We came up in an earlier age when the old expression was “Show me your library, and I’ll show you your soul.” Of course, today most houses aren’t even constructed with libraries, so perhaps a better indicator of a person’s intellectual core might be his/her desktop—and we’re not talking computer desktop.
Most writers still have desks, whether at the office, home, library carrel, or even McDonald’s. On both our work and home desks, we have a small book shelf at the rear that contains our go-to texts. Sure, some intellectual matter can be found on our computers, but books don’t lend themselves to electronic compression.
Last year Charlie, a co-Director of the Teaching & Learning Center here at Eastern Kentucky University, built a small bookshelf—24” long by 12” high by 12’ deep—to hold these valuable texts. This allows him to pull up any references needed for research, campus reports, emails, and even posts such as this. Let’s look at them and see what kind of an insight they provide into Charlie’s mind.
Unfortunately, we find ourselves doing research in both faculty development and literary criticism. The former utilizes APA style, while the latter depends upon MLA. Complicating matters further is that both forms constantly update. We won’t go into our usual diatribe about the need for a single documentation style, something anyone who does trans-disciplinary research understands. Our problem is the constant switching back and forth, especially when we find that one style manual doesn’t cover an entry we need, and we have to hybridize it.
Faculty Development Books
As co-directors of the Teaching & Learning Center (TLC), our main concern is faculty development. We try to stay current in the field, so the latest issue of the Journal of Faculty Development holds an honored place in the bookshelf. Next to Innovating Faculty Development (2016) sits Sorcinelli et al’s Creating the Future of Faculty Development (2006), Gillespie and Robertson’s A Guide to Faculty Development (2010), Gillespie et al’s A Guide to Faculty Development (2002), and Condon et al’s Faculty Development and Student Learning (2016). Doug Robertson was our predecessor in the TLC, but we have probably used Sorcinelli more than any other faculty development book in our own scholarship.
On the far left of our shelf reside all the books (minus the novels) that we’ve written. New Forums’ website contains the complete list. Many times when we’re writing or preparing a presentation we need the material we’ve already turned into a publication. Last week, for instance, we were presenting a Teaching & Learning Innovations Series session on creative strategies when we had to pull out both the Introduction to Applied Creative Thinking (2012) and Teaching Applied Creative Thinking (2013). In fact, we ended up giving copies to some of our workshop’s participants. We also have copies of all nine books in the It Works for Me Series. Often in consultations with faculty, we pull specific strategies out of the books to help instructors.
Key General Books
If we were asked what book we have probably cited the most in the past few years, though, that honor would go to Gerry Nosich’s Learning to Think Things Through (2009). Of all the concepts he have found to transfer and apply to our scholarship and daily workings of the TLC, his idea of reducing larger ideas to their “fundamental and powerful concepts” has held the greatest sway. Check out the sources in any of our books, and you’ll find a Nosich citation. In fact, we’ve invented our own eponym: Nosiching refers to the reduction of any large idea to its fundamental and powerful concepts.
In second place resides John Medina’s Brain Rules (2008). Medina so impressed us that we invited him to speak on our campus. In our scholarship we have cited Medina’s views on the importance of exercise, transferring material into long-term memory, and emphasizing in learning how vision trumps all other senses.
As we have written extensively on creative thinking, and even developed a minor in it for our university, we have three key texts on creativity looking out ask us every day. Erica McWilliam’s The Creative Workforce (2008), Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind (2005), and David Kord Murray’s Borrowing Brilliance (2009) have provided us with core ideas from which to borrow.
The final trio of books that serve as our beacons center around learning. Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows (2010) has helped us deal with both the student audience and appropriate pedagogies. Dee Fink’s Creating Significant Learning Experiences (2003) is the basic primer on course design and organization. Finally, as our research in the field of faculty development takes place in that domain known as the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), we couldn’t do without Maryellen Weimer’s guide Enhancing Scholarly Work on Teaching & Learning (2006).
While this glimpse of our bookshelf provides you with an insight into Charlie’s mind in specific and the three of us in general, more importantly, it has offered us a moment to examine how our minds work, but then again writing is often the portal to metacognition.
Dr. Russell Carpenter is director of the Noel Studio for Academic Creativity and Program Director of the Minor in Applied Creative Thinking at Eastern Kentucky University. He is also Assistant Professor of English. Dr. Carpenter has published on the topic of creative thinking, among other areas, including two texts by New Forums Press. In addition, he has taught courses in creative thinking in EKU’s Minor in Applied Creative Thinking, which was featured in the New York Times in February 2014. Meet Russell.