HOW PROFESSORS THINK

Front Cover
Harvard University Press, Mar 31, 2009 - Education - 330 pages
8 Reviews

Excellence. Originality. Intelligence. Everyone in academia stresses quality. But what exactly is it, and how do professors identify it?

In the academic evaluation system known as “peer review,” highly respected professors pass judgment, usually confidentially, on the work of others. But only those present in the deliberative chambers know exactly what is said. Michle Lamont observed deliberations for fellowships and research grants, and interviewed panel members at length. In How Professors Think, she reveals what she discovered about this secretive, powerful, peculiar world.

Anthropologists, political scientists, literary scholars, economists, historians, and philosophers don’t share the same standards. Economists prefer mathematical models, historians favor different kinds of evidence, and philosophers don’t care much if only other philosophers understand them. But when they come together for peer assessment, academics are expected to explain their criteria, respect each other’s expertise, and guard against admiring only work that resembles their own. They must decide: Is the research original and important? Brave, or glib? Timely, or merely trendy? Pro-diversity or interdisciplinary enough?

Judging quality isn’t robotically rational; it’s emotional, cognitive, and social, too. Yet most academics’ self-respect is rooted in their ability to analyze complexity and recognize quality, in order to come to the fairest decisions about that elusive god, “excellence.” In How Professors Think, Lamont aims to illuminate the confidential process of evaluation and to push the gatekeepers to both better understand and perform their role.

  

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
2
4 stars
1
3 stars
5
2 stars
0
1 star
0

Review: How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment

User Review  - Roxanne - Goodreads

Fascinating book about the process of peer review, the formation and evolution of academic disciplines in the social sciences, and the evolving notion of excellence in academia. Read full review

Review: How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment

User Review  - Nat - Goodreads

It is fun to read social scientists studying your little subculture. In this case, the author did a bunch of interviews with academics serving on interdisciplinary fellowship committees (ACLS, some ... Read full review

Related books

Contents

I
22
II
53
III
107
IV
159
V
202
VI
239
VII
251
VIII
259
IX
289
X
316
XI
321
Copyright

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2009)

Michèle Lamont is Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and Professor of Sociology and African and African American Studies at Harvard University.

Bibliographic information