Claire McDonnell reviews this book, centered around the development of a learning-centred apporach

University teaching in focus: a learning-centred approach
Lynne Hunt and Denise Chalmers (eds)
Abingdon, UK: Routledge 2012 | Pp352 | £29.99 (PB) | ISBN9780415644068
Reviewed by Claire McDonnell

Cover of University teaching in focus: a learning-centred approach

This book, aimed at early career academic staff, has contributions from 21 experts. I had initial concerns that the ‘too many cooks’ adage would apply but they quickly disappeared: the editors have produced a clearly structured text that has been shaped into a coherent, consistent whole. This is facilitated by extensive cross-referencing between chapters and a single, shared bibliography at the end.

The book has 16 chapters grouped into four appropriate and relevant themes; teaching, curriculum, students, and quality and leadership. It is scaffolded so that ideas and concepts are developed gradually. Each chapter includes examples as well as questions to encourage reflection and application to local contexts. Useful frameworks and summaries are incorporated and references to core literature and to practical resources are provided.

The central tenet is the development of a learning-centred approach. The description of teachers who do so adopting a ‘meddler in the middle’ role was informative. Another principle incorporated is that there is no one path that works for everyone and the aim is to inform and guide. Reference to a comparison of teaching to white-water rafting rang true as did the metaphor of the curriculum as a suitcase (both are of no use if overstuffed). It is good to see that two of the case studies described apply to chemistry and several more are science-related. The issue of moving from the general to the specific is addressed early on in a chapter on discipline-based teaching.

The inclusion of chapters on the scholarship of teaching and learning and on leadership is timely and ensures that all facets of academic life are dealt with. This is a comprehensive and current text. A minor, and admittedly personal, gripe is that service learning was mentioned only briefly.

The individual chapters could be read in isolation and are of a manageable length. This flexibility also makes the book a valuable resource for more experienced academics. For this reason, I intend to keep my copy, which already has a fine collection of sticky notes attached, within easy reach for the foreseeable future.

Related Links

 University teaching in focus: a learning-centred approach 

Lynne Hunt and Denise Chalmers (eds)