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The “I” That Teaches - A new video project that invites senior scholars to talk about their teaching lives. These scholar-teachers candidly discuss how religious, educational, and family backgrounds inform their vocational commitments and, also, characterize their teaching persona. From the vantage point of a practiced teaching philosophy we get an intimate account of the value and art of teaching well.
We begin this series with an interview with Dr. Victor Anderson, Vanderbilt School of Divinity. The title for this project comes from a lecture that Prof. Anderson delivered at Wabash College.
Click here to watch all episodes of "The "I" That Teaches" on YouTube
The New Science of Learning: How to Learn in Harmony With Your Brain
Date Reviewed: September 16, 2015
This book is meant to be put into someone’s hands in the months before they begin college, but it also serves as a useful tool for anyone contemplating returning to school after time away – adults getting ready to begin seminary, for example, after years in first or second careers – or for anyone wishing to become a “life-long learner,” whether in formal academic circles or in private life. Written in accessible language and peppered with illustrative examples, this slim volume blends common sense – such as eat a healthy, balanced diet, make time for regular exercise, get enough sleep, don’t cram – with a wide array of insights from neuroscience research and learning theory of the last fifteen years. Both authors have extensive experience and publications focused on the integration of cognitive research, biology, and learner-centered teaching: Doyle at Ferris State University and Zakrajsek in the Department of Family Medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill.
The topics covered in the eight main chapters focus on learning and: sleep, exercise, the use of multiple senses, discovering and utilizing patterns, memory, “fixed” versus “growth” mindsets, and paying attention. Each chapter quickly sets forth recent pertinent research, then concludes with five to ten summary points. Much of the material in the early chapters confirms common sense: getting enough sleep and exercising regularly are necessary for both learning and memory. The brain needs “down” time to process new information. Because sleep and exercise are so foundational for learning, these topics pop up repeatedly in subsequent chapters, especially in the discussions of memory and paying attention.
The discussions in chapters 4 through 8 take up facets of cognitive and learning research that move beyond common sense. Where two or more senses are put to use both learning and memory increase: for example, listening and reading, or reading aloud, or sight and touch. Even studying near the scent of roses has a positive impact. Elaboration is another key: the more routes one takes to the goal – such as via concept maps or annotating the pages of books – the stronger the learning. One chapter describes many ways of discerning patterns and “chunking” blocks of information to help make learning easier and faster. The chapter on memory reminds us that cramming is not nearly as effective as “distributed practice,” processing material in smaller bites over a longer period of time, which gives the brain time – it needs at least an hour – to do its work. This means that taking classes back-to-back, with little or no break in between, is nearly always a bad idea, especially in regard to the material in the first class. Resting between classes or learning activities, as well as taking short naps and breaks, daydreaming, or going for a walk or run, turn out to be essential for effective learning.
Many students are told in elementary school how smart they are, as if learning is a fixed attribute, rather than being praised for the hard work they are doing, which affirms their learning as a process of steady “growth.” As a result, they often have difficult transitions in middle school and beyond, where the material demands more and more effort. Long-term success is a result of steady work and effective learning strategies, not intelligence.
The New Science of Learning’s extensive use of citations provides lots of trails to follow if the reader is inclined to go deeper, but also makes the book choppier and less engaging than if the authors had rephrased the information in their own words. But this is a minor quibble. I plan to give a copy of this book to my son, who will start college next year, as well as my daughter, a high school sophomore, mostly because I learned so much about how to learn that I wish I had known long ago.
Lifelong Learning, The Arts and Community Cultural Engagement In The Contemporary University: International Perspectives
Date Reviewed: August 14, 2015
How might arts-based teaching, learning, and research transform education? This question is explored by demonstrating that arts-based methods and aesthetic pedagogies critically and creatively communicate, teach, make meaning, uncover, and involve students in learning activities. While prevailing attention in the academy is placed on science, math, business, and technology, the collective aim of this volume is to highlight the imaginative practices and creative voices that address the potentials, tensions, and challenges that educators face in working through and within the confines of higher education (7).
The editors, Clover and Sanford, draw on the expertise of educators from North America, Europe, and Africa who work in areas as diverse as religious conflict, civic engagement, teacher education, literacy, theater, museums, dance, and diversity training. The authors demonstrate through varied examples and commonly held convictions that arts-based methods, grounded in social relevance and educational theory, prepare and engage students to develop self understanding and attend to pressing political issues.
The twelve, primarily co-authored, essays are organized into three sections: “Arts-based Teaching and Learning”; “Arts-based Research and Enquiry”; and “Community Cultural Engagement.”
Part One begins with five chapters highlighting examples of arts-based teaching within university settings. Noting the weight placed on traditional assessment and evaluation, the ubiquity of text-based learning, and the stress on technical rationality at the expense of other ways of knowing, the authors convincingly illustrate how the arts provide alternative spaces for learning that can expand student learning rather than diminish it. Skills for engaged citizenship in connection with global and local debates are explored through shared art making, while music is examined as a mobilizing force for activism. Story drama facilitates embodied ways of learning and imaginative writing “turns the gaze” outward to help marginalized student “speak.” Arts-based pedagogies address real problems, help students ground concepts with their own lived experiences, and build communities of learners, while performance-based results synthesize knowledge.
The three chapters in Part Two discuss how arts-based research, which makes use of the arts in the collection, analysis, and dissemination of data, provides researchers with a broader palette of investigative and communication tools with which to garner and relay a range of social meanings (82). For example, theater and drama action-based research is employed by university researchers to assess stress among staff within their work place. Doctoral candidates use collage to tap into extra-rational ways of knowing in order to enhance and clarify their research projects. Dissertation advisors act as midwives supporting the use of arts-based research demonstrating that it is both rigorous and evocative in that its purpose is often to raise consciousness and compel, rather than simply to convince or persuade. At the heart of arts-based inquiry is a radical politically-grounded statement about social justice and control over the production and dissemination of knowledge (81).
Part Three explores community cultural engagement and the arts. Issues related to racism and diversity awareness in Canada, religious conflict in Northern Ireland, and lifelong learning and cultural engagement in a museum in Scotland are examined through arts-based methods. In these varied examples boundaries between academy and community, practitioners and experts, access and privilege, are diffused. Instead, the authors point to the benefits of working beyond disciplinary silos in order to dismantle elitism, classicism, and notions of art for art’s sake.
This book is written for all who would like to work beyond normative structures of higher education by using creative arts-based methodologies and practices. It is for those who wish to collaborate with community artists and cultural institutions and for those who seek ways to unite affective and cognitive learning by engagement with and through the arts. As the editors assert, the arts have potential for augmenting the human aesthetic dimension, rupturing categories of how the world is seen, and imagining the world as it might be.