Quick Hits for New Faculty: Successful Strategies by Award-winning Teachers
reviewed by Laurel Trufant - 2005
Title: Quick Hits for New Faculty: Successful Strategies by Award-winning Teachers
Author(s): Rosanne M. Cordell, Betsy Lucal, Robin K. Morgan, Sharon Hamilton, Robert Orr (Editors)
Publisher: Indiana University Press, Bloomington
ISBN: 0253217091, Pages: 140, Year: 2004
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This is one of those rare books that is both insightful and entertaining. The editors have made the wise choice to keep the contributed articles brief, narrative, and as unscholarly as possible, while still maintaining the close ties between theory and practice that make for good teaching. The result is a useful handbook that practices what it preaches: It captures the attention of its audience, maximizes its instructional time, and capitalizes on the context-dependent nature of a meaningful learning experience. The topical organization of the book leads first-time readers through a logical development of teaching practice, and a detailed index makes the wide variety of articles accessible as a ready reference for both the curious and the committed.
Each of the seven sections of the text (Getting Started, Grading and Feedback, First Day, Are You Out There? Getting Support, Lessons from the Disciplines, and Keeping Track) presents a selection of teaching problems and actual solutions implemented by teachers in the field. In Getting Started, articles focus on a range of topics, from how to build reflection and creativity in the classroom to the importance of fostering collegiality and collaboration among students. Issues discussed include the importance of carefully constructed learning objectives and how to choose methodologies of investigation appropriate to your teaching and learning goals. The section has a particularly good organizational flowsomething that is sometimes hard for editors to achieve when drawing together the writings of many diverse authors.
The Grading and Feedback section gives practical tips on how to determine whether or not you are meeting your teaching objectives, and, perhaps more important, whether or not your students are meeting their learning goals. Articles demonstrate the utility of peer assessment and role playing, the dangers of grade creep and grade inflation and strategies for how to combat them, and the unique value of developing means to measure subjective levels of achievement among students (p. 34). Topics covered include self-grading, class participation, immediate feedback, and effective testing strategies. One particularly interesting article discusses the Pygmalion effect identified by Latzko and Saunders in 1995 and explores the role of self-fulfilling prophecies in student performance.
In First Day, readers find a selection of best practices for creating classroom atmospheres that promote active participatory learning, as well as tested techniques for overcoming classroom norms that can smother student participation. Authors here insist on the importance of first impressions, the power of modeling expected behaviors, and the value of silence in encouraging reflection. Techniques discussed include online welcome surveys, role playing, simulations, and discipline-based icebreakers.
Contributors to the fourth section of the book, Are You Out There? (perhaps my favorite section), apply the principle that communication is the thread that ties the fabric of the classroom teaching process together (p. 57). Articles discuss the importance of sensible risk taking, student-centered activities, problem-based investigations, and making correct assumptions about students previous knowledge. In a fascinating discussion of brain-compatible learning, one educator explores the physiological apparatus of learning and the impact of the emotions on the cognitive process.
In the fifth section, Getting Support, the focus shifts to survival techniques for new faculty. Topics include reliance on support networks that include colleagues, Web resources, professional organizations, conferences, and accrediting agencies. Several authors describe how simple techniques like paired teaching and faculty mentoring helped them adjust to their new classroom roles. One article stresses the importance of support from libraries and the library staff. Another discusses the utility of publisher-supplied materials for creating a well-rounded and engaging curriculum that makes use of new technologies that would otherwise be prohibited by time constraints.
Lessons from the Disciplines shifts the focus from the general to the specific. Here, faculty share experiences based in their specific subject matter. These insights are always tied back to the general, however, in such a way that they are useful to all. Practical suggestions include maximizing time on task by encouraging more effective study habits, making incremental rather than sweeping changes to curriculum, merging traditional and familiar classroom techniques with newer approaches to active learning and constructivist teaching, exploiting emerging technologies, and appreciating the dynamics of group interaction. One article takes an interesting look at the special characteristics of honors courses.
In the final section, Keeping Track, contributors attack the knotty problem of building a professional history and meeting the increasingly burdensome demands of the educational bureaucracy. One article discusses how new technologies can simplify the creation and maintenance of a teaching portfolio. Another emphasizes that good teaching practice is a matter of constant modification: continually making and revising decisions about teaching (p. 119). Yet another stresses the importance, to all teachers aspiring to excellence, of active participation in SoTL, the scholarship of teaching and learning.
Quick Hits for New Faculty is a sensible book, written for practicing teachers facing real classroom problems. Its lessons are presented in a way that makes them immediately applicable in most teaching situations, with a minimum of adjustment. Contributors have assiduously refrained from (or the editors have meticulously removed all evidence of anyones) advancing an agenda or arguing minute points of theory. And in an unusual move, the editors have included contact information for all contributors. This renders the book all the more useful and demonstrates the generous core motivation of the writers: to reach out to colleagues and share teaching experiences in meaningful ways. The inclusion of an aggregate bibliography adds to the value of the book as a reference for research, and a comprehensive index assures its usefulness as a handbook for practice. This unassuming book can be a valuable tool for new faculty as they struggle to establish themselves in the classroom and aspire to teaching excellence.
Latzko, W. J., and D. M. Saunders (1995). Four days with Dr. Deming: A Strategy for Modern Methods of Management. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley.