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Faculty Mentoring: A Practical Manual for Mentors, Mentees, Administrators, and Faculty Developers
Date Reviewed: May 13, 2016
Faculty Mentoring offers a wealth of resources for justifying, planning, implementing, and evaluating faculty mentoring in one-on-one and group settings. Phillips and Dennison, faculty members at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, ground their suggestions in decades of experience directing and consulting with the Faculty Mentoring Program at UNCG and in a comprehensive review of literature about the value of mentoring.
The volume makes clear the benefits of mentoring to all involved: faculty mentees, faculty mentors, administrators, and institutions. Thoughtful mentoring programs aid in the recruitment and retention of pre-tenure faculty, connecting them more deeply to institutional life, orienting them to “the university’s mission and identity,” and helping them shape productive and sustainable attention to teaching, scholarship, and service (35). The authors demonstrate why formal mentoring relationships prove especially important to retain “diverse faculty, including minority and international faculty members” (35). When well executed, faculty mentoring helps “develop an academic atmosphere that mutually nurtures, supports, and further develops all faculty members’ teaching and research skills and assists them so that they feel part of a university/college community” (1).
The book’s first chapter offers guidance to mentors, including logistics of meetings, topics for discussion, and insight about the experiences of new faculty members. Chapter two presents guidelines for establishing mentoring groups for new faculty and includes advice for group facilitators. Chapter three speaks directly to new faculty members and provides tips for having a successful mentoring experience, including selecting an appropriate mentor, setting meaningful and reasonable expectations for the relationship, and “self-assessment of the mentoring experience” (24). Chapters four, five, and six weigh in programmatically with suggestions for mentoring within departments, guidelines for institutional administrators, and wisdom for directors of faculty mentoring programs. Chapter seven combs higher educational literature and provides an overview of the benefits of, and rationale for, faculty mentoring. A list of references at the end of each chapter is supplemented by an inventory of books and Internet resources in the Appendix. In total, the book’s appendices span sixty-five pages (nearly half the volume) and provide resources easily modifiable to fit specific institutional contexts. The templates, worksheets, checklists, and evaluation tools provided will not only help new programs launch more quickly but also offer existing programs resources for assessing and improving current practices.
This text speaks to a wide audience. The full volume will be useful for planners and directors of mentoring programs; individual chapters form stand-alone resources for their target readers (mentors, mentees, and administrators.) Faculty and administrators at institutions of all sizes will find usable insight in the text for mentoring programs funded at a variety of levels. Though geared toward the mentoring of early career faculty, the tools provided in Phillips and Dennison’s text may benefit even mid-career mentees. Finally, though written with mentoring efforts that are supported by institutions in mind, the volume also offers insight for those seeking or offering mentoring outside of formally run programs.
Leadership Case Studies in Education
Date Reviewed: May 13, 2016
Northouse and Lee adopt the definition of leadership put forth by Northouse in his influential textbook Leadership Theory and Practice: “Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal” (2). The co-authors state that the common goal of educators is “to create a safe place where students can effectively learn and grow” and so it follows that leadership – the process of influence – is central to the educators’ vocation (2). During the past one hundred and fifty years, researchers have offered multiple approaches to understand precisely how leadership works, and Lee and Northouse succinctly summarize various approaches and provide case studies based on actual situations in education to help readers to apply the theoretical concepts. Following their introduction, each of the remaining fifteen chapters in Leadership Case Studies in Education presents one theory for understanding leadership along with two case studies, one focused on K-12 and one in higher education.
The first half of the book generally parallels developments in leadership research in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, beginning with theories that hone in on the leader’s characteristics or actions (trait, skills, and behavior) and moving to theories that explain group processes (situational, path-goal, and leader-member exchange). Chapters eight through ten examine more recent descriptions of th e qualities of a leader presenting transformational, authentic, and service leadership theories. These are followed by chapters on adaptive leadership, psychodynamic approach to understanding leadership, ethics, and team leadership. The book concludes with case studies that highlight the significance of gender and culture.
