Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Spiritual Rest Stop

When I think of my most exotic and memorable travel experiences, I think of moments: climbing awkwardly onto the back of a camel next to the Great Pyramids of Giza; whizzing down the longest zipline in Costa Rica, three hundred feet in the air; my first taste of Amarino gelato in Paris.

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey
Different in so many ways, what connects each of these moments is that they are moments: they came and went just as quickly as the moments pass when I am dropping off a child at school, or walking the dog around the block, or sitting in my office with a despairing student.  This speaks to a fundamental flaw in the travel experience: however amazing it might be, it doesn’t last.  We always return home, carrying only our artifacts and pictures and imperfect memories.

The transitory nature of the experience, of course, sometimes works in our favor.  The seemingly endless line at the airport does, in fact, end.  When you are stuck in the back of a car, with a driver who only speaks Turkish, in the worst traffic you have ever encountered in Istanbul, you know you will eventually make your way back to the ornate lobby and Turkish wines of your hotel along the Bosphorus.  But this seems like small consolation for the brevity of the moments we wish could stretch forever.

A year ago, ahead of an intensive few months of travel in support of a book I had written, I made a decision to deepen my travel experiences by moving beyond the transitory pleasures of the senses and including at least one spiritual stop.  It didn’t have to be a famous cathedral or temple or monastery; it could be anything that spoke of the irrepressible human search for meaning.  It was easy enough, as I mapped out my plans in each new location, to locate these waystations for a modern pilgrim.

In the city of Amman, Jordan, I asked my driver to take me to a mosque; he accompanied me into the back of the spectacular King Abdullah Mosque, stood with me as I observed, and then turned to guide me back to the car. “No,” I said, “I’d like to kneel and pray for a few minutes.” He laughed first, thinking I was joking, but then guided me up front and left me alone. Those quiet moments I spent on my knees, reflecting on this religion so misunderstood by the West, have lasted longer in my memory than the many meals I savored along the way.

Flannery O'Connor's bedroom in Milledgeville, GA
The front desk clerk at my hotel in Milledgeville, Georgia, gave me a map to the house of Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor, and I drove there in my rental car that morning before my afternoon lecture.  In her lovingly preserved home you can see how carefully her bedroom was arranged in order to minimize the amount of walking she had to do from bed to writing desk and back again.  Her crutches lean against the dresser nearby, her help against the lupus that plagued her final years.  Whenever I find myself now with a deadline and a disinclination to write, I think of her dedication to her craft, and her God, and I set myself down and get to work.

In the Orlando airport, with some time on my hands between connecting flights, I spotted a chapel tucked away behind some banks of elevators.  Books from various faiths littered the couch and makeshift altar.  I paged through the prayer intention book, tears welling to my eyes: so many people pausing for a moment in the midst of their journeys to send a short letter to God, requesting safe journeys, cures from illness, or reunions with family and friends. I never felt closer to my fellow travelers.

My spiritual stops never last long; they are moments, and they pass as quickly as the best meal you have ever tasted, the most gorgeous sight you have ever seen, or the most beautiful symphony you have ever heard.  But from each of those stops I have taken something more lasting, a sense of belonging and connection with the other residents of this planet—all of us, in our daily lives and our travels, trying to make the moments last.    

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

New Book: Big Teaching!

I'm very happy to announce that I have signed a contract with Jossey-Bass for a new book, tentatively entitled Big Teaching: The Path to Innovation in Higher Education, to be published in 2018.  This book represents the sequel of sorts to my forthcoming book, Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning, due out in March of 2016 from Jossey-Bass.  You can get a taste of that book's approach in my most recent column for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

First, I should note that the idea of a sequel entitled Big Teaching comes from my spouse. So credit to Anne Lang for that.  Of course, she just gets to throw around ideas while I have to spend the next two years writing the actual book, but never mind that for now.  Thanks, dear!

Big Teaching will take me into the fascinating territory of exploring how really innovative teachers in higher education got to where they are now.  I read lots of books and articles and web sites about higher education, and I regularly come across accounts of faculty who are doing deeply innovative work in their courses. These are the folks who are radically transforming their students' lives, whose courses are making a positive difference to their local or even global communities, and who are working with their students on astonishing acts of creativity or invention.

