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.
Editor, Reflective Teaching
Latest Book Reviews
Date Reviewed: 2018-08-07
Cathy N. Davidson’s The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux is an engaging, enlightening, and empowering call to action. Though its focus is on why and how to transform higher education to meet the needs of today’s students and society, it offers commentary on innovative and effective pedagogy that will be of special interest to Wabash Center readers.
If you only have time for a condensed version of Davidson’s recommendations for improving college teaching, read the “Ten Tips for Transforming Any Classroom for Active Student-Centered Learning” (263-67). Davidson lauds 10 techniques: Think-Pair-Share, Question Stacking, Everybody Raise Your Hand, Interview, Class Constitution, Collective Syllabus Design, Collaborative Note Taking, Collaborative Projects with Peer Assessment, Exit Tickets, and Public Contribution to Knowledge. In keeping with Davidson’s central thesis, these techniques serve to invigorate learning in college courses, but their ultimate value is that they best prepare students for life beyond the college gates.
Indeed, it is the demands of modern life that prompts Davidson to argue for radically revising the university. America’s system of higher education has reified, she argues, the vision of Charles Eliot, president of Harvard in the late 1800s. Eliot sought (most notably in his essay entitled “The New Education” from which Davidson takes her title) to transform America’s colleges from seminary systems to institutions designed “to train farmers and shopkeepers to be factory workers and office managers” (3). In pursuit of this goal, Eliot, and fellow educational reformers, established the university as we know it:
- majors, minors, divisions (humanities, social sciences, natural and biological sciences), credit hours, degree requirements, grades, the bell curve . . . class rankings, certification, general education, upper-division electives, . . . professionalization (credentials, accreditation), graduate schools . . . financial aid, college entrance exams . . . tenure . . . school rankings . . . (35-36)
and more. By 1925, Eliot’s vision (shaped by his study of German and French models) dominated the landscape of American higher education.
Not much has changed, Davidson laments. These features continue to define the college experience for most Americans. But now, they come with anemic “teaching to the test” at all levels of education, crushing student debt, and graduates narrowly trained for specialties that are fast disappearing in the technology-laden world in which we live.
Against the current state of affairs, Davidson argues for pedagogy and universities to center on students and aim at preparation for life, not just careers. Davidson documents how the shift from the Industrial Age to our current age (which she dates at 1993 with the dawn of the Internet) has yet to be taken seriously by academics. Doing so, she insists, demands radical rethinking of the college experience.
To illustrate the types of changes she advocates as proper responses to the technological age, Davidson points to community colleges and initiatives at universities. LaGuardia Community College in NYC, Arizona State University, and The Red House at Georgetown University receive the lion’s share of her attention. And for good reason. Education at these schools is being rethought and retooled to serve the student and his/her future needs. Actually, as Davidson notes, community colleges have been doing this all along. Founded to serve non-elite students, community colleges succeed by proceeding “from a pedagogy of acceptance. Any growth constitutes success. The student is at the center” (57).
Although active learning and student-centered pedagogy benefit students, it is not risk-free. Fear of “losing status” causes many professors and institutions to shy away from adopting the mindset and support systems community colleges embrace. To illustrate the risks, Davidson recounts the story of Alexander Coward, formerly of Berkeley . . . formerly because allegedly his student-centered pedagogy did not sit well with his colleagues (208-210).
In addition to the aforementioned “Ten Tips,” those primarily interested in pedagogical issues should read Chapter 3, “Against Technophobia,” and Chapter 4, “Against Technophilia.” Within these two chapters, Davidson offers many, many helpful hints for how to use technology imaginatively and effectively in the classroom.
Date Reviewed: 2018-07-20
Sabrina D. MisirHiralall uses Kuchipudi dance rather than Western-based pedagogical and philosophical methodology to educate non-Hindus about her religious tradition. In her text, Confronting Orientalism: A Self-Study of Educating Through Hindu Dance, MisirHiralall describes her journey from learning this style of dance as a young woman to engaging learners in experiencing and thus better understanding the Hindu tradition through an epistemological approach that uses dance as means of dispelling perspectives based on a colonialist point of view and its subsequent influence on modern pedagogy. Her main purpose in doing so is to confront orientalism and address two of the primary lenses through which non-Hindus view what is called Hinduism. The first of these lenses sees adherents such as herself as exotic. The second lens imposes a Western understanding of religion on what she describes as a way of life (174).
In an extensive introductory chapter, MisirHiralall describes personal experiences as a child, and later as a young woman, that led her to consider methodology drawn from traditional ways of learning that utilize dance, storytelling, and music, rather than from texts. Why she has selected dance as the primary means of educating becomes clear; Through dance, the stories that shape the religious life of Hindus come alive. Dance invites her as the educator to present an authentic approach that teaches and informs. Teaching through dance allows her to interact more with the learner in both preparing for and experiencing the dance.
