Book Reviews

Book by Phyllis Blumberg
Review by: Noelle Bautista Magaña
The Academic Advising Center
California State University Long Beach


Phyllis Blumberg’s Developing learner-centered teaching: A practical guide for faculty is most effective in showing how to change teaching styles from that of instructor-based to those based on the learner. In this book, Blumberg encourages self-assessment and uses case studies throughout to immediately answer the question of just how to apply recommended techniques to classroom material. Further, she thoroughly discusses the implications of learner-centered teaching among students. Blumberg consistently reinforces that new techniques should be adopted gradually and appropriately; with this, the results of learner-centered teaching appear to be effective. Lecturers and advisors who develop learner-centered teaching empower students to take responsibility for their educations, to learn actively and meaningfully, to become life-long learners and to develop an adequate sense of self-awareness.

Blumberg’s publication is a valuable contribution to learner-centered teaching because of her twenty-five years of experience, more than fifty publications, and also because of what she draws from others. In particular, Blumberg builds upon M. Weimer’s Learner-Centered teaching: Five key changes to practice (2002), and expands upon it by examining implementation issues. It appears professors are particularly challenged with “the balance of power” (p. 194). The learner-centered environment supports instructors by allowing “mastery” or “contract grading” (p. 192), where a student is given choices in howhe or she is graded. Rather than mandate attendance and participation, learner-centered approaches encourage students to “accept that there are consequences for not taking advantage of opportunities to learn” (p. 195). The result is improved and more engaged learning (Blumberg, 2009; Weimer, 2002). Blumberg expands upon the balance of power and other themes addressed by Weimer, but perhaps the most important theme was that of self-awareness and its development.

Blumberg’s book in actuality is a guide toward self-awareness in the instructor. Blumberg encourages this through questionnaires, rubrics and self-assessments; tools which guide the instructor toward realizing one’s own assumptions, beliefs and methods regarding teaching and whether they benefit the learner. Due to the multi-dimensional evaluative system made clear by the rubrics, those who have been teaching can benefit just as much as those who have recently started. Blumberg masterfully incorporates learner-centered methodologies into the workbook itself and this is probably what makes her book most effective. Instructors and advisors who actually use the workbook as it is meant to be used (pg. xxv) will gain meaningful practice with learner-centered methods and will probably be more successful in teaching and advising with it.

Although written primarily for faculty, advisors who believe the student learning process is integral to the advising relationship could especially benefit from this book if they lead workshops, orientations or teach courses. Advisors teach students to take responsibility for their educations, to choose meaningful majors and honestly evaluate their own academic progress; all of which are learning outcomes that can be developed with learner-centered teaching. I found the case studies more than helpful and insightful and I believe that I will turn back to this text to apply learner-centered techniques to my own courses. Advisors who do not teach formally may find little benefit and prefer a workbook geared specifically for advising should that exist.

Reference:
Developing learner-centered teaching: A practical guide for faculty. (2008). Book by Phyllis Blumberg. Review by: Noelle Bautista Magaña. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 352 pp. Price $40.00. ISBN 978-0-7879-9688-8.
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