Book by Parker J. Palmer, Arthur Zajonc, & Megan Scribner
Review by Rebecca J Roach
Student Success Counselor, Enrollment Management & Student Success
Pittsburg (KS) State University
An alternate title for this book could easily be “A Primer on Integrative Learning and Teaching.” For the practitioner wishing to gain insight into the philosophy and practices of integrative education, this book provides a helpful starting place, laying the foundation for an understanding of a holistic approach to teaching and learning. The authors pose a question early in the book that articulates the place from which integrative teaching and learning was born: “How can we help our colleges and universities become places that awaken the deepest potential in students, faculty and staff?” (p. 5). The authors posit that “seedbed of educational renewal” (p. 12) is cultivated in an environment that asks these types of questions.
One core principle of this book and the integrative approach is that of “a pedagogy of carefully crafted relationships” (p. 29) where the aim of instruction and learning is to make connections – “student to teacher, student to student, and teacher to student to subject” (p. 29) - rather than solely memorizing facts and reciting them on exams. These relationships are intentional. In order to understand integrative learning, one must seek to understand the relational nature of the integrative philosophy and approach.
This text is a great resource for gaining a relational appreciation as it provides a place from which readers can incorporate the integrative, holistic approach into their daily teaching and learning practice. The authors take time to address criticisms in a way that provides readers with a better understanding of integrative learning and teaching as they explore philosophy and practical applications within the field.
The authors state that in writing this book their “greatest challenge [was] to convey in discursive, linear sentences what is in truth an integrated, holistic reality” (p. 151). I believe they succeeded on all counts. I highly recommend this work for teachers seeking to gain greater satisfaction from their craft or individuals who wish to (re)gain joy in learning that engages heart, spirit and mind.
The integrative philosophy and, therefore, this text calls us as educators, advisors and mentors to respond to the multifaceted challenges of our society from “our most comprehensive understanding and ethical sensibility” (p. 153). “Educate our students as whole people”, the authors close, “and they will bring all of who they are to the demands of being human in private and public life” (p. 153).
The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to Renewal. (2010). Book by Parker J. Palmer, Arthur Zajonc, & Megan Scribner. Review by Rebecca J Roach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 256 pp., $24.95. ISBN # 978-0-470-48790-7.