Book By: Mary Taylor Huber & Pat Hutchings
Review By: Geri Salinitri, PhD
Faculty of Education
University of Windsor

Based on the work of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning (CASTL), launched in 1998, The Advancement of Learning proposes the building of a Teaching Commons, the infrastructure needed to improve the quality of learning in higher education.  Huber and Hutchings challenge campus leaders to bring the scholarship of teaching and learning to the forefront signalling institutional commitments to learning, accountability, and providing authentic learning-based evidence to meet new accreditation standards.

In response to a changing culture of teaching, Huber and Hutchings explore the movement across campuses and the challenges that are faced in creating a teaching commons. Although, primarily written for faculty across a full range of disciplines, academic advisors will see their niche in advancing the teaching commons by examining the context and place where teaching, learning and advising merge.

Beginning with the historical perspective on the scholarship of teaching, the authors realized the daunting mission of moving teaching from “private to community property”(p.14) and that building a large scale commons would require all of the “intelligence, commitment and imagination that the academic community can bring to bear”(p.14). Further, they effectively and clearly expanded on the defining features or elements of the scholarship of teaching and learning. The authors bring concrete examples and survey results, to articulate the importance of questioning, gathering and exploring evidence, trying out and refining new insights and going public to develop the possibilities of the scholarship – “disciplines can engage in active trading of ideas about pedagogy” (p. 32).

Describing the work of mathematicians Bennett and Dewar, English professor Mariolina Salvitori, and biologist Maura Flannery, best practices in the teaching commons are brilliantly unfolded providing evidence for the evolution of the scholarship of teaching. In “Mapping the Commons” (Chapter 4) the authors illustrate the process of mapping “as more scholars, with different interests and lines of work, enter the commons and give it shape” (p. 55).  The commons becomes a space where people can have access to each other’s work.  “(I)ts vibrancy lies in the number, variety and distinctiveness of its neighbourhood” (p.71) – the bridge or space faculty and advisors can meet.

As a result of their intense conversations across campuses, the authors are able to bring affirmations to the value of teaching and learning as an institutional priority of a “campus of commons” (p77). Metaphorically, they represent higher education as a fleet of small boats, rowing toward some common destination like the teaching commons (p90).

Huber and Hutchings offer ample testimony of the power of the scholarship of teaching and learning to affect change in classrooms, to revitalize teaching and to improve student learning. A common thread travels through the chapters as the audience is reminded of the work of those experts in the field from various disciplines as knowledge and examples add to the conviction for the need for a teaching commons.

With the addition of electronic communications and repositories, the authors ensure the ease of knowledge building and exchange. Accordingly “ an act of intelligence or of artistic creation becomes scholarship when it ……becomes public; it becomes an object of critical review and evaluation by members of one’s community; and members ….begin to use, build upon, and develop those acts of mind and creation” (p.93). Further they provide a valuable summary of the standards of practice for the scholarship of teaching.

As they enter their final chapter, the authors revisit scholars and look to the future as predicted by CASTL Scholars.  The work of these scholars, and authors, will help attract readers and committed people to this volume as it has pushed inquiry in new directions.  With committed authors like, Huber and Hutching, the scholarship of teaching will rise to the level of all scholarship and improve the learning environment in higher education.

By far the most impressive part of the journey in the Advancement of Learning, was feeling the passion of the authors as they explored the many campuses and met with the various scholars of teaching.  It is a thorough, convincing, well researched book.  I would especially recommend it to faculty, new and veteran as they examine their teaching portfolio and move toward making best practices public.  As for academic advisors, whether they are faculty or not, they will gain insight into how to reach other faculty and students in creating a “learning commons”. Definitely this is a good resource book.

The Advancement of Learning:  Building the teaching commons. (2005). Book by Mary Taylor Huber, Pat Hutchings. Review by Geri Salinitri. Indianapolis, IN: John Wiley & Sons. 208 pp., $35.00 (hardback) ISBN #978-0-7879-8115-0.

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