Below, find a selection of our previous Book Club titles, all of which are available for loan from the CATL Library.
By Ken Bain
The author of the best-selling book What the Best College Teachers Do is back with more humane, doable, and inspiring help, this time for students who want to get the most out of college - and every other educational enterprise, too.
Combining academic research on learning and motivation with insights drawn from interviews with people who have won Nobel Prizes, Emmys, fame, or the admiration of people in their field, Ken Bain identifies the key attitudes that distinguished the best college students from their peers.
- Learn more about Ken Bain
- Read a review of What the Best College Students Do in Inside Higher Ed
- Read an interview with Ken Bain in the Higher Education Teaching and Learning Portal
Book Review: By Alison Staudinger
What the Best College Students Do follows the 2004 What the Best College Teachers do, although in this text Ken Bain offers the stories of learners rather than teachers. As someone who works to educate the best and not-best college students, the book is interesting, but ultimately sidesteps larger questions to its detriment. I suspect that these broader issues ultimately limit its usefulness as even a guide for new college students.
This text profiles exemplary learners (Ch. 1-2), integrates these profiles with neurological and social science research on learning (Ch. 3-6), asks about creativity and liberal arts education (Ch. 7) and draws inferences from these two areas to suggest an action plan for would-be deep learners (Ch. 8). The central premise is that deep learners, or the “best” college students, take charge of their own learning and follow their intellectual curiosity down a self-reflective and internally motivated path. What ties profiles he includes together is that the students are “creative people who went to college and emerged from that experience as dynamic and innovative men and women who changed the world in which they lived” (4).
As a teacher, I was most interested in the lack of correlation between grades and learning; this helped me reconsider how I measure success in my classrooms and which students I recognize as leaders. I began to wonder if I am asking students to perform as surface learners while criticizing them for not reading or thinking more deeply. I will use questions he tells students to use when choosing classes (229) to examine my own assignments and learning goals. And I will use his discussion of how to read, study and write well to orient some of my assignments, particularly in freshman seminars where these deep learning habits can best take root (232-257).
Yet, a question that submerged throughout this book remains unanswered: does the higher education system cultivate lifelong learners? While this is also the question that interests me as a teacher, Bain’s focus on the individual student and his or her development means that it cannot be answered here. And it is hard not to wonder if the habits of metacognition and curiosity that Bain’s exemplars show come from their educative experiences prior to college. While Bain was careful to choose many examples of students who began their career poor or with the disadvantages of racial minorities in the United States, he does not speak to the generally stark educational and other inequalities of class and race in the United States.
Second, Bain is unclear about what it is that lifelong learners gain, at some points suggesting they are fuller and better human beings, but in others suggesting that they will find worldly success. Indeed, the fact that his examples are rather wildly successful, both as human beings and commercially, help him sidestep the question of whether lifelong learning helps one flourish. What if it is possible that deep learning is not related in any meaningful way to success under Capitalism? One might charge Bain with selection bias, in that he profiles interesting and successful people who went to college; the examples of prominent drop-outs like Bill Gates suggest that college prompt critics of higher education to dismiss its value. While Bain is adamant that “good grades don’t necessarily tell us what you know,” there is an underlying suggestion that even those who do poorly in college, if they develop themselves in the right way, will be successful, or even change the world (9). Bain roots this claim in an understanding of deep learning as a process of uncovering and questioning our assumptions, such that “when we place ourselves in an environment in which many of our mental models do not work, we have greater capacity to build new models, to expand our understanding and our capacity to create” (71). Defenders of higher education have so far not been able to convince others that college is this environment.
We might also ask if the type of creative success experienced by Bain’s graduates, who for the most part left college in the 1990s and early 2000s, is attainable for the class of 2013 and beyond, who face massive unemployment and debt, and who are the first products of the mandatory testing regimes implemented through No Child Left Behind. If our students are not doing “what the best college students do,” this is in part a frank recognition of the realities of unemployment and poverty. I can imagine some of my students reading this text and feeling burdened by yet an additional pressure in their already hectic lives. This might reflect the differences between the college experience of most students and that of those in the book, who are for the most part “traditional” students who attend after high school, without full time jobs or families. Indeed, Bain acknowledges these pressures, saying that “deep learning requires time, and that’s a luxury many believe they cannot afford” (258).
