When I am starting a new project, I fully take on the stereotypical academic practice of latching on to books and articles and any reliable relevant source of information about that subject. And again, guilty as charged. Actually, I have been amassing books and articles on faculty development, the scholarship of teaching and learning, innovative classroom strategies, critical pedagogies, and mentoring for quite some time. With the semester break looming, I am very much looking forward to reading words on paper pages that I can hold in my hands – and I have narrowed the list to four books:
I have been doing some work researching the use of informal faculty and student interactions to build understanding and empathy. I was inspired by my long-held role coordinating a program on my campus that links a troupe of “faculty fellows” with the housing department to foster informal, social activities between students and faculty. Research has shown these informal, but purposeful interactions have impacted student resilience, persistence, self-esteem, retention, and progress toward graduation. So I picked up Relationship-Rich Education by Peter Felten and Leo Lambert. This is a topic close to my heart, and I am interested to see the results of this research.
I teach statistics to sociology and criminology students. Which means I am teaching complex ideas to students who are not statisticians nor do they have dreams and aspirations to become one. On the first day of class I often hear just how much they hate math. Of course, statistics is not math – but that is for another post. On a recommendation from the current Director of Faculty Development, I picked up Teaching Complex Ideas by Arnold Wentzel. I have started reading this in hopes of building strategies to transform my expertise in to great lessons for my students – on a level where math is…hated.
I am also going to re-read Radical Hope by Kevin Gannon. I read this prior to the semester and it helped me reshape and rethink the language in my syllabi, universal design, and inclusive teaching. I want to re-read the book on the other side of a most improbable semester to take stock and evaluate how I think I did on some of these goals.
But I am most excited for Ungrading edited by Susan Blum. This collection of essays takes to task how we evaluate students to rethink the process of learning; as the book website states, the book can “show why and how faculty who wish to focus on learning, rather than sorting or judging, might proceed.” I even joined a virtual book discussion group that will stretch out over the next several months, so the learning is not going to be contained just to these pages.
I have an entire other stack of articles, and blogs, and podcasts, and…so begins this critically reflective and transformative time in my career.
“The very acts of trying to teach well, of adopting a critically reflective practice to improve our teaching and our students’ learning are radical, in that word’s literal sense: they are endeavors aimed at fundamental, root-level transformation. And they are acts of hope because they imagine that process of transformation as one in which a better future takes shape out of our students’ critical refusal to abide the limitations of the present.” – Kevin Gannon, Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto