Of the books published in 2017, here is my list of the five that have added the most to my understanding of our students, our challenges as instructors, and our need to reform our educational system.
iGen by Jean Twenge: More than any other book that I’ve read this year, iGen has made me re-evaluate how I work with students. Twenge’s analysis of data drawn from four national studies that 11 million Americans have participated in since the 1990s has led me to agree with her that we are on the forefront of a mental health crisis in higher education. It’s all the more challenging because many of these students have “invisible disabilities” that they don’t want to acknowledge or manage. This has a profound effect on their engagement in learning. (95)
Twenge, Jean M. iGen: why today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — And Completely Unprepared for Adulthood. Atria Books, 2017.
On Edge by Andrea Petersen: This book shows what it is like to live with an anxiety disorder. Petersen, who writes for the Wall Street Journal, had to take many incompletes while a student at the University of Michigan. Now, with years of therapy, yoga, and a bottle of prescription medication that is with her at all times, she is uniquely qualified to provide an insider’s perspective on anxiety. She also writes as a reporter who examines dozens of studies and interviews many experts. Readers see how her story reflects the experiences of the 40 million Americans with this disorder.
Petersen, Andrea. On Edge: A Journey through Anxiety. Crown, 2017.
Teaching College by Norman Eng: From what I’ve seen, this is the most useful pedagogical book published in 2017. It’s so easy to get caught up in covering important course content – ideas we love and information we believe is critical – that it’s easy to forget that our primary challenge is to help students learn. Perhaps we all need occasional reminders to shift our focus from the content to the student. Eng has a doctorate in education, and he cites a lot of important research, but his lively book doesn’t get bogged down with jargon or heavy academic prose.
Eng, Norman. Teaching College: The Ultimate Guide to Lecturing, Presenting and Engaging Students. Norman Eng, 2017.
Breakaway Learners by Karen Gross: If asked who I would most like to visit my campus to talk with faculty, administrators, staff, and local news reporters, I would pick Karen Gross. I wish she could spend at least a week with us. She is a former college president who grew up in difficult circumstances and has a deep understanding of the challenges our students face and the urgency with which we should address them. She is committed to helping students “break away” from the circumstances that prevent them from developing their abilities.
Gross, Karen. Breakaway Learners: Strategies for Post-Secondary Success with At-Risk Students. Teachers College Press, Columbia U., 2017, p. 25.
The New Education by Cathy Davidson: Take a deep breath. You’ll need to steady yourself if you decide to read this book. Davidson challenges us to rethink the assumptions that higher education is based upon. The subtitle is: How to revolutionize the university to prepare students for a world in flux. As a former professor and administrator at Duke, and the author of many books, she contends that our system of education is based on assumptions that were relevant a hundred years ago, but now must be updated, redesigned, restructured – “a revolution in every classroom, curriculum, and assessment system” (8).
Davidson, Cathy. The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux. Basic Books, 2017.
What are your favorites from 2017? Share them in the comment box or with me at CStover1@madisoncollege.edu/.