Book by Jennifer Bloom, Bryant Hutson, Ye He & Claire Robinson
Review by Shannon Telenko
The Pennsylvania State University (World Campus)
Pennsylvania Highlands Community College
With the many changes happening in higher education, including public scrutiny over costs and student loan debt and default, disruptive innovations like open-source courses, and increasing numbers of adult and at-risk students, it is crucial for advisors and faculty to continuously develop their pedagogical methods for the retention of students with unique backgrounds, needs, and demands. Appreciative College Instruction illustrates one such method for creating and maintaining a positive learning environment through intentional observation and inquiry of course dynamics.
Bloom, Hutson, He, and Robinson, collectively speaking from administrative, faculty, advisor, and student affairs perspectives, have pulled together a step-by-step approach from theory and practice to guide instructors of student success courses through the Appreciative College Instruction (ACI) model. Bloom et al. explain that “the heart and soul of ACI is the Appreciative Mindset…[which] is predicated on an acknowledgement of instructor choices in his/her approach to students as well as teaching style” (p 3). The ACI model, as presented by Bloom et al., includes six stages: Disarm, Discover, Dream, Design, Deliver, and Don’t Settle. Each chapter provides examples of classroom activities that facilitate instructor and student through one of the six stages. The appendix includes examples of a syllabus for a first year experience, sophomore experience, and academic recovery course.
Appreciative College Instruction would be a useful resource for the development of a student success course. Not only are the examples of activities and syllabi useful and easily adaptable for both online and adult learners, but the theoretical foundations of each stage would provide advisers and faculty with justification for the implementation of a particular aspect of a course. A key feature of the book is that it highlights the importance of providing positive feedback, how to carefully word negative feedback, and how to ask questions in a gentle, non-confrontational, and non-leading way. Not only would the development of these skills be helpful for someone in an instructor or advisor role but also for engaging attendees during a conference presentation or in staff or student training.
One drawback of Appreciative College Instruction is that it isn’t clear if the authors are suggesting the implementation of all activities or stages or if an activity or stage is used or attempted individually could still aid in students’ success. At times, it seemed that each stage could be a session or week’s theme, yet that may be intense or overwhelming for the students and instructor(s). In addition, student success courses tend to be one credit; it would be important to highlight for readers, particularly those who may not have much teaching experience, that not all activities can or should be undertaken and how to carefully implement activities. Another drawback might be that new faculty in traditional roles may not have the time to invest, based on other pressures from their institutions, in becoming appreciative college instructors (Perlmutter, 2012). Finally, it would have been helpful to know the authors’ views on whether a student success course is more efficacious when tied to content or subject area for a specific major. Still, Appreciative College Instruction provides suggestions and a model to help advisers and faculty creatively and effectively improve their craft.
Perlmutter, D. D. (2012, Febraury 6). Good deeds that are most punished, part 1: Teaching. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com
Appreciative College Instruction: Becoming a Force for Positive Change in Student Success Courses. (2011). Book by Jennifer Bloom, Bryant Hutson, Ye He & Claire Robinson. Review by Shannon Telenko. Champaign: Stipes Publishing L.L.C.. 200 pp. Price $34.95. ISBN # 978-1-60904-063-5