Question: What do Mark Zukerberg, Oprah Winfrey and the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI) have in common?

By Professor Carol Rolheiser, Director, CTSI

Answer: All have established book clubs; mind you, not your average book clubs!

All of us are pretty familiar with Oprah Winfrey’s launching of her book club that was active between 1996 and 2011. Through this club she not only propelled many authors works to bestseller lists, she also succeeded in encouraging large numbers of people to read more literature. Her online version, Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, was launched in 2012 and uses social media to once again engage people in discussing books. In a January 6, 2015 Globe and Mail article by their Book Editor Mark Medley, entitled “Mark Zukerberg on books: Oprah II?”, he noted that Mr. Zukerberg took to his Facebook page early in January 2015 to announce that he will read a new book every other week!  As a result, Facebook has already created a hub, “A Year of Books”, which already has over 253, 000 Likes.

While CTSI cannot boast the reach of Oprah’s or Zukerberg’s book clubs, we are proud of having just completed our second offering of CTSI Page Turners, a four-session book club series.

Book clubs are becoming increasingly popular not only for recreational reading, but also in K-12 and higher education sectors to support educational development (Kooy, 2009), and as a means for teachers “tuning into practice”. Online, hybrid and face-to-face clubs are being initiated in colleges and universities for instructors as a means of enhancing community, reflecting on practice, and inspiring cross-disciplinary discussions and networks.

The model our CTSI team developed is based on the concept of student literature circles (Daniels, 2002; Lin, 2002). While participants in our book club are in charge of their own learning, they are supported by a facilitator who helps establish group norms, and sets the stage to maximize individual accountability and the development of positive interdependence within the group.

Saira Mall, Carol Rolheiser, Cora McCloy

CTSI Book Club Team - Saira Mall, Carol Rolheiser, Cora McCloy

Some of the goals of the CTSI Page Turners include: supporting pedagogical professional development through the examination of educational ideas; reflection on practice; exploration of innovation in teaching; and, discussion of aspirations for student learning.  The structure used for the CTSI book club includes evidence-based design features, such as: 1) the optimal number of participants (e.g., Brabham & Villaume, 2000, suggest that 4-8 participants is an ideal number for a literature circle); 2) determining group norms (e.g., participation and interaction to maximize learning together); 3) building inclusion (e.g., through community-building activities that provide context for each participant’s goals and motivation); and 4) establishing the roles and responsibilities of both participants and facilitator.

The first two offerings of CTSI Page Turners series focused on the book, Student Engagement Techniques by Elizabeth Barkley (2010). The four 2-hour sessions provided an opportunity to explore a conceptual framework for understanding student engagement, while also examining tips and strategies for influencing motivation, promoting active learning, building community, ensuring students are appropriately challenged and promoting holistic learning. As well, instructors analyzed practical student engagement techniques focused on learning outcomes that included knowledge and skills, learner attitudes, values, and self-awareness. While the culminating activity involved each instructor participant sharing a concrete plan for “putting print into practice” in their next course, most of the participants began implementing ideas right away in the courses they were currently teaching!

Book Club Participant Poster

Book Club Participant Poster

Each of the four book club sessions was facilitated through the use of text protocols and other reading/discussion formats (Bennett & Rolheiser, 2001; Lipton & Wellman, 2003). The value of the protocols was expressed often by participants, in terms of how such protocols supported their exploration of the book being studied, but also their use and adaptation of these protocols with their own students. For example, one of the protocols was entitled “The 4 A’s” (adapted from Judith Gray, 2005, National School Reform Faculty, http://www.nsrfharmony.org.)  As participants pre-read the selected chapter they chose an excerpt related to each of the following four A’s, and the subsequent book club session focused on discussing these with their colleagues:

  1. What Assumptions does the author of the text hold?
  2. What do you Agree with in the text?
  3. What parts do you want to Argue with in the text?
  4. What parts of the text do you want to Aspire to?

In the final assessment of the book club one of the participants commented specifically on the value of experiencing the protocols, stating, “I really enjoyed the use of protocols to guide the sessions. It was great to see how these would work in practice.”

Another one of our book club members wrote, “I keep coming back [to CTSI] because I am finding that teaching is a process that requires constant reflection and consideration of the back and forth between talking about how to teach and implementing teaching ideas”.  CTSI Page Turners has been an exciting way to encourage the exploration of teaching research and practical ideas, to reflect on one’s practice, and to work with colleagues in other departments to try out new practices. We are looking forward to our next book club series and the examination of another book –stay tuned to our CTSI newsletter for the announcement of our next Page Turners series.

If you would like to set up your own instructor book club in your department or unit, please feel free to contact us and request a consultation to support you in getting this launched.

Happy reading!

Emanuel Istrate, Institute for Optical Science

Emanuel Istrate, Institute for Optical Science

Heather Buchansky, Student Engagement Librarian, U of T Libraries

 

References:

Barkley, E.F. (2010). Student engagement techniques. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bennett, B. & Rolheiser, C. (2001).  Beyond Monet: The artful science of instructional integration.  Toronto, ON: Bookation.