In subsequent chapters, MisirHiralall examines how effective teaching through dance can be and where it may not meet her expectations in overcoming orientalism. In her chapter “The Gazes,” MisirHiralall identifies different kinds of gaze: Imperial, Western male, and sacred. While her main objective is to encourage the sacred gaze, she describes how she continues to be subject to and the subject of the Western male gaze that perpetuates the exotic lens. The concept of gaze can be a complicated and multifaceted one. What she describes about gazes could also be applied to teachers and professors who encounter gazes of interest or disinterest. Gazes from learners are not limited to those she described. Instructors are subject to many types of gazes and are seen through many lenses.
Because this is a self-study, MisirHiralall includes references from her journal and supports her stance on teaching space, gaze, and epistemology with extensive research. Her text invites educators to consider how extensively Western methodology permeates the educational system and what challenges should be faced in overcoming “the illusionary boundaries of the West and the East” (176). This work suggests a way forward by which educators could engage personal assumptions and pedagogical
Date Reviewed: 2018-07-20
Urban Preparation contributes to a needed body of research on race that investigates “mechanisms, systems, structures, and practices that have a real bearing on students’ opportunities to learn” (vii). Urban Preparation highlights the scholarship of leading researchers who address questions related to race, poverty, achievement gaps, and the academic performance of minority students. An underlying thesis of Urban Preparation is that students in general, and minority students in particular, succeed when appropriate measures are in place. This is a resource for scholars in a variety of disciplines, including but not limited to: education, law, sociology, psychology, health, political science, and social work.
The book begins with an overview of the Race and Education series at Harvard Education Press. The series editor, H. Richard Milner IV, lists several objectives that guide the series and he challenges those in power to work “for the good of humanity, to interrupt systems, policies, and practices that work only for some while others remain underserved” (ix). Reasons are given for focusing on the intersection of race and education and questions are asked related to poverty, transportation, housing, and employment, among others.
In the Introduction, Chezare Warren explains why he wrote Urban Preparation: “to subvert dominant narratives that insist on casting urban-dwelling young, black men and boys as ‘at-risk’ or ‘disadvantaged’” (1). He shares the stories of these young people as counter-stories that portray them as hyper-vulnerable. He is also convinced that social inequities and stories of failure must be examined alongside counter-stories of resilience, persistence, accomplishment, and triumph. The book highlights the stories of seventeen young black men who are members of the inaugural graduating class of Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men, referred to as “UP.” UP is a high school for boys in the Englewood neighborhood which has one of the lowest median household incomes among Chicago’s Southside neighborhoods. However, UP is widely recognized for 100 percent of its graduating class gaining admission to four-year colleges and universities.
Urban Preparation aims to: (1) describe the organizational design of UP; (2) examine the intersections of place and space to discern factors that motivate young black men to succeed against the odds; and (3) explore the factors that help narrow “opportunity gaps” for urban youth, and the implications of these factors (3). The book’s qualitative data consists of interviews, field notes, memos, and participants’ responses in order to construct a “coherent continuous narrative around dominant themes” that emerged from analyzing data (8). From the data, Warren chronicles the real-life experiences of the first graduating class by grouping the students into five composite characters with overlapping characteristics.
The title of the book is derived from the school’s name but the book tells the stories of the seventeen students and “the meaning associated with growing up in an urban environment” (18). More than anything else, the book gives a better understanding of the academic and cultural strengths of urban minority youth in secondary and postsecondary settings. Urban Preparation is fundamentally a counter story as well as a critical study that challenges educators and all those interested in improving the education outcomes of black men and boys to listen to them and to learn from them.
Date Reviewed: 2018-07-18
“The definition of slow looking is straightforward,” writes Shari Tishman, “It simply means taking the time to carefully observe more than meets the eye at first glance" (2). Imagine taking students to an art museum and focusing on just one painting. You would be taking the time to support your students in looking, really looking at art. Can they list everything they see in the painting? Could they identify twice as many items if you gave them more time still? Does the painting look different if they move closer or change their angle? Are there interesting juxtapositions of objects, shapes, or colors within the painting? These questions are natural to slow looking. It is a rewarding classroom practice and an indispensable aspect of method in theological and religious studies.
This book was written “with educators in mind” and it contains many practical ideas on how to use slow looking in the classroom. Examples range across disciplines: Virginia Woolf’s observations concerning “The Mark on the Wall,” zoological sketches of a caracal cat, and the mechanical intricacies of an old-fashioned office stapler, among others. Drawing on previous research, Tishman examines three dispositional tendencies involved in slow looking: ability, inclination, and sensitivity (145). Sensitivity is particularly critical; this is the capacity to employ slow looking in the appropriate context. As educators in the humanities seek to more clearly articulate the lasting benefits of our work, this careful examination of slow looking as an important lifelong skill is timely.
The beauty of this title is its ability to focus on the benefits of slow looking as educational practice in a deep way. Many excellent books on pedagogy adopt a wide scope. They pull their lens back and look at course planning or broad curricular systems. Slow Looking has much to offer courses and curriculum, but Tishman is adept at returning continually to the exercise of slow looking to reveal its complexity and practical efficacy from different vantage points. According to Tishman, slow looking is a “learned capacity” foundational to critical thinking (7). Foundational, yes, but it should not be thought of as synonymous with critical thinking or be conceptually absorbed by critical thinking. Slow looking is its own discrete process. Tishman explains, “Slow looking is not primarily judgment oriented, though its fruits certainly inform good judgments. Rather, slow looking emphasizes deferring judgment in favor of apprehending the complexity of how things are at the moment” (149). There are three types of complexity: complexity of parts and interactions (anatomy, for example), perspective (different physical or conceptual vantage points), and engagement (interplay between perceiver and perceived). Teachers will already see how parsing complexity in this way can lead to extended classroom reflection on a given subject of observation and the process of looking itself.
Slow Looking strikes the perfect balance between practicality and philosophical depth. Tishman writes fluidly and moves easily among descriptions of classroom technique, phenomenological analysis of observation, and the intellectual history of student-centered education. Slow Looking will be a continual source of inspiration in my own teaching and scholarship – it is highly recommended.
Date Reviewed: 2018-07-18
Against the prevailing tide in higher education, Christine Harrington and Todd Zakrajsek argue that lectures, when prepared well and incorporated appropriately, are one of the most effective ways to enhance learning. The first part of their book is focused on making this case and on delineating the different forms a lecture can take. The second part of the book focuses on ways to make lectures more effective for learners. That second part takes up the bulk of the book (7 of the 11 chapters). The third part provides tools and resources for preparing and evaluating lectures. These final two chapters give helpful rubrics, charts, and questionnaires that can easily be adapted for one’s own lectures or for evaluating others’ lectures. This book would be a useful addition to an individual professor’s library and, most especially, to a center for teaching and learning library.
Both authors of Dynamic Lecturing are trained in psychology and have experience in teaching and learning and faculty development centers, so the examples are often from social science or natural science classrooms. However, many of their suggestions could easily be adapted to theology and religious studies. Using research from the scholarship of teaching and learning, they argue that lectures are efficient and effective for novice learners but are less so for expert learners (by which they mean advanced undergraduates and graduate students). This book, therefore, would be most useful for faculty who frequently teach lower-division courses for undergraduates; it could still be quite useful for those wanting to make their lectures more effective, even if they work with other learner populations and use other kinds of teaching tools.
This distinction between novice and expert learners is significant in the context of theology and religious studies: in certain courses, students may enter the classroom assuming they are the experts (for example, if the course focuses on their own religious tradition, especially if the professor is not another “insider”). Harrington and Zakrajsek’s discussion of techniques like pre-testing may be a way to address this unique dynamic: if a student took a pre-test and found that they did not know as much as they thought they knew, they might find themselves more open to learning from a professor’s lecture.
As their title suggests, this is not a book about individual teaching choices, but rather is focused on research-based strategies: nearly every paragraph has multiple citations that refer the reader to studies done on teaching and learning. A bibliography accompanies each chapter, so references are easy to track down, if desired. The studies are often explained well, so the reader knows what the research suggests; there are times, however, when the conclusions seem overstated. For example, a study used to argue that lectures are more helpful than active learning sessions to novice learners is explained in a parenthetical note: 88% of students agreed or strongly agreed that a lecture helped them learn course content compared with 49% of students who agreed or strongly agreed that active learning sessions helped them learn course content (10). Self-reporting is not the same as demonstrating mastery of the content. In other places, the authors note that students are not always the best judges of their own learning (see, for example, studies on learners’ overconfidence ). The research cited throughout the book is not limited to self-reporting and includes very helpful data on what promotes student engagement and learning.
Date Reviewed: 2018-07-18
In the opening chapter of his edited volume The Pedagogy of Compassion at the Heart of Higher Education, Paul Gibbs succinctly locates this collection of essays and the topic itself within the current environment of higher education in a way that will be familiar to many: “Given that the consumer model seems to resonate with the context of the majority of higher education institutions, what place do the virtues of humanity and spirituality have in a product-driven consumer service business model of higher education?” (9). It’s a question often asked, and it is one this volume addresses from a wide variety of angles and perspectives. The answer, from adding the sum of the essays here, is that humanity, spirituality, and other qualities of compassion can be observed, practiced, and cultivated in most if not all places within higher education. The variety of topics and perspectives in this volume provide detailed descriptions, arguments, and inspiration for just how such a pedagogy has been prevalent in the history of higher education, and how it can be integrated more into higher education today.
Gibbs is mindful to be as expansive as possible in the perspectives he includes, and the book does include authors from the U.K., the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong, and Europe, with voices ranging from senior academics to students. This range demonstrates Gibbs’s point that the book “is neither overtly spiritual nor secular or agnostic” (11).
For instance, Richard White’s entry traces compassion through Western and Eastern philosophy, and in doing so provides practical ideas to create a compassionate classroom. Kathryn Waddington focuses on “self-compassion, which involves self-kindness, a sense of common humanity, and mindfulness” (66). Self-compassion, Waddington shows, can influence a change in behavior and understanding at individual, group, and organizational levels.