The sixteen higher education case studies cover a range of leadership positions. Three of the case studies feature a university president; six present situations faced by administrators or staff working outside of academic affairs; one is about a student leader; and six focus on faculty. A set of six questions concludes each case study. The first three directly address the case study, while the second set connects the case study to Northouse’s text.
Northouse and Lee wrote Leadership Case Studies in Education as a companion text to Northouse’s Leadership Theory and Practice. The case study text offers compact summaries of each leadership theory, which are intended to serve primarily as review of the more thorough presentation and assessment in the main text. For example, in Theory and Practice, Northouse devotes thirteen pages to leader-member exchange theory, describing early and later studies, explaining how the theory works, presenting its strengths and limitations, and suggesting possible application. Case Studies condenses this to less than three pages.
Northouse and Lee write that their intended audience is “undergraduate and graduate classes in education and educational leadership,” (ix) so it is not surprising that its usefulness to this audience may be limited. The case studies draw on real-life situations but are missing discussion and analysis. This may be a useful companion textbook for classes in educational leadership, but without the corresponding textbook Leadership Case Studies in Education misses an opportunity to influence readers outside the classroom in the common goal of improving education.
Theological school deans are not just theological leaders for their institution, they must be EDUCATIONAL leaders. That is, they must implement sound educational practices related to curriculum, instruction, supervision, assessment, and administration. There is a variety of ways to assess the effectiveness of the curriculum, and there are several levels ...
Mapping Your Academic Career: Charting the Course of a Professor's Life
Date Reviewed: April 15, 2016
If one were to ask faculty to describe the developmental continuum of an academic career, the responses would probably be structured along the titles that correspond to the faculty ranks of assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. In Mapping Your Academic Career, Gary Burge takes a different approach, examining how faculty careers are shaped by developmental shifts that occur naturally across an adult lifespan. His central thesis is that the development of most faculty proceeds along predictable trajectories that are related, yet not necessarily identical, to their rank. Burge identifies three stages of development in a faculty career, which he labels as “cohorts.” These do not necessarily correspond to faculty rank or age. Instead, they are shaped by: (1) a scholar’s perception of themselves, their career, and their relationship to their institution; and (2) the institution’s perception of the scholar’s career progress and value within the institution.
Consistent with other lifespan developmental theories, each cohort is characterized by a central developmental task or question, which influences the choices they make and the forms of support they need. For cohort one, which corresponds to the early phase of an academic career (or possibly a shift to a new institution for experienced faculty), the central task is finding security and vocational identity, with tenure or a long-term contract being the watershed. The central task in cohort two, the midcareer period, is success – that is, achieving mastery and developing a unique voice in one’s teaching and scholarship. For cohort three, who are typically senior, tenured, full professors, it is finding significance – determining their value to the institution and the guild.
As a newly tenured faculty member, I approached this book under the assumption that it would focus, at least in part, upon mapping the path to tenure and promotion; that it would discuss the institutional commitments and guild activities that would most likely gain the approval of promotion committees, provosts, and president. Burge’s text, however, is not primarily concerned with how to get to each phase. He spends virtually no time discussing how to get a tenure-track position, how to get tenure, or how to map your path to professor. Instead, he is concerned with the health and vitality of faculty careers and how faculty can successfully navigate the tasks of finding security, success, and significance. Burge devotes a full chapter to each of the three cohorts, describing the individual, interpersonal, and institutional characteristics that predict successful navigation of the stage. He also notes that there are “predictable pitfalls” within each cohort, which may negatively impact, and in some cases end, a scholar’s career.
Burge’s text is most helpful for mid-career and senior faculty, as well as for the administrators who oversee them. Because of the prominent role and impact of tenure, faculty development efforts inordinately focus upon it. There is little attention upon helping tenured faculty intentionally reflect upon their vocation, including their commitments to teaching, scholarship, and service within their institutions and the larger society. Burge’s text draws attention to the ways in which faculty evolve as they mature. He provides some insight into the issues that contribute to faculty members’ loss of focus or motivation following tenure or promotion.
