Book by John N. Gardner & Betsy O. Barefoot
Review by Karen L. Archambault
Student Services, Branch Campus and Higher Education Centers,
Brookdale Community College (Lincroft, NJ)
Like many advisors and student success professionals, my bookshelves are literally filled with dozens of textbooks designed to assist students with the transition to college. Most are intended for first-time college students, a few are designed for transfer students, and all have been valuable to me in some way as an instructor of "introduction to college" courses as I think about how to create useful exercises to use in my classroom. I’ll admit, though, that each time I see a new text for this type of course, I wonder what could possibly be new and original. In John Gardner and Betsy Barefoot’s newly revised Step by Step to College and Career Success, the authors provide not only new material, but more importantly, the new edition allows for this generation’s students to connect to the material in a way that is meaningful to their unique experience.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of this text is in its structure, which encourages students to connect to their college experience. Each chapter begins with a short narrative on the purpose of the section as well as a brief quiz to measure how well a student is prepared to handle particular challenges. What follows includes not only additional narrative but also “try it” sections that provide hands on experiences and quick reference sections that pinpoint the key parts of the chapter. The chapters end with reviews that provide a quality summation of each chapter, specific exercises for the building of a portfolio, and questions regarding how the book’s more general information fits into the structure of a particular institution. As such, this structure strikes a balance between reading material and hands-on activities that is so often missing from similar texts.
In each chapter, readers are asked to respond to questions regarding the experience of a given fictitious student and to consider how they would respond in a similar situation. What is unique about this segment of the text is not the “case study” approach, which is also available in other similar texts, but the range in age, experience, ethnicity, and educational experience of the sample students described . Because of this effort to be inclusive, this text may be used in a variety of classrooms at diverse institutions, appropriate for the current state of higher education.
Similarly, the text attempts to reflect currency through the integration of a variety of newer technologies. The recognition that our millennial students are more likely to engage in social networking and in utilization of a variety of new technologies is no surprise to those who work with these students and the text’s recognition of the same may assist in the text being seen as a valuable resource to students. However, the same can also serve as an impediment to the book’s success, as technology falls out of vogue so easily. The text came out only a year ago, but already references to technologies like MySpace are already outdated. Students might therefore view the text as a futile attempt by older instructors to appear relevant and connected to a younger generation.
Despite this challenge, though, the text is a strong one for use in transition courses. The strengths of the structure and the hands-on exercises far outweigh the limitations of the text. Whether you are looking to adopt a new text or just to find some new exercises, room on your bookshelf should be reserved for this updated edition.
Step by step to college and career success (Fourth edition) (2011). Book by John N. Gardner & Betsy O. Barefoot. Review by Karen Archambault. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 208pp., $36.95, (paperback). ISBN # 978-0-312-63801-6