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.