Book Reviews

Book by John N. Gardner, A. Jerome Jewler, Betsy O. Barefoot
Review by Patrick Streck
Coordinator, Academic Enrichment Learning Center
University of Central Missouri


Unlike many textbooks and guides for success in college, the second edition of Step By Step to College & Career Success is genuinely student-centered.  While many of the usual “success” topics and strategies are covered, the book’s organization and features involve students in active learning rather than simply providing a “lecture” in text form.  In addition, Gardner, Jewler, and Barefoot have specifically directed the information and activities to adult students returning to academics as well as to traditional students “fresh out of high school.”  

Each of the twelve “steps” begins with clear learning objectives and a self-assessment related to the chapter content and concludes with “The Next Step,” in which the student actively connects the chapter’s four specific concepts and skills to his/her immediate and future life.  Each of the activities, tips, and strategies requires reflection rather than rote memory.  One of the best components of each step is the “Where to Go for Help on Campus,” which can be expanded and adapted to include the specific resources on any campus.  

As one would expect from the leaders of the First-Year Experience movement, Gardner, et al. take a holistic approach to student success.  The twelve steps neatly divide into three coherent sections.  Steps 1 through 4 deal with the expectations confronting new college students, including the differences students can expect in terms of commitment, motivation, time requirements, and levels of thinking.  Step three, dealing with critical thinking, is especially pertinent and includes a new and important section on evaluating information available on the internet.  The middle four steps introduce specific skills necessary for success, including a new section on reading in addition to written and spoken communications, listening/note-taking, and testing strategies.  The last section, steps 9 through 12, deals with college living.  The emphasis on relationships, health and wellness, student involvement, and life choices reflect the holistic approach to success for students throughout all aspects of the college experience.  

While the book is specifically written for a first-year or freshman seminar course, it can also be an invaluable resource for faculty, student services personnel, and advisors, as well as students.  Advisors can use the steps, individually or collectively, to engage students in active, developmental advising sessions.  New advisors can gain valuable tools to personally connect with their students through the reflective exercises.  Experienced advisors can gain insights into the changing characteristics, concerns, and needs of today’s incoming students—traditional and adult students.  Student service personnel, from career services to early alert programs, have relevant and useful material to enhance their interaction with students in an active way.  Faculty, particularly those teaching first- and second-year courses, would also benefit from incorporating the essential learning concepts and skills into their content courses while recognizing the importance of the “non-academic” factors that are so important to student success.


Step By Step to College & Career Success (2nd edition) (2008).  Book by John N. Gardner, A. Jerome Jewler, Betsy O. Barefoot. Review by Patrick Streck. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 176 pp.  $27.95 (paperback).  ISBN # 1413030769
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