College Teaching: Developing Perspective through Dialogue
Travis, Jon E., The Journal of Faculty Development
College Teaching: Developing Perspective Through Dialogue, by Michael W. Galbraith. Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing, 2008, vi + 138 pp. $27.50.
Reviewed by Jon E. Travis
Into an ever-expanding collection of resources focusing on the role of faculty in higher education is Michael Galbraith' s contribution, College Teaching. Galbraith approached the subject with an innovative technique: using a question and answer dialogue format to present topics related to the classroom as well as other faculty responsibilities on the college campus.
The text has nine parts, which function basically as chapters: self-assessment, preparation for the classroom, the first class, classroom issues, methods of teaching, use of technology, grading, advising, and nonteaching responsibilities. Although the author suggested that the text is designed to offer substance to future, new, and experienced faculty; the organization and substance of the book appears to speak primarily to new and future faculty. Besides the dialogue format that carries through all nine parts of the book, the most redeeming feature is the text's brevity, comprising less than 140 pages total. However, this conciseness can also be seen as a disadvantage.
Faculty in higher education lead very busy professional lives, spreading their work hours among the three primary responsibilities of teaching, research and publication, and service. And based upon my years of work in faculty development, most full-time faculty do not have the luxury of devoting a substantial amount of time to career development. Hence, a short reference of this type is more likely to be scanned by the faculty member who is routinely pressed for time. Aspiring faculty, on the other hand, need much more substance to prepare them for this multifaceted career. Nonetheless, the author's use of a dialectic approach to covering his content does add interest to the topics covered in the book.
For veteran faculty, the dialogue format may be a disadvantage as well. Although intended to make the text more interesting to readers, Galbraith' s question and answer technique comes across as prescriptive, as though he were speaking only to prospective and new faculty. Even though the author has included extensive references to other resources, the writing style is dominated by a directive voice, as though Galbraith were talking to students in a class. Hence, veteran faculty could be offended by this approach.
Given the author's inclination to offering advice to new faculty, based upon his years of experience, another difficulty arises. At times, this advice is not entirely accurate for most institutions, and some serious gaps, based upon the brief length of the text, appear in some of the topics. For example, in his discussion of accommodations for students with special needs in Part Four: Issues in the Classroom, Galbraith mentioned "the university office that deals with these issues," but he persisted in suggesting that the faculty member make all of the determinations of the appropriate accommodations (p. …