What if instead of directing individuals to surmount obstacles we asked about how to make universities places where students with families and jobs could have the space to develop intellectual curiosity and fail safely? What if it were less financially disastrous to not get a job right out of college? What if we lessen educational and income inequality so that more of our students would show up to the University ready for lifetime learning? The question is how we can insure that this type of education is available to all, not how can individual students position themselves to learn deeply in spite of systems designed to reward surface learning.
It may seem unfair to fault a book for not being the one you wanted to read, but the individualistic focus on this text is evocative of the crisis in higher education, which elides normative or structural questions about universities or learning in favor of advocating practices that work for individual students, many of them exceptionally gifted or privileged. We should use What the Best College Students Do to jumpstart conversations about the structural challenges to deep learning in higher education, and at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
When Cathy Davidson and Duke University gave free iPods to the freshman class in 2003, critics said they were wasting their money. Yet when students in practically every discipline invented academic uses for their music players, suddenly the idea could be seen in a new light-as an innovative way to turn learning on its head.
This radical experiment is at the heart of Davidson's inspiring new book. Using cutting-edge research on the brain, she shows how "attention blindness" has produced one of our society's greatest challenges. Davidson introduces us to visionaries whose groundbreaking ideas-from schools with curriculums built around video games to companies that train workers using virtual environments-will open the doors to new ways of working and learning.
- Learn more about Cathy Davidson
- Read a review of Now You See It by Tara DaPra, associate lecturer of English Composition and CATL Book Club participant
- Read a review of Now You See it from the Wall Street Journal
"Is Google making us stupid?" When Nicholas Carr posed that question, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net's bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?
Carr expands his argument into the most compelling exploration of the Internet's intellectual and cultural consequences. Part intellectual history, part popular science, and part cultural criticism, The Shallows sparkles with memorable vignettes even as it plumbs profound questions about the state of our modern psyche. This is a book that will forever alter the way we think about media and our minds.
- Learn more about Nicholas Carr
- Read a review of The Shallows by Leif Nelson, Manager of the UWGB LTC and CATL Book Club participant
Parker J. Palmer
Parker J. Palmer builds on his own extensive experience as an inner life explorer and social change activist to examine the personal and social infrastructure of American politics. In Healing the Heart of Democracy, he points the way to a politics rooted in the commonwealth of compassion and creativity still found among "We the People."
Healing the Heart of Democracy names the "habits of the heart" we need to revitalize our politics and shows how they can be formed in the everyday venues of our lives. Palmer proposes practical and hopeful methods to hold the tensions of our differences in a manner that can help restore a government "of the people, by the people, for the people."
- Learn more about Parker J. Palmer
- Read a review of Healing the Heart of Democracy by Publisher's Weekly
John Tierney & Roy Baumeister
In Willpower, the pioneering researcher Roy F. Baumeister collaborates with renowned New York Times science writer John Tierney to revolutionize our understanding of the most coveted human virtue: self-control.
Combining the best of modern social science with practical wisdom, Baumeister and Tierney share the definitive compendium of modern lessons in willpower. As our society has moved away from the virtues of thrift and self-denial, it often feels helpless because we face more temptations than ever. But we also have more knowledge and better tools for taking control of our lives. However we define happiness we won't reach it without mastering self-control.
- Learn more about Roy Baumeister
- Read a review of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by The New York Times
Engaging students in active learning is a predominant theme in today's classrooms. To promote active learning, teachers across the disciplines and in all kinds of colleges are incorporating collaborative learning into their teaching.
Collaborative Learning Techniques is a scholarly and well-written handbook that guides teachers through all aspects of group work, providing solid information on what to do, how to do it, and why it is important to student learning. Synthesizing the relevant research and good practice literature, the authors present detailed procedures for thirty collaborative learning techniques (CoLTs) and offer practical suggestions on a wide range of topics, including how to form groups, assign roles, build team spirit, solve problems, and evaluate and grade student participation.
- Learn more about Elizabeth Barkley
Parker J. Palmer, Arthur Zajonc & Megan Scribner
"A Call to Renewal" is a call to revisit the roots and reclaim the vision of higher education. The Heart of Higher Education proposes an approach to teaching and learning that honors the whole human being-mind, heart, and spirit.
