Pedagogy Corner: How speedbumps can accelerate student learning

speedbumpsAs a textbook author, have you ever asked your students how they read your book? An inquiry into how your students read their textbooks may reveal much information that can help authors design textbooks with students in mind.

I recall when I was a college student―yes, a very long time ago―how I read a textbook chapter for a college course: I set aside at least 3 hours of undistracted time, read the entire chapter word-for-word, took copious notes, spent time examining and understanding all of the figures, and then systematically answered every single end-of-chapter question. Only after this procedure did I feel like I had a good understanding of the material. [Read more…]

Textbook pedagogy helps students review and retain subject matter

Sullivan Precalculus 11eMy field, mathematics, is a discipline in which the complexity of the subject increases with each course and each course requires a certain amount of recall from prior courses. While some students do quite well in transitioning to the next mathematical challenge, there are many who don’t bridge easily to the new content. Furthermore, students are prone to forget material learned earlier in the current course that they now need.

As a professor of mathematics, having taught for over 35 years, I am well acquainted with the reluctance of students to review material when their recall of it is imperfect. When I faced up to this issue a while back in revising my four-book Precalculus series, now in the 11th edition, I decided to confront the problem head-on. [Read more…]

Textbook pedagogy: Improving chapter summaries encourages collaborative learning

Saladin Textbook CoversIn my field, human anatomy and physiology (A&P), like many others, it is customary to end each textbook chapter with a concept review and self-testing exercises. For the first five editions of my Anatomy & Physiology—The Unity of Form and Function, I titled my end-of-chapter feature “Chapter Review” and its first section, “Review of Key Concepts.” I followed the traditional practice of summarizing the chapter in short declarative sentences like these:

  • Microvilli are short surface extensions of the plasma membrane that increase a cell’s surface area. They are especially well developed on absorptive cells, as in the kidney and small intestine. On some cells, they play a sensory role.
  • Parathyroid hormone is secreted by the parathyroid glands in response to hypocalcemia. It raises blood Ca2+ levels by indirectly stimulating osteoclasts, inhibiting osteoblasts, promoting calcitriol synthesis, and promoting Ca2+ conservation by the kidneys.

[Read more…]

Top 5 tips for creating and maintaining a successful coauthoring relationship

Frank Carrano and Timothy Henry have coauthored two editions each of computer science textbooks Data Abstractions & Problem Solving with Walls And Mirrors C++ and Data Structures and Abstractions with JAVA. Here they detail their top five tips for maintaining a successful coauthoring relationship.

1) Have a Coauthoring Contract or Agreement

When you and your coauthor decided to work together, you may have been long-time friends and coworkers, you may have been connected by your publisher, or you may have met at a conference. However the relationship was established, it is important to have your writing relationship clearly stated in a contract. A coauthoring contractual agreement should specify royalty splits, writing responsibilities, and future edition commitments. If you have not worked together previously, you may want to consider a work-for-hire arrangement to test your ability to collaborate. This can reduce the risk to future editions. Another option is to add the coauthor for the current edition only. That is, amend your contract for one edition at a time. [Read more…]

Can blogging help get you published?

blogging to publishedBlogging is often discussed and sometimes misunderstood, as it relates to academic publishing. Some people feel it takes away from valuable book or article writing time.  This can be true, depending on how disciplined (or not) a person is. Others feel the format is so free form that it does not help hone the skills of an academic writer.

I think blogging can be a valuable addition to your writing life. The blog can be professional, like my relatively new blog on scholarly publishing, or personal. Regardless, here are some reasons to consider blogging and how doing so may help get your work published: [Read more…]

10 Tips on getting writing started

Many academics find sitting down at the computer and starting to write to be one of the most difficult challenges facing them. One reason for this, as one of my students put it so well, “if I never start, then I never fail.” Other reasons include getting out of the habit of writing—or never having a writing habit at all.

While tough to overcome, these obstacles do have some straightforward solutions. Here I share ten tips on getting your writing project started and moving it toward completion. [Read more…]

Dear Katy: Tips & strategies on setting boundaries

So many of the questions I am asked by my clients, colleagues, and friends boil down to boundaries. And no wonder, the world continually invents more ways for us to be connected across time and space all while our professional lives demand that we write, write well, and write quickly. To discuss this issue, I’ve rounded up a few questions about boundaries I’ve received to answer here, to both fulfill my lifelong goal to be an advice columnist (😉), and also to illustrate that boundaries are important for all of us, no matter our title, rank, or experience!

Q: “I am a newly appointed chair of my department, and my manuscript is due at the end of 2019. I know that campus will not be a useful writing space for me, but I’m also not the best at writing at home, or in other spaces. How can I make this work for me?” [Read more…]

4 benefits of using Trello as an academic

publishing pipeline on paperIn March 2019, Angelique M. Davis, Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of Global African Studies at Seattle University; and academic editor and writing consultant, Rose Ernst, presented a TAA webinar titled “How Trello Can Transform Your Life as an Academic”. For those unfamiliar with the tool, Trello is a collaborative platform that uses boards, lists, and cards to organize projects.

During this event, Davis and Ernst incorporated a demonstration and template of a Trello board based on Erin Furtak’s publishing pipeline. As related to the publishing pipeline, they shared the following four specific benefits academics can gain by using Trello. [Read more…]

5 Tips for visualizing data with charts

Show Me! The Art of Using Visual Elements to Enhance a ManuscriptIn my recent TAA webinar, “Show Me! The Art of Using Visual Elements to Enhance a Manuscript“, I shared best practices for incorporating tables, figures, and charts into your manuscripts and the tools available for developing those visual elements.

One of my favorite forms of visual element is a chart. Charts combine the visual appeal of figures with the data content of tables and can be quite effective in conveying context and purpose when used properly. For greatest success, I offer the following five tips for chart usage in your next manuscript. [Read more…]

Figuring it out: Trends for visuals in academic writing

Comic Strip Frame with text "Write, write, write! Will anyone read all these words?"Online exchanges are increasingly visual. Even staid newspaper sites now embed media or graphic stories. Almost every mobile device includes a camera, and the means to quickly upload and share still images or media. Graphics and drawing software are readily available. What do these trends mean for academic writing? What kinds of figures or other visual materials are scholars using to communicate about their research? How are electronic journals changing the options for the use of media and images? With these questions in mind, I explored trends and looked examples of visuals in academic writing that extend beyond the typical black and white figure. [Read more…]