Rank #1: Higher Ed: Education’s Four-Letter Word
T-E-S-T. That word almost always strikes fear in the hearts of students. They’re worried about doing well, getting a high grade, and comparing their performance to that of their classmates. In this episode of KUT’s podcast Higher Ed, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger explore stressful test culture. Who hasn’t had a “horror” story experience of taking a test? Ed and Jennifer share some memorable ones and take a closer look at why testing is so stressful. One reason: we tie our own worthiness into our test performance. Ed talks about how to decouple ourselves from our performance and how to make meaning out of our work on a test no matter what the grade. Listen to the full episode to hear what words of encouragement Ed says you should never tell a test taker. You will also get the result to the tricky train puzzler. It sounds like an arithmetic challenge, but there may be more to it.
This episode was recorded Sept. 22, 2017.
Nov 19 2017
Rank #2: Higher Ed: The Key To Dissipating Regret? Use It To Spur Action And Change
A podcast listener wrote in asking for guidance about how to handle the regret she feels over the choices she made in college. In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton examine regret and the ways in which it can actually inspire positive change.
A podcast listener named Rebekah wrote in with the following question: “Sometimes when I listen to your podcast…I get a bit sad because I did not do all the things you talk about. I did not fit in at my college. I did not learn deeply. I focused on the wrong things and it hurts to think that maybe my life could have been better if only….What would Ed say to me about my sorrow over my misspent youth or lost opportunities?”
Ed’s first response? “I think it’s fantastic that Rebekah has regret!”
And why is that?
Ed says he looks at regret as a signal of a couple of things, one of them being personal growth.
“Regret is something that means that she has grown from where she was to where she is now,” Ed maintains. “So if nothing else, she needs to celebrate the fact that she looks at, in this case, her formal education in a different way. That’s huge growth and that’s worthy of celebration in and of itself.”
Ed believes regret truly becomes useful when that feeling prompts action.
“When you feel that, now there’s an action item. What are you going to do about it?” asks Ed. “It’s never too late to be learning.”
Ed says listening to that inner voice that fuels feelings of regret can help spur that action.
“If there’s a longing in us today that is something that could lead us to become [an] ever better, more amplified version of ourselves then we need to embrace that longing and take action. That’s the key to regret,” Ed believes. “Sitting by and just going ‘oh, woe is me’ – that’s ineffective.”
Ed says understanding why we feel regret for things done (or not done) in the past can also help us take action that will prevent similar regret later on. Listen to the full episode to hear more about what Ed calls “intellectual regret prevention” and to get the solution to last episode’s shape-shifting puzzler.
This episode was recorded on Sept. 25, 2019.
Nov 03 2019
Rank #3: Higher Ed: Letting Go Of The “Noise” To Prioritize Better In School And Life
Most people – students included – have a long to-do list but are short on ideas for how to tackle it. In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss strategies for deciding what should top the list.
Ed suggests that removing things from the list might actually be an effective first step in prioritizing what is there.
“I just look at them, and if I can dispense with it instantly, I just do,” says Ed. “And that could be including just forwarding it on to the right person…. That gets a lot of stuff off your desk immediately.”
Okay, so now that the list is shorter, what is the best way to determine what gets attention first? This is where some discernment comes in.
“There’s stuff that you just have to say, ‘I can’t worry about that. That is just a distraction,'” says Ed. “And that I think is the ultimate in prioritizing which is saying, ‘that’s essential. This is exactly why I exist. And this is just noise.’ And the noise you have to let go.”
When those essential tasks are chosen, Ed then advocates for working in parallel on items on the list rather than trying to get them completely finished one by one.
“Just do something for a little bit,” suggests Ed. “And then if all of a sudden you’ve lost your mojo on that thing, then just put it aside and don’t say ‘I’m going to push right through that’ say ‘okay, enough of that, let me do something else.'”
