Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Book Review: "Thinking About Teaching and Learning"

Leamnson, Robert. Thinking About Teaching and Learning: Developing Habits of Learning with First Year College and University Students. Sterling, VA: Stylus, 1999.

Robert Leamnson’s book invites professors and college instructors to consider the important issues of teaching and learning. His definitions of these two important college activities form a foundation for his observations. As a biologist he thinks of learning as it occurs in the brain with the stabilization of synapses and neurons; therefore, learning involves a physical growth in the brain. Obvious or not, the more parts of the brain one uses while studying a particular topic, the more chances exist that that information will persist. He affirms that language acquisition lies at the heart of all learning and that teachers should challenge their students to listen, read, write, speak, and collaborate with others.

Leamnson defines teaching as “any activity that has the conscious intention of, and potential for, facilitating learning in another.” Throughout the book Leamnson keeps a steady outlook on teaching. Unlike some proponents of teaching, he does not put his faith entirely in one pedagogical method; rather, he encourages teachers to develop an assortment of approaches in the classroom. In recent years the lecture has fallen on hard times, yet Leamnson still argues in favor of the lecture as long as it accompanies other techniques like quizzes, collaborative groups, dialogues with students, and so forth. These practical suggestions can be tried in the classroom among others not mentioned here.

With only 152 pages it exists as a rather quick read, and the fact that it does not delve into deep philosophical question makes it even more accessible to a broader audience of academics. His writing style tends to engage the reader. For anyone interested in improving their teaching, this book can really get you started on the right foot with down-to-earth pointers and encouragement to challenge students to engage in real learning. Check the Oboler catalog to verify availability and call number.

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