Skip to main content

Recommended Resources

Books and Topics

The topics addressed in a Nielsen Center workshop are nested in successively broader issues.

Analysis of effective teaching practices is at the core.

The integration of these teaching practices into a coherent and sustainable philosophy of teaching deepens this critical reflection.

And the goal is the alignment of teaching strategies and vocational identity with the aims and purposes of a liberal arts education, increasing the capacity to contribute to campus conversations.

Reflection on the Practice of Teaching

Workshop Fellows work on the design and delivery of their courses, workshopping syllabi and assignments together, surfacing for examination their assumptions and intentions as classroom teachers.

Sample Topics

  • Course design, scaffolding assignments, and alignment with assessment
  • Teaching writing, reading, quantitative literacy, and critical thinking
  • Classroom management, lectures and active learning strategies

Grounded in the significant scholarship on student learning, such as:

The Craft of College Teaching

Robert DiYanni and Anton Borst

The essential how-to guide to successful college teaching and learning

The college classroom is a place where students have the opportunity to be transformed and inspired through learning―but teachers need to understand how students actually learn. Robert DiYanni and Anton Borst provide an accessible, hands-on guide to the craft of college teaching, giving instructors the practical tools they need to help students achieve not only academic success but also meaningful learning to last a lifetime.

How Humans Learn: The Science and Stories Behind Effective College Teaching

Joshua Eyler

Even on good days, teaching is a challenging profession. One way to make the job of college instructors easier, however, is to know more about the ways students learn. How Humans Learn aims to do just that by peering behind the curtain and surveying research in fields as diverse as developmental psychology, anthropology, and cognitive neuroscience for insight into the science behind learning.

The Missing Course: Everything They Never Taught You About College Teaching

David Gooblar

Professors know a lot, but they are rarely taught how to teach. The author of the Chronicle of Higher Education’s popular “Pedagogy Unbound” column explains everything you need to know to be a successful college instructor.

How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching

Susan Ambrose et. al.

Any conversation about effective teaching must begin with a consideration of how students learn. However, instructors may find a gap between resources that focus on the technical research on learning and those that provide practical classroom strategies. How Learning Works provides the bridge for such a gap.

Understanding by Design

Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe

Combining provocative ideas, thoughtful analysis, and tested approaches, this new edition of Understanding by Design offers teacher-designers a clear path to the creation of curriculum that ensures better learning and a more stimulating experience for students and teachers alike.

Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning

James Lang

Research into how we learn can help facilitate better student learning—if we know how to apply it. Small Teaching fills the gap in higher education literature between the primary research in cognitive theory and the classroom environment. In this book, James Lang presents a strategy for improving student learning with a series of small but powerful changes that make a big difference―many of which can be put into practice in a single class period. These are simple interventions that can be integrated into pre-existing techniques, along with clear descriptions of how to do so.

Minding Bodies: How Physical Space, Sensation, and Movement Affect Learning

Susan Hrach

Starting from new research on the body—aptly summarized as “sitting is the new smoking”—Minding Bodies aims to help instructors improve their students’ knowledge and skills through physical movement, attention to the spatial environment, and sensitivity to humans as more than “brains on sticks.” It shifts the focus of adult learning from an exclusively mental effort toward an embodied, sensory-rich experience, offering new strategies to maximize the effectiveness of time spent learning together on campus as well as remotely.

Teaching Change: How to Develop Independent Thinkers Using Relationships, Resilience, and Reflection

José Antonio Bowen

In Teaching Change, José Antonio Bowen argues that education needs to be redesigned to take into account how human thinking, behaviors, bias, and change really work. Drawing on new research, Bowen explores how we can create better conditions for learning that focus less on teachers and content and more on students and process. He also examines student psychology, history, assumptions, anxiety, and bias and advocates for education to focus on a new 3Rs—relationships, resilience, and reflection. Finally, he suggests explicit learning designs to foster the ability to think for yourself.

Reflection on the Vocation of Teaching

Workshop Fellows help one another discover and articulate what motivates their teaching life — what supports them, what challenges or blocks them. This self-knowledge is a reservoir of strength and resilience for constructing an increasingly effective professional life.  

Sample Topics

  • Who am I as a teacher? Who are my students? Who are my colleagues? 
  • Institutional citizenship, faculty governance, and learning to thrive in institutional culture
  • Mentoring students, mentoring faculty, and being mentored by others
  • Composing a sustainable professional and personal life 
  • Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in liberal arts contexts

Grounded in the significant scholarship on student learning, such as:

The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy 

Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber

In The Slow Professor, Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber discuss how adopting the principles of the Slow movement in academic life can counter this erosion of humanistic education. Focusing on the individual faculty member and his or her own professional practice, Berg and Seeber present both an analysis of the culture of speed in the academy and ways of alleviating stress while improving teaching, research, and collegiality. The Slow Professor will be a must-read for anyone in academia concerned about the frantic pace of contemporary university life.