The book offers a rich interplay of analysis, theory, and proposals for action from two educators and writers who have contributed to developing the field of integrative education over the past few decades. The Heart of Higher Education is for all who are new to the field of holistic education, all who want to deepen their understanding of its challenges, and all who want to practice and promote this vital approach to teaching and learning on their campuses.
- Learn more about Parker J. Palmer and Arthur Zajonc
- Read a review of The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to Renewal by Character Clearinghouse
Keeping students involved, motivated, and actively learning is challenging educators across the country, yet good advice on how to accomplish this has not been readily available. Student Engagement Techniques is a comprehensive resource that offers college teachers a dynamic model for engaging students.
The ready-to-use format shows how to apply each of the book's techniques in the classroom and includes purpose, preparation, procedures, examples, online implementation, variations and extensions, observations and advice, and key resources.
- Learn more about Elizabeth Barkley
James E. Zull
Neuroscience tells us that the products of the mind are the result of the interactions of the biological brain with our senses and the physical world: in short, that thinking and learning are the products of a biological process. This realization, that learning actually alters the brain by changing the number and strength of synapses, offers a powerful foundation for rethinking teaching practice and one's philosophy of teaching.
James Zull invites teachers in higher education to accompany him in his exploration of what scientists can tell us about the brain and to discover how this knowledge can influence the practice of teaching. "The Art of Changing the Brain" is grounded in the practicalities and challenges of creating effective opportunities for deep and lasting learning, and of dealing with students as unique learners.
- Learn more about James E. Zull
K. Patricia Cross & Mimi Harris Steadman
Classroom Research is designed for use in faculty discussion groups, workshops, and seminars to prepare discipline-oriented faculty for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. The book's real-life case studies illustrate basic principles of learning and provide provocative materials for discussion along with practical suggestions for research that can be conducted by faculty from all disciplines in their own classrooms.
- Learn more about K. Patricia Cross
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Gerald Graff argues that our schools and colleges make the intellectual life seem more opaque, narrowly specialized, and beyond normal learning capacities than it is or needs to be. Left clueless in the academic world, many students view the life of the mind as a secret society for which only an elite few qualify.
In a departure from standard diatribes against academia, Graff shows how academic unintelligibility is unwittingly reinforced not only by academic jargon and obscure writing, but by the disconnection of the curriculum and the failure to exploit the many connections between academia and popular culture. Graff offers a wealth of practical suggestions for making the culture of ideas and arguments more accessible to students, showing how students can enter the public debates that permeate their lives.
- Learn more about Gerald Graff
After years of teaching, Rebekah Nathan, a professor of anthropology at a large state university, realized that she no longer understood the behavior and attitudes of her students. Fewer and fewer participated in class discussion, tackled the assigned reading, or came to discuss problems during office hours.
Nathan decided to apply to her own university and enrolled as a freshman for the academic year. My Freshman Year provides a compelling account of college life that should be read by students, parents, professors, university administrators, and anyone else concerned about the state of higher education in America today. She also identifies fundamental misperceptions, misunderstandings, and mistakes on both sides of the educational divide that negatively affect the college experience.
- Learn more about Cathy Small, who wrote under the pen name Rebekah Nathan
What makes a great teacher great? Who are the professors students remember long after graduation? This book, the conclusion of a fifteen-year study of nearly one hundred college teachers in a wide variety of fields and universities, offers valuable answers for all educators.
The short answer is--it's not what teachers do, it's what they understand. Lesson plans and lecture notes matter less than the special way teachers comprehend the subject and value human learning. The best teachers know their subjects inside and out--but they also know how to engage and challenge students and to provoke impassioned responses. Most of all, they believe two things fervently: that teaching matters and that students can learn.
- Learn more about Ken Bain
Additional Reading Group Books
- Portrait of the Student as a Young Wolf, Darby Lewes
- Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher, Stephen Brookfield
- Advice for New Faculty Members, Robert Boice
- Discussion as a Way of Teaching, Brookfield, Stephen & Preskill, Stephen
- Engaging Large Classes, Christine Stanley and Erin Porter
- Exploring Signature Pedagogies, Regan Gurung, Nancy Chick, & Aeron Haynie
- Learner-Centered Assessment on College Campuses, Mary E. Huba and Jann E. Freed
- Learning from Change, Deborah DeZure
- Teaching and Learning Online: New Pedagogies for New Technology, John Stephenson
- To Improve the Academy, Devorah Lieberman & Catherine Wehlburg