Neff, Rose Ann and Maryellen Weimer, eds. Classroom Communication: Collected Readings for Effective Discussion and Questioning
Magna Publications, Inc., Madison (www.magnapubs.com)
Reviewed by Theodore C. Humphrey, Ph.D.|
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
This collection of ten essays (first individually published from 1975 to 1988) may not be the latest word on these two venerable but still powerful pedagogies. The volume is, nevertheless, still useful to classroom teachers at any stage of their career from beginning teaching assistant to, say, a "third-year FERPer" (the status of this reviewer). The essays--six dealing with discussion, four with questioning--address issues that remain fundamental in any face-to-face classroom: the passive student who believes that being entertained by a "talking head" at the front of the classroom constitutes learning, or the temptation facing a teacher to succumb to the siren song of "lecturing" rather than the arguably more difficult approach of transforming "passive" students (an oxymoron to be sure) into active students. If nothing else, this collection of essays again raises important questions about which teaching techniques will most effectively result in learning. Are there effective techniques for encouraging critical thinking? Can one encourage and structure student dialogue in the classroom so that it yields genuine learning? How can we best stimulate active student participation in our classes? How can we effectively measure classroom learning? Finally, how can we teachers, who have focused on learning our subject matter, learn how to teach it? This issue is an important one for CSU to consider since faculty demographics are changing rapidly; indeed, the system as a whole is currently in the throes of hiring hundreds of newly turned out PhDs, experts in the latest trends in their subject areas yet often lacking skills necessary to transform their learning into excellent teaching. One may reasonably ask where new faculty are to go for post-graduate work in the craft of teaching. Collections such as the one Neff and Weimer have provided are certainly one answer.