Gibbs is conscious of the structure and organization of this essay collection, and the essays flow well in conversation with each other. This element of the book makes for a very engaging read, and one that further encourages the links between multiple perspectives on compassion in higher education. Following the chapter on self-compassion, Irena Papadopoulos writes on intellectual compassion as a way of cultivating world citizenship, connecting the concepts of interconnectedness of social reality as stemming from twentieth-century philosophers Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas. From there, the discussion flows to the relation of compassion within the liberal arts, within Buddhism and Islam, and the transformative power of compassion within South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement. There is also a series of essays focusing on compassion in an institutional way.
In The Pedagogy of Compassion at the Heart of Higher Education, Gibbs collects diverse ideas about compassion in higher education. This volume can serve as a guide, for individuals and institutions alike, for an engaging historical and topical conversation on the wide-ranging ways to integrate ideas of spirituality and humanity into realms that have increasingly come to seem consumerist.
Date Reviewed: 2018-07-18
Arguably, due to suspicion, skepticism, and the entrenchment of classroom teaching practices, the most scrutinized, assessed, and evaluated pedagogy in theological schools in the last two decades has been online learning (“distance education”). Fortunately, the skepticism that fueled a demand for more rigorous evaluation of student learning in the online environment has yielded hard evidence that online learning is as effective, and sometimes more effective, than traditional classroom teaching.
The goal of this work by Catalano, an associate professor of teaching and learning at Hofstra University, is “to assist researchers of distance education, both novice and expert, in finding well-developed and value measures to suit their research questions” (2). The focus of the book is “on properly validated measures, thereby relieving the researcher from having to develop his or her own instrument” (2).
Catelano provides a concise guide to seventy selected assessment instruments (surveys, scales, and methods) that have been used to evaluate the effectiveness of online learning programs. The instruments can be applied to evaluate key metrics and pedagogical, as well as programmatic, elements such as: student engagement, student and faculty satisfaction, information retention, self-efficacy, student and teacher readiness, the online learning environment, cooperative learning, competencies for online learning, student attitudes, student retention and attrition, critical thinking, and achievement. Several instruments focus on specific pedagogical approaches such as constructivism and andragogy.
Five chapters provide nine categories of evaluations. Specifically, Chapter 1 provides eleven instruments on student engagement and satisfaction. Chapter 2 contains sixteen instruments on student readiness to learn and self-efficacy. Chapter 3 offers a selection of seventeen instruments focusing on the online teaching and learning environment. Chapter 4 provides twelve instruments on student learning behaviors. Chapter 5 contains five instruments to assess student achievement, retention, and attrition. Obviously, there are enough offerings in these chapters to meet just about any evaluation need an assessor may have. Each chapter includes a brief overview of each instrument covered. Each instrument entry includes a summary of the tool, a description of how the measure is used, and a description of its development and validity.
Some of the instruments described are complete tools (for example, a fully developed satisfaction questionnaire, a complete survey on student evaluation of online web-based instruction, and one on the online learning environment. Other instruments are described with information about their sources should an assessor wish to use them.
In the Introduction Catalano provides helpful background on the criteria for inclusion of the instruments selected for the compendium. The author describes the search process used in identifying the instruments, including applying the criteria of ensuring reliability and validity.
For those needing to continue to assess online learning through disciplined and rigorous evaluations, whether as part of formative curricular assessment or to satisfy accreditation requirements, Amy Catalano’s brief compendium of assessment instruments, scales, and approaches is a handy and accessible tool. Indeed, it should be on every evaluator’s desk.
Date Reviewed: 2018-07-03
In many traditional classrooms, the teacher uses lectures to transmit course content to students. A “flipped” classroom is one in which a teacher presents lectures and delivers other course content outside of class (for example, via video- or audio-recorded and written instruction) and prioritizes activities, discussion, and higher-level analytical thinking during class time. Flipped Instruction: Breakthroughs in Resource and Practice offers readers the latest theories, strategies, and pedagogies on flipping classrooms. Bringing together thirty-seven contributors from seven countries, thirty-two colleges and universities, four high schools, and one institute, it presents “a comprehensive collection of research on the latest findings” on flipped teaching and learning in order to provide “researchers, practitioners, and all audiences with a complete understanding of the development of applications and concepts surrounding these critical issues.” (ix)
Each contributor operates under the assumption that flipping a classroom in a professional and pedagogically informed manner begets educational gains that far exceed the costs of time investment, technological learning curves, and pedagogical challenges. In chapter 4, David Starr-Glass makes a memorable statement about the benefits by explaining that a flipped classroom “changes a teacher-centered process to a student-centered one. The ‘sage on the stage’ becomes the ‘guide on the side,’ with a shift from transmission to learners to a flow among and between learners.” (51, emphasis in original).
This book addresses nearly every domain where flipped teaching has made significant inroads: K-12 education, higher education, online, ESL, and foreign language education. Its twenty-four chapters are organized into four main sections. Section 1 (Chapters 1-6) addresses course design methodology and how the latest pedagogies impact flipped classrooms. Section 2 (Chapters 7-12) discusses the unique challenges and opportunities of flipping ESL and foreign language learning classrooms. Section 3 (Chapters 13-20) considers flipped instruction in higher education. Section 4 (Chapters 21-24) offers the latest curriculum developments in K-12 education.
