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“With A Little Help From My Friends” was composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1967. The familiar song pronounces the power and necessity of friendship: What would you think if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me? lend me your ears and ...
Allow me to be honest. There are few things in my job that I dislike more than having a conversation with someone who is feigning objectivity or neutrality. I call it academic pretense. I cherish conversations when people speak from their hearts, even if I disagree with them. This holds ...
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
This book brings together faculty reflections on pedagogy and inter-professional collaboration from a broad range of disciplines within a single institution in Toronto: Ryerson University. While a single institution may appear to provide only a limited contextual perspective, the nature of the varied disciplines represented here provides a diverse set of resources, drawing from early childhood studies, nursing, disability studies, social work, sociology, city planning, and midwifery. Though the fields of theology and religion are not represented among the contributors, educators in theological and religious education will resonate with the need to better equip students for inter-professional engagement.
Though all contributors are from the same institution, the commonality or coherence among chapters ends with the institutional affiliation of the authors. The editors note the book’s lack of coherence, and justify this by saying that the “frontiers” of community-services-related learning “are not neat, formulaic, or easy to navigate” (5). For this reason, reading this text cover-to-cover can be a disappointment, since the chapters are not of equal quality, nor do they create any obvious structure or overall argument.
That said, there are gems in particular contributions for those interested in learning about teaching techniques and reflections that draw from critical pedagogies and integrative approaches, bringing the best of new theories in education. For instance, in “Drawing Close: Critical Nurturing as Pedagogical Practice,” authors May Friedman and Jennifer Poole bring together insights from Indigenous studies, Black feminist thought, maternal pedagogies, and mad studies to argue for a way of being in the classroom that promotes a nurturing relationship between student and teacher, challenging the Enlightenment and Western ideals of independence as a goal of education. These authors call for a suspension on neoliberal concerns for risk and lack of efficiency, instead arguing that an interdependence approach requires the risk of blurring the distinction between teachers and students (96). If a reader of this book were to choose one chapter to read from among the many contributions, this would be the chapter to focus on, and the bibliography provides additional resources to pursue.
Other chapters included interesting suggestions and interventions in education, such as “Educating for Social Action among Future Health Care Professionals” which focused on a learner-centered model for course creation. This chapter includes appendices for how the authors Jacqui Gingras and Erin Rudolph were able to craft a course with considerable input from students regarding course themes, which assignments they would have to complete, and what grading rubrics would entail. Other chapters (3, 8) draw from narrative theory and describe the way students are taught to listen to the narratives of clients as well as to their own personal narratives. While this book’s chapters are not equally helpful, the insights available in a few choice chapters are worth the read.
Date Reviewed: August 4, 2016
Facilitative Collaborative Knowledge Co-Construction is the second volume in a series under the Jossey-Bass New Directions for Teaching and Learning imprint (see Carolyn Jones Medine’s review of volume 1, From the Confucian Way to Collaborative Knowledge Co-Construction, posted April 15, 2016). Van Schalkwyk and D’Amato both have experience at the Centre for Teaching and Learning Enhancement at the University of Macau, China. As such, this volume and its predecessor aim at improving the learning experience of Asian students, particularly in Confucian teaching contexts. In the first volume, the “authors provided a framework that was designed to encourage teachers as they move from a Confucian way of teaching toward a more collaborative way of providing a co-constructed knowledge base in the classroom” (i).
“One can certainly train students to memorize facts and follow algorithms, but unless they know what the algorithms mean and when and how to use them, their mastery of the subject is only superficial. Moreover, most of the knowledge that is acquired by rote learning will be lost quickly because it has no connection to anything meaningful in students’ minds and lives” (3), argue the editors. One challenge in considering this volume for use in US-based contexts is that it is firmly aimed at those who have traditionally taught using rote learning and memorization of facts – repeated references to “the Asian classroom” make this clear. One questions the degree to which such methodologies are entrenched among religious and theological educators in this country. Certainly constructivist learning is a challenge for any number of traditional educators, but involving students in problem-solving or helping them see the value of personal reflection and application in their learning is less foreign to many of us.
