Deconstructing a review of University teaching: an introductory guide

Here is a second analysis of a book review from the International Journal of Academic Development. This time the reviewer is Erika Kustra, writing in 2013 about Tony Harland’s ‘University Teaching: an introductory guide’ (2012).

utP1: Opening sentence comments favourably on experience of author and specifies audience of book:  ‘Harland has summarised over 15 years’ experience…in this introductory book for new academics’. Comments on key strength of book (acknowledgement of full academic role and need to balance competing demands).

P2: Comment on originality of chapter topics with examples. Praise implied through adjectives e.g. ‘fresh’, ‘thought-provoking’. Description of general structure of chapters.

P3: A somewhat self-serving paragraph about Chapter 1 that refers to the writer’s own work on the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). The argument lacks clarity; it is not always obvious whether Kustra is referring to Harland’s book, her own work or the concept of SoTL in general. Grammatical errors aggravate the ambiguity. Kustra has suspended the review in order to put forth her own thoughts about SoTL; being more explicit about this move – perhaps utilising metadiscourse – may have made for a stronger argument.

P4: Summarises main point of second chapter and offers fairly bland praise: ‘nicely extends and complements…helpful, concise…’ Here Kustra again appears to step out of the review to suggest further reading on the topic. A hint that other texts are of greater practical use (‘[they] go into more detail for actually engaging in effective partnerships’) is the only criticism evident here.

P5: Summarises third and fourth chapters. Purely descriptive save two praise adjectives: ‘useful’, ‘simple’. There is yet another discernable change in Kustra’s authorial position – and hence the flow of the review – as she suggests that the author would do well to expand the topic with the full research evidence in a separate article.

P6: Summarises fifth and sixth chapters. Purely descriptive until the final comment on the value of the student quotes.

P7: Comments on seventh and eighth chapters. The purpose of the sentence about New Zealand is not clear; Kustra may be either summarising Harland’s argument, or highlighting a case where it does not apply. Kustra criticises Harland for presenting arguments that are not backed up with hard evidence of ‘actual improved learning’ (good luck with that one), and suggests that career advice from successful academics would be a valuable addition.

P8: Summarises the penultimate chapter, implying value through emphasising its singularity. Moves into the first person (‘for me, as a reader, I…’) to express confusion around the organisation of the chapters, then into the abstract (‘however, most academics would…’) to acknowledge the general value of the topics. The grammatical subject then switches on to Harland, and finally to the features of the book (concepts, perspectives) as Kustra points out where additional connections could have been made.

P9: Reiteration of praise re: originality of the topics. Clear designation of the self indicates strong praise for the content on teaching as inquiry (‘I particularly enjoyed…’), then a praise-criticism pair is abstracted to two contrasting audiences (‘[appealing] for busy readers…but others may find…’). The mitigated (through abstraction) criticism of the lack of practical advice leads to a concluding recommendation that the book be used as a trigger for discussion in groups.


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