Beautiful Risks: Having the Courage to Teach and Learn Creatively

Ronald Beghetto

Teaching To Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

bell hooks

Full of passion and politics, Teaching to Transgress combines a practical knowledge of the classroom with a deeply felt connection to the world of emotions and feelings. This is the rare book about teachers and students that dares to raise questions about eros and rage, grief and reconciliation, and the future of teaching itself.

What Our Stories Teach Us: A Guide to Critical Reflection for College Faculty

Linda K. Shadlow

In her new book What Our Stories Teach Us, Linda Shadiow invites college faculty to use their personal and professional stories to reflect more critically and meaningfully on their teaching practice. Guiding her readers with a gentle but sure hand, Shadiow painstakingly shows that by systematically examining our educational and pedagogical biographies from a range of perspectives, we gain deeper insight into the pivotal moments that enliven our teaching and sustain our commitment to ongoing professional growth.

Race, Politics, and Pandemic Pedagogy: Education in a Time of Crisis

Henry Giroux

In this book Henry A. Giroux passionately argues that education and critical pedagogy are needed now more than ever to combat injustices in our society caused by fake news, toxic masculinity, racism, consumerism and white nationalism. At the heart of the book is the idea that pedagogy has the power to create narratives of desire, values, identity, and agency at time when these narratives are being manipulated to promote right wing populism and emerging global fascist politics.

Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher

Stephen Brookfield

A practical guide to the essential practice that builds better teachers.

Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher is the landmark guide to critical reflection, providing expert insight and practical tools to facilitate a journey of constructive self-critique. Stephen Brookfield shows how you can uncover and assess your assumptions about practice by viewing them through the lens of your students’ eyes, your colleagues’ perceptions, relevant theory and research, and your own personal experience.

Teaching with Tenderness: Toward an Embodied Practice

Becky Thompson

Teaching with Tenderness follows in the tradition of bell hooks’s Teaching to Transgress and Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, inviting us to draw upon contemplative practices (yoga, meditation, free writing, mindfulness, ritual) to keep our hearts open as we reckon with multiple injustices. Teaching with tenderness makes room for emotion, offers a witness for experiences people have buried, welcomes silence, breath and movement, and sees justice as key to our survival. It allows us to rethink our relationship to grading, office hours, desks, and faculty meetings, sees paradox as a constant companion, moves us beyond binaries; and praises self and community care.

Class and the College Classroom: Essays on Teaching

Robert C. Rosen

Class and the College Classroom offers a broader look at the connections between college teaching and social class.It collects and reprints twenty essays originally published in Radical Teacher, a journal that has been a leader in the field of critical pedagogy since 1975. This wide-ranging and insightful volume addresses the interests, concerns, and pedagogical needs of teachers committed to social justice and provides them with new tools for thinking and teaching about class.

Reflections on Liberal Arts Education

Workshop Fellows read and discuss texts that analyze the history and goals of liberal arts education, and explore their own institution’s articulation of these goals and how they are addressed in the college curriculum. 

Sample Topics

  • The histories, goals, processes and outcomes of liberal arts educational contexts
  • How disciplinary courses contribute to these goals, processes, and outcomes
  • Negotiating ideological, socio-political, and economic challenges to small liberal arts colleges
  • Teaching in an age of disinformation and social media

Grounded in the significant scholarship on liberal education, such as:

College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be

Andrew Delbanco

As the commercialization of American higher education accelerates, more and more students are coming to college with the narrow aim of obtaining a preprofessional credential. The traditional four-year college experience―an exploratory time for students to discover their passions and test ideas and values with the help of teachers and peers―is in danger of becoming a thing of the past.

In College, prominent cultural critic Andrew Delbanco offers a trenchant defense of such an education, and warns that it is becoming a privilege reserved for the relatively rich. In describing what a true college education should be, he demonstrates why making it available to as many young people as possible remains central to America’s democratic promise.

Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters

Michael Roth

Contentious debates over the benefits—or drawbacks—of a liberal education are as old as America itself. From Benjamin Franklin to the Internet pundits, critics of higher education have attacked its irrelevance and elitism—often calling for more vocational instruction. Thomas Jefferson, by contrast, believed that nurturing a student’s capacity for lifelong learning was useful for science and commerce while also being essential for democracy. In this provocative contribution to the disputes, university president Michael S. Roth focuses on important moments and seminal thinkers in America’s long-running argument over vocational vs. liberal education.

The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution

C.P. Snow

This is the publication of the influential 1959 Rede Lecture by British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow. Its thesis was that “the intellectual life of the whole of western society” was split into the titular two cultures – namely the sciences and the humanities – and that this was a major hindrance to solving the world’s problems. Published in book form, Snow’s lecture was widely read and discussed on both sides of the Atlantic, leading him to write a 1963 follow-up, “The Two Cultures: And a Second Look: An Expanded Version of The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution.”

Democracy and Education

John Dewey

John Dewey’s Democracy and Education addresses the challenge of providing quality public education in a democratic society. In this classic work Dewey calls for the complete renewal of public education, arguing for the fusion of vocational and contemplative studies in education and for the necessity of universal education for the advancement of self and society. First published in 1916, Democracy and Education is regarded as the seminal work on public education by one of the most important scholars of the century.

