Most of us teaching at the college level like to read. We read professional materials, and we read for pleasure. We know firsthand that much about teaching can be learned from reading. But we work in a profession that requires many demands on our time and doesn’t have strong norms expecting us to grow and develop our knowledge of teaching and learning the way we must keep current in our fields.
I’d like to make the case for reading about teaching and learning with a colleague or a small group of them. I know, I’m preaching to the choir. But even faculty committed to pedagogical reading don’t regularly talk to colleagues about what they’re reading.
That said, there are many more reading circles and faculty reading groups than there used to be, and I think there could be even more, especially if we streamlined the logistics. There’s value in convening with a group—more perspectives, insights, and experiences to share. Moreover, there’s value when two colleagues talk in depth about something they’ve read.
For this reason, I’d like to make note of a new collection on the Teaching Professor called It’s Worth Discussing that seeks to encourage discussion. Each entry identifies what we consider a good article, provides a brief summary of it, and then follows with some questions you can use to guide the discussion. Here are the entries in the collection thus far:
- “Critical Thinking: As a Course Goal and in Assignments”
- “Giving Students Assignments They Hate”
- “Teacher Presence: Questions for Reflection”
If you’re interested, here’s a sneak peek at how these entries are formatted in the collection.
In Critical Thinking: As a Course Goal and in Assignments we start by explaining the reasons this article is worth discussing:
There’s hardly any research that explores the connection between course goals and assignments, but this study does. Faculty were interviewed about course goals and assignments, and then their assignments were analyzed. The case in point is critical thinking, a common requirement of written work in many fields. See whether your guesses about connections between course goals, assignments, and how the latter were graded are verified by these findings.
After this, we provide a brief synopsis of the article and then provide key quotations and discussion questions that we believe are worth discussing:
- The authors define higher-level thinking skills as “cognitive work that emphasizes logic, argumentation, and abstract thinking and is not discipline specific” (p. 113).
- Do you think the definition of critical thinking grows out of thought processes related to your discipline? Is critical thinking a generic set of cognitive skills that transcend disciplines? Or do we use critical thinking to refer to different kinds of thinking?
- Is there a relationship between how your discipline defines critical thinking and this broad delineation of higher-level thinking skills?
- Critical thinking emerged “in conversations about evaluation criteria and in the disappointment that multiple interviewees experienced when reading papers devoid of effective argumentation and other markers of higher-level thinking” (p.117).
- How would you rate the quality of students’ critical thinking as demonstrated in the assignments your students produce?
- Should critical thinking be an evaluative criterion if students aren’t explicitly instructed how to develop those skills?
At the end, we offer an additional article—in this case related to critical thinking—for further discussion.
If you’re interested in fostering a good discussion with your colleagues, check out the rest of our resources in this collection. Additionally, if you have a favorite article that you think is worth discussing, please, by all means share it with us by sending an email to Maryellen Weimer at
I’d also like to introduce another resource collection on The Teaching Professor called Studies with Practical Implications. Research on teaching and learning is prolific but it’s not easy to find what you’d like to know. This collection highlights research on relevant topics. Because you’re busy, we’ve formatted this feature so that it describes the study in a nutshell: the research questions, relevant background information, an overview of the methodology, the findings, and perhaps, most importantly, the implications. What should you consider doing about the results?
Individual study results seldom justify definitive conclusions. But study findings frequently raise interesting questions, they offer possibilities, and present options that individual teachers can consider. This is what we think you’ll find in these collections.
Studies with Practical Implications includes:
- How Group Dynamics Affect Student Learning
- Collaborative Testing Improves Higher-Order Thinking
- How Do Students Study?
- Minimizing Student Resistance to Active Learning
- Students Can Learn to Make Better Use of Study Resources
- Learning the Language of a Discipline
Reference: Kane, D., & Otto, K. (2018). Critical sociological thinking and higher-level thinking: A study of sociologists teaching goals and assignments. Teaching Sociology, 46(2), 112–122. https://doi.org/10.1177/0092055X17735156