#FSLT13 Annotation – not one book, not 100 words. Oh, well…

#FSLT13 Annotation – not one book, not 100 words.  Oh, well…

These three books fuse in my brain as one resource.  They’re the most written in books on teaching I own, pages tattered and falling out even in the one that’s a hardcover edition.  The trio of books remind me of

  • where I started (political science, writing, women’s studies – which all meant accounting for who students were in coming into the room as well as how they hoped to be impacting the worlds they’d go our into, and learning lots via divergent thinking);
  • where I landed next (rhetoric, american studies, sexuality studies – significantly dependent on discussion, cross-cultural communication and skills of multicultural living & analysis);  and
  • where I am now (continuing to teach writing across the curriculum and teaching about teaching in higher education by running courses as I would were I teaching those undergraduate courses – which requires knowing course design in principle and practice for the quite diverse, decidedly non-traditional graduate and postdoctoral students in my teaching courses who will teach in world and places and ways I can only glimpse now).

Because I couldn’t settle on a single text within this trio, I’ve set this entry up by arranging books chronologically (oldest to newest) in each of the sections so you could have some say, some choices in how you read this and whether/what you read.



Bunch, Charlotte, and Sandra Pollack, eds.  Learning Our Ways: Essays in Feminist Education.  Trumansburg, NY: The Crossing Press, 1983.

Brookfield, Stephen, and Stephen Preskill.  Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999.

Biggs, John, and Catherine Tang.  Teaching for Quality Learning at University: What the Student Does.  3rd ed.  New York; Maindenhead: Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press, 2007.


On my bookshelf at work, these are three of six books always at hand. In my head, these three works form one solid foundation.

Bunch and Pollack, in their anthology, set out active learning and engaged teaching as I experienced them as a student and new teaching assistant.  The collection also fully attends to the diverse lot of us who teach, shape pedagogies, and invent new knowledge, disciplines, courses.

Brookfield and Preskill provide a resource that is in part analysis and in part toolkit in addressing discussion as a mode of teaching. Published as I began working at a Center for Teaching and Learning, the book helped me talk with faculty new to incorporating even think-pair-share discussions into a class session.  The book makes it clear also that listening matters.

Biggs and Tang – specifically the 3rd edition – provided language for what I’d been doing related to course design at the time I began teaching future faculty courses on “Teaching in Higher Education.”  By attending to what/who impacts learning, teaching and education from classroom to institutional structures to cultural presumptions to community contexts, they put the classroom in its proper full context.

Together these books remind me that active learning isn’t new and didn’t emerge from elite teaching places, how discussions can be shaped in constructivist and transformational learning, and ways of bringing the pieces together with an emphasis on what the student does to be(come) a learner.

Summary with Evaluation

Bunch & Pollack – The idea of “feminist pedagogies “ scares lots of people. Yet this book reminded me of all the reasons that the pedagogy of my undergraduate political science major work so brilliantly.  The selections address ways of bringing all students into a class, and stellar essay on pedagogy as scholarship (by Florence Howe, who founded Women’s Studies Quarterly), as requiring theory making (Charlotte Bunch, whose academic work was also international), and constructed as a methodology (Nancy Schniedwind, who did “service learning” before it had a name).  The active learning strategies and ideas about teaching/learning with the deeply diverse lives of our students in mind still resonate.

Brookfield & Preskill – Discussion coupled with writing is at the heart of how I teach – and how I learned best whatever the discipline of a course I was enrolled in throughout college.  How and why and when discussion works – and doesn’t – are addressed early in the book, with the authors taking care to address both teacher and student attitudes and aptitudes in setting out possibilities and new ideas.  By attending to strategies related to listening, responding, and grouping, the authors make sure readers see the full scope of actions and responsibilities embedded in successful discussions for learning – whether in mono- or multicultural classrooms.

Biggs & Tang – While it’s great to have plentiful resources for thinking through how to engage diverse students in learning via cross-cultural interactions and how to create lesson plans/class sessions to achieve learning and communication goals, it’s necessary to have a solid resource that addresses planning for learning at the course level with an eye also on larger programmatic/curricular/college/community contexts.  The book is that resource.  Three things about the book – across its now four editions – remain consistently important: (1) the authors draw on their own and other teachers’ experiences; (2) they set out a strategy for constructive alignment of course aims, activities and assessment; and (3) they work from a point of view that shifts from thinking of learning as having to do with what the student or teacher is to thinking about what the student does in a course as the basic stuff of planning for learning and teaching.


Each of these books reminds me that I can address even what scares me most about learning and teaching if I take steps to think about learners in their full context, about how learning can happen when people talk together, and about what I can do as a course designer to draw together course aims, activities and assessments in meaningful creative ways.  Still considering the significance of each favorite teaching-related book I’d point to is – like the three here – co-authored.

Also, in writing this annotation, I’ve made my own form.  So one of the questions back is always something like this: What if your students didn’t follow the template for an assignment?  The answer – they’d tell me why they showcased their learning in other ways, making use of Comments features in word or composing a feedback memo to tell me choice they’d made along the way to modify an original assignment: what they’d chosen and what they’d rejected.


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