Book Reviews in Reflective Teaching
The Wabash Center’s Online Publication Reflective Teaching publishes short (500 word) reviews of books and resources about teaching and learning.
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Teaching the World is a welcome volume on online theological education that seeks to ground educational practice with a theological foundation. The work is a critically needed guide that directs leaders and administers in developing online education programs. Readers will find practical insight on program development on three levels: framework, faculty, and classroom.
An introductory chapter entitled, “Past Patterns and Present Challenges in Online Theological Education,” describes the delivery of theological education from the early days of correspondence in the eighteenth century to the current practice of providing multimedia curricula fully online. After advocating the legitimacy of online theological education, the authors maintain that educational institutions have often not built their online programs on theological foundations. Instead, they have unwittingly overlooked this step in their rush to launch programs for primarily pragmatic reasons – increased enrollment and profitability.
The balance of the book is divided into three sections. Section I, “Better Foundations for Online Learning,” examines the role of the Pauline Epistles in theological education, ministry preparation, and spiritual formation from a distance. The authors argue that Paul\'s Epistolary practice provides biblical support for theological education from a distance and an example of how to deliver it. Subsequent pages integrate “social presence theory” with Paul\'s epistolary practice, resulting in a conceptual framework for online program development.
Section II, “Better Faculty for Online Learning,” provides theological guidance for faculty roles in online programs. Here the authors argue for faculty who: (1) emphasize the spiritual formation of students over the mere transfer of knowledge, (2) demonstrate the ability to leverage the medium of online education to accomplish the desired outcomes for students, and (3) model the theological and professional standards for ministry. In such an environment, online faculty members embody the values of the institution and effectively facilitate the desired outcomes of programs.
Section III, “Better Practices in the Classroom,” maintains that the students’ ministry contexts make effective online learning possible. Students in online programs are typically older and engaged in some form of ministry. Consequently, online programs should incorporate adult learning theory and facilitate learning in the student’s ministry context – the local church serving as an active partner in ministry preparation.
A concluding chapter, “To Teach, to Delight, and to Persuade,” argues that online programs are not a replacement for residential programs, but are a means for developing stronger partnerships for ministerial preparation. This book’s emphasis on using theology as a conceptual framework for online theological education is its conspicuous strength.
Teaching the World: Foundations for Online Theological Education presents a grand vision for online theological education that is particularly valuable for leaders of theological schools who seek to develop online programs that are effective in fulfilling the educational outcomes of their institutions.
This brief handbook and reference work was designed for college and university students interested in doing research. Charity Hudley, Dickter, and Franz present scholarly research as an exciting way for undergraduates to make the transition from students who learn to scholars who join an ongoing conversation as “masters of knowledge and challengers of the status quo” (5). The authors purposely construct the guide to serve not only as a resource but also as a model of a research-based approach to scholarly writing; they frequently comment on their own working methods and the research process that went into the composition of this text. The resulting book effectively demystifies the world of academia and the work of scholars, making research approachable and appealing.
Throughout the guide, the authors encourage students to pursue their academic and personal interests by becoming researchers, and they provide an impressively comprehensive roadmap for the research process. The book takes a special interest in guiding first-generation college students and students from historically underrepresented populations. The tone is collegial, and the text abounds with concrete advice about navigating the concomitants of scholarly research, from how to email a potential research mentor (80) to how to identify and access campus resources that can assist with time and energy management (49). Chapter 2, devoted to getting started, describes what research looks like across several academic disciplines and details ways different schools support and reward undergraduate research. Personal accounts from student scholars provide additional relatable voices and create the sense of a broad academic community into which readers are invited. The authors also emphasize the importance of sharing research results with a variety of audiences; Chapter 5, “Writing and Presenting Research” (91-116), describes different venues for written and oral communication that increase the impact of a student’s project, including conferences, articles, books, and social media.
A particularly valuable contribution of this book is its focus on empowering students from underrepresented populations. In addition to devoting a chapter to describing challenges that students from minority populations face and some tools for overcoming those challenges (“Underrepresented Scholars in the Academy: Making a Way,” [117-142]), the authors consistently highlight the value of diverse voices and backgrounds, and especially of the new questions such diverse viewpoints can generate. They frame the importance of greater academic inclusiveness and equity in a larger conversation about the powerful impacts researchers can have on their communities, emphasizing the value of interdisciplinary scholarship and community-based research.
Although the book is addressed directly to an audience of undergraduates who are or who seek to become researchers, the authors also model numerous ways to offer such students practical support. Therefore the text may also serve as a valuable resource for teachers, mentors, and advisors who assist student researchers and ensure their success.
Talbert uses his initial chapter, “What Is Flipped Learning, and Why Use It,” to work through definitions and misunderstandings of flipped learning. While flipped learning is commonly believed to consist of assigning videos of lectures for students to watch before class time, Talbert explains that flipped learning is a methodology rather than a specific technique. Flipped learning, he asserts, aims to ensure that students first encounter the new material on their own, outside of class, and then work to nuance their understanding and build skills around that material in the classroom. In this way, students develop the ability to access new material independently and then do the more challenging work of integrating and developing that information in the classroom with assistance from both classmates and the professor, or “expert.” The second chapter, “The History and Theory of Flipped Learning,” traces the method’s history to establish that it is neither new nor a fly by night fad, but rather a sensible pedagogical strategy built on a solid base.