Ed concedes there is a practical side to prioritizing work and tasks but also an emotional side. Listen to the entire episode to hear more about how to make peace with prioritizing – especially when other people are unhappy with those decisions. And you will want to make the new puzzler a priority for this week; it is a little bit math and a little bit art.
This episode was recorded on Sept. 25, 2019.
Oct 27 2019
Rank #4: Higher Ed: Competing Demands In Education Lead To Stress
The end of the school year is a busy time for students, faculty, staff, and families. Finals exams are looming; seniors may be on the hunt for a job; and many students have to say goodbye to friends and teachers. In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss the origins of stress; the role it can play in education and learning; and how to successfully manage it (both in and out of school).
Actually, the entire school year can feel stressful with tests, grades, activities and high expectations to perform well. Ed says that a primary cause of overall stress in education stems from multiple, competing demands inherent in the system: students are trying to get the training and background they need to take the next step and launch their careers while also making deep meaning of the material they are learning. He says those two interests don’t always happily co-exist. In this episode, Ed and Jennifer talk about the definition and origins of stress. They also discuss ways to manage it, which does not necessarily mean completely eliminating stress.
One good way to get rid of some stress? Go to a party. Listen to the full episode to get the latest puzzler which is all about party guests’ favorite school subjects.
This episode was recorded on April 20, 2018.
Apr 29 2018
Rank #5: Best Of “Higher Ed:” Civility, Outrage And Discourse
Those in higher education have a lot on their minds these days: the new tax law, immigration, affordability, the cost of education and how these things impact teaching and learning. Educators are also thinking about how people discuss those topics. In this episode of KUT’s podcast Higher Ed, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss how people with different opinions can have fruitful and thoughtful conversations in and out of the classroom.
Ed believes there is plenty of room for civil discourse on a wide variety of topics as long as we listen to and respect each other. He and Jennifer discuss how to do that in what some people are calling an “age of outrage.” Check out the full episode to hear their civil discussion and to catch the latest on the “random walk” puzzler.
This episode was recorded Jan. 18, 2018.
Aug 05 2018
Rank #6: Higher Ed: Trust And Communication Can Help “Helicopter” Parents Land Safely
The idea of “helicopter” parenting may not have a formal definition. But we all have a pretty good sense of it when we encounter it – those parents who seem to control and hover too closely over many aspects of their children’s lives, often to the detriment (and sometimes embarrassment) of those children. In this episode of the KUT podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton take a discussion about helicopter parenting to a live audience of – yes – parents and students at Southwestern.
First of all, Ed believes a couple of things about “helicopter” parenting: it has always been around, perhaps exacerbated in more recent times by the abundance and reach of personal technology. And, it can come from a place of wanting what is best for children. But that concept of what is best for children, and how to achieve it, can be a sticking point.
“I think the question is: ‘what’s the definition of what’s best?’,” says Ed. “And if you take away all the independence and agency, are you really helping, or in some sense are you manufacturing a problem for the future?”
So how can parents back off from such close monitoring but still help their children learn and develop skills to maneuver through life? Ed believes setting an environment of trust and open communication will go a long way.
So will helping children establish realistic expectations about life before they head out on their own.
“Life is really a roller coaster, but certainly one’s undergraduate formal career is honestly a roller coaster of that sort,” says Ed. “You get to these peaks which are really exciting and you’re really happy and you want to stay there forever…. And then all of a sudden, you go way down and something awful happens… Instead of thinking about that as a down moment, I think we need to realize that life…. is a roller coaster. So those peaks and valleys are going to happen. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when…. It’s the downturns where the real learning can happen.”
Listen to the full episode to hear more of the discussion with some college parents about easing off of helicopter parenting. And hear some answers to a provocative question for the future: what might happen when a generation of children with hovering parents become parents themselves?
No puzzler this week. It took off early for Spring Break but will be back in a few weeks!
This episode was recorded on Feb. 23, 2019.
