Barkley Review

I absolutely loved this book. Although it was at times a bit repetitive, the content could be applied to most disciplines. It provides practical knowledge that could be a game changer in the classroom, particularly for new faculty. “The greater the student’s involvement or engagement in academic work or in the academic experience of college, the greater his or her level of knowledge acquisition and general cognitive development”(Terenzini, 1991). Obviously, student engagement is important, but are involvement and engagement really the same thing? The beginning of the book provides great background on the term engagement, but involvement does not necessarily mean engagement. That was just a passing thought when reading the book, but it could also be a way to expand the knowledge and suggestions already offered. Based on my current teaching practices and principles I have a heightened interest in engagement and how it can be used to compliment academic and professional experiences gained during a student’s academic career. As technology and opportunity continue to become more diverse, student populations and access to educational opportunities gaging active learning and even motivation may become increasingly challenging. Motivation may not be as easy to clearly identify. With continuing education programs, practical learning opportunities, certificate and licensing programs motivation may be more of a realistic need to provide for family or to compliment professional experiences. As student populations grow more diverse, particularly in age and familial status it is important to not limit terms associated with classroom motivation. Barkley does address the varying factors that could be motivators, but it could be expanded even more. The fact that current theories on motivation combine a number of factors is helpful but analyzing how to teach based on each of those factors would be interesting, although admittedly probably impossible. The other important factor, active learning is equally important, but could also be difficult to gage. The book mentions that active learning means that the mind is “actively engaged” (2010).This is an area I often struggle to be able to assess in the classroom. Some students can show active engagement and still struggle with testing and therefore they may also reach a point of frustration. If students are actively engaged and a teacher can tell that they comprehend the material, there should be more ways to test how that active engagement contributes student assessment. Classroom participation points are helpful, but engaged learning and instruction could be adapted even more to account for students who may be involved participants in the classroom.

The book referenced that students should be empowered to be partners in the learning process. Personally, this is often a primary goal for me as a teacher. However, I know that self-assessments and personal expectations along with other experiences make it difficult for students to believe that they are co-owners of classroom knowledge. Recognizing that intelligence can be measured in different ways can also encourage a mutual respect, initiated by the teacher, that can help combat some barriers that may prevent students from feeling as if they are an equal part to the learning process. Personally, I believe mental health or well-being and self-expectation and assessment may be the hardest issues to overcome in the classroom. The factors that impact students perceived ability prior to even entering the classroom can make a difference in how much of a connection a teacher can develop with a student. Expectation can also impact how the student feels about themselves which can have a direct tie to how successful they will be in the classroom. As a champion for interdisciplinary education I believe that every student has the ability to grasp information and knowledge in most areas. However, that ability can be aided or jeopardized by how teachers believe students can learn.

Taking a holistic approach to teaching and learning may be hard for a celebrated scholar, but it should still be of paramount importance. As institutions stress the importance of research and scholarship from tenured professors and those seeking tenure or even full time employment in a field, I am not sure if every discipline really thinks about how learning can be applied when students have various starting points and foundations that can help or hinder future success.  Judy Baker’s story, was particularly interesting to me. Although I was fortunate to have an abundance of access to educational and development materials I was an artist with a technical and active mind. Creative to a fault, I was often board in classrooms that only required me to listen and pass a test. My awkwardness transferred well to stage and performance, but not always to lecture and testing in the traditional sense. However, once I discovered that I could write and present information my learning experiences and feelings towards knowledge and education changed. I was fortunate to figure out those things relatively early and ultimately, they became a part of how I approached higher education as both a student and as a teacher. The need for expression for me was a deal breaker and as an educator I hope that my consistently evolving approach to teaching will continue to help me identify various ways to help students become increasingly engaged. This book was a pleasant reminder that there are teachers and scholars who are equally concerned with research as they are with diverse ways to encourage student success and that was worth reading every page.

