Book by: Cornell Thomas (Ed.)
Review by: Heather Zeng
Core Faculty
Capella University

Today’s society is in a constant state of flux, change, and uncertainty. Educators, counselors, and advisors are at the front lines of working with students who are mediating this context with moving to increased self-development and learning.  This book is a seminal work addressing how professionals working in education can be inclusive to diversity factors in many holistic and humanistic approached. In the first sections, the author’s highlighting of Palmer’s five habits (to which this reviewer was not familiar with) is a must read for any advisor or educator to recalibrate core focused values in teaching and learning. Discussions on what it means to be present with students speaks to a type of mindfulness, that when employed, could yield significant student development.  This focus on presence is a challenging philosophical discourse for novice readers, but worthy of a slow paced review and embracing. The highlight is really in the author’s embracing what is called “zones of uncertainty” in exchanges—where there is divergence of vantages, perspectives, cultures—that is essentially the added value in the educational experience.

This writing also has implications for teachers K-12 who are working within dynamic communities. One noteworthy qualitative study shared reveals the insights of student teachers in working with refugee families and their children to support their integration into a school. The findings of the narrative themes are constructive for any pre-service teaching student to see how their like peers were transformed by this experience and the marked growth as prospective educators. A vitally enriching takeaway from this section of the book is a listing of links and references on working with refugees and their subsequent resettlement. Certainly it goes without saying, with continued global strife, dynamic labor markets, and societal flux, the U.S. and Europe will see further refugee populations to serve with dignity.

In a society that increasingly focuses on self, this movement towards other is refreshing and speaks to a strong social justice perspective of enfranchisement and empowerment. Shouldn’t every educator, counselor, advisor, want this for their students? Every educational institution is unique in terms of their own underserved groups, thus attuning to retention of populations needing support is vital. This writing is useful for advisors who are working with a range of students in postsecondary education settings.

In summary, this book has essential guidance to the reader: first, that mediating uncertainty and ambiguity in educational settings will be vital; two, that educators will continue to need to move to the added value of diversity and “otherness” (the author’s term) if truly aligning with democratic ideals; and three, that curriculum and student support services must move to inclusivity, meeting each student where they are in order to retain them. There’s a utilitarian sense to this writing that energizes the reader- a too often overlooked Bentham like question of “What if all moved towards service the greatest good for the greatest number?”  How would this transform human potential for the public good? 

Inclusive Teaching: Presence in the Classroom (2014). Book by Cornell Thomas. (Ed). Review by Heather Zeng. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 88 pp., $ 29.00 (Paperback). ISBN 978-1-119-03647-0

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