Mar 10 2019
Rank #7: Higher Ed: The Teacher-Student Relationship
A college student requested a “Higher Ed” discussion about meaningful student-teacher relationships – both how to form them, and how those relationships could impact grades and behavior. In this episode of KUT’s podcast Higher Ed, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss how students and teachers can best engage each other to insure that dynamic goes well. The relationship between teacher and student can be complex. Teachers can be mentors, advisors and role models to students. But teachers also grade students’ work and are thus in an assessor role as well. And, as Ed points out, those two roles can sometimes be in conflict. Ed and Jennifer discuss ways that students and teachers can build relationships that go well for both sides. Ed’s tips for teachers: don’t play mind games or play favorites with students. His tips for students: engage teachers about the material and show enthusiasm and curiosity. Listen to the full episode to hear more about teacher-student relationships and the one student behavior Ed won’t tolerate. It is also time to solve the mystery from the last episode about the scarf, carrot and coal.
This episode was recorded Feb. 28, 2018.
Apr 22 2018
Rank #8: Higher Ed: What Constitutes A “Good” Education
In a recent episode of KUT’s podcast Higher Ed, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger answered a listener’s question about how to know when it’s the right decision to transfer schools. In this episode, they take that discussion a step further to answer a related and important question: how can students know if they’re getting a “good” education? What does it even mean to describe an education as “good?” You can probably come up with some ways to objectively measure the quality of an education. Many of the teachers have advanced degrees from institutions with excellent reputations. The curriculum offers a wide variety of classes. Students graduate with promising job offers or acceptances to graduate schools. The school is highly ranked in national surveys. But what does a “good” education really mean? Ed argues it should be measured using different parameters, many of which actually rest with students rather than faculty or institutions. Listen on for Ed and Jen’s discussion about indicators of the quality of an education, and whether that can even be determined while it’s in progress or only after the fact. You’ll also get the solution to the puzzler about who took a road trip to Southwestern University.
This episode was recorded Sept. 22, 2017.
Oct 22 2017
Rank #9: Higher Ed: Studying Abroad
In this episode, a question from a “Higher Ed” listener: her daughter is a sophomore in high school who has started attending college fairs and reading online about schools. The family is interested to know more about the impact of studying abroad on a student’s education. In this episode of KUT’s podcast Higher Ed, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger dig into the topic of studying abroad. Ed and Jennifer talk about the pros and cons of spending part of college (or high school) studying outside the U.S. Ed says students can gain a lot experiencing a new culture and learning a new language. But do they lose anything spending time away from their academic home base? Listen on for their discussion and for the solution to the most recent puzzler about about gas cans, gallons, and some tricky pouring.
This episode was recorded on March 24, 2017.
Apr 23 2017
Rank #10: Higher Ed: Does It Really Matter Where You Go To College?
The short answer to that question is “no.” Ed says he believes students can get a good education – even a great or superior education – at many accredited institutions of higher learning.
But Ed says when it comes to students finding their way and growing, he believes the right fit with the right institution is more important.
“If you’re in an environment where you do not feel that it resonates with you,” says Ed,” then I don’t think you’re going to have that experience of growth….I think there is a difference between thriving and learning.”
Ed says a high profile school might have a name that is easily recognizable. But he says that brand awareness is not a guarantee of a good experience for every student.
“How meaningful is that name? It’s about what does that institution do for you.” says Ed. “You meet a lot of people that constantly are name-dropping their school…. they’re living in the past. I want individuals that are looking ever forward and trying to make things better.”
So who then bears the responsibility of making the higher education experience as effective as it can be – the institution, or the student?
“I think that both parties have to bring something to the table, and I think that maybe there are people that will find that is a little bit controversial,” Ed says. “And that there are students that appear on a campus and just now feel entitled to feel great and feel good and to have a nice ride. And that’s not what it’s about.”
Listen to the episode to hear more of Ed’s thoughts on having as expansive a college experience as possible beyond just classroom learning. It is also time to reveal the answers to the last round of riddles and pave the way for the return of the puzzler.
This episode was recorded on Oct. 30, 2018.