Where these insights may be useful is in reminding faculty of the unique needs of international students coming from Confucian-based systems. Chapters in this volume focus on the value of constructivist, cooperative, and collaborative learning; relational intelligence; insights from neuropsychology; sociocognitive skills and emotional intelligence; and “engendering critical reflective thinking within a collaborative teaching and learning context” (2-3). Mary M. Chittooran’s chapter on “Reading and Writing for Critical Reflective Thinking,” for example, contextualizes specific tools like questioning, feedback, and the presentation of alternative explanations, demonstrating how each might best be used with Asian students. Chittooran also explores sixteen different reading and writing activities; any of these might spur creative ideas for teaching a variety of students. Helen Y. Sung’s exploration of emotional intelligence offers seventeen suggested questions to help expand students’ emotional fluency.
There is some repetitiveness between chapters, particularly as various authors review the characteristics of Confucian learning environments and how education is changing. This volume may lend itself best to “cherry picking” whatever portions or techniques are needed for a given professor’s context or students. Most of Amato’s chapter on brain-based learning with Yuan Yuan Wang, for example, may translate over to a variety of educational contexts. Their advice that “learners should not be grouped by age but should be grouped by processing or aptitude levels in most learning activities” (55) is as germane in a Biblical languages class as it is in a room full of international students.
Date Reviewed: June 16, 2016
If teaching is an art its effectiveness rests in the work of many dedicated hands – a conviction that contributors of Coteaching and Other Collaborative Practices in the EFL/ESL Classroom unanimously share. There are many helpful books on teaching but this one is unique in its aim and concrete ways it offers “teachers to collaborate effectively” (xviii). Andrea Honigsfeld and Marla G. Dove achieve their goal of providing “an accessible resource long awaited by educators whose individual instructional practice and/or institutional paradigm shifted to a more collaborative approach to language education” (xviii). Ingeniously compiled, the twenty-six essays, divided into four parts, examine the:
rationale for teacher collaboration to support ESL/EFL instruction, presenting current, classroom-based, practitioner-oriented research studies and documentary accounts related to coteaching, coplanning, coassessing, curriculum alignment, teacher professional development, and additional collaborative practices, and offering authentic teacher reflections and recommendations on collaboration and coteaching. (xviii)
The authors’ objective is not only to help inquiring instructors teach English as second or foreign language, but also to become effective leaders, learners, and coteachers – a global task. The collaboration encouraged for teachers to exercise transcends teaching English to include other disciplines such as mathematics and biology.
Each contributor uniquely provides evidence of how a theory about teaching might be translated into concrete and tangible outcomes. As is evident from the book’s title, collaborations extend beyond just teaching English to fruitful interdisciplinary teaching. The teamwork called for is neither utopian nor essentialist. Rather the authors highlight insights gained from their own experiences of exercising collaborative learning, teaching, and mentorship, highlighting strengths and potential weaknesses.The latter are often symptoms of a lack of deep commitment to collaborative learning and teaching. The art of becoming effective teachers rests on the participants’ willingness to develop a teachable spirit. Put differently, a good teacher is also a student in many ways – one who benefits from the wisdom and knowledge of collaborating with teachers, especially twenty-first century educators who face an overwhelming technological age with a slew of information making it very difficult for a teacher to be fully up-to-date in her or his own field of expertise, much less another field.
From a linguistic perspective, to learn English as a second language is also to learn one’s native language – two languages at once. In other words, to grasp English as a foreign or second language, students actually learn more about the syntax of their native languages. As an immigrant myself, who learned to speak and write in English as a foreign language, and now teach and use ancient biblical languages in my writing projects, I treasure the insights and cogent arguments each author made in this priceless volume. In a nutshell, the contributors strongly advocate collaborative or coteaching as a practical and intellectual approach to sharpening one’s teaching pedagogy. To that end, this book enshrines the wisdom of effective learning and teaching -- an invaluable resource that will revolutionize the art of learning to teach for years to come if taken seriously.