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Book Review

To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional, and Organizational Development, vol 31. 
James E. Groccia and Laura Cruz, editors
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2012 (400 pages, ISBN 978-1-118-25781-4, $36.84)

A key component of our lives as teachers can be found through honing our craft. For this task, the wisdom of our colleagues across academic disciplines can be a welcome aid. One important resource that offers this wisdom is the annual journal, To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional, and Organizational Development. It is published each year in book form by the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education (POD). Each volume contains articles on a wide variety of topics that are written by educational developers (which they define as faculty, teaching assistants, and organizational, instructional, and staff developers). The journal series is currently in its thirty-second volume with new volumes being released each October.

Under review here is volume 31 of this journal, edited by James E. Groccia and Laura Cruz. One important piece of this volume is the “Ethical Guidelines for Educational Developers,” a document created by the POD Network. This document pulls from ethical guidelines from various field specific organizations (such as the American Psychological Association and the Staff and Educational Development Association in the U.K.) to define ethical behaviors for educational developers. Themes in this document include competence and integrity, confidentiality, and ethical conflicts stemming from multiple responsibilities. This document provides faculty and administrators with a useful tool for talking about professional conduct with graduate assistants or teachers at the beginning of their career.

The content of the journal is divided into seven sections that attempt to provide a framework for the articles included in the volume. It is important to note that articles included are not selected for their adherence to a theme but rather for their overall quality and contribution to the field. Themes in this volume of the journal include (among others) professional development, faculty engagement, assessment, spirituality and mid-career faculty, diversity and intersectionality, fundraising for faculty development centers, mentoring, consulting, insights on millennial students, course evaluation terminology, supporting international faculty, students and multitasking, and using flexible technology.

Articles that focus on students and student learning are a particular strength of this volume. For example, Michele DiPietro’s chapter, “Millennial Students: Insights from Generational Theory and Learning Science,” uses insights from the learning sciences to help teachers understand how millennials approach learning and argues that the current sociocultural context leaves these students unprepared for certain metacognitive skills. DiPietro then gives specific strategies for helping millenials learn, such as modeling problem-solving, creating distraction-free environments, challenging inaccurate beliefs, and alternating pedagogical methods (for example, mixing lectures, discussion, video clips, and so forth). This chapter is a must read for teachers who are unfamiliar with how millenials learn.

To conclude, To Improve the Academy is certainly a journal series to keep in mind when seeking to improve your own practice of teaching. The articles in these volumes represent an important repository of shared wisdom that is beneficial for teachers, administrators, staff, and graduate students.

Melissa Browning
McAfee School of Theology

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