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Taking Stock: Research on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

Page history last edited by Rebekah Layton 13 years, 5 months ago

Christensen Hughes, J., and Mighty, J., (Eds.). (2010).  Taking Stock: Research on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.  Montreal, QC, Canada: McGill-Queen's University Press.


Taking Stock is an attempt to bring the scholarship of teaching to the classroom.  It consists of a collection of authors presenting findings on practices in higher education, approaches to learning, the teaching-learning environment, exemplary teaching, and how to incorporate scholarly findings into teaching practices.  It is intended to be a bridge from scholars of teaching practices to other academics who teach, but do not specialize in teaching scholarship themselves.  This collection is based on a symposium (from the Queen's Policy Study Series) which addressed problems in education, focusing on the self-referenced "(In)convenient Practice: Teaching and Learning in Higher Education" (p. 4), implying that educators find it inconvenient to teach outside of traditional accepted methodologies which have been shown to be inferior to more current recommended methods based on scientific inquiry.


The most apropos article of the bunch, as well as the most accessible to a lay-person in teaching terminology, was entitled: "Why Not Try a Scientific Approach to Science Education?" contributed by Carl Weiman (p. 175-190).  This essay contrasts the author's repeatedly successful approach to inculcate graduate students with disciplinary aptitude through interactive processes, versus continually failed attempts to do the same with undergraduate students using traditional methods of instruction.  He describes his transformation into an active-learning proponent after recognizing the root of these differences.  He then surveys a number of findings in the field, and suggests some classroom activities that can be used to fill the gaps left by traditionally ineffective methods.  Weiman also addresses student belief and thought processes, the use of technology in the classroom, and some difficulties involved in cultural/institutional change in academic organizations.  All of these topics are extremely relevant and covered in sufficient depth to be informative, but are of sufficient brevity to be simultaneously clear and concise.


While the inclusion of multinational experts is a strength of the volume, many of the other authors are significantly less accessible without a background in the teaching literature, although they address similar topics.  The international cohort of authors include representatives from not only Canada and the United States, but also Europe and Asia, in an attempt to gain an global perspective on the state of teaching and learning.  Authors include: Hughes Christensen, J., Downey, J., Knapper, C., Mighty, J., Saroyan, A., Summerlee, A.J.S., & Wright, W.A. (Canada); Entwhistle, N., & Meyer, J.H.F., (UK); Kinzie, J., Weimer, M., & Weiman, C. (US); Lindblom-Ylanne, S. (Finland); Prossor, M. (China); and Trigwell, K. (Australia).  Another strength of including such diversity in this collection is that it is able to cover the applicability of teaching to so many fields, from hard sciences like physics (Weimer) and biology (Weiman), to those where it makes more natural sense such as the social sciences, as well as areas in which these topics are issue in the foreground of research, such as eduactional psychology (Lindblom-Ylanne). 


While the jargon can be fairly technical at points, and the references to past scholarship pervasive, contributors to this volume continue to make a conscious effort to make it readable and understandable to all academics.  The best reason to read this book is if you are one of those people who need to see evidence to believe in new teaching methods, but do not specialize in the discipline of teaching scholarship.  It is not an easy-to-read manual for better teaching, but it does provide a good background for those unfamiliar with this knowledge base.


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