Linda B. Nilson presents six recently published books (2010-2014) that capture what she considers the latest and most important developments and trends in college teaching and learning, relating to technology, the science of learning, and the lives of today’s college students.
Students write. We comment. Nancy Sommers can help us do so more thoughtfully and skillfully. Her new book continues the work of her landmark essay on responding to student writing. Her new rule? When we comment, we should focus on the students, not just the writing, and we should only try to “teach one lesson” at a time.
Research suggest that students are not learning nearly as well as they should or could. Three books on the learning crisis stand out: Derek Bok’s Our Underachieving Colleges (2007), Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s Academically Adrift (2010), and Rebekah Nathan’s My Freshman Year (2005).
Teachers may romanticize or villainize students based on conjecture, personal experience, and anecdotal observations. But for the most part we remain in the dark about what students actually do and want. In My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 2005), Rebekah Nathan moves us beyond speculation and gives us a useful portrait of college students’ lives, reporting on her observations during a year-long “undercover” anthropological study of college culture. This portrait includes bad news, good news, and an overall more complex and informed way of understanding students.
In Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2007), Derek Bok, former president of Harvard and namesake of the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, argues that the current learning crisis is at least in part an identity crisis. We need to think long and hard about the purposes of college, he argues. While many people focus primarily on one or two aims for a college education, such as “critical thinking” or job preparation, Bok asks us to envision the aims of higher learning broadly and deeply.
When I say that the recent scholarship on teaching literature includes the most interesting and significant work currently going on in higher education, readers should know that I am (wildly!) […]