A significant shortcoming of the book is that it lacks a sound basis of support. Burge provides no description of the methodology used to identify the cohorts. There is no interview data and little support from extant literature to support many of his assumptions. His analysis relies heavily upon personal experience and anecdotes, which he often interprets in troubling ways. While he tries to include issues of race, ethnicity, and culture, his handling of those issues is sometimes clumsy and shortsighted. He does not question or critique institutional structures or systems that hamper the success and vitality of female and ethnic minorities. He treats these issues instead as individual problems that are the responsibility of ethnic minority and female faculty members to navigate.
Still, Mapping Your Academic Career is a worthy effort and a helpful book that faculty and administrators should read. In it, Burge names what is often unnamed in faculty development. And while the book has little in the way of firm support, it provides a good foundation for research on the developmental shifts and challenges facing faculty across their careers
Student Learning in College Residence Halls: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why
Date Reviewed: May 29, 2017
In a higher education climate of ever-increasing competition and demand for accountability, what residence halls can contribute toward institutional learning objectives has never been more important. Blimling’s comprehensive work takes into account not only this fact, but also the multiplicity of potential philosophies and desired outcomes that may guide residence life professionals’ efforts. The result is a nearly exhaustive list of possible approaches to fostering student learning in residence halls, substantiated by results from past studies.
Blimling begins with a review of the history of on-campus housing, followed by a description of the major strands of thought in housing and residence life philosophies. In chapters 2 and 3 he moves on to discuss biological and psychological development in college students and how these and other factors impact learning and cognition. Chapter 4 addresses the effects of different types of residence hall learning programs, while chapter 5 takes a brief digression to discuss key considerations when selecting and training residence life staff. Chapter 6 discusses how the structure (physical and otherwise) of residence halls influences students, and chapters 7 and 8 focus on ways residence life staff may shape the social and academic climate of residence halls to promote learning. Chapter 9 provides an in-depth discussion of assessing residence life programs, including strategies for implementing assessments, using the results, and establishing a culture of assessment. The last chapter presents possibilities for the future of residence halls, based on current trends in higher education and residence life.
The strength of Blimling’s work lies in its thoroughness, particularly with regard to evidence. The majority of each chapter is occupied with summarizing findings from the literature on various elements of its subject matter; certainly the book lives up to its title’s promise to show “what works, what doesn’t, and why,” in numerous aspects of student housing ranging from the effects of over-long hallways to the ideal size for a study group. The consequence of this intense focus, however, is that it occasionally obscures the broader context of the information. Practical applications are discussed for many individual techniques, but rarely are they generalized into more comprehensive strategies for programs and initiatives. This may be by design, to encourage readers to develop customized programs for their own unique contexts. In practice, however, it makes it somewhat difficult at first to identify the potential utility of the wealth of information in each chapter, let alone in the entire book. It is easy to imagine a residence life professional turning to this work to find evidence that a specific strategy will be effective, but more difficult to imagine one finishing the book with a clear idea of what future directions in programming to pursue.
It is also worth noting that this book is written primarily for an audience of residence life professionals, and its usefulness to teaching faculty is limited. The principal exceptions are, as noted in the preface, “higher educational administrators and faculty who work with students in living and learning programs and other educational enrichment programs that operate in residence halls” (xvii-xviii). Faculty in residence will likely find it of interest, as will faculty advisors to, or participants in, living and learning groups in residence halls. For those simply interested in how to better integrate their teaching with residential learning initiatives, however, it will hold less value, as the majority of the work is focused on managing those aspects of student life that affect learning, rather than on designing or delivering educational programs themselves. For these reasons, I would recommend this book to residence life professionals and staff, faculty who participate in student residences, and faculty and graduate students in relevant areas of higher education administration. For all others, however, I would consider it optional.