Book Reviews

Book by Anthony J. Petrosino, Taylor Martin & Vanessa Svihla
Review by Shannon M. Spencer
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department
University of Michigan


Learning science, assessment, and engineering come together in this collection of studies that examines pedagogy in engineering education. Supported by the National Science Foundation, researchers in the VaNTH (Vanderbilt-Northwestern-Texas-Harvard/MIT) community sought to apply principles of learning science to transform and improve engineering instruction. Chapter authors highlight studies indicating that teaching methods that include in-class discussion, continuous instructor feedback, problems in the context of the real world, and video enactments result in increased student mastery of both content and application.

Several chapters provide useful lessons for academic advisors. Chapter one, which focuses on the collaboration of learning scientists (experts in learning styles and theory) and biomedical engineering experts, reminds us to look to other experts for help with advising techniques. Content experts in our academic departments, psychologists, and learning scientists can offer valuable insight into holistic advising. In addition, it is prudent that advisors have knowledge about the ways individual students are affected by their learning styles.

I found the study in chapter four both interesting and applicable to academic advising. Two groups of students were given a passage about engineering professionalism. One group also viewed a video enactment of the concepts in the passage. The study found that advice was more effective for first-year students than seniors and even more effective when students viewed an enactment that put the advice in the context of real-life situations. Researchers based their work on the experiential learning theories of John Dewey and other psychological theorists who address how people learn. Implications for academic advising include the addition of enactments through video technology to more effectively deliver information.

The strengths of this text lie in its focus on learning styles and support for innovative pedagogy.
When applied to academic advising, the results of the studies remind us to collaborate with the experts around us, explore alternative methods of advising, and help students identify their own learning styles. The main weakness of this book for advisors is that the authors do not provide a clear connection to academic advising. The results of the studies must be viewed with an open mind and willingness to experiment with the ideas within advising contexts. Consequently, I recommend this book to advisors who are especially interested in pedagogy and to those who work with engineering students. I predict advisors who teach developmental courses and faculty advisors who teach in engineering disciplines will find it most applicable.


Developing Student Expertise and Community: Lessons from How People Learn (New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 108) (2006). Book by Anthony J. Petrosino, Taylor Martin & Vanessa Svihla (Eds.), Review by Shannon M. Spencer. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass, 128 pp. Price $29.00, (paperback), ISBN # 978-0-7879-9574-4
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