Combining academic research on learning and motivation with insights drawn from interviews with people who have won Nobel Prizes, Emmys, fame, or the admiration of people in their field, Ken Bain identifies the key attitudes that distinguished the best college students from their peers. These individuals started out with the belief that intelligence and ability are expandable, not fixed. This led them to make connections across disciplines, to develop a “meta-cognitive” understanding of their own ways of thinking, and to find ways to negotiate ill-structured problems rather than simply looking for right answers. Intrinsically motivated by their own sense of purpose, they were not demoralized by failure nor overly impressed with conventional notions of success. These movers and shakers didn’t achieve success by making success their goal. For them, it was a byproduct of following their intellectual curiosity, solving useful problems, and taking risks in order to learn and grow.
The geographical distribution of the campuses of the UW Colleges and the workloads of our faculty and IAS make traditional reading circles a challenge, so the VTLC offers three ways to participate:
1. Reading & Reflecting
Read the text, and on your own complete the simple reflection activities provided by the VTLC to consider the relevance and impact of the reading on your own teaching and your students' learning. This activity is part of "reflective practice" and is highly valued by the VTLC.
2. Online Interaction (Spring 2014)Blog about it: Read the text, and comment on the ongoing series of blog posts posted on the UWC-VTLC blog.
3. On-Campus Discussions (Spring 2014)
Why What the Best College Students Do?
This text is a starting point for discussions about how we understand our students and their experiences in higher education. A growing body of writing seems to indicate that student success is dependent not so much on where students attend as what happens once they are at college. Bain theorizes that there are three types of successful students: surface, who do as little as possible to get by; strategic, who aim for top grades rather than true understanding; and deep learners, who leave college with a real, rich education. As he explores this through individual stories, we can reflect on what this means for our students and our teaching. For example, in the last ten years, the student population of UW Colleges has shifted dramatically:
- As an institution of access, what qualities do we hope to cultivate in our student population, and how are they similar to or different from the qualities that Bain identifies in "successful" college students?
- How do these stories, and the theories of education supported and implied by them, help us reflect on our own teaching?
- To what extent do these stories of success mirror what we would describe as "deep learning" for our students?
Our goal is for Bain's text to be an an opportunity for reflection and discussion on these questions and issues, and more.
- November 1, 2013: This year's book is announced. VTLC Advisory Committee campus representatives will coordinate participants on their campuses.
- November 2013: VTLC Advisory Committee campus representatives will distribute copies of the book to participants.
- Participants will have from November until the beginning of spring 2014 semester to read the book. (If you finish it early, share it with someone else on your campus!)
- Early spring semester, 2014: VTLC Reading Circle activities online and on campuses will begin.