Chapter three, “Models of Flipped Learning,” offers a range of examples from math, business, and economics to demonstrate flipped learning approaches. In each example, Talbert draws from largely mathematics-based courses, suggesting that students read and watch videos about concepts before coming to class to work together on problem sets, the opposite of a traditional STEM course in which concepts are introduced in lecture and students then depart to work on problem sets on their own. (It is noteworthy that although Talbert argues in the earlier chapters that flipped learning is more than watching videos before class, this is, in fact, a primary method that he demonstrates.)
As a religious studies professor, it was hard to see how this method would change the basic format of my humanities classes, in which student read material ahead of time, usually guided by discussion questions, and then come to class for a brief lecture that fills in details and group conversations or a class discussion, informed by their reading. While I have no objection to a book providing instruction on pedagogy for the STEM/business classroom, Talbert’s apparent inability to acknowledge the different structure of the humanities is significant. In failing to recognize that his methods would not significantly change the traditional structure of humanities classes, he has failed to properly acknowledge his book’s disciplinary scope and to correctly identify the audience to whom it would be the most useful. In these fields, flipped learning makes a notable difference from traditional pedagogical methods in which students first encounter new concepts in class. In the humanities, however, students traditionally encounter new material through reading assignments before class. That material is then elaborated upon and explored in classroom lectures, discussions, small groups, and activities. It is difficult, even with one or two humanities-based examples, to see how Flipped Learning dramatically would change my humanities classroom.
Chapters four, five, and six address the nuts and bolts of how to flip a class. Here, Talbert offers both many more specific guidelines and, in a couple of instances, he draws examples from the humanities classroom. For instance, in chapter four, he suggests providing students with a list of reading questions that guide students toward increased complexity of thinking, gradually moving from reading comprehension and synthesis questions to conceptual and analytic questions. Chapter five offers insight into how to construct the activities. Throughout this chapter, Talbert offers cogent summaries of key theories on learning and course design, and while he rarely suggests a technique with which I am unfamiliar, his explanations of how and why they are effective are certainly likely to help me refine my technique.
Chapter seven provides adaptations to the flipped learning model, primarily for low technology educational environments. It also addresses a number of student objections to the flipped classroom, ranging from student complaints about having to teach themselves to gripes that flipped learning takes too much time outside of class. On a practical note, Talbert also addresses the risks of participating in a flipped-learning classroom while untenured or in a contingent position. In each of these situations, he offers concrete advice for mitigating the risk of pedagogical experimentation, particularly reactions from students who are adjusting to a new line of teaching. These chapters were, perhaps, the most useful, as they provided language for addressing student dissatisfaction with new methods and were, perhaps, the most applicable to non-mathematically oriented classrooms.
Throughout the book, I was struck by Talbert’s dry tone. Although I am accustomed to academic writing I found this to be a bit of a slog, which is a less than ideal model for a book dedicated to methods of teaching and learning. More importantly, while the author claims the book will be useful for all of the divisions of higher education, it is constrained by the author’s primary orientation and expertise, and most (though not all) of his examples are drawn from STEM, business, and mathematically oriented social sciences such as economics. Nonetheless, Talbert provides background research that will allow readers to refine and justify some of their existing techniques, helping them engage student learning both within the classroom and beyond it.
As a twenty-plus year veteran professor in a face-to-face classroom environment, I know to expect adjustments due to technological advances. These adjustments typically include learning to use new technologies and including them in your established and comfortable pedagogical practices. These adjustments are additions to your teaching norm. Now, with entire programs being converted to online interface, the norm shifts continually. With shifting norms in mind, I chose to review this book and actually apply its approach while converting one of my own classes to online delivery.
The brevity of Jump-Start Your Online Classroom should not be underestimated. Based on practical application of the content and concepts, its organization contains helpful hints on various aspects of successfully constructing a learner-centered, virtual classroom experience. The organization of the book is its greatest strength. Its five-day approach is based on five challenges: (1) Making the transition to online teaching, (2) Building online spaces for learning, (3) Preparing students for online learning, (4) Managing and facilitating the online classroom, and (5) Assessing learner outcomes.
One to three chapters are devoted to each of the five tasks and guide in confronting, conquering, and mastering each challenge. Embedded in the chapters are the almost clairvoyant voices of novice online instructors as well as online learners. Additionally, each chapter includes highlighted “Points to Remember” and ends with a section “For Reflection.” This reflection portion, if done in depth, makes the five-consecutive-day plan less realistic. The reflections may include assignments such as developing a communication or time management plan, an assessment of technology tools, or a careful consideration of your own teaching philosophy or pedagogical approach.
The fourth challenge, on classroom management, was especially helpful, as it contemplates interpersonal interaction and community building with people that may never meet. The section on teaching presence was especially helpful and thought-provoking. The authors use the analogy of the working parts of a car. For example, teaching presence is described as the “transmission component that allows us to set the pace, sequence, and activities that support and encourage students to work with materials and build their understanding of the content,” and also as the “timing belt that helps us manage learners, the dialogue, and the conditions for learning” (78). I understood those analogous functions even though I could not pick out either of those parts on an actual car! Challenge four also looks at dealing with group work and disgruntled students. The perspective of the novice online instructor underscored the importance of modeling the behavior that is required of the students.
Although this book is marketed toward the novice online instructor, its approach, organization, and content make it a foundational tool that could have long-term value in troubleshooting and future course design.
This book captures the frustration of many faculty who are witnessing the decline of faculty governance against the rise of administrative fiat, particularly in areas that impact pedagogical choice. In seven main chapters, the authors provide a detailed view of the systems and decisions that are so often thrust upon faculty. They do a superb job describing the landscape of MOOCs, FLOSS, and LMS in everyday language. They deal with a broad range of issues to show the ways in which faculty are being (sometimes willingly) deskilled through technology. These authors are not dismissive of technological innovation, but they are wary of some aspects of it. They are aware that this book will quickly become outdated but teachers will find that the evidence and core arguments presented here remain worthy of attention.
Education is Not an App is a manifesto of sorts, calling faculty to embrace their freedom to make pedagogical choices, a freedom that is often smothered by administrative decree. For instance, the authors argue, new learning management systems are often presented to faculty as across-the-board, time-saving solutions for all, not as the political flashpoints they should be. For these authors, educational technology tends to “seek constrained truth for the advantage of specific powers that be” (3), just as the simplest app constrains as it empowers.
Several key assumptions and at least one conclusion here might irk some readers. First is the assumption that face-to-face education is superior to online education, with very limited exceptions. The authors assert that the work that happens between people in classrooms produces more critical thinking, and therefore more meaningful learning than most experiences online. This reader agrees, but not all will. Another assumption is that faculty will have the ability (or the interest) to keep current with new technologies and will have institutional support in using the ones they choose, a lofty goal on both counts. Few faculty have the time to school themselves on emerging technologies, and pressures such as student evaluations reward conformity. These authors conclude, quite rightly, that faculty jobs are in danger because of the “the kind of university governance that makes this kind of [edtech] abuse possible” (37). This book highlights many issues that raise concern (not least, the rise of “instructional designers”), but we do not yet know that student learning suffers in this tech-heavy environment. The authors focus more on academic freedom and far less on student learning.
Poritz and Rees are correct that educational technology – with its unbundling and deskilling and administrative oversight – threatens academic freedom and the autonomy of thought we hope to teach our students. It invites monitoring and assessment that faculty should resist; at the very least, teachers should consider at length the costs of simplifying their teaching lives through technology. “At the risk of sounding alarmist” (74), faculty in all disciplines should read this book. Even those who resist as much as possible should be aware of the changing landscape. We gain and lose in the decisions that we make, but we stand to lose more from decisions made for us.
Essentials of Online Teaching: A Standards-Based Guide could contribute to lively and relevant discussions about the challenges and opportunities of online courses. The book is unique because it takes the reader on a journey from the preliminary design of a course through its development and final phase of instruction. A further distinctive feature of the book is that it includes source materials from hundreds of teachers who have extensive knowledge of and experience with teaching online courses. By collaborating with such a diverse group of educators, the authors provide an impressive set of approaches to guide teaching decisions, assessing students’ progress, and reflecting on factors that influence a successful, online teaching experience. The book is a wonderful and needed resource that offers helpful models and examples of courses that integrate a range of interactive methods for learning such as discussion forums, blogs, and chats.
The book begins with a general overview of online education and describes technologies for effective teaching as well as what a teacher should focus on before the semester begins. After offering suggestions on how to launch a successful online course, McCabe and Gonzáles-Flores examine how teachers monitor and support students’ learning once the course starts. In addition, they address ways to evaluate students during the middle weeks of a course and how to evaluate the effectiveness of the course design in case improvements are needed to enhance the teaching and learning process. Other important aspects of online teaching and learning are collaboration and assessment. The authors provide explanations and examples of how discussions and collaboration should work as well as how to evaluate standards of practice.
In the Introduction, McCabe and Gonzáles-Flores discuss the scope of foundational theorists in distance education as well as the current work of researchers in the field. The book is a useful resource for teachers who are “new to online teaching or those who want to improve their practice” (3). This book will also benefit educational and corporate trainers, academic administrators, department heads, decision-makers, entrepreneurs, teachers, and students who work with online course development and training. In fact, anyone interested in education can use Essentials of Online Teaching: A Standards-Based Guide to “understand the challenges online instructors and trainers face and design products to serve their needs” (4).
In an early chapter, the authors show how online education has evolved over the years and how various models can effectively work for teachers and students. Historically, online teaching as a “concept and term sprang onto the educational landscape in the late 1980s as computer conferencing software began to support interaction between teachers and students” (22). Eventually, those in education, including researchers, marketing professionals, and program developers started conversations that grew into new ways of instruction. In early conversations, these new ways used passive language that de-emphasized the personal dimension in teaching. According to the authors, passive language sends an incorrect message; namely, an implication that online courses are characterized, primarily, by automation rather than an active and interactive process of teaching and learning. Hence, this book describes an interactive process from beginning to end where students and teachers take advantage of asynchronous communication and do not allow remote access or intermittent exchange prevent engagement, reflection, or assessment. Recognizing the unique character of online courses, the authors encourage as much activity as possible by teachers helping students navigate the online environment through a variety of pedagogical and management strategies.
