The Education Conundrum


This blog is taking break until the new year but in the meantime I leave you with details of my new eBook. I have given it the slightly pretentious title of “The Education Conundrum: One academic’s thoughts on a wicked problem”. (Incidentally, the origins of the term ‘wicked problem’ are described here.)

For Apple users, the book is available in ePub format on iBooks (accessed via iTunes) while Kindle users can get the book on Amazon. The book is also available in every conceivable electronic format, including ePub and Kindle formats at Smashwords. The book is priced at $9.99.

If you are a regular visitor to this blog you will have good idea of what to expect. The book is a collection of over 100 ‘blog posts’, some of which are edited versions of what has appeared in this blog and many that are completely new.

The book is divided into 7 chapters and the full Table of Contents is as follows:


1. Education and Society

1.1 We are where we are

1.2 The paradox of third level education

1.3 The 21st century

1.4 Educated in Ireland – a call for data

1.5 Misdiagnosing the problem

1.6 Where’s the beef?

1.7 The education ladder

1.8 Education exists within a society

1.9 Creating a community of students

1.10 The Plausibility Principle – education and growth

1.11 Finding your level

1.12 Where are the economists?

1.13 Whining multinationals

1.14 MOOC mania

1.15 Experience with a MOOC

1.16 Leaving Cert angst

2. Managing the System

2.1 Now what?

2.2 Designing new programs – ethics and efficiency

2.3 Low demand programs

2.4 Inputs, outputs and CAO points

2.5 Management and autonomy

2.6 The Plausibility Principle – tidying the system

2.7 TUs and clusters

2.8 TUs, IoTs and academic contracts

2.9 Back to the future – changes to the CAO system

2.10 Filling the gap in the IT sector

2.11 What do students want to study?

2.12 How many administrators are needed?

3. Teaching and Learning

3.1 The trouble with education

3.2 Why I hate the phrase ‘teaching and learning’

3.3 I’m the bad guy?

3.4 Critical thinking – cutting through the waffle

3.5 He who does, cannot teach

3.6 In praise of practice

3.7 Rote learning can be good

3.8 Contrarianism and teaching and learning

3.9 The Plausibility Principle – learning styles

3.10 Reflections on modularisation and semesterisation

3.11 Research and teaching

3.12 Innovation for innovation’s sake

3.13 Learning and personality

3.14 Learning outcomes and student surveys

3.15 The price of academic autonomy

3.16 Teaching innovations that I like

3.17 The black box

3.18 Advice for a young lecturer

3.19 Are computers part of the problem?

3.20 What’s the point of lectures?

4. Science and Scientific Research

4.1 Science – idealism and pragmatism

4.2 Classifying scientific research

4.3 Funding research – don’t just listen to scientists

4.4 Funding research – making the argument

4.5 Science, soccer and silverware

4.6 The Plausibility Principle – organising research

4.7 The science herd

4.8 Truth and plausibility in science

4.9 Has science become boring?

4.10 Useless research?

4.11 Science, education and the persistence of quackery

4.12 Famous scientists talking rubbish

4.13 Who does research benefit?

4.14 Be wary of biomedical researchers bearing cures

4.15 Attracting young people into science

4.16 Science – nature versus nurture

5. Maths, Engineering and Computing

5.1 The truth about maths

5.2 The decline in mathematics skills

5.3 Teaching maths

5.4 The Plausibility Principle – Project Maths

5.5 Leaving Cert maths – what I would have done

5.6 Maths and evolution

5.7 Teaching computer programming at second level

5.8 In praise of chemical engineering

5.9 The case for more engineers

6. Fourth Level Education

6.1 The rise of the PhD

6.2 The American system

6.3 The Plausibility Principle – the structured PhD

6.4 Structured PhDs – where are we now?

6.5 The strange business of examining PhDs

6.6 Is the quality of the PhD declining?

6.7 Supervising PhDs

6.8 The demise of the master’s degree by research

6.9 The taught master’s – more than one kind of thing

6.10 The two cultures

7. Life in the Academy

7.1 Is the Academy really an ivory tower?

7.2 A quantum theory of academics

7.3 Academic silence

7.4 Management in the university

7.5 Hysteria about ‘managerialism’

7.6 Graduate attributes and plain speaking

7.7 The limits of academic freedom

7.8 Academic conferences

7.9 Academic papers – why so boring?

7.10 Authoring academic papers

7.11 Writing a textbook

7.12 Ageism in the university

7.13 Teaching laboratory modules

7.14 Undergraduate projects

7.15 Balancing teaching, research and life

7.16 Leaving a legacy

7.17 The Plausibility Principle – interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity

7.18 What is lecturing like?

7.19 The effect of cutbacks

7.20 Strategy mania

7.21 Student emails


I hope the book will be provocative, not because I necessarily want to create controversy for the sake of it, but because I think there are many issues within the sphere of education that need to be discussed – and discussed openly. We should not be afraid to have these discussions.

Any comments regarding the book can be made on this blog post. I will reply to all comments as long as they are made in the spirit of robust but collegiate academic debate!


About Greg Foley

A lecturer in Biotechnology in Dublin City University for more than 25 years. Trained as a Chemical Engineer in UCD (BE and PhD) and Cornell (MS). Does research on analysis and design of membrane filtration systems.
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One Response to The Education Conundrum

  1. Pingback: Ninth Level Ireland » Blog Archive » The Education Conundrum

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