What drives these folks?  Where do they get their ideas from?  How do they manage the messiness that can be so characteristic of major teaching innovations?  Can the rest of us follow their paths, or are they singular teaching geniuses? What can we learn from them about our students, about college teaching, and even about the creative process?  More broadly, what can we learn from them about the promise of higher education, about the extent to which we are meeting that promise, and about how higher education can continue to evolve and inspire our students and our society?

Ultimately, of course, I hope we will be able to learn from these innovators how to better tap into our own creativity as teachers, and even in our lives outside of the classroom. I equally hope we can learn from them how to push higher education more fully into contact with 21st-century students.  And I hope we can learn from them, finally, something about the nature of motivation: How do these inspiring teachers draw students into the magnetic, creative energy of their courses?  How do they keep them inspired throughout the semester?  How do they keep themselves inspired?

At the end of the book, I would like to have offered readers a taxonomy of some of the major pedagogical innovations that are available to us today, a blueprint for how teachers can find the creativity (not to mention the time and energy) to experiment with new pedagogical forms, and an argument for how higher education can best provide transformative learning experiences for the students of today and tomorrow.

All of which sounds like a very big task to me as I describe it here, and wrote it in the proposal.  But I will take a page from Small Teaching and begin, tomorrow morning, with the very small step of writing the first page.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Learning about Teaching from Tom Waits

If you know anything about Tom Waits, you probably know him as a distinctively-voiced musical chameleon, a singer whose throaty howl has earned him many devoted fans, like me, and many other non-listeners, like my wife, who cringe at the sound of his music when she hears it blaring from my home office speakers.  The sometimes grating rasp of his vocals tells only half the story of Waits’s unusual approach; his songs come in such a strange variety of styles, from beautiful ballads and jazzy riffs to carnival tunes and spoken word poems, that listening to an album of his from start to finish can be a jarring, mind-bending experience.  In service to the multiple musical styles that he explores on each album, and even from song to song, he also mixes in more musical instruments than any other performer I know: you are as likely to hear marimbas and accordions and theremins on a Tom Waits song as you are piano and guitars and drums.

A theremin

Waits has spoken eloquently about his use of these unusual instruments, and the way in which his attempts to learn and play such instruments has broken him from familiar musical patterns.  “Your hands are like dogs,” he explained once in an oft-quoted statement, “going to the same places they've been. You have to be careful when playing is no longer in the mind but in the fingers, going to happy places. You have to break them of their habits or you don't explore; you only play what is confident and pleasing. I'm learning to break those habits by playing instruments I know absolutely nothing about.”  You can see what a radical transformation Waits has undertaken in his musical career, with the help of these unusual instruments, if you listen to his first album, Closing Time.  Fans of his later work will barely recognize him in this album of beautiful, piano-driven ballads, sung in his normal voice.

Waits’s abandonment of familiar forms and his drive to experiment musically came to my mind recently as I listened to an episode of the podcast Teaching and Learning in Higher Ed with Amy Collier, the Associate Provost for Digital Learning at Middlebury College.  Both in the interview and in a post on her blog, Collier argues for the virtues of what she calls “not-yetness,” which refers to a willingness to try pedagogical strategies that we don’t yet have clear evidence to support.  She describes it on her blog like this: “Not-yetness is not satisfying every condition, not fully understanding something, not check-listing everything, not tidying everything, not trying to solve every problem…but creating space for emergence to take us to new and unpredictable places.”  We have evidence for lots of pedagogical strategies that produce learning; the concept of not-yetness reminds us that if we limit ourselves only to those strategies, we may never discover even more interesting and effective strategies waiting out there for us, or that we create ourselves.

But even beyond the measurable effectiveness of new strategies we might explore, I would argue for the pursuit of experimentation and novelty and “not-yetness” in our teaching as an essential tool for a teacher to remain inspired and engaged throughout a long career.  Our teaching strategies, like the fingers of a musician, can become like dogs: they go to the same familiar places over and over again.  If those strategies are producing learning, that’s wonderful; but if they are leading to the slow strangling of our passion for teaching, that will eventually manifest itself in our classrooms, our relationships with our students, and our commitment to our work.  I know that I tend to be good for about three iterations of a course before I get tired of it and need to make substantial changes, or at least need to put it away for a few semesters before I return to it.  I prefer to have variety in the courses I am teaching; if I can’t have that, as I sometimes can’t, I need variety in my course design, my classroom practices, and my assessment strategies. 

