Summer Book Reviews
From the June 2001 AAHE Bulletin
To purchase any of these books, please visit your local or online bookstore.
Completing Your Thesis or Dissertation: Professors Share Their Techniques and Strategies
By Fred Pyrczak (2000). Pyrczak Publishing, Los Angeles; 106 pages; $20.95.
by Crystal Lee, director of library services, River Parishes Community College,
and an educational leadership, research, and counseling doctoral candidate,
Louisiana State University; firstname.lastname@example.org.
best advice is often found in the voice of experience. Fred Pyrczak gathers
personal experiences, suggested strategies, and words of wisdom from professors
who have completed a thesis and/or dissertation and compiles these 71
contributions into a compact and very useful handbook.
is not a “how-to” book in the traditional sense because it does not follow a
consecutive pattern of step one, step two, step three, etc. Rather, positive and
negative experiences are shared, some in candid and anonymous entries. Most of
the contributions are personal stories, words of caution, suggestions, and
personal testimonials of what worked well and what did not for these professors
when they were graduate students.
of the suggested best practices include establishing a topic at the beginning of
the graduate program, setting manageable and achievable goals, getting to know
and communicating regularly with committee members, annotating and saving all
information, balancing and attending to life’s responsibilities, establishing
and relying on a support system of cohorts, attending another student’s
defense, and scheduling dissertation writing time and sticking to it. The
professors also give some warnings: avoid negative thoughts, extreme
perfectionism, and procrastination.
book provides the reader several approaches for success in completing the thesis
or dissertation, and professors give several strategies that should accommodate
various learning styles and schedules. A common theme throughout is to clearly
define goals and work steadily toward achieving them.
book is filled with light-hearted humor and is enjoyable to read. Graduate
students will find the advice of these contributors immediately relevant to
their coursework. This book is an excellent addition to recommended reading
lists and suggested references for students seeking insight into the thesis or
of the Academy: Emergent Black Women Scholars in Higher Education
by Yolanda Robinson, assistant professor of education, Pepperdine University
Graduate School of Education; email@example.com.
In Sisters of the Academy, a group of
remarkable women share their journeys as students and faculty members in the
Academy and report how they have sought to garner support for their scholarship
and reclaim their voices from forced and self-imposed marginalization. Yet the
reader does not hear bitterness. Only the voice of intelligent determination to
move beyond the boundaries of racism and ignorance encountered in higher
with the first chapter, we are freed “From Fear of Misconception,” shown
ways of “Breaking the Silence,” and finally, we emerge in the last chapter
as women who are “Not An Honorary White: Conducting Research During the Days
of Apartheid.” These scholars are connected in contemporary purposes and
unique visions, worthy of voice, visibility, and inclusion in the academy.
sensitive to the experiences, tremendous burdens, and excruciating pains black
women deal with in higher education requires understanding. It can begin with
reading this book. Each and every “sister” who walks through the portals of
these institutions should read it to become armed with a better understanding of
the challenges they face and must overcome to emerge victorious. After reading
the last page of this book, university leaders, department chairs, provosts,
presidents, faculty members, students, and staff are compelled to examine their
institutional roles that have contributed to or against black scholars’
Sisters is a must-read
work for all followers and leaders in the community we call higher education. In
this way we can begin to dialogue and more fully work together ensuring that we
embrace these “sisters” as our own.
Essentials: Planning, Implementing and Improving Assessment in Higher Education
by Rolanda S. Burris, director of academic support services, Barat College of
DePaul University; firstname.lastname@example.org.
you, Palomba and Banta, for assisting the academic world by providing the Assessment
Essentials needed within the field of higher education, and for writing a
book that is clear to understand. If someone is frightened over the thought of
having to do an assessment at their institution, this book will definitely
assist in taking away some of that fear and provide the sense of calm that comes
very first thing the authors do is provide an explanation of the word
“assessment,” and the readers are prepared to read from that point on. The
term “assess” is defined as “to examine carefully” while
“assessment” is the “process that focuses on student learning; a process
that involves reviewing and reflecting on practice as academics have always
done, but in a more planned and careful way.”
first chapter gives a thorough breakdown of the assessment essentials, which
include the following:
in higher education who assess various areas within their institutions will find
that this book is definitely one they would want to refer to often. It will help
ease what could be a rather stressful process.
