Book by Elizabeth F. Barkley
Review by Lianna Scull
Academic Advisor
LIM college

In a world where employment is a blessing and any employed individual would likely tell you that they wear many hats, this text is a particularly useful resource. For those advisors who balance numerous roles within their institutions it could be especially valuable. As the title implies, this book is geared towards college faculty. However, within the advising field, it may also be successfully utilized by faculty advisors and by those professional academic advisors who teach courses such as first year experience or similarly modeled transfer student support courses. Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty is truly a handbook, with clear delineation of subjects and applicable examples and activities. The text readily lends itself to staff and faculty seeking to more actively engage the multi-tasking, instantaneous, and interconnected students of the millennium. 

The author identifies a conceptual framework in the first part of the book to aide its readers in applying the theories and practices, described in the later part of the text, to today’s traditional college student population. The author includes numerous references to research addressing how the millennial generation population of students is unique from previous populations and what these students require of effective administrators and faculty. 

Concrete and clear tips for improving the classroom environment and student productivity are provided throughout the second portion of this text. Practices which encourage community building, foster motivation and promote active learning are detailed. Most suggestions are geared toward a standard classroom environment, however, subtopics such as “moving away from an authoritarian role” (pg. 110) and concepts such as “telling is not teaching” (pg. 96) can easily be generalized and applied to the advisor/advisee relationship. These concepts can aid in improving the advising relationship while also encouraging students to become more involved and engaged in the creation of their personal learning paths. 

While many of the student engagement techniques (SETs) provided in the final part of this text are directly applicable to a traditional classroom setting, with a little creativity, any advising session could benefit from a number of the exercises outlined. For example, the “resources scavenger hunt” (pg. 345), could be incorporated to a first-time freshman or transfer student advising orientation or workshop. A restructured version of this activity could be utilized to engage advises in a personal identification of campus resources. Such a technique could be adapted for a group advising, encouraging advisees to work together in discovering resources. With the feedback and guidance of an academic advisor these exercises would encourage collaboration, not only between advisor and advisee, but also between peers, while simultaneously promoting responsibility, resourcefulness and independence.

Admittedly, there can be institutional limitations, as well as time constraints and physical settings which do not lend themselves to some of the books’ techniques being utilized by academic advisors. Indeed, a number of the exercises are not readily applicable to the typical advisor/advisee relationship or to the content of the academic advising session. For these reasons, this text may be more appropriate as a resource for the traditional faculty member, working with a typical classroom setting. It is important to note, however, that within the academic advising field this text could greatly benefit those advisors who also hold teaching positions within institutions of higher education. With creative interpretation and adaptation, many of the ideas and tactics in Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty can be applied to academic advising and, within that context, effectively improve student engagement.

Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty (2010). Book by Elizabeth F. Barkley, Review by Lianna Scull. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 416 pp. $40.00, ISBN # 978-0-470-28191-8
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