We can learn from Tom Waits, just as we can from the concept of not-yetness, that each new course offers us the opportunity to pull out the pedagogical equivalent of the waterphone or the theremin and see what happens.  In our wildest experiments we are likely to get the same kind of polarized response to our efforts as Tom Waits gets in my household: I love him, my wife hates him.  But if we are doing enough of that experimentation, and mixing up our efforts regularly, we’ll find something for most of our learners eventually.  And if we enter each new experiment with what mindfulness practitioners call a “kind curiosity,” interested but forgiving of our failures, we can use each new experiment to grow as teachers.

Take none of this to mean that we should not continue to explore how the learning sciences can help us teach more effectively, or that we should jettison evidence-based teaching practices.  As you will see when my new book Small Teaching is published this March, I believe firmly that the best teaching practices emerge from careful reflections on learning and how it works.  But I believe with equal firmness that we can become too locked into teaching strategies that work especially well for certain students and not others, that we repeat every semester without considering alternatives, and that slowly bore us into complacency. 

As I write this sentence the Tom Waits song in my headphones is a rhumba called “Straight to the Top,” a song and style of music I really don’t enjoy.  But that’s just fine—whatever the next song might be, it won’t sound anything like this one.

If you have never heard of Tom Waits, or don’t know much about his music, get your feet wet with his brilliant, frequently covered song “Downtown Train,” the only Tom Waits song my wife can tolerate.  

Friday, September 4, 2015

On Deep Learning: What Can Travel Teach Us?

I've been thinking a lot lately about the contours of the deepest learning experiences we have, one of which--at least for those of us who have been afforded the privilege--is travel to very unfamiliar places. I am now eight months beyond the trip I took to Ecuador with a group of students, where we lived in an invasion community outside of Guayaquil, learning about and understanding the challenges faced by a materially impoverished people.  I can recall experiences, sensations, people, and ideas more clearly from that trip than I can from almost any other experience of my life. My students, too, were profoundly affected.  One of them, a senior, decided after our trip that she wanted to do a year of service abroad after graduation, and is now teaching in Micronesia.
With students from Assumption College in downtown Guayaquil.
I tend to have a poor memory for my everyday life, probably because I spend more time than I should inside my head, but every one of my international travel experiences brings back to me a rich trove of memories, and has affected me deeply in some way or another.  I also know that many of my best book and article projects stemmed from insights I experienced while traveling, or were conceived of while I was on the road.  My cognitive faculties always seem to be in their highest gears when I am moving through unfamiliar places. This probably helps explain why I am always searching for reasons to go abroad, and jump on such opportunities whenever I can.

The question I have been mulling lately is this: what makes traveling to an unfamiliar place such a profound learning experience?  I have seen it change the lives and perspective of so many of the hundreds of students I have traveled abroad with to Ecuador and Ireland (six times and counting), and of my own children.  The reason this question matters to me is because I want to know what lessons we can take from these experiences about learning in more traditional formats.  Whatever drives the deep learning we do on travel, can we draw it back into the college classroom?

Here are some preliminary thoughts on what we experience during travel to unfamiliar places that helps create deep learning:

1) Full Sense Engagement.  No doubt part of the great pleasure of travel comes from sensual stimulation. We try new food and drinks, often more indulgently than we would while at home.  We seek out beautiful places like landscapes and cathedrals. Many of us wear our headphones while we are moving from one place to the next, listening to our favorite music.

2) Physical Movement.  Obviously travel involves movement, whether that means riding planes or trains or walking the streets of a new city.  We don't arrive at a foreign city and stay in our hotel room; we get out and about, moving our bodies. We walk, hike, ride bikes or horses, or just generally move more than we might do when we are at our desks for eight hours per day.

3) The Pleasure of Orientation. One of the main pleasure I take in arriving in a new city is trying to understand its layout, how it works, and how to get around. I look at maps, because I usually only have access to the internet when I am on wifi. No GPS to get around.  I start with the area right around my hotel, and then slowly expand my territory. I see this with my students as well; they take great pleasure in orienting themselves within new environments, getting the big picture and learning how to move around within it.  This may relate to the next point as well . . .

4) Manageable Cognitive Challenges.  We might not speak the language, or know how to put the card in the turnstile at the train station.  But we also know that these are challenges we can overcome.  We can make ourselves understood through gestures, or find someone who speaks our language.  I will figure out that turnstile if I just stand back and watch the locals do it. And we take pleasure in mastering these challenges.  Travel keeps us continually in what some theorists call desirable difficulties, or what Vygotsky called the zone of proximal development. We know how the world works generally; we just need to expand our understanding a little bit to see how it works here.