This book is one among fifty others within the Multicultural Education Series. According to the series editor James A. Banks, these books “[summarize and analyze] important research, theory, and practice related to the education of ethnic, racial, cultural, and linguistic groups in the United States and education of mainstream students about diversity” (xiii). Özelm Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo’s book focuses on social justice. For distinction from the commonplace notion of social justice, Sensoy and DiAngelo use the alternative term “critical social justice.” By critical social justice, they mean: (1) recognition of unequal social power relations at the individual and group levels in society; (2) understanding of one’s place within these relations of unequal power; (3) critical thinking on what knowledge is and how it is produced and acquired; and (4) action informed by the best understanding of what social justice is and sound methods for its realization in society (xxi). Sensoy and DiAngelo provide guidelines for teaching and learning social justice.
The book consists of twelve chapters. The chapters include: pictures; charts; figures; vocabulary lists; boxes for definitions of key terms and reminders of ideas and concepts if discussed in a previous chapter; questions for discussion; and instructions for learning activities. The authors intend for persons to read the chapters in their numerical order. The content of the book is cumulative, with each chapter building upon the one that precedes it.
There is an underlying logic in the linear progression of the chapters. Chapters 1 and 2 deal with instructional matters, providing students with guidelines for learning social justice course content (6-18), instructors with guidelines for grading student performance (19-21), and both with an overview of critical theory in social justice courses (25-27). Chapters 3 to 5 define the concepts and operations of culture, socialization, prejudice and discrimination, and oppression and domination (36-40, 51-57, 61-73). Chapters 6 to10 define ableism, sexism, racism, and classism and describe how they pervade social institutions (82-86, 104-115, 123-129, 142-144, 156-162, 177-182). Chapter 11 refutes 13 common statements that are used to discredit social justice education (186-197). Based on Sensoy and DiAngelo’s definition of critical social justice, Chapter 12 specifies four learning outcomes for social justice education and crafts possible scenarios for illustration of the kinds of actions for each outcome (200, 203-204, 207, 211).
Though written primarily for white readers, Sensoy and DiAngelo’s book merits consideration by all readers interested in social justice education in pluralistic society. The series editor notes that “most of the nation’s teachers are white, female, and monolingual” (xii). Using the terms “we” and “us” throughout the book, Sensoy and DiAngelo acknowledge their associations with this demographic group (120). Given the fact of intersectionality – that any one person has multiple associations – race or ethnicity cannot be a person’s only identification (138, 175). The complexity of human subjectivity warrants the concern of all persons with social justice in a world characterized by ever-increasing diversity.
Deconstructing Race is a book written by a teacher to other teachers. It combines empirical data with critical race theory and pedagogical research with three objectives: at the theoretical level, the book offers teachers an overview of applied critical race theory; at the pedagogical level, Mahiri offers a wide sample of ethnographic data (mostly interviews) and literary analysis (Chapter 2) that both inform and illustrate the theoretical framework; third, and perhaps most importantly, Deconstructing Race offers an alternative framework “beyond the Color-Bind.” Aptly drawing on Derrida’s work, Mahiri diagnoses that “rapidly changing micro-cultural identities and practices of individuals cannot be contained in the static racial categories assigned by white supremacy” (7). The author advances the notion of “micro-cultures” to account for the myriad ways in which subjects assume different cultural positions, practices, choices, and perspectives. The hyphen in the expression seeks to underline the experience of multicultural individuals who always live in-between.
The theoretical apparatus (Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 9) sandwiches a set of five chapters in which the author exemplifies the inadequacy of racial categories by presenting several interviews grouped according to the five official categories of race (briefly presented in chapter 3). The wealth of interviews and testimonies cannot be summarized here, but they all point to how institutionalized racial categorizations completely miss the mark as descriptors of identity. The ethnographical data amply demonstrates in turn that identitarian “boxes” cannot be decided in advance and theoretical notions need to be sharpened to reflect what Mahiri calls the phenomenon of hyperdiversity.
For educators in the fields of theology, religious studies, or multicultural ministry, the main appeal of this contribution may reside precisely in the richness of its ethnographical survey and, more specifically, in the testimonies of subjects classified within a certain race. Their experiences push racial categories to come undone in favor of other “ancestral, ethnic, and national origin identifications” (78). Furthermore, this new construction of identities, Mahiri explores, is performed through digital media where subjects negotiate real-world and virtual identities – subverting the former by performing new identifications in the latter. From this standpoint, Deconstructing Race offers a glimpse of what resistance looks like in the age of digital media.
