BkRev #1741. Enhancing Teaching and Learning Through Collaborative Structures. Jeffery L. Bernstein and Brooke A. Flinders (Eds). $29.00. 978-1-1193-2787-5. 2016. 107 pp. Paperback. Jossey-Bass. One Montgomery Street Suite 1200. San Francisco, CA 94104.
Indiana University Bloomington
As a part of the New Directions for Teaching and Learning series, this edited volume discusses collaboration within the context of higher education. This book advocates that teaching and teachers are most effective when working within a community (p. 3), which allows students to hear multiple viewpoints and consider their own to be more valid (p. 7). Through a series of 7 chapters, plus Introduction and Concluding Comments, this book broadens the scope of the collaboration discussion from an individualized focus to one that concerns teaching as a whole. The authors do not limit themselves to faculty-only collaboration and include student and peer collaborative structures as well. The individual chapters range from case studies or examples of how different collaborative structures did or did not work (like Chapter 2) to broader ideas and strategies for collaboration (like Chapter 1).
For the reader new to collaborative structures, this book gives a valuable overview of the history and current trajectory of academic thought about collaboration in education. The Introduction and Concluding Comments do a fine job of encapsulating this, and each chapter situates itself within the history and theory. One could peruse the individual chapter reference lists and compile an extremely thorough reading list on the topic of collaboration, as well as solid teaching and learning theory! A more experienced reader will be able to assess the nuance given in each chapter more thoroughly.
The book gives readers a look at collaborative structures through a variety of levels and means. Chapter 2 discusses peer-mentors for group projects within an undergraduate course, whereas Chapter 4 looks at collaboration across two graduate level courses and a service-learning project. Chapter 7 discusses Faculty Learning Community Programs as ways to build community, as well as “developing scholarship of teaching and learning” (p. 12). Due to the variety of authors and approaches, a reader gains a broad and well-researched introduction to the theory behind and implementation of various collaborative structures in higher education.
A reader is able to find informative synopses of the individual chapters both in the editors’ introduction and after each chapter’s title in the Table of Contents (p. 4-5). This is particularly helpful to the reader who is looking for information on the use or impact of collaborative structures in a specific instance, say undergraduate versus graduate education or in a classroom setting versus a co-curricular one. It is also useful for the advisor who needs a quick primer on the subject.
I recommend this book to advisors as a tool to help them counsel students on collaboration, broadly. Pitfalls and complaints about group work are well known; most people have at least one story of a group project going horribly awry (p. 27). From this book, though, advisors can pull strong, positive examples of collaboration and elaborate on the benefits of the approach when helping a student through a challenging experience or allaying worries about the amount of collaboration in a given course or activity. Advisors can also draw potential best practices for implementing collaboration, such as defining roles or communication responsibilities, for use in their own curricular or extra-curricular programming.