5) Heightened Cognition.  I think there is a good reason why I do some of my best thinking while traveling, and have stronger memories of it. Being in an unfamiliar places pricks up your attention, and you pay closer attention to your surroundings.  On your drive to work you are on automatic pilot; on your drive through an unfamiliar city you are looking out the window, wondering at what you are seeing, and paying attention. Thrusting yourself into a strange city puts your mind on alert.

6) Socializing. Even when we travel alone, as I frequently do on my visits to other colleges and universities, we are constantly interacting with others: the person on the plane seat next to you, the wait staff in restaurants, the hotel concierge, a fellow countryperson at the bar.  But we are often traveling with friends or family or colleagues, and so all of the pleasures outlined above are shared ones.

7) Guides Are Available. When we get stuck, or lost, or need advice, we have guides available to us. Sometimes those take the form of books or web searches; sometimes they are people we encounter along the way; sometimes they are people whose jobs consist of shaping our travel experiences.  In most cases we don't have someone telling us what to do all the time; instead, we have our plans, and we seek help when we need it.  Guides are available, not omnipresent.

8) Mixed Objectives.  This strikes me as a conceptually difficult one. While we often have reasons for our pleasure travel--to see a particular thing, or have a particular experience--we also are usually curious just to see what comes up.  If I have a full day alone in an unfamiliar city, I might plan visits to two places, but then know I still have a few hours open and can detour into a shopping district if the mood strikes me, or just spend a few hours hiking around the city. So we usually have some initial or overarching goal in mind, but we also usually leave ourselves open for new goals to develop.

9) Repeated Processing. No trip seems complete anymore these days until you have posted about on your social media accounts, regaled your friends and family with stories, and fallen asleep at night with those memories dancing in your head.  Many of us write in journals while we travel, take photographs, and these days even tell our stories in real time while we are on the wifi in our hotel or a care. That frequent rehearsal and processing of the experience undoubtedly sinks it into our minds more deeply.

I will stop here, although this does not by any means represent a comprehensive list. If you have additions you think belong on here, please make them in the comments below.

But now the question becomes: what can we learn from a list like this one?  We'll never be able to take every student to Ecuador or its equivalent even once, much less in every course they take. And perhaps we don't want to.  Every learning experience does not have to be the same, or be quite so comprehensive.  With that acknowledged, can we identify items on this list that don't currently feature in the typical college course experience, and that belong there?  Can we make a typical college course more like a trip abroad in its potential to create deep learning for students?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Chinese Translation of On Course

Around this time last year I received a letter from Harvard University Press letting me know that my book On Course: A Week-by-Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching was scheduled to be translated into Chinese.  This was such a wonderful and unexpected piece of news that I hung the letter up on the bulletin board above my desk so I could see it on a regular basis and remind myself of my good fortune.  The translation was promised to arrive in November of 2014.

Starting in around December 2014, I began doing searches for my book at the publisher that had been named in the letter, but their website had only a few small things in English, and so I never found it.  The spring rolled on by, and still I never heard anything about the translation or received any author copies.  I assumed that perhaps something had gone amiss.  This was actually supposed to be my second translated book, although I'm still not sure if the first book was published.  One year I received a royalty check for my share of the Greek translation rights of Life on the Tenure Track: Lessons from the First Year.  But, as in this case, no author copies every materialized, and so I'm still not sure if it was ever published in Greece (any Greek speakers out there, let me know!).

However, we returned from a family vacation earlier this month to find a box from Harvard University Press at the house, containing none other than the Chinese translation of On Course.  Even though I can't read a word of it, I still find it pretty thrilling to hold my first translated book--and even better that it has been translated into a language which LOTS of people speak.  If only every aspiring professor in China bought a copy . . . well, I'd be retired on a Greek island somewhere (and perhaps I would spot some fellow beach-goer reading the Greek translation of Life on the Tenure Track).

All of which is to say--send your aspiring-professor Mandarin-speaking friends to the website of South China Technological University Press, and tell them to pick up a copy.  It turns out that my book was translated and published as one of eight books on teaching and learning in higher education that the press acquired, including Therese Huston's Teaching What You Don't Know and Barbara Gross Davis's Tools for Teaching.  All of the authors also received e-mails from someone at the publisher inquiring about whether we would have an interest in coming to China at some point to give some lectures on teaching.  Nothing has been scheduled yet, but that will be a most welcome event if it materializes.