Flipped Instruction accomplishes its goal of providing educators with a comprehensive resource on the latest research in theory and practice. It also strikes a nice balance between being academically-oriented and practitioner-oriented. Academics will enjoy the book’s emphasis on new theories, pedagogies, and educational innovations, and practitioners will appreciate the takeaways from educational experiments, the rich repository of resources, and the activities to try in the classroom. That stated, the book would serve its readers better if it were more learner-friendly, an ironic weakness since it was written by expert teachers who value learner-centered education. Perhaps under the watchful eye of a single editor, it would exhibit stronger collaboration between authors, be better organized, and would avoid needless repetition (for example, an unusually high number of authors reviewed the history of flipped classrooms).
Teachers of theology and religion who appreciate flipped instruction or who practice it as a pedagogical strategy will appreciate the many resources that Flipped Instruction provides in course design, Internet and computer software ideas, and learning activities. However, the book is not a primer for the uninitiated in flipped teaching and learning. A different book would be a better introduction to the subject.
Date Reviewed: 2018-05-17
Upon reading the varied chapters that constitute Digital Story Telling: Form and Content, I could not help but be reminded of Salman Rushdie’s comments on the power of story.
Those who do not have the power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts. (1991, Dec. 12, New York Times)
Rushdie’s words illustrate the demands the postmodern world places on all individuals. It is a world replete with a multiplicity of stories in a myriad of forms… stories of domination and liberation, state narratives and personal accounts, corporate media renderings, and cellphone videos. In this world, the personal and political are not easily divorced. It is a world eager for new mediums which can offer the individual tools for agency and a space in which to tell, retell, rethink, deconstruct, joke about, and change their story. Digital Storytelling (DS) appears to be one such medium.
What is DS? This volume’s editors, Mark Dunford and Tricia Jenkins, describe it as “a simple, creative process whereby people with little or no experience of computers gain the skills needed to tell a personal story as a two minute video using predominately still images combined with recorded voice-over, and often including music and/or other sounds” (3). The end products are “self-representational stories which emerge from a collaborative workshop process using a ‘Story Circle,’ in which a range of writing stimuli and other activities are used to develop trust within the group and ‘find’ the story” (3). Much of this definition comes from a pioneer in the field of DS, Joe Lambert, whose Digital Storytelling workshops, terminology, and methods have shaped the DS movement.
DS is a form of participatory media in which political activism is embedded in its very practice. Lambert describes how in the 1990s he and those he was working with “thought of the Internet, new low-cost digital media production tools, and the distribution opportunities of the web as major advances that could promote global democracy and liberation” (22). The advent of the Internet for such a medium is tantamount to the proliferation of the printing press in sixteenth-century Europe. One need only look to social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram to see how the Internet and low-cost media production tools have changed what we watch and how we watch it. DS is a precursor to this platform proliferation and the motivations driving it as a process appear to have been less fiscally motivated. One of the paramount intentions of DS is to provide the voiceless the means to be heard. Of course, DS workshops have facilitators and funders, both of which, intentionally or not, are intimately involved in the creation and dissemination of these personal stories.
The volume is segmented into four elements or parts: Practice (five case studies from Kenya to the UK of DS in action); Content (pieces addressing the role content, especially content of a political [Simsek] or socially provocative [Kuga Thas] nature, plays in how that content is created, collected, received, parsed, and disseminated [Lewis and Matthews] and licensed [Spurgeon]); Form (insights garnered from when the cultural specificity of the DS model requires modification such as in Japan, Romania, and Ireland); and Understanding (three essays honing in on the limits and potential of DS as a political and personal force in the world).
The volume culminates with Nancy Thumim’s chapter “Therapy, Democracy, and the Creative Practice of Digital Storytelling” in which she reflects on the unifying themes of the book (DS as democratizing work, DS as therapy, DS as meaning-making, reflection, presentation, and representation) as well as the logistical and ethical challenges DS faces (issues of ownership in regard to co-created media, the afterlife of created materials, restructuring workshops to accommodate participants of disparate backgrounds and differing needs). DS, in its varied iterations, straddles the personal and public and opens up a space for creativity among communities created by the DS workshops and those affected by their material output (artifacts).
Perhaps the most compelling aspects of this volume are the stories (as found in Rainbird, Henry, Hardy and Sumner, Lewis and Matthews, Ogawa and Tsuchiya, Alexandra, and Brushwood Rose) of those persons challenged with mediating and assisting others (often those whose voices go unheard) through the process of narrating their own stories. As an academic advisor, the power of storytelling for self-actualization is readily apparent to me. Like the DS workshop facilitators in this book, academic advisors are involved in a co-creative narrative process. Advisors help students reflect on their goals and values and provide them with tools and mechanisms for authoring their own academic life story. The examples of DS workshop facilitators agonizing over how active to be in the creation of these personal stories should resonate with any reader who works in a co-creative capacity (advisors, administrators, teachers, parents, therapists, and so forth). The stories presented in each of these chapters are rather remarkable and, indeed, powerful. Anyone interested in modern media, narrative, social activism, communication studies, film, as well as those versed in DS scholarship, will find this a compelling read.
