Book by Linda B. Nilson (Ed.) Judith E. Miller
Review by Heather Zeng

Fish (2010) questioned in a recent column, “Now suppose those who wrote in to me had been asked when they were young if they were satisfied with the instruction they were receiving?” While this question is directed at early pedagogical experiences in secondary education, the question resonates on a variety of levels to the research and contributions in this writing. To Improve the Academy is an important resource for institutions of higher education and certainly has implications for leaders within larger educational systems (district, state levels) as they approach the task of properly supporting and developing educators and teachers. Ultimately student learning is the central implied premise in this compendium of strategies to improve faculty professional development.

One of the most noteworthy aspects of this contribution centers on its focus on the need to advocate for underrepresented or marginalized groups. For example, Salazar et al. approaches issues of assuring inclusivity by identifying practices for inclusive excellence. This is an important overview that could serve as a point of discussion in a faculty in-service training or within a center for excellence in teaching and learning. Moreover, many institutions that provide diversity training on an annual basis might consider broadening their perspective by integrating practices included here that lead to more reflective practitioners. The authors suggest that this could lead to curricular and institutional transformation on a variety of levels.

Authors Dailey-Hebert et al. share an innovative program called “The Legacy Project” that focuses on improving the campus climate and services for women. However, it doesn’t speak to the range of inclusivity for this endeavor, that is, who gains favor or entry into participation? Is this yet another exclusive club for some enfranchised in an organization?One example by Wolf-Wendel (2004) confirmed that administration at the more competitive research institutions tend to most progressively support the retention of talented faculty by accommodating those with dual career issues, e.g., struggling with family and work roles. Certain aspects of “The Legacy Project” have outreach implications for women faculty in mediating their career development as they balance their life roles. These programs should reach the widest range of campus women who can benefit from support, debriefing, and normalizing of the challenges they face.

Black, Ray & Villa offered a study on a reflective practice program that seeks to determine the impact of this approach on teaching, students, and the overall professional life of faculty members. One of the outcomes noted was that when engaging in reflective practice across disciplines, faculty became more aware of colleagues from different disciplines with different philosophies; this can be disturbing to faculty when they step outside of their comfort zones or security. Ultimately this research suggests that changes must move beyond the “insulated community of the classroom to the larger culture” (p. 353).

Curiously the writing largely overlooks aspects of technology – a key issue for faculty development and potential collaboration particularly within larger institutions with faculty who teach at a distance. Only two of the articles address this aspect of technology in meta-professional skills and competency models. Another critical aspect is that while the focus of this book is on full-time faculty, the reality is that many institutions have a large number of part-time, adjunct instructors who need support and development. This is a significant omission in light of the extent to which these individuals support programs and students. Lastly this reviewer suggests that future volumes within this series should focus on distance education and how this is integrated into traditional programs (recognizing that Jossey-Bass has as series focus on distance education). However, integrating online components within traditional academic contexts can be a challenge for all faculty in programs that have faculty on-site or at a distance (or both). The implications to student learning and progress are significant and this is a healthy conversation needed to be had by all on both the academic front as integrated into alternative learning formats and programs


Fish, S. (2010). Opinionator: Deep in the Heart of Texas. New York Times. Retrieved on June 27, 2010 from http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/21/deep-in-the-heart-of-texas/#more-53451.

Wolf-Wendel, L., Twombly, S., & Rice, S. (2004). The Two-Body Problem: Dual-Career-Couple Hiring Practices in Higher Education The Johns Hopkins University Press.

To improve the academy: Resources for faculty, instructional, and organizational development (Volume 28, Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network in Higher Education series), (2009). Book by Linda B. Nilson (Ed.) Judith E. Miller (Associate Ed.). Review by Heather Zeng. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 432 pp., $38.00 . ISBN 978-0-470-48434-0
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