Sunday, October 29, 2017

When Grit Isn't Enough


Linda Nathan has written a thoughtful book about the current state of education in America entitled When Grit Isn't Enough. During her tenure as founding headmaster of the Boston Arts Academy, Nathan was a vocal proponent of college for all high school graduates. She began to question her original stance as she interviewed BAA alumni and learned of their experiences after high school. In this book Nathan reflects upon five assumptions that drive the college-for-all promise—money need not be an obstacle, race doesn’t matter, all one need do is work harder, everyone can go to college, and dreams will come true if one believes hard enough. She profiles the experiences of BAA graduates, which caused her to question the assumptions she operated under as an educator. Her reflections highlight the obstacles that poverty and systemic racism create for young people striving to continue their education beyond secondary school. Nathan does not let herself off the hook. Though her intentions were good, she now recognizes that some of her views were uninformed. The voices of the young people that come through the book give the reader a firsthand account of how the American educational system is often rigged against people of color or in poverty. Nathan does not offer a panacea for correcting the injustices of the system. She does make carefully considered recommendations. She recognizes that there are no easy answers. However, she confidently proclaims the need for change. Anyone with a stake in the American educational system, which should be all Americans, will benefit from reading this thoughtful and compassionate volume.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Improving Quality in American Higher Education

Improving Quality in American Higher Education edited by Richard Arum, Josipa Roksa, and Amanda Cook is a collection of white papers produced by mostly faculty as part of the Measuring College Learning project. Each chapter focuses on one of six academic disciplines—history, economics, sociology, communication, biology, and business. The authors of each chapter suggest the concepts and competencies undergraduates should learn within each discipline and include suggested learning outcomes. The clear identification of concepts and competencies is the strength of this book. Such information can be used by faculty in designing individual courses and entire curricula. The book’s last chapter includes perspectives from thought leaders on assessment. As they point out, the Measuring College Learning project has so far produced recommendations of what students should know but has not yet explained in detail how to measure students’ learning. The chapters’ authors do provide a review of current measurement tools and point out gaps in those instruments. Those involved with the project recognize much work remains to be done. In the meantime, they have produced a useful outline of what students should gain from a 21st century college education.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Undergraduate Experience


Many recent books have chronicled the shortcomings of colleges and universities and have predicted the demise of the current higher education system in America. The Undergraduate Experience by Peter Felten and his four co-authors is not one of those books. Instead, the authors focus on what is going well at American colleges and universities. They provide numerous examples of effective educational practices and hold up those examples as ones to be emulated. The authors identify six categories that matter to providing an effective college education. Administration, faculty, staff, and students are to focus on learning, relationships, expectations, alignment, improvement, and leadership. Specific action principles are outlined for each of the six categories and explanations and examples provided for each action. This is a hopeful book. The authors are not interested in criticizing higher education but in making it better. For those interested in doing the same, this book will provide inspiration and guidance.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Discussion Book


Educators will be interested in The Discussion Book by Stephen D. Brookfield and Stephen Preskill. The authors provide easy-to-follow instructions to fifty exercises designed to promote discussion in small and large groups. The directions for each technique describe the method’s purpose, how to do it, where and when to use it, what participants appreciate about the exercise, possible pitfalls, and the type of questions for which the technique is best suited. There are techniques to initiate discussions in new groups, promote good questioning, foster active listening, conduct discussions without talking, draw people out of their comfort zone, democratize participation, build group cohesion, facilitate decision making, carry on text-based discussions, and more. Anyone having to facilitate group discussions will find this a useful manual.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Small Teaching


Small Teaching by James Lang is filled with simple practices that can be inserted into existing course designs to improve student learning outcomes at the college level. There is no need for massive course redesign to implement Lang’s tested recommendations. He has purposely focused on actions that can be implemented tomorrow. All his practices are based on research. Chapters include the theories, practices, and principles needed to address the means to enhance student knowledge, understanding, motivation, growth, and more. This is a practical resource that faculty will refer to often as they strive to further the learning of their students.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Reskilling America


Industrial jobs are beginning to return to the United States, but the country lacks an adequately trained workforce. In Reskilling America, Katherine Newman and Hella Winston explain why this is the case and how to remedy the labor shortage. The two sociologists trace the history of vocational education in the U.S. and how Americans developed a bias against blue-collar jobs. The cognitive and physical skills required by industrial workers are generally devalued. And the current obsession that everyone earns a college degree is exacerbating the situation. Youths with a bent for professions in the trades are instead being channeled into higher education. The authors show how vocational training can be an intellectually rigorous form of education and provide young people with well-paying careers. Newman and Winston discuss the challenges facing vocational education and how those challenges may be resolved. Anyone concerned with the future of American industry, labor, education, and youth would be well served by reading this volume.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Academic Advising Approaches

Academic Advising Approaches edited by Jayne K. Drake, Peggy Jordan, and Marsha A. Miller
provides a comprehensive treatment of academic advising. Chapters delve into:

·         advising strategies to support learning
      ·         advising as teaching
      ·         learning-centered advising
      ·         developmental advising
      ·         motivational interviewing
      ·         appreciative advising
      ·         strengths-based advising
      ·         self-authorship
      ·         proactive advising
      ·         advising as coaching
      ·         Socratic advising
      ·         applying constructivism, systems theory, and hermeneutics to advising
      ·         and more

This is a book that should be read by anyone who has responsibility for advising college students, whether they be a faculty advisor or advise full-time. This book is an informative and practical tool for college academic advisors.