Ourselves: Interdisciplinary Education, Collaborative Learning, and
Experimentation in Higher Education
by Lee Bash, dean, Division of Lifelong Learning, Baldwin-Wallace College; email@example.com.
book contains a surfeit of ideas and information to support innovative
initiatives on the campus, regardless of your orientation — allowing me to
generalize much of it for my own specific needs.
built upon three main sections that frame the topics chronologically while
highlighting the best practices and models. Section I examines the historical
perspectives and institutional examples, starting with a look at innovations in
the 1920s and 1930s. Perhaps the most important feature of this segment is the
discussion of sustaining innovative practice over a long span of time —
probably the greatest challenge facing creative projects.
second section, “Powerful Pedagogies,” addresses learning communities and
rethinking teaching and learning. Although higher education still hasn’t
reached consensus on the topic of learning communities — therefore, clearly
warranting our attention — I find the authors’ discussion of teaching and
learning even more appealing.
final section relates to assessment and vision. If you want to better understand
alternative, interdisciplinary programs, or if you wish to speculate about their
role in the future, you will want to read this segment. But it’s the
all-encompassing fit of these three sections — providing holistic insights and
overviews — that truly enriches this book.
a time when we are all probably facing the most dynamic and dramatic changes to
ever take place in the academy, Reinventing
Ourselves serves as a wonderful starting point from which to explore how you
might want to transform your own classroom and your approach to learning. As
such, this book is provocative, informative, and stimulating. Perhaps most
appealing is, in the true sense of a learning-centered environment, Reinventing
Ourselves doesn’t suggest that it is offering the final definitive answer
to everyone. It does, however, convey a strong sense of urgency to begin
thinking more innovatively when it comes to your classroom and students.
Teaching Guide: A Practical Approach to Creating Course Web Sites
by Susan M. Winchip, associate professor of family and consumer science,
Illinois State University; firstname.lastname@example.org.
by a multimedia specialist at Dartmouth College, this book is for educators who
are interested in using the Web as a supplement to classroom learning but have
little or no experience with website authoring.
chapter devoted to planning a website contains excellent material relative to
identifying institutional support, time commitment, site structure, links,
guides, and prioritizing and classifying content. The author emphasizes the
importance of connecting with colleagues when starting and implementing a course
developing content chapter describes Web-based content and how to deliver the
information. The author’s emphasis on developing content expressly for a
website and how readers use a site are important issues. The chapter also
includes how to locate Web resources for courses, interactivity, multimedia, and
chapter “Creating the Site” includes guidance for arranging Web pages and
integrating text, images, and multimedia. The author does a commendable job
providing good strategies for planning the site. In particular, the author
consistently emphasizes how important it is to view a site on different monitors
and computers and using different browsers. The author’s advice on page
appearance and usability is excellent. However, it appears that it might be
easier to understand the image and multimedia content if the reader already has
experience with the processes.
chapters include advice on how to encourage student participation, how to
prepare a Web-based presentation, and how to evaluate a site for its usability.
The author mentions the importance of assessing the site as an effective
teaching tool, but very little of the chapter is devoted to this issue.
numerous summaries provided in each chapter, which include questions educators
should answer, are very helpful. This format is especially useful in chapters
containing technical information. The book’s companion website (www.webteachingguide.com)
is an excellent complement to the text.
bibliography divided by topics is very useful for additional reading. The
readability of each chapter would have increased if case studies had been placed
at the end of each chapter or in a separate chapter. A glossary at the end of
each chapter or at the end of the text would also have been useful.
the text only briefly addresses theoretical aspects related to Web teaching, the
book is well written and contains pertinent information for educators who are
considering adding a Web component to their classroom teaching.
the Most of College: Students Speak their Minds
by Ned Scott Laff, associate vice president, Barat College of DePaul University; email@example.com.
do some undergraduates feel they are making the most of their years at college,
while other are far less positive?” Too often when we ask this question, we
try to find the answer from the perspective of those working within the college
Light took a different approach. He and his colleagues talked with students, and
in doing so they have given legitimate voice to those who interact daily with
campus learning environments. Few of us experience our campuses the way students
do, and Light’s suggestion is that by genuinely listening to students, we can
inform and modify our campus policies in ways that legitimately improve student
we learn is that from a student’s perspective, learning in the classroom is
intimately linked to personal development, campus experiences, and learning from
other students. Light summarizes a few of these ideas:
text provides us with the suggestions and directions for how we can begin to set
the tone on our campuses, think about curriculum and course development,
reconsider learning outcomes, consider the co-curricular possibilities, think
about how to improve the ways students interact with our campus environment, and
ways we can help them succeed.
Radical Aesthetics for the Classroom
by Ned Scott Laff, associate vice president, Barat College of DePaul University; firstname.lastname@example.org.
the Virgilian ethos of “to teach and delight” to H.G. Wells’s argument
that art is a means to effect a radically revised civilization, the role of the
arts and aesthetics as a reflection of, a critique of, and vision for society
and culture has been argued continually. This is no less true for Kumar’s Poetics/Politics.
