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Microreviews: Favorite Books about Teaching

Favorite Books about Teaching

Here's your chance to share with us and with your colleagues your favorite books about teaching. Send us your favorite with a micro-review (less than 100 words). We'll post them here.


Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty (2013)
by James M. Lang

Lang argues that dishonesty is less a question of character than of learning environment. He lists five environmental features that increase levels of cheating.

  • “An emphasis on performance” over mastery (say, exams vs. portfolios);
  • “high stakes riding on the outcome” (like, a large percentage of the grade on a single paper);
  • “an extrinsic motivation for success”; (parental pressure, for instance)
  • “a low expectation of success”; and, finally,
  • the perception students have of their peers’ behavior and of their peers’ attitudes toward cheating.

Lang proposes that engaging our students better in what has come to be called “active learning” will improve most of these environmental factors and thus reduce cheating.

Reviewed by Erick Kelemen, Center for Teaching Excellence


What the Best College Teachers Do (2004)
by Ken Bain

Ken Bain uses the following taxonomy to classify learners:

  • surface learners, who intend primarily to get out of the course alive;
  • strategic learners, who want recognition, usually in grade form;
  • or deep learners, who grapple with ideas and their implications and applications.

Bain’s theoretical framework can help teachers find the points of entry that will invite all students to attempt deep learning. Perhaps his greatest insights are that the best teachers model what it means to learn in the field and they challenge the assumptions and paradigms that prevent students’ deep learning.

Reviewed by Dr. Harry Kavros, Associate Dean, Gabelli


Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment, 2nd ed. (2010)
by Barbara E. Walvoord and Virginia Johnson Anderson

Effective Grading raises and addresses in a straightforward, practical way many of my concerns and frustrations (motivating students, providing comments that lead to better work, addressing the time-suck that is grading, fighting the feelings of burn-out).  I highly recommend this book to anyone who cares about student learning (including and especially writing) and is open to experimenting with a variety of ways of approaching assignments and assessments. The examples of grading rubrics were surprisingly helpful. I find myself facing a new semester hopeful, even optimistic!

Reviewed by Dr. Jeanne Flavin, Sociology


How Learning Works: & Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (2010)
by Susan A. Ambrose, Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha C. Lovett, and Marie K. Norman.

Essentially a long literature review, this book usefully organizes and summarizes fifty years of educational research, providing along the way valuable advice about how to put the research to work in the classroom. The seven principles are:

  1. that what students already know matters;
  2. that how students organize what they learn matters;
  3. that what motivates students and how that motivation works matters;
  4. that mastering something requires acquiring not only “component skills and knowledge” but practice in applying skills and knowledge and judgement about when to apply them;
  5. that students need appropriate goals, goal-oriented practice and the right feedback at the right time;
  6. that “the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course” matters; and
  7. that students must learn to “monitor and adjust” their own learning activities.
Reviewed by Erick Kelemen, Center for Teaching Excellence

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