Whereas the ethnographic account is definitely the book’s main strength, its theoretical framework calls for further elaboration. Mahiri takes a descriptive approach to ethnographic analysis with the subsequent advantage of presenting the experiences of the interviewed subjects in their rich complexity. However, self-descriptions are not sufficiently analyzed. For instance, to what extent is the emphatic insistence on the notion of “identity” (regardless of the axes that define it) not itself a philosophical project in need of deconstruction? How might a more robust analysis of contemporary capitalism – a concept mentioned a couple of times in passing but that names the cause, one might argue, of mass population movements that inform the identities presented – inform alternative racial imaginaries?
Using examples of community and civic engagement (CCE) at Auburn University, this collection of essays provides readers with a lens through which to view a number of debates in higher education. In the broadest sense, the essays address the question of the role of higher education. More narrowly, they ask questions such as, how do universities respond to increasing public pressure to demonstrate clear connections between education and job placement? Since the volume focuses on civic engagement, authors ask what the ideal relationship between a university and its surrounding community might be. How, for example, does a public university foster such relationships, of what sort, and to what end? With increasing pressure on students to graduate in four years, along with widespread perceptions of higher education as a form of job-specific training, it may seem rather bold for educators to promote a liberal arts education. However, Brunner argues that one can address these questions by looking to the ancient Greek and Roman liberal arts models, which “foster personal growth and civic participation” (1).
Through diverse case studies, the authors illustrate the high impact learning experiences that occur in CCE situations. For example, students in political science who do internships have a higher degree of satisfaction with the course, learn nuances about relationships between theory and problem-solving in a community, and often reconsider their career choices. This reconsideration results, in part, from the reflective component of CCE, which helps students make connections between classroom learning and their internships via writing assignments. These connections further illustrate the critical thinking (among other skills) that liberal arts education fosters – skills which align with employers’ desires in hiring.
While much of Creating Citizens focuses on teaching and student-learning outcomes, Brunner also addresses the contentious issue of how promotion and tenure committees are to evaluate the work of engaged scholarship. How, for instance, does engaged scholarship measure up to traditional peer-reviewed scholarship? Again, this is not a new question, but one that nevertheless impacts pre-tenured faculty decisions for research plans. Brunner notes that engaged scholarship combines teaching and service, is as rigorous as other peer-reviewed scholarship, and upholds university missions and values by engaging faculty in mutually-beneficial, community-based problem-solving. In short, students, faculty, the university, and the community all benefit from CCE.
Readers may wonder how the final essay fits within this volume; though interesting as a reflection on the role of non-native activist anthropologists working in India, the connection to the thematic foci of the other essays is tenuous. Overall, however, this volume would be of interest to educators looking for practical models of CCE that can be adapted to fit one’s own institutional location, mission, values, and vision for community relations. Land-grant institutions such as Auburn explicitly aim to promote application of research, in this case through CCE, a model that any institution of higher education would do well to consider adopting.
As a professor who teaches in an online education program, I picked up this book with interest for how it might inform my pedagogy. The content of the book, while relevant to my context of theological education, addresses more specifically the needs of organizations working for behavioral change in developing countries, particularly regarding available health interventions such as disease testing and immunizations. The authors address the mediums of radio, television, and internet, and how managers of these educational programs can best utilize different types of information sources.
Early on, the authors distinguish between “Edu-tainment” and “Entertainment-Education.” Edu-tainment is a focus on education that employs insights from entertainment to keep learners engaged in the educational process and content. Entertainment-Education relies more heavily on the entertainment side in order to teach a certain topic or attitude, helping participants to empathize with characters in order to consider adopting behaviors similar to the characters. Entertainment-Education might look like a fable told to convey a moral – the story of the fable is interesting in itself, while the moral being taught is present but not foregrounded. With Edu-tainment, the same moral or lesson is present as in the fable, but the lesson or intended learning outcome is more directly named.
While the title of the book contains “Entertainment-Education,” “Edu-tainment” is the main focus of the authors. Both approaches appeal to the “E Structure,” which is “Engagement of the audience, through Emotional involvement, which inspires Empathy for certain characters, who then provide Examples that demonstrate to the audience how they can accomplish the desired behavior, and also provide a sense of Efficacy for audience members, who make the desired changes or acquire that desired knowledge and gain a degree of Ego-enhancement (personal growth)” (8).
Excellence in Edu-tainment requires a great deal of management and collaboration. The authors describe the various formats for Edu-tainment such as video or radio, and how the eventual product should be constructed with a team of writers, producers, and actors, with how lessons should be piloted with control groups to judge their effectiveness. Persons reading this for the sake of improving their online education pedagogy will feel overwhelmed by the expectations here, but learning about the possibilities for dramatic renderings of lessons with scripted dialogue can provide new ways to think about teaching for those interested in deepening their skills. While this book may not be directly helpful to theological educators because of its emphasis on behavioral modification in developing countries, it does provide some helpful tips.
This groundbreaking text does not approach teaching and learning from the do’s and don’ts (the mechanics and tools of pedagogy) but instead offers a comparative cross-national investigation of the goals and purposes of education in Singapore, China, Chile, Mexico, India, and the United States. What has each country set as its goals and purposes for the twenty-first century context of close global interactions and rapid information and communication technologies? And how does each assess tangible outcomes? An overarching inter-country similarity is that the goals of pedagogy result from both changes in each country’s contemporary particularity and in their evolving definitions of the global.
