Most of us have a fixed mindset about intelligence. For a variety of reasons, we expect or act on the assumption that some of our students are not capable of learning advanced material, regardless of how well we teach it. We often tell ourselves (and, unintentionally, our students) that some people are just smarter than others, and that part of the educational experience is separating those of us who are intelligent and those of you who are not. In this book, Dr. Saundra McGuire shares her experience working with students who struggle academically: “I now know that there are students who have an arsenal of strategies at their disposal and there are students who don't. It just appears that students using strategies are smart and that students without them are slow.” Her thesis, supported by a growing body of evidence, is that all students can succeed if given the appropriate tools and strategies.
To that end, McGuire delivers more than a book; this is a tool kit that includes relevant examples, concrete and practical strategies, and numerous links to electronic resources and media intended to facilitate increased metacognition (thinking about how you think) in the classroom. The book begins by describing the author's transition from a professor who teaches her students, to one who helps her students learn. It's a subtle distinction, but a life-changing one for the students who never developed the skills needed to thrive when academically challenged. Several explanations for why our students come to the classroom unprepared are proposed, and the author addresses many of these obstacles, referencing the current literature on the topic and providing relevant anecdotes.
Dozens of metacognitive skills and intervention strategies are presented throughout the text. Condensed versions of this information are also found in the extensive appendix for easy future reference. Perhaps the most practical section of the book is the step-by-step guide through the exact steps the author takes when advising an individual student or when presenting metacognitive strategies to a group. McGuire goes so far as to offer three separate sets of lecture slides for download. These can be used directly or modified to fit individual needs.
The author's anecdotal evidence can seem excessive, including e-mails and letters from students, student feedback, and specific examples of students’ scores on quizzes and assignments. Perhaps other readers may find them useful to bolster the book's argument that this is an effective way to mentor students in the classroom.
Faculty development is typically focused on improving methods to deliver information to our students, and it remains an essential part of what we do. However, according to McGuire, “great explanations are only one arm of effective teaching. The other arm involves teaching students how to learn material on their own, without help.” This book is designed to help all of us do just that. Teach Students How to Learn is an easily accessible reference that clearly lays out actionable items that can transform student success in the classroom immediately.