Book Reviews,  Curriculum Development,  Educational Theory

Reducing Confusion and Improving Teaching by Sharing Who We Are as a Discipline



By Carolyn Hoessler

The Book:

The University and its Disciplines: Teaching and Learning Within and Beyond Disciplinary Boundaries. Edited by Carolin Kreber (2009). Routledge, Taylor and Francis*

Each time I meet with individuals from across campus I am reminded how disciplines are not just collections of faculty, rather they encompass specific ways of knowing: What constitutes evidence? What questions do we ask? What ways do we conduct research and to what end? Such answers form the epistemological foundation guiding our scholarly activities. However, this foundation is often implicit, not explicit, and thus a mystery for students. The result?

The encounter of student and instructor can degenerate into an ugly clash of cultures, in which the demands of the instructor can appear arbitrary and vindictive, and the student’s inability to produce adequate results can be viewed as evidence of stupidity or laziness. We can minimize such unfortunate collisions by systematically studying what makes our subjects difficult, and we can learn to more effectively welcome students into our disciplines and to expand our ability to offer more students a place at the banquet of higher education

— (Pace, Chapter 8, p. 103).

At its core The University and its Disciplines is an edited book about the nature and purpose of higher education for students and faculty. Scholarly grounded in theoretical frameworks and prior research, the reader is invited to reflect deeply on the often implicit assumptions, practices, and ways of knowing of one’s discipline and departmental contexts.

Included are approaches to characterizing and clarifying disciplinary ways of knowing and thinking (e.g., Donald, Chapter 3; Hounsell & Anderson, Chapter 6) and to clarify this foundation by encountering other disciplines, active learning, and asking questions about one’s one disciplinary and departmental culture such as “What assumptions are we making about teaching and learning and do those stand up to critical reflection?”(McCune, Chapter 19, p 236).

Related Resources

*If you are interested in reading this book yourself, there is a copy of it in the Education Library.

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