For instance, in the twenty-first century, each country faces fast and fluid developments signified by the necessity of learning to learn, of competency of certification, and of online learning. How should teaching and learning respond? Should a nation or civilization choose the route of achieving adaptability to evolving goals? Or should a country center on the technical challenges related to a school’s function? Succinctly, goals mean who should learn what.
These goals are not neutral or objective. Various stakeholders in society are vying for the appropriate ways of teaching and learning. Governments seek pedagogical goals that produce patriotic citizens; businesses want ideal employees; faith communities desire moral human beings; graduate schools look for highly educated applicants; not-for-profits hope for volunteer-minded people; and parents seek teaching and learning so their children can achieve meaningful employment or, in some case, simply employment.
Drawing on a sophisticated and comprehensive study from the National Research Council (NRC), this book frames each of the six countries within three broad pedagogical rubrics – cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal competencies – that are learned by both teachers and students. Each generic rubric contains relevant subsections. Specifically, cognitive competencies include cognitive processes and strategies, knowledge, and creativity; intrapersonal competencies include intellectual openness, work ethic/conscientiousness, and positive core self-evaluation; and interpersonal competencies include teamwork and collaboration along with leadership development. How does each country implement in practical concretes this NRC framework?
The co-editors chose the NRC study because, in their research, it represents the most all-encompassing and science-based study of twenty-first century skills when compared to the other major studies in the world. The NRC readily admits that many aims within its teaching and learning investigations are not novel. But what is new (and is fundamentally different from all prior historical contexts) is that these sought-after competencies no longer belong to the elites of the world (including the United States). All countries now de jure or at least subscribe to a democratization of pedagogical goals for a diversity of citizens. Indeed, a vibrant twenty-first century country requires universal goals for each citizen.
After an elaborate and nuanced review of the six countries, the book offers a concluding chapter with the following recommendation. Each nation necessitates a systems theory to integrate all aspects of a country’s goals, methods, practices, and assessment mechanisms to achieve the established competencies. The best system will be one that connects fluid, adaptable, logical, and coherent relationships among curricula, school organization and management, various teaching and learning approaches (such as independent study, didactic pedagogy, outdoor education, and project-based learning), effective communication mechanisms, and emotional buy-in from society’s stakeholders.
I highly recommend this book for any civic-minded people, especially those wanting to achieve professional development for teachers and to prepare students for new ways of learning now.
Research on Student Civic Outcomes in Service Learning: Conceptual Frameworks and Methods is the third volume in a series dedicated to research on service learning. This volume, with its timely focus on civic outcomes, is divided into three sections. It begins with an introduction to how student learning outcomes are embedded in service learning, then moves on to various theoretical frameworks by which one can situate research. It concludes with some nuts and bolts aspects of conducting research on student civic outcomes in service learning, defined as “a course or competency-based, credit-bearing educational experience in which students (a) participate in mutually identified service activities that benefit the community, and (b) reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of personal values and civic responsibility” (10).
All three chapters in Part One are useful to the novice in this research area. “Introduction to Research on Service Learning and Student Civic Outcomes” provides a taxonomy of service learning courses, with essential attributes and levels of development for instructors to improve the quality of civic learning opportunities within service learning courses along with clear factors for individual as well as institutional research and assessment. “Student Civic Outcomes in Higher Education” offers a helpful literature review of civic outcomes, while ”Student Civic Learning through Service Learning” concludes Part One with two pertinent questions: (1) What do we know about cultivating civic learning through service learning courses? (2) What do we still need to learn about how the variables of course design influence civic learning? One key point repeated in each chapter is that civic outcomes in service learning should focus on learning with others and not doing for others.
Part Two explores research on civic outcomes in service learning through multiple disciplines and theoretical perspectives including social psychology, political theory, educational theory, philanthropic studies, human development, community psychology, critical theories, and activity theory. The chapter “Critical Theories and Student Civic Outcomes” most directly questions the “individualistic” and “server-centered” approach to service learning (184), noting, for example, that serving at a soup kitchen often counts as service learning but protesting does not (187). A critique of the AAC&U Civic Engagement VALUE rubric is particularly thought-provoking on issues of access and power (187-190).
Part Three turns more directly to the how-to of conducting research with chapters on quantitative, qualitative, and longitudinal research along with chapters on institutional characteristics and using local and national datasets. One of the most interesting chapters in this section, “Documenting and Gathering Authentic Evidence of Student Civic Outcomes,” asks “What counts as good evidence of learning and for whom?” (303). The chapter identifies two challenges familiar to those who work with assessment: making outcomes explicit and collecting authentic evidence (304-305). Unfortunately, much existing research depends on indirect evidence, and the chapter recommends use of the AAC&U VALUE rubric along with ePortfolios to enable formative and summative assessment.
Each chapter of the volume concludes with an extensive reference section. The volume is worthwhile for teachers and researchers who want to improve students’ service learning as a site for civic engagement.
Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education is a well-timed book. Not only are institutions of higher education tasked with preparing students for a globalized and increasingly technically-driven future, many are still reeling from the recession of 2008. According to Smith, these factors push much needed institutional-wide transformation regarding diversity and inclusion from a centralized position to the margins of universities’ priorities. While use of the term diversity in the general study of higher education organizations means “variety in institutional types” (3), in Smith’s volume diversity, infers more. It “refers to historic and contemporary issues of how institutions reflect people from diverse backgrounds and how institutional transformation is occurring with respect to diversity and inclusion for all identities that have emerged as salient in given political, social, and historical contexts” (3).
Set in three parts, Smith begins with a section on the significance of context and then directs readers to five fascinating case studies looking at the status of institutional transformation and diversity in South Africa, the UK, the United States, Brazil, and among indigenous institutions in the United States and New Zealand. Last, the editor explores the similar themes, as well as identifies significant differences, which cross-cut the various studies and looks ahead at possible future implications of policy and research regarding diversity and inclusion on institutions of higher education.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating, albeit complex, aspects of studying human diversity is not just the great variety of salient identities (race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, religion, abilities, etc.) but also the “increasing awareness that any given individual has multiple identities and that those identities intersect one another” (11). And the significance of one salient identity may differ given the national context. Smith observes that “while race has been central (though different) in both the United States and South Africa” there are places in Africa where “tribal affiliation, language, or religion” may be the more salient social identity among group members (10-11). Institutions are in no way divorced from the complexities and nuances of identity. Smith aptly notes that “institutions reflect the cultures, norms, values, and practices” of the people in the institution, “the historical and social circumstances in which institutions are developed,” and they “reflect the stratification and values of the larger society” (13). This also means that institutions easily replicate the dominant systems of social stratification and inequality if they are not careful. However, if they are intentional and committed to connecting diversity with the core values of their institution, they can “act as catalysts for change” (13).
Jansen’s chapter on the complexity of institutional transformation in South Africa addresses the many boundaries still blocking Black students’ access to previously White universities, despite the end of apartheid. Jansen recommends seven fundamentals of deep transformation on a racially divided campus and walks readers through the treacherous terrain of the difficulties which South African institutions have faced. As the first Black Vice-Chancellor of the Free State, he has witnessed radical changes on South African campuses and provides some valuable insights for dealing with deep-seated suspicion between White students from conservative Afrikaans homes and Black students from political African homes. Both parties feel victimized and, while many of the students did not live through apartheid, Black students often “feel the legacies of those apartheid troubles in their personal circumstances” and many White students feel the need to protect the Afrikaans language and see the university as an “ancestral home” (38-39). The challenge for leaders like Jansen is balancing reform and reconciliation.
Eggins’ chapter on institutional transformation in the UK addresses a half-century long upheaval in which the diversity of institution type played a significant role in the quest for diversity in higher education. Polytechnic schools developed in the 1960s and created a binary system of education. In 1992 “almost all polytechnics, together with a number of higher education institutions” were made into universities, to create a more unified educational system (47). Eggins maps out various “theoretical approaches to institutional diversity that address diversity and mission vertically and horizontally” (47). One of the most compelling aspects of this chapter is the author’s review of the effects of equality legislation on institutions of higher education in the UK.
Moses’s chapter on the challenge of diversity for leadership in the United States offers readers clear and powerful suggestions on how institutions must reframe the case for diversity. She also enumerates five ways US institutions are linking their institutional goals to the value of diversity and provides readers with ways to think about diversity as it relates to other institutional core values. This chapter is pragmatically focused and makes an excellent resource for those in leadership positions within higher education, especially those challenged by “the institutional inertia that often pushes back against this kind of difficult cultural and institutional change” (69).
Another poignant example of the varied and unique contexts in which institutions of higher education find themselves is illumined by Neves’ chapter on diversity in higher education within Brazil. As in the UK, equality legislation plays a significant role in Brazil’s embrace of diversity. Since the 1930’s, Brazil has been plagued by “the myth of racial democracy” which attempted to mask the overt racism (104). It took a new Brazilian Federal Constitution in 1988 which “defines racism as a crime” to legally recognize the work of social movements (especially among Blacks and feminists in the country) towards diversity and inclusion in Brazil (104-5). Although the Constitution “ensures free schooling at public institutions” only about one-tenth of Brazil’s higher education institutions are public (106). A highly competitive selection process which requires written exams (vestibular) means a majority of those admitted into the free schools hail from the best high schools and from the higher socio-economic classes (107). Neves expounds on the many programs implemented to help bridge the inequality gap, including access to “pre-university entrance exam cram courses” for African descendants and indigenous peoples, scholarships for low-income students, and support for projects that “produce knowledge on ethnic-racial themes” (109).
Parker and Johnston look to indigenous institutions for insights into how universities can meet standards of academic excellence while honoring the culture and traditions of diverse populations. As they so aptly note, “education is not a neutral or objective concept” (129). Institutions of higher education are not value-free zones. They reflect the “societal norms established by the dominant group” (129). Often, merely by “carrying out their academic mission as usual” these institutions end up “perpetuating the very inequality and marginalization that higher education institutions seek to overcome” (130). In the US, tribal colleges and universities “must combine western and tribal paradigms for the success of their students” (133). In New Zealand, indigenous institutions (known as wananga) are theoretically and practically informed by “Maori knowledge, pedagogy, and philosophy” (136). Indigenous institutions take intentional steps to create environments which support their students and community members as well as prepare their students to engage in world markets often dominated by western cultural values. Institutions of higher education around the world could learn a great deal from their example.
