Book Reviews

Book by: Karen Weller Swanson (Ed.)
Review by: Kay Hamada
Advising Center for the Colleges of AH and LLL
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

 

As this book is mostly written from the perspectives of graduate faculty teaching in health professions, advisors who are in different roles—such as non-instructional, undergraduate liberal arts program advisors—may find it an unusual choice in their professional development literature. However, the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) movement, which is the main theme of this volume, is presented as beneficial to all teachers across disciplines, not only in the classroom sphere, but also in considering personal teaching philosophies.

For example, in chapter one, while discussing faculty collaboration in a “community of learners,” Swanson states that faculty chose SoTL as their framework “because the literature addresses the pressures of higher education to publish consistently and teach well. The emerging theoretical theory is dynamic and inclusive versus exclusive” (p. 7). SoTL perceives scholarship and practice as complementary rather than separate; SoTL can be used to develop research and practice with the goals of improving teaching and learning experiences while also evaluating and/or documenting them. This concept is transferable to different realms of advising in which “advising is teaching” (NACADA). SoTL can be described as both a framework and mindset, wherein teaching is viewed as dynamic and purposeful. In chapter three, Kelly illustrates this by stating that the purpose of SoTL for her “is the same as for any discipline at any level of education. It is to become the most effective instructor possible by introducing innovation into the classroom, constantly reflecting and changing teaching practice to provide the most effective educational experience for the students to promote learning. An effective teacher is a scholarly teacher” (p. 21). SoTL can provide a foundation for those interested in creating/revising advising philosophies and practices through integrating scholarship with other advising activities. One of the appealing characteristics of SoTL is it is defined in a number of related yet diverse ways: advisors can tailor it toward their outcomes. Kelly likens defining SoTL to “experimenting in the kitchen” without using just one recipe; she states that she “was not quite satisfied utilizing one definition and decided to compile [her] favorite components of all the definitions into one” (p. 21). Examples of these “compilation” stages are valuable, as various SoTL concepts are presented and compared.

For advisors who are not in classroom-based roles, chapter seven may be especially relatable. Otto, who writes from a librarian’s perspective, presents the challenges of having “just one brief chance” to present a learning experience, because “Librarians, to their regret, simply have a lot less time, and a more limited context, to help students reach these goals” (p. 79). Indeed, this may be familiar to academic advisors who also face limitations in time and contact, sometimes only seeing students at new student orientation, graduation workshops, and occasional individual advising appointments. Presenting similar philosophies/mottos to those in academic advising, this chapter illustrates another helpful approach to SoTL.

Academic advising is a multidisciplinary profession. Like their students, advisors learn from a variety of educational, professional, and personal experiences.  As this book suggests, SoTL encourages “multidisciplinary collaboration.” It can be a personal journey, an evaluation tool, and a research framework; it can be the focus of a learning community, while also helping an individual teacher meet outcomes. For advisors, this book provides an introduction to SoTL philosophies, research, and practices that can be adapted and further studied, allowing them to create their own “recipes.”


Multidisciplinary Collaboration: Research and Relationships. (2014). Book by Karen Weller Swanson (Ed.). Review by Kay Hamada. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 98 pp. Price $29.00 (Paperback). ISBN 978-1-118-98056-9.

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