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Transformative teaching : a collection of stories of engineering faculty’s pedagogical journeys
Kellam N., Boklage A., Coley B., Morgan&Claypool Publishers, San Rafael, CA, 2019. 126 pp.  Type: Book (978-1-681735-45-0)
Date Reviewed: Jan 11 2021

Teaching in higher education institutions is often a challenge, especially for those new to the profession. Classes/eligibility are typically not prescribed for teachers in this space, apart from subject knowledge. This can result in mediocre teachers unless one is self-motivated to excel. And even then, how does one go about this task? How much support do peers and institutions provide?

In light of the global pandemic, educational institutions all over the world are looking at a new normal of minimal face-to-face instruction. The alternative is online instruction. Those in the educational technology space are well aware of the challenges of online lectures. The widely advocated solution is active learning. Sometimes appearing in the guise of terms like flipped classroom, this raises many challenges: institutional adoption, student comfort level, and teacher preparation. Given that much of our education system has the classroom lecture as the backbone, this can be a tiring journey for those venturing into this space.

Putting both these points together, the book is very topical. It documents the story of eight individuals who entered the space of engineering teaching and ultimately adopted active learning techniques. The difficulties they faced and how they circumvented them is the core of the book. The final chapter enumerates the various lessons from their stories: adopt an incremental approach, use of an entrepreneurial approach, an asset-based approach, tradeoff with research, and so on. This is a nice collection of ideas that can be explored by the teaching community.

The authors have adopted a unique storytelling style, presenting the teachers’ stories in their own words more or less. They analyze the stories and create a blueprint--a kind of template--for them. The template itself is presented in chapter 1. It contains stages like “call to adventure,” “refusal of the call,” “supernatural aid,” “first threshold,” “belly of the whale,” and so on, running into 12 phases. Each section of a story--and each story is a chapter--are labeled as per this template. This helps readers identify the commonalities and differences among the stories.

Retaining the way the teachers told their stories to the authors does not work. The pauses, the change of idea midway through a sentence, and so on are captured as is. This makes reading the story difficult and hard to follow. This may not be so bad as an audiobook; however, when reading, it is a big distraction and results in loss of continuity. Some polishing of the story, while maintaining the narrative and template structure, would improve readability and increase the book’s impact. Still, the stories are motivating and can help readers keep their feet on the ground as they explore ways to make teaching more effective.

Reviewer:  M Sasikumar Review #: CR147157 (2106-0148)
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