Recommendations for summer reading

Education in the Digital Age

Recommended by Mike Ratcliffe, Director of Academic and Student Affairs

Bowen, W. G. (2013) Education in the Digital Age, Princeton, Princeton University Press More about MOOCs and higher education?  There may be polarised views on whether that would make interesting reading, but this is a slightly different type of book.  Bowen is a highly respected university leader and has made important contributions to our understanding of issues in higher education (such as affirmative action in admissions).  This book is a pair of lectures given on two highly topical and important issues for US higher education, but transferable to our situation: the costs of university and whether there is an online fix.  Bowen is cautious, this is not a polemic, and his conclusions sound.

They still publish collections of university presidents’ speeches in the US, but what makes this different, and even more valuable, is the inclusion of responses and then a further comment from Bowen.  The responders are right at the heart of the matter; so discussion of  MOOCs comes from Coursera’s Daphne Koller but also from Andrew Delbanco who writes compelling for the values of traditional teaching.  This dialogue enhances the debate and recent events show may even have influenced the direction that Coursera have taken in moving to support blended learning – a conclusion that Bowen himself reaches.

We’re losing our minds. Rethinking American Higher Education

Recommended by Prof. Chris Rust, Associate Dean Academic Policy

Keeling, R. P. & Hersh, R. H. (2012) We’re losing our minds. Rethinking American Higher Education, New York, NY, Palgrave Macmillan

There have been a number of books in the last few years that have been increasingly critical of US Higher Education – and many of the criticisms are equally applicable to what has been happening in the UK.  This book summarises well the criticisms but does not just stop there.  It goes on to propose radical change, based on the simple idea that higher education needs to develop a serious culture of teaching and learning, and offers practical suggestions as to what that might look like, and how it might be brought about at an institutional level. A provocative and thought-provoking book.

The idea of a University by John Henry Newman (1852)

Recommended by Ian Scott Associate Dean Student Experience, Faculty of Health and Life Science

At a time when many universities are seeking to redefine their meaning, purpose and values, recourse to the seminal writings of Cardinal Newman seems appropriate. For their time Newman’s thoughts were ground breaking, in that they positioned universities as institutions whose purpose was teaching and that their endeavours were essentially intellectual not moral. Newman proposed that Universities needed to be sufficiently independent of the church to allow free-thinking and publication, yet to be respectful and to some extent nurturing of the church and religion. Newman’s views were largely opposed, particularly be the church, yet set the philosophical foundations for many modern universities. Newman’s works are widely available on the Internet e.g.

Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking (2012), Viking

Recommended by Rose Leighton, Hogeschool van Amsterdam

This is not a typical book on education. Still, it’s valuable for those of us working with introverts – which is everybody. As Susan Cain explains, a at least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying, who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Adopting scientific definitions of introversion and extroversion as preferences for different levels of stimulation, Quiet outlines the advantages and disadvantages of each temperament, and looks into the fact that extroversion seems to be dominant in Western culture and (hence) our education. Cain urges for things to change at the workplace and in schools; she advises that students need more privacy and autonomy, and should be taught to work together but also how to work alone. Cain has written a well balanced, well researched and very accessible book, that will leave both introverts and extroverts with something to think about.

Feedback in Higher and Professional Education: Understanding it and doing it well

Recommended by Dr Brian Marshall, Associate Dean: Student Experience

Boud, D. and Molloy, E. (eds) (2013), Feedback in Higher and Professional Education: Understanding it and doing it well, Abingdon: Routledge.

This is an important collection of essays in which the various authors argue that Universities and University teachers commonly misunderstand why there is a problem with feedback, and so misdirect their efforts and are increasingly frustrated as to why their students do not ‘get it’ and why satisfaction scores remain stubbornly depressed.  A central argument of the book is that discussion about feedback has not caught up with the otherwise increasingly well understood priority of learning over teaching.  Too much focus is placed on making feedback ‘better’, explaining that we are giving feedback etc, in other words on what the teachers do.  But the most important purpose of feedback is to help students learn and do something better, so we need to focus on that i.e. what we expect our students to do with feedback.  This in turn raises fundamental questions about what we expect students to do before and after feedback, and requires a much more strategic approach to assessment design across the whole programme.  Different essays treat themes such as the emotional dimensions of giving and receiving feedback, the importance of trust between teachers and students, the benefits of student peer feedback, written and online media feedback, and so on.  The various contributors draw on both their research and conceptual work, as well as their attempts to put these ideas into practice. All in all, an important text for all colleagues with clear indications of what needs to be done and what can be done.

Imagining the University

Recommended by David Aldridge, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy of Education

Ronald Barnett (2012) Imagining the University, Routledge New Studies in Critical Realism and Education

In this book Ron Barnett attempts to imagine a future for the university.  To do so requires nothing less than a phenomenology of imagination along with a sophisticated ontological account of the relationship between imagination and reality.  This endeavour requires Barnett to draw on the Heideggerian theme of becoming that will be familiar to readers that have followed his writing, as well as to make explicit some newer ‘critical realist’ strands that draw on the ideas of his colleague at the Institute of Education, Roy Bhaskar.  The result is a bold and unusual conjunction of philosophical traditions.  This work, successful or not, constitutes a stimulating attempt to think through the challenges facing contemporary higher education in the broadest and most creative possible way.

Posted in Book Review

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