Kumar brings together an interdisciplinary group of writers — cultural
critics, literary critics, political scientists, artists, and others — to
argue for the role of a “politicized aesthetics” as part of a radical or
transformational pedagogy. It is not that Kumar offers us anything that has not
been argued before, but what his text does is place this argument within a
intentions underlying this volume are best outlined in a piece by Sean McCann,
“The Ambiguous Politics of Politicizing, or De-Politicizing, the Aesthetic.”
McCann provides an outline from which the other essays take on contextual
weight. He grounds the postmodern claims for a “political aesthetics” in a
historical and cultural perspective that ranges from Mathew Arnold, through
Freidrich Schiller and Kant, to Nietzsche and modernity.
sets the stage for the rest of the book. Readers can begin to appreciate Grant
Kester’s argument that through the aesthetic we learn to experience our sense
of self and reflect on how aesthetic forms pattern our experience of the world
most texts written from the postmodern perspective, many times Poetics/Politics
can be a difficult read. At times the reader will struggle with vocabulary and
the logic of the syntax. And as is common among postmodern critics, each of the
contributors to this volume critiques the political hegemony of late capitalism;
the cultural imperialism of a global economy that levels multicultural
creativity; commodity logic, and more. But each contributor also undoubtedly
writes from a position that claims there is something in an aesthetic pedagogy
that can remind us of who we are and who we can be. Much to Kumar’s credit, he
has edited a volume that lets the reader appreciate the postmodern project. More
importantly, Kumar’s volume gives us something we can use in the classroom.
Their Own Way: Narratives for Transforming Higher Education to Promote Self-Development
by Kathryn Mary Johnson, Department of Sociology, Barat College of DePaul
Their Own Way provides
readers with long-awaited answers to critical questions regarding how college
impacts students’ lives. Through the use of an accomplished interview
technique, the author provides us with an inside tour of the lives and minds of
hundreds of college graduates. The longitudinal design allows us to comprehend
more fully the lifelong impact of higher education.
stories told by the interviewees allow us to take the full measure of higher
education within the current occupational, social, and personal milieu. All
college educators, along with all college students, should place this book high
on their required reading lists.
strength of this work lies not in the stories themselves, however. Rather, the
merit lies in the way the author weaves these stories into a highly usable and
sensible framework for educational improvement. Her concrete suggestions help
the reader transform insights gained from the interviews into current college
curricular and co-curricular practices.
core assumptions (knowledge is complex, ambiguous, and socially constructed in
context; an internal sense of self is central to effective participation in the
social construction of knowledge; and expertise or authority is shared among
learners and teachers as they mutually construct knowledge) are no doubt widely
accepted within the modern academic community. Clearly, college as a place to
memorize facts and spit them back on a multiple-choice exam is no longer
recognized as sound pedagogy. The author goes beyond recognizing that fact by
providing us with concrete educational practices aimed at fostering the
development of these core assumptions.
Magolda also recognizes that a college education is more than the classroom
experience. Although there is a strong focus on disciplinary education, her
inclusion of chapters on work settings and co-curricular learning remind us of
the holistic nature of higher education. Again, practical suggestions for using
these additional learning opportunities to promote what the author calls
“self-authorship” are extremely useful and thought provoking.
book will be immediately useful for anyone connected to the college experience.
It also makes for interesting reading for anyone who attended college years ago
and is interested in reflecting on his or her own “self-authorship” since
Feel-Good Curriculum: The Dumbing Down of America’s Kids in the Name of
by Theodore L. Kassier, dean, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Alaska
Stout has written an indictment of the focus on “self-esteem” in our public
schools and its destructive effects on the integrity of U.S. education. Her
volume focuses on primary and secondary schools but also inevitably criticizes
teacher preparation at the university level.
self-esteem movement presumes that building feelings of self-worth in children
is simultaneously both education’s underlying goal and principal mechanism.
The error is that this sense of self-worth is to be built by never requiring
mastery of material, focusing on feelings rather than critical thinking and
reason, and never challenging students, leading to social promotion regardless
of achievement. Teachers are turned into therapists rather than the respected,
limit-setting authorities they are meant to be. The movement peaked several
years ago but many in the education establishment remain committed to it, and it
still suffuses public education.
volume provides a historical account of the rise of these attitudes in our
schools and society to constitute a movement that perhaps reached its most
public expression with a 1986 California Task Force on Self-Esteem. This group
sought to establish low self-esteem as the cause of virtually all social ills.