Brabham, E.G., & Villaume, S.K. (2000). Questions and answers: Continuing conversations about literature circles. The Reading Teacher, 54(3), 278-280.

Daniels, H. (2002). Literature circles: Voice and choice in book clubs and reading groups (2nd ed.). Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Lin, C-H. (2002). Literature circles. Eric Digest.
file://localhost/Retrieved from http/::www.ericdigests.org:2003-3:circles.htm

Lipton, L. & Wellman, B. (2003). Mentoring matters: A practical guide to learning-focused relationships (2nd Ed). Sherman, CT: Mira Via.

Kooy, M. (2009). Collaborations and conversations in communities of learning: Professional development that matters. In C.C. Craig (Ed.),  The Association of Teacher Educators’ Teacher Education Yearbook XVII: Teacher Learning in Small Group Settings (pp. 5-22). Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Publication/Rowan & Littlefield.

My first graphic syllabus

Recently, I was introduced to the idea of a graphic syllabus. In her book The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating Your Course (available at the OISE library), Linda B. Nilson, suggests that instructors can convey the relationships between course concepts directly through the syllabus.

In the winter 2012 semester, I will be teaching a 4th year course called Integrative Design Project at the Institute of Communication, Culture and Information Technology at the Mississauga campus.  Incorporating a design element into a design course seems like something I should pursue.

The knowledge domains that constitute the integrative design project course for 2012: 1) design research, 2) user centered design, 3) eGovernment

These are the major knowledge domains that constitute the integrative design project course for 2012

To the left, I have posted my first attempt at graphically representing the knowledge domains that are covered in course readings and around which the assignments focus.  For example, the major group assignments will involve students researching and designing a prototype of a website or digital interface to enhance a government service or democratic society more broadly.  Their prototypes are expected to be user and citizen centric.

 

The Books of August

As summer winds down and many of us are preparing for the busy fall ahead, we are looking for reading suggestions for these last weeks of August. (Of course, I am in the midst of The Clash of Kings so that should keep me busy until September.) Summer never seems to live up to the promise of endless reading time and beach vacations so we thought we could use a little help from someone who spends most of her days with books. We’ve asked Deanna McFadden, Associate Director, Digital Content for HarperCollins Canada, for her picks.
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THE BOOKS OF AUGUST
Summer reading has always been a kind of an enigma for me. For most, a tasty beach read will do — something light and frothy that’s meant to entertain and not necessarily be too taxing. But I tend to go in the opposite direction for summer reading. This year, I’ve got a stack of books about as high as my cottage to get through by the end of the summer, and I’ve been determined to do a lot of “off the shelf reading” — getting through those books that have been collecting dust for two, three, ten, years. So, here are five really terrific reads that I’d consider perfect for the waning days of the season:

The Award Winner
A Visit From the Good Squad
Jennifer Egan’s novel remains a rare thing in the book world – a novel completely and utterly deserving of all its accolades and praise. It won the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction as well as the 2011 Pulitzer Prize (also for fiction, natch). It’s a multi-perspective novel that  circles around two or three main characters who are each either directly or indirectly (as in they are publicists etc.) involved in the music business. Let me just warn you — there’s an entire chapter that’s almost speculative in its nature, containing charts and graphs written by a pre-teen girl, and it was utterly charming. This in itself speaks to the power of Egan’s prose. It’s a marvellous novel.

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More Grammar Matters

As we prepare for tonight’s Grammar Matters launch (Type Books, 883 Queen Street West, 6pm-8pm), our thoughts turn to–well, grammar matters. As Jila Ghomeshi demonstrates in her book, many people take the subjects of grammar and language very seriously. Ghomeshi’s analysis of language far exceeds the effects of a misplaced comma. She looks at the social and political implications of policing grammar and how the use and perceived abuse or misuse of language can be a contentious topic. A great many people have an opinion about grammar and just how it should be used. So, after reading Ghomeshi’s book, I’ve been thinking about the ways that we learn the rules of grammar and if that affects how we perceive it.

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Grammar Matters

“To use the language of rights, our right to comment on how others use language is as important as our right to choose how we speak in the first place.”

In certain circles, grammar is a hot topic, or even a hot button issue. Any perceived misuse or abuse of language can be the cause for a chuckle* or outrage or anything in between. The assumption is that grammar follows a logical and defined form. However, in Grammar Matters: the Social Significance of How We Use Language, Jila Ghomeshi, a professor of linguistics at the University of Manitoba, shows that this isn’t always the case. While “prescriptivists” might maintain that there is a right and a wrong way, Ghomeshi shows that language is far more personalized than a grammar textbook allows. She examines the fallacy of logic and precision in the English language and points out the hypocrisy and prejudice in claiming there is only one correct use of grammar. Her argument isn’t entirely against this prescriptive view but the belief that one form or use of language is better than another. It is a compelling and interesting argument and one that is sure to incite a reaction from grammar-snobs and grammar-phobes in equal measure.

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