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Tools for Teaching

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 1 month ago

Davis, Barbara Gross. Tools for Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993.


Davis’ book is a veritable compendium of suggestions and recommendations for professors – and, arguably, for middle/high school teachers as well. It is written in a convenient, accessible, and yet thoroughly scholarly manner; innumerable citations are proffered from all walks of education and education theory. The chapters are short (about 8 pages each), and the content is arranged in a “bullet point” like format, which helps get across Davis’ main points, and helps retention. This seems to be a great asset for younger/junior faculty, who – we might surmise – have memorized enough, merely in content alone!


The book touches on nearly every aspect of teaching, and very aptly begins with sections on course preparation and “the first day of class.” Following, naturally, are sections spanning everything from discussion/lecture strategies to test design/dealing with cheaters, technology use, and self-evaluation… even recommendations about office hours are given!


However, a brief criticism arises from the same “simplicity” with which we credited the book just a few sentences ago. At times, it seems that Davis’ book (even if it contains ample bibliographic and reference information) does not go nearly deep enough in its treatment of the subjects it endeavors to explore. Indeed, the reader might feel that he or she is being given too much of a “Cliff’s Notes” version of teaching. Thus, it appears that Davis’ book is best suited as a primer, or else as supplementary to other (perhaps more in-depth) books about topics in teaching and learning.


This is not meant to detract from the book’s utility, especially for faculty who might be asked to take on additional responsibilities but are hesitant, inexperienced, or both. Davis’ final chapters include pointers on mentoring undergraduates as well as advising and working with what she calls Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs), but the suggestions could easily be extended to regular TAs. One advantage to reading this chapter as a Graduate TA would be to know what kind of support to expect from a faculty teaching supervisor, or (if that support is not provided) what kind of support to ask for.


Perhaps, then, Davis' book is best used as a quick-reference guide to teaching, a handbook one can pull off the shelf to answer those quick, practical questions of "what should I do" or "how do I go about doing it"? So, rather than providing a thorough theoretical exploration of teaching and learning, Davis' book is much more of a concise practical guide to teaching and learning. For this reason, it may be of most use to teaching assistants and beginning instructors who are more likely to have those practical questions about issues such as syllabus preparation, assigning homework, giving quizzes and exams, and the like.


Earlier, Davis’ bibliographic information was mentioned in passing. However, as a final note about this book, it should be understood that her provision of such information is extremely beneficial for all readers; since there are references throughout the book (and full entries at the end of chapters), there is literally “something for everyone” regardless of the area of teaching or learning in which the reader is most interested.


Added by Ed DuBois on 4/19/2008

Edited by Andrew Kerlow-Myers on 11/29/08

Edited by Brandon Lee on 12/18/08


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