Select an item by clicking its checkbox
In teaching undergraduates about social justice, I have found that the concept of the common good is both the most foundational and difficult one for students to learn. According to Catholic social teaching, the perspective from which I teach my theology and justice courses, the concept is defined as such: ...
I’ve been reviewing instructional video presentations for a project. Primarily I screen them to review how effective the presenter is in applying sound pedagogy. It’s amazing how many basic rules of good communication presenters break—consistently—-even professional speakers and celebrated “master teachers.” The other side of the ...
When it comes to effective teaching, “less is more.” While the brain is an amazing information and multi-sensory processor, research suggests it can only effectively learn one new thing (concept) at a time. The maximum number of “bits of information” the brain can process at any given time is eight (...
Reflective Teaching in Higher Education
Date Reviewed: April 15, 2016
A group of English, Scottish, Irish, and Australian scholars has produced a thorough and insightful resource for effective teaching in higher education that seeks “to bring together the latest knowledge and understanding of teaching, learning, and assessment in higher education” (xi). The editorial team developed the approach to reflective teaching on the basis of the ten point Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP) developed in the UK. The chapters in each section refer to the relevant principles in TLRP and put forward credible arguments grounded in recent empirical research. The editors intersperse useful reflective activities and case studies throughout each chapter in order to promote reflective inquiry by individuals and groups of teachers.
The editors organized the book into five parts: Becoming Reflective; Creating Conditions for Learning; Teaching for Understanding; Reflecting on Consequences; and Deepening Understanding. Taken together, these five elements constitute a model for the development of effective teaching in higher education that is comprehensive, open-ended, and ongoing. The approach offered here functions like a dynamic spiral toward adaptive expertise. The emphases on evidence-based theory and practice, constructivism, teaching as jazz improvisation, assessment as a crucial component of learning, and robust inclusion all recommend this book to contemporary educators in higher education.
I find only two deficiencies in this impressive body of work. At four hundred pages, only the most dedicated teachers or administrators in higher education will read the work as a whole. I tried to plow my way through to the end several times, but could only make limited progress in any one session of reading due to the density of the material. I think a book half the size of the existing volume would have sufficed.
The second problem concerns the commitment of the authors to critical pedagogy. Toward the end of the book, the editors advocate ever more strongly for a largely Frierian-based approach to diversity and inclusion as the best – perhaps the only – way forward in higher education today. While I have more than a passing interest in critical pedagogy, I find the narrowing of the philosophy of education bandwidth advocated here to be overly confining and surprisingly uncritical. I would have liked to see a treatment of multiple approaches that would support the establishment of egalitarian and inclusive communities of learning in higher education.
I see four likely uses for this book. Those charged with leading doctoral seminars on teaching in higher education may find this a particularly valuable resource. I know that I will. It could well serve as a viable alternative to Barbara Gross Davis’s Tools for Teaching (2nd ed., Jossey-Bass, 2009). This book could also help new professors develop the kind of reflective practice that will enable them to become expert practitioners of the craft of teaching. Many individual chapters of the book could find use by those leading in-service faculty development sessions. Finally, academic deans or committees responsible for promoting effective teaching in faculties could profitably work their way through this resource in its entirety as a way to gain a 360° sense of effective teaching and learning in higher education today.
It Works for Me, Flipping the Classroom: Shared Tips for Effective Teaching
Date Reviewed: March 14, 2016
The pedagogical landscape of education has recently experienced a tectonic shift in terms of professional development. Once in the field, teachers seeking improvement and new ideas as to how to improve their craft, like so many professionals, used to wait for top-notch scholars to produce new research-based, paradigm-changing tomes. The thinking was that those in the trenches, those who filled kindergarten classrooms and chemistry labs across the country, were not creative enough to provide cutting-edge educational discoveries; only those who labored for a doctorate and took to the ivory towers of academia were capable of such exploration. Sadly, by the time these game-changing discoveries trickled down to the huddled masses in the faculty workroom, these ideas had already been discovered by accident and had been shared among the other faculty on the quad. Teacher’s in-service did not focus on the next great discovery but on how to share the discovery with fellow teachers.
As this new wave of creative teachers began filling the gaps in higher education after proving themselves as master teachers and scholars in this area or that (and with the advent of social media), the focus kept evolving: for example, how can this idea, discovered in a chemistry classroom, be applied to the theology, composition, or social work classroom? Thankfully, Hal Blythe, Charlie Sweet, and Russell Carpenter, all writing professors at Eastern Kentucky University, have made it their mission to improve teacher effectiveness across the nation, first with their Noel Studio for Academic Creativity and now with their It Works for Me book series.
In this volume, as in the previous seven volumes, Blythe, Sweet, and now Carpenter, have assembled a cadre of interdisciplinary scholars from across the country to engage in a conversation about what these teachers and administrators have found in their efforts to “flip” the classroom in an attempt to improve student learning and retention. The authors selected for this volume exhibited good ideas and were invited to share those ideas with others. Generosity, author and speaker Michael Hyatt would say, has become the new currency in learning, leadership, and life.
This volume is divided into seven sections and includes an introduction and take-away-style conclusion. The sections this reviewer found of note were the opening where the flipped classroom is defined (all instructional content is found outside the classroom and classroom time is used for conversations, processing, and reflection), the sections on in-class and out-of-class assignments, and assessment. Each larger section opens with a short introduction from the editors, which is followed by a number of short essays from the contributing authors where each author or team of authors discusses their experiment with flipping the classroom. References, where applicable, have been provided. The concluding take-away section offers twenty ideas, such as never spending more than fifteen minutes on any activity, using Bloom’s taxonomy when crafting course components, engaging other faculty to get feedback on flipped assignments or course structure, and developing your own competency in technology.
Overall, this is an incredibly helpful volume. Its strength is in sharing ideas that might inspire a new way of doing one assignment or offering one lecture that might increase student learning and retention. In that way, it works!