The interesting twist in this whole saga has been that my last book, Cheating Lessons, includes a chapter on the history of cheating that analyzes the Chinese civil service exams, on which there was rampant cheating.  So when the letter about the translation first arrived, I assumed initially that they were writing about a Chinese translation of Cheating Lessons.  It wasn't until I read the letter a second time that I realized it was about On Course.  But I am still holding out some hope that a Cheating Lessons translation may happen at some point as well.

For now, though, I'm still just celebrating.  I have the translated books on my desk, where I can see them every day.  Sometimes I pick one up and flip through it, admiring the neat rows of characters, and wondering what they say . . .

Monday, June 15, 2015

Call for Papers : Teaching the Literature Surveys

Like many experienced teachers, I have come to believe that the more I attempt to cover in my classes, the less the students learn.  The impulse to cover lots of material in a course inevitably leads to me standing in front of the room and speaking as much as possible (and/or assigning tons of reading), robbing my students of the opportunity to pause and really engage with any one piece of the syllabus.  That impulse can be difficult to resist, but I've gotten better at it over the years.  These days I'm content to cover much less that I used to, but work much harder to ensure that students are actively engaged with the selected course material.

This basic philosophy, which I have observed in almost every experienced and successful teacher I have encountered, works fine in all of my classes except the literature survey, the one course in my department--and in most English departments--that explicitly privileges coverage over depth.  The literature survey requires instructors and students to range over a large field of material, and almost by definition encourages us to take brief and superficial views of the texts we include.  Its intentions are good: it aims to provide a literary and historical framework within which future majors or teachers, or students in general, can contextualize the literature they will read in their more focused upper-level courses.  It also aims to introduce students to the most widely read authors of the past, and that can have multiple benefits: giving them a broad liberal arts education, piquing their interest in writers or issues that might draw them into future reading study, or providing them with the recognition that literary and cultural forms (and our evaluation of those forms) evolve and transform over time. All good.

But we have increasing evidence from the learning sciences that students need repeated, active engagements with course material in order to learn it deeply.  However we attempt to cover all of the material that the survey demands we include, whether that means lectures or readings or some other model, we are working against the model of deep and sustained engagement that students need in order to focus their attention, process the readings deeply, and retain our course material.

From this dilemma emerges a new project, to be published by West Virginia University Press, designed to draw the attention of the discipline to the challenges we face in teaching literature survey courses, gather new ideas and approaches, and stimulate a conversation about lit survey courses and how we can teach them most effectively--and even, perhaps, whether we should teach them all.  This volume will be co-edited by James M. Lang, Gwynn Dujardin, and John Staunton, and will appear in the new Teaching and Learning in Higher Education series from WVUP.

Although we are open to any possible essays on this topic, we are especially interested in essays that explore the following topics: histories and theories of the literature survey courses; traditional and alternative models of design, what makes them work and what doesn't; specific in-class practices, assignments, and other practical approaches to survey pedagogy that authors have experimented with, both successes and failures; institutional challenges and opportunities to revising or re-thinking the surveys; avenues for opening up the survey through the digital humanities or through innovative pedagogies such as Reacting to the Past, service learning, or inquiry-based learning.

If you are interested in submitting an essay for the book, please e-mail a 1-2 page overview of your projected topic and a bio paragraph or CV to Gwynn Dujardin.  Inquiries will be accepted until November 30th; final manuscripts will be due April 1, 2016.  Please join the conversation and spread the word to colleagues who might be interested.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Proud Little Brother

I've never been much for ceremonies and rituals, academic or otherwise, but last week I had the pleasure of witnessing the inaugural lecture and university vote of thanks for my older brother Tony Lang at St. Andrews University, and what a treat it was.  Tony was promoted to the equivalent of full professor at St. Andrews this year, and as a part of that process he was invited to give a public lecture on his research, followed by a brief speech in which a colleague describes the importance of his research and his value to the university.

Tony created and directs the Centre for Global Constitutionalism at St. Andrews, and this has been the subject of his recent research.  His lecture was entitled "Is There a Global Constitution?"  The lecture began by noting a difference between a "constitution," or written document tied to a specific political entity, and "constitutionalism," which is more of a theoretical description of what constitutions should do: namely, they both allow people to exercise power through rules and laws that they create, but also ensure that people are limited by the institutions and laws they create.