Dec 09 2018
Rank #11: Higher Ed: Confronting Gender-Based Academic Bias
The author of a summer op-ed in the New York Times (no, not that op-ed!) believes girls would benefit from more drilling on math to “break the cycle of dislike-avoidance-further dislike” and help them build confidence in their math skills (which research has shown are pretty similar to boys’ math skills). In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss the op-ed’s call for gender-based additional academic practice and how to undo lingering biases about gender and academic performance.
We hope the days are long gone in which girls were considered less skilled at math and the sciences, and boys were considered under-achievers in reading and language arts. The data don’t bear those differences out, but lingerings biases may still lead some students to be treated as if they are true – or to act as if they are true. In this episode, Ed discusses social science research that shows any effort that amplifies the bias – even by calling it out – can actually reinforce it. He also believes students should always be encouraged to improve their understanding and performance, regardless of their gender or the academic subject.
Listen on for our discussion as well as for the solution to last episode’s puzzler about the mysterious stamp switch.
This episode was recorded on Aug. 9, 2018.
Sep 16 2018
Rank #12: Higher Ed: To Infinity and Beyond
Infinity. What does it really mean? Can we count it? If so, how? And can we ever really define or describe it? It seems like there are an infinite number of questions about infinity. In this episode of KUT’s podcast Higher Ed, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger help us try to wrap our minds around infinity. Remember – the puzzler in the previous episode was all about infinity. Listen on for the mind-blowing solution to the puzzler, and to hear other fascinating facts about infinity. For instance, can it be doubled? Find out!
This “Best of Higher Ed” episode was originally released on October 18, 2015.
Jul 31 2016
Rank #13: Higher Ed: Leadership – Can It Be Taught and Learned?
This 2016 election season has a lot of people talking about leadership: what qualities do we want in a leader, and what kind of experiences can prepare someone to lead? In this episode of KUT’s podcast Higher Ed, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger talk about whether leadership can be taught and learned, or if someone people are just “born leaders.” Listen on for Ed and Jen’s discussion about the role education can play in preparing someone to be a leader. You’ll also get the newest puzzler. Bonus this week: it’s in 3D (but no glasses needed!).
This episode was recorded on August 10, 2016.
Oct 02 2016
Rank #14: Higher Ed: Learning from the People You Meet
So much of what we encounter in formal education is planned; we attend scheduled classes in designated classrooms and go through specific lessons plans. But there can also be real educational value in chance encounters or unexpected opportunities. In this episode of KUT’s podcast Higher Ed, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss lessons learned on the fly. Dick Van Dyke. Robert McNamara. Those two men don’t have much in common. But they are both people whom Ed has met. In this episode, Ed tells the stories of those meetings and talks about always learning something from even the most random encounters. Listen on for that discussion as well as a new puzzler about the frequency of digits (as in numbers, not fingers and toes).
This episode was recorded on April 19, 2017.
Jun 04 2017
Rank #15: Higher Ed: Instructional Media Then And Now
Remember those old film strips in school that would advance frame by frame, fueled by an annoying beep? Instructional media has certainly improved quite a bit since those days. In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss if better videos make for better learning.
Ed spent much of his summer “vacation” taping a new round of instructional math videos, complete with updated graphics and special effects. But how do videos impact learning? Ed says technology alone will not make for better educational outcomes. Listen to the episode to get his thoughts on whether educational videos can be entertaining and educational or if the two should never mix.
A new season of “Higher Ed” also means a new puzzler. This one is more about logic and less about math.
This episode was recorded on August 9, 2018.
Sep 09 2018
Rank #16: Higher Ed: Competition In Education
“Whadya get?” That’s the question students often ask each other after graded exams or papers are handed back. Competition among students persists in education. In this episode of KUT’s podcast Higher Ed, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss if that kind of competition is ever productive or useful for learning. Competition in school is usually among students, but Ed and Jennifer discuss how students can set up a competition with themselves to try and improve their own individual learning and performance. They also discuss how to balance competition with being part of a community. Check out the full episode to hear Ed’s thoughts about whether competition is something that should be taught in school and to hear a throwback puzzler a la “Let’s Make A Deal.”