Date Reviewed: 2018-04-17
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.
Date Reviewed: 2018-04-16
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.
Date Reviewed: 2018-04-06
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.
Date Reviewed: 2018-04-02
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.
Date Reviewed: 2018-03-23
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.
Date Reviewed: 2018-03-23
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.
Date Reviewed: 2018-03-23
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.
Date Reviewed: 2018-03-22
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?
Date Reviewed: 2018-01-25
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.
Date Reviewed: 2018-01-25
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.
Date Reviewed: 2018-01-25
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.
Date Reviewed: 2018-01-25
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.
Date Reviewed: 2018-01-25
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.
Date Reviewed: 2018-01-25
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.
Date Reviewed: 2018-01-24
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.
Date Reviewed: 2018-01-24
The subtitle says it all. This is not a how-to book that will teach one how to read the Talmud, but a book on how to teach others to read the Talmud. It is part of a “growing field of the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), a field that seeks to expand the research agendas of scholars in a particular discipline to include research into the teaching or learning of that discipline or both” (xii). Each chapter is written by a different instructor of Talmud, all of whom have various methods and goals for teaching Talmud to their students. While the title might sound like it severely restricts its audience to those who teach Talmudic students, it doesn’t. Insofar as the book examines various methods for teaching a text that is both ancient and in a foreign language, the book could be useful for anyone who teaches primary texts, especially primary texts that involve a foreign or dated language.
The book does not advocate a particular method of teaching or approach to reading the Talmud, recognizing that the best method and approach would depend on the goals of the class and the students’ previous exposure to Hebrew in general and the Talmud in particular. Some of the instructors focus more on the technicalities of the languages, such as Berkowitz and Tucker. Others, such as Gardner and Alexander, focus more on how one teaches the text to non-specialists. Kanarek examines the role of using secondary readings to understand the primary text in teaching. Whatever one’s style of teaching or goal for a primary text in a foreign language, one can find various ideas for how to implement them in the classroom.
Each chapter gives a brief background as to the intent and assumptions of the instructor, specific examples of what was done, student feedback or responses, as well as post-class reflections. Berkowitz discusses the usefulness of study guides for assisting students in asking the right questions about grammar and vocabulary to aid their understanding and make technical terms seem less alien. Tucker exemplifies in his approach how to help students appreciate and not gloss over difficulties in the texts. Kanarek examines how different types of secondary readings can help students in different ways discover and appreciate issues in the texts. Gardner considers how explaining the narratives and surrounding culture aids non-specialists in understanding and appreciating the texts. Alexander structures her class to help students appreciate the possibility of more than one answer. All in all, this book offers some very practical ideas on teaching original and foreign texts.
Date Reviewed: 2018-01-22
What Teachers Need to Know (Etherington, 2017) is a substantial text defining the diverse and inclusive experiences of contemporary education systems. The book is a compilation with three major parts: “Ethics,” “Inclusion and Teacher Management,” and “Worldview and Story.” Each chapter provides reading questions for use in a classroom setting or for deeper reflection. This is well-suited for an audience in higher education, especially for readers who could share personal experiences with diversity and inclusion topics after a practicum or time teaching. I would recommend this book for a post-graduate education library.
The first part, “Ethics,” includes works by Sherick Hughes, Martyn Rouse, Jonathan Anuik, Chet Bowers, Eva Maria Waibel, the editor, Matthew Etherington, and James Dalziel. There is quite a range of topics in this section, but the Wabash Center reader might be particularly interested in Anuik\'s essay on faith-informed discourse. It is a study about the influence of missionary education on Indigenous beliefs, and how that reaches into Canadian public education today. It compels the reader to contemplate whether church and state can truly be separate in an educational context when there is such a significant inheritance of practice and values from a period dominated by religious influence.
Part Two, “Inclusion and Teacher Management,” includes works by Peter J. Froese, Ken Pudlas, Lucinda Spaulding, Karen Copeland, Bruce Shelvey, and Ken Bradley. Spaulding\'s essay reflects the current shift of attention to patterns of bullying and puts forward the mechanisms school communities can provide for the resiliency of the students. Other essays in this section discuss topics such as mental health, special needs, and even bring in the parents\' view on these issues as they exist in the educational system. This is an exceptional collection of essays on inclusivity.
The third and final part, “Worldview and Story,” includes works by the editor, Matthew Etherington, Edward R. Howe, Adam Forsyth, Leo Van Arragon, Christina Belcher, and Cynthia à Beckett. This section has the most obvious correlation to religious studies within educational contexts. Topics include: tolerance, science and religion, and epistemology. This section could serve as an excellent initial reading for students in a practical theology or other contemporized religious studies capstone course.
This book might not be a comfortable read in a public classroom, but maybe that is exactly why it should be read. Etherington\'s compilation offers academic theological reflection for secularized educational contexts. This book could be useful in a range of contexts. It may be particularly helpful to new teachers, parent associations, pastors of students, and community leaders.
