Book by James Groccia and Mary Stuart Hunter
Review by Jennifer F. Rybski
Carl H. Lindner College of Business
University of Cincinnati
First-Year seminars appear to be the focus of many institutions. Not only do these courses help acclimate the newest population to campus and university life as a whole, but they create a captive audience in an academic setting to allow educators to plant the seed of becoming successful and engaged citizens in the university setting. Before a unit can effectively begin teaching a first-year seminar course, they should strongly consider how their instructors are being trained in the delivery of the material. Groccia and Hunter provide solid insight in regard to instructor training and development.
The book is organized into seven short chapters which includes discussion on: the need for instructor training and development, organizing for success, applying theory and research, content, the role of evaluation, building and sustaining an instructor corps, and concluding with final thoughts and recommendations. The appendices provide information on developing a teaching experience workshop for instructors and include online resources and a peer observation process model.
Depending on how first-year seminars are structured at your institution, this book may or may not be suited for every academic advisor. The trend in academic advisor instructed first-year seminars is increasing due in part to their connectedness to the university community. If your institution adheres to this method or is in the process of adapting an advisor taught course; the book will be extremely helpful.
Groccia and Hunter take time to delve into details of two key features of instruction: the need to engage learners (Chapter 1) and the theories of adult learning (Chapter 3). The former section includes a figure regarding engagement and the later provides discussion about understanding what the learner needs. It is important for advisors to be reconnected or to learn about engagement and theory if no prior instruction was received.
The bulk of the book discusses how to conduct training for instructors. Ideal methods include ongoing training. Given that schedules get busy; often the hope is to provide continuous training. The suggestions offered may be adapted to include training prior to the start of the course and conclude with a follow-up once completed. A challenge with this book would be finding the time to adequately offer instructor training in the manor discussed. Even without implementing all components, this book provides reasonable suggestions to improve training, development and assessment for first-year courses.
As someone who has been teaching a first-year seminar for 3 years I was able to walk-away with new ideas to educate my team of instructors so that we better meet the needs of our students. Instructor training and development is a necessity and should not be overlooked. By implementing just a few small training details, the course could provide a more meaningful experience for both the instructor and the student.
The First Year Seminar: Designing, Implementing, and Assessing Courses to Support Student Learning and Success Vol 2. Instructor Training and Development. (2012). James Groccia and Mary Stuart Hunter, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience. 138pp., $25.00, (paperback), ISBN # 978-1-889271-76-7