As disparate and unique as the institutions of higher education (HEIs) in these case studies are, Smith does an excellent job highlighting themes that cut across all of them. For each, historical and national context matters and even if race matters in all contexts, race matters differently in different contexts. The intersectionality of identities is complex. HEIs are reacting to expanding globalization, increasingly rapid changes in technology, fiscal austerity measures, and the political mood swings prevalent in public policy debate. There is hope, however. If HEIs are challenged in many of the same ways, perhaps they can learn from one another as well.
Antagonisms, conflicts, and oppositions characterize societal relations. Becky Thompson acknowledges these realities throughout her book with careful attention and still makes the case for a post-oppositional approach. This is the book’s greatest strength, offering hope and healing through tenderness while walking through the ruin and devastation brought about by dominating power and systems of inequality.
Thompson asks, “What rituals might we incorporate into teaching that invite the body into the classroom? What is it about the structure of academe that leads us to flee our bodies? How can we find them again? What risks will this take? What truths do we need to tell about our lives and our teaching that we have been hiding from ourselves, or barely whispering? How might inviting bodies into the classroom change how we seek justice in the world?” (13). Thompson responds to each of these questions by leading readers through an interdisciplinary and innovative collection of figures and concepts without sacrificing the book’s rigor.
Given the hardening of boundaries and identities in discussions about power and privilege, Thompson’s work brings a refreshing proposal and argument for countering defensiveness and getting to “a soft place with each other” (36). For teachers of all stripes, this means overcoming a dichotomy between mind and body often inherited and passed along in the academe (64). Making a case for “embodied pedagogy” (39), Thompson lifts up the very essential need to facilitate a “resocialization process” (88) whereby students are enabled to feel connected with each other and themselves.
Teaching with Tenderness is exceptional because it does not offer easy solutions. For instance, Thompson notes the difficulty of inviting in people’s personal stories “without encouraging an atmosphere where students feel they must share in order to succeed” (72). For teachers untrained in professional therapeutic strategies, overcoming the desire to “outsource the emotional content of our courses” (89) takes soul work and the willingness to deal with the messiness of what Thompson memorably refers to as “the warp and woof” of that which makes us all human (90).
The book also offers an implicit challenge to teachers, scholars, and researchers for whom gathering data, research, and analysis is part of their bread and butter. While recognizing these as necessary, Thompson notes that academics need to conduct research “with” and not “on” the communities they are describing or analyzing (108).
Thompson’s work speaks to those interested in carving out a new path in teaching and learning where there is neither exclusion nor appropriation, neither denial nor naiveté, neither easy solutions nor pages filled with jargon. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the challenge and promise of interdisciplinary work that takes the whole person into account as part of envisioning a pedagogy where all things are done as if everyone mattered – body, mind, and all.
As much as teachers would like to argue to the contrary, the university is a business, an educational business to be specific. Universities, colleges, technical schools and the like are in the business of selling learning. They sell this product to those who see the need for education beyond the formative years, whether that be training in a trade or preparation for an occupation such as medicine, psychology, or religious service. Institutions of higher learning have been in existence for around a millennium, and have served as a tent pole artifact for institutional culture – universities have either set the bar of cultural progression or have fallen behind, sputtering to keep pace with the practitioners outside their hallowed walls who are establishing new trends and raising the bar set by the university.
We seem to be in a contextual epoch that is squarely set between each of these extremes. There is still a hushed reverence that comes from finding a peer who attended Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, or Emory. Many in the academic community clamor to hear special lectures from Continental colleagues who have attended or are employed by Oxford, the University of Paris, or the University of Amsterdam. In some pockets, simply having a college or graduate degree can still mean higher pay, positional advancement, or advanced social standing.
In the United States, we seem to be living in a time of both saturation and scarcity. Higher learning institutions are continually creating new and engaging programs to prepare interested individuals for securing employment in an ever-evolving, technologically-driven, globally-emerging marketplace. And yet the number of students seems to be shrinking as many weigh the cost of attending college or find that their career choice may not even require a college degree.
Responsiveness to the changes taking place in society and academic preparation for those changes is of concern for leaders at universities, colleges, and trade schools. On one hand, the administration crunches numbers and devises business strategies to ensure that the institution remains open. On the other hand, faculty craft courses and develop programs to ensure that teaching is what keeps the institution open. This is the discussion that editors Leisyte and Wilkesmann present before the reader. Assembling over twenty scholars from across the globe, this volume demonstrates that the New Public Management model can be used to successfully organize institutions of higher learning. In providing specific examples from Germany, China, the UK, and the Netherlands, as well as individual authors speaking out of their own experiences, this volume shows how academic managers can integrate business-based operational models with rubric-based educational models to promote academic integrity and marketplace relatability. Change will continue to be the one true constant of the educational universe, and this volume provides a good map for the road ahead.