Date Reviewed: 2018-01-22
As many of the contributors to Teaching Interreligious Encounters point out, interactions with people of diverse religious commitments are becoming more frequent in the workplace, in civic affairs, and in many neighborhoods. Consequently, there is a need to help individuals develop the attitudes and aptitudes that will enable them to conduct those encounters in an informed, respectful, and personally satisfying fashion. This volume argues that education, particularly in the undergraduate classroom, can make a substantial contribution to preparing individuals to understand and participate effectively in a religiously diverse society. To that end, the contributors offer an array of resources, comments on course and assignment design, and concrete strategies to show students how to conduct themselves in and learn from “interreligious encounters.”
Precisely what is entailed in such encounters and how they are to be enacted and understood receive a variety of answers throughout the book. At times, whatever lines might separate interfaith engagement from interreligious encounters, and either from comparative theology, and all of them from comparative religion do not appear in sharp focus. Some authors appear to use at least several of those terms as rough equivalents, while others strive to define their terms very clearly. For example, Eboo Patel and Cassie Meyer propose that “interfaith or interreligious studies is concerned primarily with the interactions between lived religious and nonreligious actors and communities” (300). Thus, they differentiate it from “comparative religions, comparative theology, and world religions” which they see as being less concerned with actual relationships and interactions. But several contributors cite with approval Francis Clooney’s statement that comparative theology “entails the interpretation of the meaning and truth of one’s own faith by means of a critical investigation of other faiths” (see 45), which would bring it closer to Patel and Meyer’s understanding of interfaith and interreligious studies.
How to construct courses, course modules, and individual assignments to promote what Patel and Meyer call “interfaith literacy” receives a lot of attention. Joshua Brown, for example, describes and analyzes a course on political theology that uses examples from Christianity and Chinese religions. Jonathan Edelman provides a detailed consideration of the Bhagavad Gita as a theological text. Other authors focus more on pedagogical strategies. In one of the more interesting contributions, Devorah Schoenfeld and Jeanine Diller describe how they use the Jewish process of hevruta to encourage students to disagree with each other in their interpretations of texts while still remaining in conversation, recognize disagreements within and among religions, and value interreligious disagreement. Emily Sigalow and Wendy Cadge make a clear and strong case for the value of using case studies in teaching about interreligious encounters, something that several other contributors also mention.
Most of the contributions emphasize that students can learn something personally valuable and meaningful from studying and especially participating in interactions with people who have religious commitments different than their own. This volume offers a rich set of suggestions about how to design and structure such learning opportunities.
Date Reviewed: 2017-12-13
This book gives both more and less than what its title promises. For the editors of this collection, teaching “the whole student” requires engaged learning (“active, participatory, experiential learning that links doing with thinking”) and integrative pedagogy (“crossing and stretching traditional intellectual disciplinary boundaries”) (1). In turn, these commitments are part and parcel of a larger commitment to educating for social justice, and the essays take on a wide array of topics, including effective and balanced service-learning, learning communities “done well,” and the importance of meaningful, sustained diversity engagement. Some of the essays are rather auto-biographical while others focus on a particular course or program. As is the case with many books of this type, the collection is an uneven assortment, and it is not always clear how an essay pertains to the promised subject of “teaching the whole student.” For those reasons, it can be somewhat disappointing.
Read in one way, however, hope emerges as a kind of connecting line and important theme. This is addressed most directly in the essay by Gillies Malnarich, who describes a moment of personal crisis as a teacher. She lay awake at night wondering, “What does it mean to educate for hope?” How can we make space for “raw, angry, heartbreaking, life-affirming hope… especially in our classrooms,” she asks, drawing upon both Paulo Freire and Rebecca Solnit’s writings (58). It also becomes clear that the kind of relational pedagogy being prescribed by many of the writers requires a willingness on the part of the teacher to bring his or her whole self into the classroom. In her essay on “Incorporating Social Justice into Teaching,” Kathleen Manning encourages readers to think of teaching as a spiritual act: “Teaching is not something learned once and perfected. The ever-changing nature of students, theory, and your personal and professional cycles as a person and professor make teaching an art. Because you are affecting people’s lives, approaching teaching and learning as spiritual practice places it in the realm of transcendence. Particularly when using principles of social justice to work toward a more just world, faith, trust, and authenticity must be part of the teaching and learning processes” (52).
There are many helpful ideas and strategies here, including the “Where I’m From” poetry assignment, a powerful way for students to disclose important aspects of their identity and express “links between their faith tradition and ethnicity,” among other things (164 - the activity comes from Beverly Daniel Tatum’s Can We Talk About Race? [Beacon, 2007]). Some of the essays include useful appendices - see, for example, the collaborative learning self-assessment (77) or the chart describing experiential classroom activities to promote dialogue (143).
Ultimately the strength of this book can be found in the questions that it poses more than in the answers it suggests. Each essay concludes with a set of reflection questions prompted by the content of the essay, and a patient, thoughtful reader could work her way through this book and be richly rewarded.
