Hardback
October 27, 2020
9781421439099
English
320
130111
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$34.95 USD, £26.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference
Electronic book text
October 27, 2020
9781421439105
9781421439099
English
320
130111
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
$34.95 USD, £26.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

The Amateur Hour

A History of College Teaching in America

American college teaching is in crisis, or so we are told. But we've heard that complaint for the past 150 years, as critics have denounced the poor quality of instruction in undergraduate classrooms. Students daydream in gigantic lecture halls while a professor drones on, or they meet with a teaching assistant for an hour of aimless discussion. The modern university does not reward teaching, so faculty members at every level neglect it in favor of research and publication.

In the first book-length history of American college teaching, Jonathan Zimmerman confirms but also contradicts these perennial complaints. Drawing upon a wide range of previously unexamined sources, The Amateur Hour shows how generations of undergraduates indicted the weak instruction they received. But Zimmerman also chronicles institutional efforts to improve it, especially by making teaching more "personal." As higher education grew into a gigantic industry, he writes, American colleges and universities introduced small-group activities and other reforms designed to counter the anonymity of mass instruction. They also experimented with new technologies like television and computers, which promised to "personalize" teaching by tailoring it to the individual interests and abilities of each student.

But, Zimmerman reveals, the emphasis on the personal inhibited the professionalization of college teaching, which remains, ultimately, an amateur enterprise. The more that Americans treated teaching as a highly personal endeavor, dependent on the idiosyncrasies of the instructor, the less they could develop shared standards for it. Nor have they rigorously documented college instruction, a highly public activity which has taken place mostly in private. Pushing open the classroom door, The Amateur Hour illuminates American college teaching and frames a fresh case for restoring intimate learning communities, especially for America's least privileged students. Anyone who wants to change college teaching will have to start here.

About the Author

Jonathan Zimmerman (PHILADELPHIA, PA) is a professor of the history of education at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of numerous books, including Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education and Campus Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know.

Endorsementss

"This important contribution to scholarship will be welcomed by historians of education, scholars of higher education, as well as faculty and administrators more generally. It should also find an audience in the broader public because it explains why the college classroom functions the way it does."

- Julie A. Reuben, Harvard Graduate School of Education, author of The Making of the Modern University: Intellectual Transformation and the Marginalization of Morality

"No one has ever collected these stories in one place nor written about them with such compelling style. Full of engaging vignettes, this refreshing book does a terrific job of distilling the themes of amateurism and personalization while chronicling the history of our failed attempts to improve, or at least systematize, college instruction."

- Scott Gelber, Wheaton College, author of Grading the College: A History of Evaluating Teaching and Learning
Johns Hopkins University Press
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