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Anyone who has gone to university has likely sat through some really bad lectures. Dense slides. Too much content. Hour or more of the lecturer talking, with no interaction. Poor structure. Teaching at a level beyond the audience.
Norman Eng has put his many years of experience teaching into this books, giving great guidance as to how to improve lectures and teaching in general, and to avoid giving the bad lectures. Eng shows studies that prove that much of what if taught in long lectures is lost – with attention spans disappearing after 20 minutes at most. He then presents ways to avoid this.
While simplify the content of the book down really doesn’t do it justice, the book can be boiled down to (it you really had to) two main concepts: “know your audience” and “teach like you would for K-12 students”. For kids and teens teaching is interactive, engaging, varied and usually done in short bursts broken up by activities. And yet once you are out of university we are suddenly expecting students (who might only be 1 year different to a high school kid) to sit through and hour plus of talking and pick up everything that is said. The “knowing your audience” is about pitching it to their level, explaining it in ways that are relevant and making sure that the students are engaged rather than seeing it as abstract concepts.
While I am not a university lecturer, I have done some lecturing previously and regularly do presentations at work. And the content of this book is useful there, beyond the scope of just “teaching college”.
The book also has an “about the author” right up front, explaining his history and experience. I really appreciated this as it told me where Engwas coming from and why what he taught in the book would be trustworthy.
The narration by Joseph Brookhouse is good. Clear, crisp, well-paced. He does a good work covering the topics and conveying the information within. No glaring issues at all with the narration or audio production.
The book also gives you access to a lot of additional supporting materials as Eng's website: normaneng.org/audiobook-resources
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Any additional comments?
This book was a great reminder of perspectives, tips, and strategies for teaching at the post-secondary level. Most of the ideas in the book are consistent with what I learned as a B.Ed. student (class of 2007), and with the professional development resources/training at the post-secondary institution where I currently teach full-time. Although I'm generally familiar with the material, I definitely believe that it was worthwhile to review the ideas in the book and reflect on ways that I could improve my teaching. The audio narration was well done and I truly appreciate it when audiobook authors provide links to resources! (I'd be in heaven if I could get digital access to illustrations from print copies of my audiobooks, via password protected web pages...)
Based on my own experiences as a post-secondary educator, I would suggest that you shouldn't feel like you need to follow all of the tips in this book (there are so many good ideas, it would be overwhelming to try to adopt all of them at once). However, if you follow at least some of them you will become a better educator. Even minor changes can result in major improvements (from a student engagement perspective). If you're as engaged with the students as you want them to be engaged with you, then you'll be able to detect what works and what doesn't work when you teach. Don't expect perfection right away, adopt a continuous improvement approach to your lessons, and enjoy the high that you feel at the end of a really effective class (it helps offset those days when students don't seem to find any of your jokes funny!).
Anyway, this book was an enjoyable read. Even if the material is familiar to some readers, it's never a bad idea to think about one's philosophy of teaching and consider how that philosophy translates into practice.
I provided my opinion in exchange for a complimentary copy of the audiobook from the author, narrator, or publisher.
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