HOW PROFESSORS THINK

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Harvard University Press, Mar 31, 2009 - Education - 330 pages
6 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.

  

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - rivkat - LibraryThing

Sadly overpromising title! This book is about how academics responsible for making fellowship grants think, and while this clearly has implications for broader issues it wasn’t what I was hoping for ... Read full review

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

User Review  - Jessica Zu - Goodreads

Believe it or not, this is the best book for my socialization into literary studies XD Read full review

Contents

1 Opening the Black Box of Peer Review
1
2 How Panels Work
22
3 On Disciplinary Cultures
53
Customary Rules of Deliberation
107
5 Recognizing Various Kinds of Excellence
159
6 Considering Interdisciplinarity and Diversity
202
7 Implications in the United States and Abroad
239
Methods and Data Analysis
251
Notes
259
References
289
Acknowledgments
316
Index
321
Copyright

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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.

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