Book Reviews

Book by Christine B. Feak, Susan M. Reinhart, & Theresa N. Rohlck
Review by Matthew Prentice
College of Arts & Sciences Advising
Oakland University
Rochester, Michigan

The material found in Academic interactions: Communicating on campus is designed to help students whose first language is not English obtain the skills necessary to communicate effectively in a college or university setting.  The most unique feature of the book is that it uses transcripts from actual academic interactions.  These were taken from the Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English (MICASE), which contains actual recordings of academic speech from the University of Michigan campus.  This allows students to encounter authentic conversations that have taken place between students and faculty, rather than fabricated scenarios which often leave out some of the nuances of a real conversation.

The interactions begin simply with an opening chapter on common names in the United States and how to give and receive directions on a college campus.  From there it expands to include more advanced scenarios such as how to converse with fellow students, communicating with professors via email, and interactions with professors during office hours.  The interactions covered are very realistic, even including a section on how to appropriately complain about homework with fellow students using sarcasm.

Also included is a companion DVD in which volunteer actors role-play examples of the academic interactions covered in the book.  Rather than having scripted parts, the actors were given a general scenario and asked to improvise the scenes.  This gave it a more real feel and, once again, enhanced the authenticity of the interaction for the viewer.  There were three specific scenes in which an academic advisor was featured.  In the first scenario, a student was taking too many credits and advised to drop a course.  In the second scenario, a student had questions about a closed course.  The last scene portrayed a student wanting to change her major.  These scenarios did a good job of introducing students to the concept of academic advising and portraying some of the typical communication that would take place in an office appointment with an advisor.

While this book is not geared specifically towards academic advising, it would be an excellent resource for advisors that work with this population often.  It is also a good reminder of how difficult it can be for students whose first language is not English to adjust to the United States university system.  Many of these basic concepts can easily be taken for granted, and this book gives excellent insight into how much a student in this situation must learn in order to effectively navigate through college.

Academic interactions: Communicating on campus (with accompanying DVD). (2009). Book by Christine B. Feak, Susan M. Reinhart, & Theresa N. Rohlck. Review by Matthew Prentice. The University of Michigan Press. 216 pp., $29.50, ISBN # 978-0-472-03332-4
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