The irony of their work — and demonstration of the invalidity of self-esteem
as a key factor in social and educational theory and practice — was that the
research presented in the task force’s resulting publication, The Social
Importance of Self-Esteem, did not support the group’s hypotheses.
book, while useful, would have benefited from a more balanced approach to the
subject matter. The author offers no information on any of the merits of the
self-esteem movement. More discussion of the complexity of today’s society
relative to the Happy Days evoked in Chapter 4 might help us understand the
context in which the self-esteem movement has become widely adopted, and some of
its valid points.
the author’s anger appears to lead her into insulting language with regard to
the “evil” she seeks to demolish. Thus the self-esteem movement is
“absurd,” “navel gazing,” and finds support among university professors
who are “barflies.” Although critical of a lack of civility today (a defect
attributed to the self-esteem movement), the author might have shown a bit more
About Teaching and Learning: Developing Habits of Learning With First Year
College and University Students
by Denise Y. Young, assistant director for strategic planning and analysis,
University of Texas at Dallas, and an instructor at Dallas Baptist University
and LeTourneau University; email@example.com.
writes that he has noticed a decline in the ability of first-year students to
cope with the culture of the university, and this book uses critical inquiry to
give credence to the difficulties of teaching these challenging students.
author believes that there are a number of practices professors can employ to
help students get into the learning mode in higher education. He begins with a
discussion on the philosophy of teaching and how a professor’s philosophical
approach serves as an anchor and influences pedagogy. For example, the author
states that many of his ideas on pedagogy are based on his belief that the habit
of thinking is dependent on language proficiency. The inadequacy of the language
skills of beginning college students is a recurrent theme.
author’s teaching experiences lead him to the conclusion that most first-year
students are not prepared to meet the expectations of the average professor.
Beginning college students struggle to put their thoughts into words or to
extract the meaning from someone else’s words. He attributes the lack of
language facility to pre-college culture and experiences where learning that
something is true is emphasized over learning how and why something is true
students as “works in progress” rather than “flawed vessels,” the author
presents a number of teaching and classroom strategies for bringing about
cognitive change in first-year students. An invitation to an intellectual life
must be modeled to students, and professors should strive for an environment
where they inspire students to struggle with the discipline both within and
outside the classroom. Discussions and assignments should be activities that
require reflective thought. If students can be convinced that “notes are
something they make, not something they take,” they will be able to develop
their own understanding of the topic.
well-written and easy-to-read book offers practical suggestions and insight into
teaching first-year college students. Some academicians may disagree with the
author’s stance that part of teaching is getting students ready to learn.
Teaching would be much easier if students arrived on the college campus with the
learning skills necessary to cope with academic rigor, but that is not the
reality experienced by many of us who have taught first-year students. While the
author places the responsibility on the professor for providing activities that
have the intention or potential for facilitating learning (i.e., teaching), he
places the burden for making mental changes (i.e., learning) on the student.
Technological Change: Strategies for College and University Leaders
by Donald Tucker, dean of academic assessment and innovation, Valley Forge
Christian College; firstname.lastname@example.org.
first glance, this book may look like just another handbook for using and
implementing technology in education. Don’t be deceived by this reflection.
This book is not so much about technology as it is about rethinking our
educational methods, institutional purpose, learning goals, core values, and
priorities. Bates urges institutions to ask hard questions about how quality
teaching at the highest levels of learning (analysis, synthesis, problem
solving, and decision making) takes place.
Technological Change offers
administrators, faculty members, and support staff a primer for viewing
technology as a part of a wider strategy for improvement of teaching and
learning. It reiterates the need for careful and deliberate strategic planning
and vision-casting. It wrestles with a number of important and often overlooked
begins with a quick look at what is driving the adoption of new technologies,
particularly the need for highly skilled and technologically proficient workers.
He quickly moves beyond this to the bulk of the book, devoted to strategies for
supporting effective use of technology and a vision for improving the quality of
teaching and learning. He outlines the positive and negative aspects of
currently used models for planning and managing courses and programs, asks
numerous questions assessing the adequacy of current and future technology
infrastructures (both physical and human), and suggests ways to analyze cost-
effectiveness and secure appropriate funding for educational technology
not designed for technology experts or specialized technical staff, technicians
will benefit by reflection on the philosophical underpinnings and challenging
questions posited by Bates. But the need for careful, deliberate, well
thought-out comprehensive strategies for implementation of technology into
teaching and learning is a beneficial exercise for all and essential for policy
development and institutional planning.
caveat: Not all of the suggestions will fit each institution. Examples and
recommendations for expenditures and cost analyses utilize large university
models and are not necessarily directly applicable to smaller-scale
institutions. The implications of adopting Bates’s views may not appeal to
some administrators. He warns, “the changes proposed in this book may be too
rich, too drastic, or too threatening to the core values of many
institutions.” The commitment of an institution to the cultural change
necessary to implement Bates ideas cannot be underestimated.
If you would like
to review a book for the Bulletin,
send your name and contact information to email@example.com.
The Bulletin will run another
book review section in winter 2001.
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