What a fantastic book! I love that it is evidence-based and so chock full of practical advice and tips. I see this as a reference book that will stay in my personal library for a long time and a resource that I will recommend to colleagues and classmates.

Among all of the fabulous recommendations, what struck me most was the idea of perception that students from different backgrounds, races, creeds, etc. develop during a lifetime and how that impacts success in academia. The book, in particular, gives the example of women, in particular, hitting “a wall” when it comes to a certain difficult level of mathematics. It was fascinating and a bit disheartening to learn that the challenge is two-fold: the perception that “women can’t handle advanced math or STEM courses,” and that women “worry that negative repercussions will result if they fail.”

The recommendations from the author ranged from instructors communicating to students that they are, indeed, capable of learning and mastering the content, and that they, as instructors, were confident in the students’ abilities. Students also benefit when assignments are designed benefits them “personally and intellectually,” as well as setting a promise that “x” is what students will be able to learn or achieve in that particular course. Most importantly, however, is the sense of autonomy that instructors can gift students, meaning that rather than decreeing what will be learned, conveying to learners that they are in charge of their own educations.

One of my favorite references from the book is from Paul Baker, who is quoted as telling students: “What you bring to this class is yourself and your desire to participate and what you do in here depends finally on that.” Another professor refers to the choice instructors have in working with students: (1) confronting with the grit of a drill sergeant, or (2) (in true Southern style) as “inviting them to the dinner table…offering biscuits and grits for every class.”

Also worth a mention is the section of the text on the inverse relationship found between the amount of work and the amount of academic success. Piling on work and assignments does not equal a better outcome for student success and, according to the text, may lead to intellectual exhaustion and student dissatisfaction with the course and material.

As an instructional designer, I loved the comment about instructors thinking about how they learned the material. Sometimes, it is difficult for faculty to think outside the box of simply “delivering” the material, so this text gave me some additional tools for brainstorming learning objects, including the “Is this a Rembrandt?” assignment in in the “How Do They Conduct Class” chapter.

I look forward to reading everyone else’s reflections on the text!

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