Which of these Top 10 Books on Teaching would you most like to read?


Thank you, James M. Lang, for a convenient Top 10 list posted in this week’s Chronicle.  Hard to disagree with this statement:

I firmly believe that if every teaching faculty member could carve out the time to read one or two great books on teaching and learning every year, we would collectively serve our students much better than we do already.

Many of us read Ken Bain’s book (#1) as part of Faculty Center reading groups a few years ago, and How Learning Works (#3) was the text for a Faculty Center reading group this spring. What looks good to you for some fall reading group selections?


Developing creativity in our students and in ourselves

From a recent piece by Alison James and Stephen D. Brookfield in Tomorrow’s Professor eNewsletter, here’s a list of four things creative teachers ask themselves as they face the task of course planning:

Creative teachers are open to using many pedagogic models, including problem based or inquiry based learning, dependent on the context for learning.  They ask themselves what different kinds of students they are dealing with, what they wish the students to be able to know or do, how best to use the time and other resources available to them, and what successful colleagues have done that they can steal.

That certainly helps to explains why prepping for classes can take much, much longer than we think (hope/expect) it will. I appreciate seeing this often internalized process articulated!

The authors of Engaging Imagination: Helping Students Become Creative and Reflective Thinkers (Jossey-Bass, 2014) discuss the importance of emotional intelligence and suggest that “anyone working in fluid situations involving colleagues and clients relies far more on the limbic system [the part that controls emotions],” so it’s worthwhile to consider ways to develop creativity and emotional intelligence in our students and in ourselves. The good news is, teaching offers us lots of opportunities for creative growth:

Unless you choose to sleepwalk your way through your teaching days and ignore how students are responding to learning, no matter what the discipline you teach, your work as a teacher is inherently creative.

“Removing Suffering and Finding Happiness as a Department Chair”

Wow! Lessons from the Buddha for department chairs: an eight-point plan for surviving and thriving in “one of the most complex jobs in higher education.” Here’s an excerpt from a post in Tomorrow’s Professor by Randel Brown and Diana Linn:

Right speech seems to carry the most weight in finding happiness as chair. it requires speech that is truthful, reliable, and worthy of confidence. Department chairs should never knowingly speak a lie or untruth either for their advantage or for the advantage of others. A simple way to practice right speech is to speak only what is true, only what is necessary, and only what is kind. To speak truth in kindness sometimes feels conflicted; however, if a student or faculty member is not measuring up, the kindest thing to do is to give them opportunities to improve by discussing the problem directly. It may be difficult for the listener, but it provides him or her with a pathway to happiness.

Walking for enhanced creativity

Another reason to take a break from your office — or offer your students an opportunity to do some productive thinking outside of the classroom!

At last fall’s Faculty Forum on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Professor Hannah Israel shared her own experiences with using walking as a tool for students’ learning (“The Art of Walking”). Here’s a new study that offers scientific evidence for walking as a tool to enhance anyone’s ability to think creatively:

For almost every student, creativity increased substantially when they walked. Most were able to generate about 60 percent more uses for an object, and the ideas were both “novel and appropriate,” Dr. Oppezzo writes in her study, which waspublished this month in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.

But the practical import of that finding would seem to be negligible, if creativity were to increase only while someone was walking. Most of us cannot conduct brainstorming sessions on treadmills. So Dr. Oppezzo next tested whether the effects lingered after a walk had ended. She had another group of students sit for two consecutive sessions of test-taking and subsequently walk for about eight minutes while tossing out ideas for object re-use, then sit and repeat the test.

Again, walking markedly improved people’s ability to generate creative ideas, even when they sat down after the walk. In that case, the volunteers who had walked produced significantly more and subjectively better ideas than in their pre-exercise testing period.

The Peak Performing Professor

It’s spring conference season, usually a brief if welcome release from our daily grind and change of scene that offers a wonderful opportunity to see our work from a broader perspective.

Every time I return from presenting my work at a conference, I renew my resolve to devote even more time to scholarly activity — where does the time go? I found this constructive piece from last week’s Tomorrow’s Professor blog very timely (yuk yuk, pun intended):

Anchor Your Projects with a Time-Focused Theme

Once you have picked some projects from your vision categories, you might create a sense of urgency by fitting the projects into a specific time frame such as a year, semester, or month.  Here are several suggestions about how to establish a theme for the year (semester, month).

* Look backward in time to see if you can see a theme for a previous time period (week, month, or year) that lays the foundation of a related theme for the next period. Does any theme summarize your accomplishments of this period?  If last year was the “year of the tenure application,” this year might be the “year to reconnect with my long term research project.”

* Establish a central theme for the current time period, e.g. “the year of course revision.” You might create one theme around work and another for home.  Your teaching theme might be to “get graded papers back within two classes,” while your home theme might be to “monitor children’s homework while dinner is cooking.”* Ask yourself what you would like to be able to say about the present time period at this time next year.

Once you have established a theme for the time period, ask yourself, “If this is the year or semester of this theme, what should I be working on?”  The answer will help you break the theme down into projects, goals, sub-goals, and tasks.

The full excerpt,  Align Projects with Priorities comes from The Peak Performing Professor: A Guide to Productivity and Happiness by Susan Robison. Published by Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Brand. One Montgomery Street, Suite 1200 San Francisco, CA 94104-4594 [www.josseybass.com]. Copyright © 2013

Happy Belated International Women’s Day

Some of us were lucky enough to spend March 8  with CSU’s study abroad program in Florence, Italy, where cool things were taking place like an open work session to extend unfinished entries on women artists in Wikipedia.

But there are other ways to mark the occasion, even a couple of weeks late. Check out this nifty list of publications on gender-related topics from Wiley Press journals: Free Access to New Research on Gender in Social Sciences and Humanities.

How many faculty does it take to change a lightbulb?

Answer: Change?

Here’s a post from Tomorrow’s Professor written by a former provost to explain what he learned about the challenges of decision-making and taking action in university culture.

In general I believe that faculty members really don’t want to make the decisions. They want to talk about them, they want to debate, to bark. Which side they’re on isn’t as important as having at least two sides. I came to realize this in an accidental way.

Read the whole post here: Faculty Bark; The Provost Bites