Remaking College: Innovation and the Liberal Arts

Rebecca Chopp, Susan Frost, and Daniel H. Weiss, eds.

Remaking College brings together a distinguished group of higher education leaders to define the American liberal arts model, to describe the challenges these institutions face, and to propose sustainable solutions. These essays elucidate the shifting economic and financial models for liberal arts colleges and consider the opportunities afforded by technology, globalism, and intercollegiate cooperative models. By exploring new ideas, offering bold proposals, and identifying emerging lessons, the authors consider the unique position these schools can play in their communities and in the larger world.

In Defense of a Liberal Education

Fareed Zakaria

Zakaria eloquently expounds on the virtues of a liberal arts education―how to write clearly, how to express yourself convincingly, and how to think analytically. He turns our leaders’ vocational argument on its head. American routine manufacturing jobs continue to get automated or outsourced, and specific vocational knowledge is often outdated within a few years. Engineering is a great profession, but key value-added skills you will also need are creativity, lateral thinking, design, communication, storytelling, and, more than anything, the ability to continually learn and enjoy learning―precisely the gifts of a liberal education.

What’s Liberal about the Liberal Arts?

Michael Bérubé

Described as one of the “101 Most Dangerous Academics in America” by right-wing critic David Horowitz, Michael Bérubé has become a leading liberal voice in the ongoing culture wars. This “smooth and swift read” (New Criterion) offers a definitive rebuttal of conservative activists’ most incendiary claims about American universities, and in the process makes a supple case for liberalism itself. An important polemic as well as “a clear-eyed, occasionally quite humorous account of the joys and frustrations of running a college classroom” (New York Observer), this book is required reading for anyone concerned about the political climate on and off campus.

Distinctively American: The Residential Liberal Arts Colleges

Koblik Steven and R. Graubard Stephen, eds.

Distinctively American examines the American liberal arts college as an institution, from its role in the lives of students, to its value as a form of education. It explores the threats faced by liberal arts colleges as well as the transformative role, both positive and negative, information technology will play in their future development and survival. In the preface introducing the volume, Stephen Graubard examines the history of the American liberal arts colleges, from their early disdained reputations in comparison to European schools, to their slow rise to becoming “world-class universities.”

Redefining Liberal Arts Education in the 21st Century

Robert Luckett and William Adams, eds.

Redefining Liberal Arts Education in the Twenty-First Century delves into the essential nature of the liberal arts in America today. During a time when the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math dominate the narrative around the future of higher education, the liberal arts remain vital but frequently dismissed academic pursuits. While STEAM has emerged as a popular acronym, the arts get added to the discussion in a way that is often rhetorical at best. Written by scholars from a diversity of fields and institutions, the essays in this collection legitimize the liberal arts and offer visions for the role of these disciplines in the modern world.

Beyond Reason and Tolerance: The Purpose and Practice of Higher Education

Robert J. Thompson

Beyond Reason and Tolerance argues that to foster the development of these capabilities, colleges and universities must recommit to providing a formative liberal education and adopt a developmental model of undergraduate education as a process of intellectual and personal growth, involving empathy as well as reasoning, values as well as knowledge, and identity as well as competencies. Thompson focuses on emerging adulthood as an especially dynamic time of reorganization and development of the brain that both influences, and is influenced by, the undergraduate experience. Advances in our understanding of human development and learning are synthesized with regard to the direct implications for undergraduate education practices.

The Evidence Liberal Arts Needs: Lives of Consequence, Inquiry, and Accomplishment

Richard A. Detweiler

In ongoing debates over the value of a college education, the role of the liberal arts in higher education has been blamed by some for making college expensive, impractical, and even worthless. Defenders argue that liberal arts education makes society innovative, creative, and civic-minded. But these qualities are hard to quantify, and many critics of higher education call for courses of study to be strictly job-specific. In this groundbreaking book, Richard Detweiler, drawing on interviews with more than 1,000 college graduates aged 25 to 65, offers empirical evidence for the value of a liberal arts education. Detweiler finds that a liberal arts education has a lasting impact on success, leadership, altruism, learning, and fulfillment over a lifetime.

The Post-Pandemic Liberal Arts College: A Manifesto for Reinvention

Steven Volk and Beth Benedix

Private liberal arts colleges have struggled for decades; now, as the COVID-19 pandemic widens cracks latent in many American institutions, they are facing a possibly mortal crisis. In The Post-Pandemic Liberal Arts College: A Manifesto for Reinvention, Steven Volk and Beth Benedix call for small colleges to seize this moment and reinvent themselves. With the rise of rankings that set peer institutions against each other, tuition that outpaces income, creeping pre-professionalism, and a race to build student “customers” the splashiest new amenities, many private liberal arts colleges have strayed from their founders’ missions. If they could shed the mantle of exclusivity, reduce costs, facilitate true social mobility, and collaborate with each other, the authors argue, they might both survive and again become just, equitable, accessible institutions able to offer the transformative and visionary education that is their hallmark.