The AWC Big Book of Bullshit

Anonymous Academic Adjunct gave me the idea of accumulating definitions of words we use and hear in academia.  Lots of people commented with their suggestions at the post in which I introduced the idea of the Big Book of Bullshit.  That's what this is. 

Add your suggestions in the comments below or send it to me by email or anonymous form.

Accountability: One of your bosses is about to Incentivize some Collaboration to meet some Milestones.

Active Learning: The physical activity of open mouth breathing associated with slack jawed students. ...Inhale...Exhale.....that's it......feel the burn....

Are-You-Suggesting: Opening phrase used when one is about to call someone else out on bullshit. Example, "Are you suggesting that math isn't a basic skill?"

Assessment (a.k.a. Test, Quiz, Assignment): You know what happens when you give an Assessment??....You make an "Ass" of "me" (Assessment). Tests by any other name are just as scary although I haven't heard of "assessment anxiety" yet. Hmmm, maybe change is good? Give it a longer, vaguer name and it takes them longer to figure out a disorder associated with it.

Benchmarks and Best Practices: Find a couple of other places that are doing the same stuff and copy their assessment tools. Then gin up our numbers to look as good or a little better than their numbers. There's an Associate Dean with an MBA looking over our shoulder, or a Trustees committee looking for something to fix.

Bingo: an excellent game to play when the Buzzwords are flying in thick and fast or something to pass the time while grading.

Bloom's Taxonomy: A belabored statement and restatement of the obvious observation that creative synthesis and other high-order thinking are different from memorization. Used as an excuse to do no memorization at all, the result of which will be no high-order thinking.

Buzzwords: (1) Utterances used to avoid having to use one's brain, or to conceal that the emperor is wearing no clothes at all.
(2) Utterances used to fool people into believing the speaker is party to some secret knowledge, thereby elevating their social status. Also known as malarkey, hogwash, and piffle.

Classroom Evaluation: A chance for your colleagues to stab you in the back while lauding their own teaching methodologies.

Closing the Loop: Sounds as if someone is making a hangman's noose.

Closure: what most administrative mouths lack while spewing biz-speak edu-babble.

Collaboration: (1) A process that involves you sitting through several more meetings to discuss how to facilitate adoption of more student-centered modalities.
(2) A way of reminding people why they dislike each other.

Congratulations!: Means of breaking the news to one of lower rank that he or she has been assigned to a thankless and uncompensated additional role on campus.

Core Competencies: (1) What we should have been doing all along before we added all those touchy-feely courses.
(2) What students used to learn in high school but now demonstrate by their junior year of college.

Customer Feedback: See definition (1) of Student Evaluation.

Educational Design Committee: A group invested with the power to reject the outline of a long-standing course because each topic starts with a number instead of a dash. Numbers are SO four years ago.

Engagement: A measure of the proportion of class time students spend looking, silent and apparently puzzled, at a professor who has just asked a question rather than at their devices. If the class employs group work, may also apply to the time students spend determining whether any of the other members of the group paid attention to the directions before beginning to discuss their plans for the weekend.

Engaging: Word used at least once in approximately 99% of the advertising emails for curricular materials that land in a professor's inbox.

Empowerment: (1) You take the initiative because administration couldn't be bothered. If it goes wrong, the shit lands on *your* desk. If it goes right, your masters take the credit for their wise leadership.
(2) The ability to be blamed rather than heard.

Facilitate: An indicator that the speaker is about to unload a lot of talk about student-centered stuff on you.

Flipped Classroom: making it possible for students to sleep through lectures without getting out of bed.

Group Presentation: Time for one student to do all the work and all the others to mumble their way through her PowerPoint.

Incentivize: One of your bosses is pocketing all your department's raises this year.

Key Performance Indicators: Numbers which one's department or institution must attain in order to make the applicable administrators look good, attract more applicants, and receive more government funding.

Learning Styles: a dodge to avoid doing any learning of any kind whatsoever, since "I'm not that learning style," inevitably.

Milestones: Vague references to target dates and requirements; the real information will be emailed at 7PM the evening before your response is due.

MOOC: an amorphous entity that is not a threat to your collegiate programming but is used by the administration the change everything that is working.

Motivational Speaker:  Someone who is paid gazillions of dollars by higher ups who think we want to sit in the auditorium and listen to someone tell bad jokes rather than work on our Syllabi.  My personal favorite was the "Jollytologist" who also provided us with foam red noses so we could all be clowns for a day.  All I can say is fuck you.  (And how do I get into this gig after I retire?).

Pedagogy: something that sounds like what perverts do.

QEP: A way of vaguely quantifying the (largely in vain) attempts of humanities professors to explain why you need to take my class.

Right-Brained Learning: No-brained learning.

Second-Connect: The real reason students go to college; anything the student wants to do for fun that the college offers, as long as it is not academic in nature.

Socratic Method: (1) Teaching by asking questions. Often unexamedly assumed to be a universal good, never mind that the Athenians poisoned Socrates.
(2) One way a prof or instructor find they're talking to themselves as the questions asked usually go into a student's ear and out the other without hitting anything in between.

Student Evaluation: (1) A collection of slander, lies, and outright poppycock written by people completely devoid of responsibility, talent, or ambition.
(2) A convenient tool used by administrators to harass and torment selected teaching staff, based on content of definition (1).

Student-Centered: A massive curricular change or pedagogical initiative that would require a great amount of time but yield no measurable improvement in student learning.

Syntax: what I recognize the presenter is using, while also recognizing that it is correct for a language I can understand; however, I am also reminded that syntax and meaning are not the same thing.

Team Building: A managerial technique for determining which staff members think independently, thereby making them eligible for subsequent "training" (sometimes referred to as "Room 101").

Thinking Outside the Box: The exact opposite of team building, not that this will occur to any advocate of it.

Total Quality Management (a.k.a. Quality Control):  This just keeps rearing its ugly head and morphing into new paradiggums.  Notice how they took the "Control" out of Quality Control so we would feel less manipulated?  I've seen it called Quality Matters.  To whom, I ask?  Those of us who have been putting a quality "product" out for years now still don't get recognition or respect.  We just have to go through "Syllabus Sensitivity Training" to make sure our Syllabi aren't too wordy or strict or mean or damaging to their self-esteem.  I now dub thee.....Quack Matters.  Make sure your classes meet Quack standards.   There is a spin off T.V. show called "Breaking Quack".  More to follow....

Well, I just think that . . .: Prelude to an obvious but irrelevant statement at a meeting. Also a reprise.


  1. Taking Ownership: If you do something wrong, the crap falls on your desk and the administration don't know who you are. If you do something right, the administration takes all the credit and it still doesn't know who you are.

  2. I love the Bloom's Taxonomy definition. Meeting after meeting after meeting, we all sit as Educrats spew that pure diarrhetic bullshit at us and nod our heads...while we all know it's bullshit.