Of course most nations have written constitutions (he noted that the UK was an interesting exception to this rule); the question of the lecture was whether or not we have any global constitution, or even a shared understanding of constitutionalism at the global level. Tony pointed out that we have a number of organizations which have features of a global constitution: the UN, NATO, the EU, for example.  But all of these constitutions, he argued, are not good examples of global constitutionalism.  They lack certain essential features of written constitutions, or do not reach to the global level.

In the conclusion to his lecture, Tony argued that we should push toward a global constitutionalism by attempting to seek shared understandings and agreements between nations in some key areas, such as the rule of law, the separation of powers, and human rights.  He suggested that global constitutionalism can challenge domestic political institutions to continue to evolve in positive directions, and that it can build successfully upon existing global constitutions such as the UN, even if it ultimately must move beyond any currently existing organization.

Following the lecture, a colleague of Tony's stood and read a wonderful tribute to him and his research, describing him as her "ideal professor," as someone who was doing incredibly important research and yet also making valuable contributions to the education of his doctoral and undergraduate students at St. Andrews University. It was a proud and happy speech for this little brother to hear, as well as my father and oldest brother who had joined me for the trip to Scotland.  (And in case you were wondering, we did indeed celebrate the next day with a round of golf on the Eden course at St. Andrews.)

So congratulations to Tony Lang for his promotion to full professor at St. Andrews University!


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Principles of Effective College Teaching

Last year I had the privilege of visiting Madison, Wisconsin to record an online course on Principles of Effective College Teaching for Magna Publications (publisher of many helpful resources for higher education faculty, including Faculty Focus and the Teaching Professor).  This was one of the most pleasant work weeks of my life, not least because nothing beats hanging around Madison during the summer.  After we finished recording every day I had the opportunity to jog or bike around the lakes, hang out at the student union, or browse the bookstores downtown.  Can't get much better than that.
View from the University of Wisconsin Student Union

Designing, preparing, and recording this course gave me the chance to take the research on effective teaching for new faculty that I had conducted for my book On Course and supplement it with the research on teaching and learning that I have been doing for my forthcoming book.  The course consists of three major units, along with an introduction and conclusion.  Each unit of the course comes complete with three video mini-lectures, suggested readings, handouts, worksheets, and learning checks.  The three units cover "Framing the Course" (course design), "Learning in the Classroom" (the mechanics of day-to-day teaching), and "Feedback and Evaluation" (for both students and faculty).  I had great fun filming the videos, and I hope it shows.

The course provides an ideal opportunity for graduate student teachers and new faculty to get quickly up to speed on some basic principles of learning theory and its implications for college teachers, as well as to prepare themselves practically for college teaching.  Early-career faculty who haven't done much reading in the literature of teaching and learning in higher education will also benefit from some of the resources and ideas in the course.  Finally, and most importantly, I envisioned the course as especially helpful to the many adjunct faculty in the US and abroad who are thrown into classrooms without much support or training of any kind.  This course should provide new or early-career adjuncts with the fundamentals they need to help their students learn--and to have a more enjoyable and satisfying experience as a new(-ish) teacher.

If you take the course and have feedback, please feel free to drop me a line with comments, questions, suggestions, etc.  I'm happy to hear from you!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Small Teaching!

So happy to announce that I finished the first draft of my new book, Small Teaching: From Minor Changes to Major Learning, on Monday of this week.  (Pictured: my wife and I celebrating this momentous event, and her school having a snow day, with a day of skiing.)

The book looks at recent research on learning from a variety of disciplines--cognitive psychology, education, neuroscience--and makes the case that we are actually doing a lot of things right in higher education teaching and learning--but that some small changes we can make to any type of course environment have the power to really boost student learning.  The book has pushed and driven my reading farther afield than usual, but it has led me into some fascinating new places in my own development as a teacher and I hope it will do the same for readers.  Although the book speaks most directly to college and university teachers, the basic "small teaching" approach will translate into any educational level, and I hope the writing and examples are accessible enough to open the book up to teachers everywhere.

I am going to take a week away from it as I travel to Hungary next week to give some workshops at Central European University, and then it will be a few weeks of revising, formatting, filling out the notes and so forth.  My drop-dead deadline is March 16th, which means I hope to have a very happy St. Patrick's Day celebration the next day.

Assuming that both I and the publisher stay on track, Small Teaching will be published by Jossey-Bass in early 2016. Can't wait!