This episode was recorded Nov. 7, 2017.
Dec 10 2017
Rank #17: Best of “Higher Ed:” Why The College Major May Matter Less Than We’ve Always Thought
This episode was originally published on Oct. 12, 2018.
Choosing a major is a rite of passage for higher education students, and it can feel like a – dare we say it –major decision with lifelong implications. In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss what could – and sometimes should –go into choosing a major plan of study.
Sometime in a student’s higher education career, a decision has to be made about a major, that set of courses a student chooses to study a subject more deeply. The decision can feel like a significant, irrevocable one that can impact the rest of their lives. But Ed suggests dialing back the stress to make that one, perfect decision.
“The major itself is not as important as the experience and the growth opportunities that come from that major,” he says. “That’s why you hear so many people, especially in the liberal arts and science, talk about how it doesn’t even matter what your major is. As long as you’re involved and interested and engaged, you will have that growth experience that will allow you to become better and to figure out the next thing you do, and that leads you to the next thing … because you’re constantly going toward your passion.”
Ed also believes timelines that require students to declare a major at a specific point in time during their college career can discourage academic exploration and excitement about discovering new fields of interest.
“I’d like to see people declaring majors when they really are intellectually fired up about the thing, rather than it’s time to do it.”
Listen to the full episode for more about the process of academic discovery that can lead to declaring a major. It is also time for the solution to the puzzler about escaping a room while avoiding scorching heat and a fire-breathing dragon. Think it can’t be done? Wait til you hear the oh so simple solution!
This episode was recorded on Sept. 28, 2018.
Aug 04 2019
Rank #18: Best Of “Higher Ed:” Who’s Really In Control Of Learning
This episode was originally posted on Feb 4, 2018.
A lot of people have input when it comes to formal education: teachers, students, administrators, staff and parents for starters. In this episode of KUT’s podcast Higher Ed, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss who out of all those groups, though, is actually in control of the quality of the education provided.
Ed and Jennifer examine who does – and who actually should – take responsibility for education when there are so many cooks in the kitchen. They also discuss the critical role students play in owning their own educational experiences and the value of giving them autonomy (at least at a certain point in their formal education) to make choices for better or for worse.
It’s also time for the solution to the “random walk” puzzler. It turns out that it’s anything but random.
This episode was recorded Nov. 7, 2017.
Aug 12 2018
Rank #19: Higher Ed: Grade Inflation
A…..B……C…. at the end of the school year, many students are eager to see their final grades. But what is the real value of those grades? What happens when higher and higher grades are awarded for work that may not actually be that much better? In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton explore the phenomenon of grade inflation. Ed and Jennifer have talked before about what grades actually mean and measure. In this episode, they explore the implications of grade inflation and some possible alternatives to the current, traditional grading system. You’ll also get the solution to the most recent puzzler involving digits, =, and + . Hint: sometimes a digit is not just a digit.
This episode was recorded May 16, 2016.
Jun 05 2016
Rank #20: Higher Ed: Helping Students Flourish In Careers Of The Future
One of higher education’s biggest challenges in the coming years may be to prepare students to flourish in a world with many careers and positions that don’t now exist. In this episode of KUT’s podcast Higher Ed, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss how higher education can be ready for this new reality. Ed wrote the following in his 2017 President’s Report:
…in the decades to come, higher education faces some serious challenges, not the least of which is remaining relevant to the intellectual and creative needs of students who will graduate into a world in which over 65% will eventually holds careers in positions that have yet to be created.
In this episode, Ed and Jennifer discuss the ways that education already prepares students for a broad range of careers and some ways it may need to pivot as the work world continues to evolve. Listen to this whole episode for a glimpse into the future and to get the solution to a retro puzzler about old-fashioned cash registers.
This episode was recorded Feb. 28, 2018.
Apr 08 2018