Developing Your Teaching - Ideas, Insight and Action

Series Key Guides for Effective Teaching in Higher Education
Author(s) Peter Kahn, Lorraine Walsh
Publisher Routledge,an imprint of Taylor & Francis Books Ltd
Published 2006
Pages 184
Price £17.99
ISBN 0415372739
Reviewed by Mr Jonathan Tummons
York College
Review published 21 August 2006

Developing Your Teaching is another entry in the growing canon of literature relating to the development of learning and teaching in higher education. With a renewed impetus provided by the new Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning in higher education, published by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) earlier this year, this book is a timely addition to the literature of learning and teaching in higher education. New university teachers, whether they are lecturers or graduate teaching assistants, are increasingly encouraged to work towards some kind of professional qualification as teachers in HE: many HEIs offer new and existing staff the opportunity to study for some kind of internal certificate in academic practice; in addition, some HEIs offer PGCE qualifications (or equivalent) that are accredited by the HEA. As a concern for the quality of learning and teaching in HE is brought to the fore, it should be no surprise to find a developing body of literature to reinforce this work.

Developing Your Teaching is not, primarily, a theoretical work, although reference to theory is a feature of the book as a whole: it is a practical book. Through a blend of case studies drawn from a number of different curricula areas, references to more specialist literature, and exercises, the reader is taken through a range of issues relevant to the immediate context of seminar-room or workshop-based teaching, broader issues relating to learning and teaching cultures in HE, and researching and developing a scholarship of learning and teaching.

Allowing for the fact that this is a single volume, and by no means the weightiest tome on teaching and learning in HE that this reviewer has read, it covers a lot of ground to good effect. Theory is subtly blended with the practical, although the authors acknowledge that educational theory can be inaccessible, a more critical exploration of why this is the case, perhaps relating to the relative inaccessibility of what is essentially a separate academic discipline would have been nice. If there is one criticism of the theoretical stance of the book, it is that it is somewhat anodyne, opting for a rather uncritical application of several old favourites (Kolb’s experiential learning cycle; Schön’s reflective learning model; Honey and Mumford’s learning styles) that in themselves are coming in for increasingly challenging attention, and glossing over more recent educational theory (social and situated theory; activity theory and expansive learning). On the other hand, the practical elements are great: lots of good ideas are provided, real life worked examples provide context and an authentic voice, and suggestions for further reading and research range across books, websites and academic journals. The case studies deserve a special mention. It is not easy to put together a book that will be read by practitioners who teach in very different subject areas, but the way in which the case studies are presented and analysed in this book is highly effective, and the core messages that the case studies put forward work across disciplinary boundaries.

This is a book aimed at new lecturers and tutors in HE: full-time, and part-time. It’s easy to navigate, easy to find specific themes and issues, and easy to read. As a teacher educator working on a PGCE that is accredited by the HE Academy, I would certainly recommend this book as a core text to new HE staff, when joining the programme, as a friendly introduction to a sometimes complex area. For those staff in HE who wish to engender a more in-depth, critical and/or research-based aspect to their teaching, the references will prove invaluable.