Date Reviewed: 2017-12-12
Twelve articles clustered in four sections under this ambitious title evince a desire to promise revolutionary changes that have been associated with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs: term-based courses available to the mass free of charge via online media). The authors are truthful to this vision, offering vast ranges of topics including distance learning, open learning, innovations, academic administration, business management, and educational technologies. The book includes a detailed table of contents that provides a concise synopsis, and each chapter concludes with an extensive list of references and other resources.
Section 3 offers two articles with case studies. The first features a MOOC that deals with the problem of bullying in schools. It reflects on the use of test cases and finds that timely feedback is critical. The second examines LMOOCs (language MOOCs) that facilitate foreign language acquisition with the aid of mobile platforms. In LMOOCs, mobile devices function not only as a portal to the course site but also as a gateway to real-world language environments. The final section, which contains one chapter, outlines a planned course on mechatronics in a hybrid format, combining the benefits of the face to face approach and a MOOC.
The major strength of the book is that it provides guidelines for the implementation of MOOCs in practical terms, away from the clichéd terms (such as “revolution,” “hype,” or “innovation”) that are often associated with them. While the MOOCs revolution is rumored to be coming to an end, the authors assign to the movement a role that could still be made to higher education. To this end, the book calls for pedagogical refinements as well as a clear analysis of the financial viability of MOOCs.
Parenthetically, most of the authors assembled in this volume hail from social and geographical locations with European hues. It leaves one to wonder whether claims in this book would have been different if it also included North American or other global contexts, where the movement of MOOCs was born and is still growing.
Date Reviewed: 2017-12-12
The public arena of the 21st century has become one in which religious intolerance and inflammatory and questionable assertions about religions and specific groups of people are not only acceptable to many persons but are frequently invited and modeled by community leaders at many levels of mainstream American culture. Religious leaders who might model critical public engagement and expose ignorant and dangerous misrepresentations of whole faith communities are rarely represented in media. Meanwhile, current data suggests that more than 25 percent of married couples in America are interfaith. How do seminaries prepare students to minister in a global society where fear, lies, and misunderstandings are rampant and where interreligious understanding and cooperation are so essential to human survival and community?
Most seminaries have already recognized one basic assertion of this book -- that seminary teaching is not about pouring stable and unchanging religious content into our students. Healthy seminaries of the 21st century are called instead to help students grow deep and secure roots in their faith tradition such that fear of the Other will be replaced by curiosity and engagement while appreciating, practicing, and honoring their own faith identity. Such secure attachment to their faith identities will help students minister in the multifaith contexts they are likely to encounter while offering pastoral care in any community they serve. Fernandez and his colleagues offer thought-provoking, creative chapters on spiritual formation, curriculum development, multifaith pastoral care, and public ministry in the age of terrorism and over-the-top propaganda, lies, and misunderstandings that have created the fear and isolation of American religious and secular culture.
Teaching in a Multifaith World includes chapters that address seminary education from the perspective of theoretical lectures and models to practical guidelines and principles. For example, in chapter 3, Mary Hess asserts that current students benefit from the almost universal experience of video gaming and are more open to collaborative learning, recognition of human fallibility, and acceptance of change than faculty may believe. Today’s students, she believes, are used to learning from experience, reflection, retrying, and developing skills at noticing differences and similarities that provide clues to choices they need to make. Hess advises faculty to build on these skills by exploring in vivo experiences of relationship with those of other faiths. Multifaith learning need not relativize beliefs as having equal truth but should ground students in humility that enables engagement with other faiths while deepening one’s own religious roots and identity. Helping students explore rather than debate the verity of other faiths decreases the fear that comes from ignorance and diminishes the power of fear-based claims and labels propounded in the public sphere.
Kujawa-Holbrook’s chapter is the capstone of the volume and begins by asserting that “Interreligious learning emanates from the collective belief that we are all, despite our religious differences, part of one human community” (199). She offers aspirational characteristics of healthy religious communities that can be generalized to most congregations. Communities of faith must first be able to sustain relationships of mutual care and respect that embody belief in the dignity of every human being within their own community. Healthy relationships within one’s home community become indicators of healthy relationship potential with those outside one’s own community. Hospitality is not just a welcome sign on the door, but includes an awareness of food choices, timing of Sabbath, and an open-hearted welcome of strangers. The proliferation of multifaith families presents congregations with opportunities for interreligious understanding (as opposed to conversion possibilities) as the presence of such families unearths hitherto unknown varieties of holiday celebrations, birthing and funeral traditions, premarital counseling needs, and a multitude of other learnings.
While many experienced faculty were trained to offer the stable and enduring truths of a given faith perspective, post-modern and post-colonial studies have created recognition of the need for fluency in the changing nature of knowledge and the importance of self-awareness of one’s perspective and experiences such that knowing, honoring, and speaking from one’s specific religious identity involves openness to engagement with others in a spirit of curiosity and respect. Seminaries and their graduates have a role to play in helping to create bridges between different communities (religious and other) rather than walls. Those seminaries moving toward building bridges would do well to assign Teaching in a Multifaith World as required faculty reading.