students have to be involved while they are in graduate school to make the connections that they need on the other side.

The only way graduate students have to really make their individual voices heard is with their pocket books, when regular membership fees (which depending on the organization can be two to four times as much as student fees) mean that they have to go from being a member of four or five or six or more organizations, down to being a member of one or two or three. And because the graduate student felt so marginalized, so uninvolved, and, really, so unwanted in AECT they decide to go to NECC, AACE, SITE, ISTE, etc.. And the decision made by Gary Morrison with regards to the peer review of conference proposals isn't helping.

8:12 AM


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