CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2003, MCB UP Limited
Books. The Continuum Guide to Successful Teaching in Higher Education
The Continuum Guide to Successful Teaching in Higher Education
Manuel Martinez-PonsContinuum Books2003ISBN 0 8264 6719 9
The Continuum Guide to Successful Teaching in Higher Education is not a typical "how to" guide. Rather, it is an intelligent, research based approach to the "problem" of teaching in higher education. It purports to place particular emphasis on the two main concerns facing staff in HE both in North America and in the UK, namely: the growing insistence on high quality teaching and the requirements to teach more students. Whether, ultimately, the book really succeeds in effectively addressing these issues remains somewhat questionable –certainly in the context of the UK.
The book takes a "three-phase" approach to its subject, dividing the teaching process into three sequential sets of activities: before engagement of the student and learning, the engagement process, and following engagement. The book's structure broadly follows this same pathway. For each phase Martinez-Pons integrates work from the literature and research relevant to the issues under discussion.
In relation to pre-engagement, for example, there is an interesting and valuable section on learner readiness. Given the emphasis now being placed on the student taking a much greater responsibility for their own learning, together with concerns about rising drop out rates, this is a critical issue. The evidence and supporting discussion indicates that this is a complex yet poorly understood theme and certainly one deserving greater attention from academics and HE management. Coverage of other themes provide similar insight. For example, self-efficacy in terms of student performance. Elsewhere, themes such as the development of objectives for teaching purposes are appropriately, if more routinely covered.
There are, however, some aspects of the book which are less convincing. A somewhat mechanistic formula, for example, is provided to assist staff in how to schedule "dialogue sessions" (one-one) with students. This appeared simplistic and lacking in any appreciation of the UK system – which is both complicated and increasingly reflecting an antipathy towards one to one teaching. After reading the book I asked a few colleagues to tell me their three main "concerns" in terms of teaching in HE. Albeit in different orders of priority there was a degree of consensus around:
how best to use ICT in design, delivery and evaluation;
how to cope with shrinking time with students; and
how best to handle increasing demands for quality feedback.
Martinez-Pons does not not cover these but they are not addressed in a way very likely to be seen as accessible and useful by a UK readership. This is compounded by terminology. The author speaks of professors and instructors rather than lecturers or teaching staff. A small quibble, of course, but it is reflective of my broader concern that the book is unlikely to be seen as valuable for many non North American lecturers struggling to find some sort of pathway through the dilemmas posed by quantity-quality issues in today's HE environment.