The taxonomy of affective domain is interesting because it connects feelings to the educational process. I would really like to explore this concept more because I think that certain fields have little to no foundation on how preexisting feelings and values can affect learning and engagement. The book did an excellent job in detailing specific ways to increase student success. Ironically the tips could also be used for supervisors to assess and increase engagement among instructors or even workers. The expectations that often work in tandem with information can help or hurt engagement. Expecting students to succeed is a challenge, because success can be measured in different ways. Helping students see the connection between the amount of work they put into something and the eventual outcomes or long term results are not often applied beyond an initial challenge, “you get out of this class what you put into it”, or some other phrase that shares the same sentiment. But that is not always the case. Adapting those statements based on this reading to something that is more in line with, “the long term benefits and rewards are greater when your efforts are greater”. Students can work hard and never get an A, but that does not mean that they did not get what they needed to get of the classroom or experience and it is important that teachers, scholars and administrators remember that.

Aside from this book being one of the most interesting and useful works that I have read in some time it was an effortless read, which made me place more time on reflection on and application of the materials being presented. The diagrams and visuals compliment the research and content making it easier to read, but also easier to apply to actual practice. Student engagement is important during elementary and secondary educational experiences, but post-secondary presents additional challenges. Student engagement in higher education must allow students to grow academically and professionally while challenging them to believe that they are stakeholders in their own academic and professional lives. It is safe to say that this book also confirmed for me why I have developed an increased interest in Higher Education Administration as a field. The types of dialogue that can stem from knowledge provided through books such as this one can change lives of students and educators and it is my personal belief that is the only way academia will remain as relevant and as essential to the development of knowledge and leadership in students and future generations.


4 thoughts on “Barkley Review”

  1. This is a great book review and is very-well written. This is an excellent point to make as many people equate involvement with engagement. I agree that these two concepts are different as a student can be involved in the class, but not engaged. To me, engagement means that there is a significant investment of time, effort, and energy that is being put forth in the class, whereas with involvement this might just be doing the bare minimum to justify passing or being in the class. Thus, engagement is perceived as being active whereas involvement is perceived as being passive.

    The point about the mind being “actively engaged” throughout the process of active learning is crucial to the idea of students becoming deep learners. When thinking about this concept, it might be easier to assess whether the material and information that is being communicated is better served for long-term or short-term learning. Additionally, it might be helpful to see if other forms of student assessment could measure active engagement as certain types of test might now require students to be actively engaged or their focus has shifted from engaging with the material to making sure they get a good grade on the test.

    The idea of holistic learning and development is an idea that transcends the teaching profession. The idea of helping create an environment for holistic development and learning is why teaching can be experienced through many different individuals and domains. While it is hard to accomplish these two goals when looking are them as a whole, it is easier to look at them through smaller individualized goals for yourself and the student.


  2. Hi, LeNa,

    I learned to value professional relationships over 20 years ago. Sadly, I’d forgotten how to value professional relationships during my time in research isolation and the transition into civilian life. The partnership between students and teachers is critical for the student centered learning process to occur. Fortunately, reading your post reminded me that partnerships remain important to maintain student engagement.

    I found the first paragraph challenging to navigate. The information provided helped me to brainstorm and form my thoughts though.

    Best regards,


  3. LeNa, I enjoyed reading your perspective and how you tied in your experiences with being bored in the classroom and not always being engaged because you were a creative person.

    Your following quote brought up a good point about technology and how it will be difficult to monitor just how much our students are not only learning but retaining: “As technology and opportunity continue to become more diverse, student populations and access to educational opportunities gaging active learning and even motivation may become increasingly challenging.” This is something I worry about with my own daughter and future students because their generation uses technology a lot more than we did, but if used correctly, it can add to their experiences.

    Good post!


  4. LeNa… you wrote a full-on paper… and I thought my summary was long… well, it was for me. Anyway… I like how you discuss technology and opportunity become more diverse how engagement will seemingly become more difficult, tying it back to/with motivation and the difficulties of measuring both motivation and active learning. Your point regarding frustration through testing even though one may be engaged is a valid point along the same lines. Here I would ask, how could/might we adapt instruction and engaged learners participation to account for those students?
    Further into your blog I would say, you are correct… recognizing that intelligence can be measured in different ways… and… mental health or well-being and self-expectation and assessment may be the hardest issues to overcome in the classroom. It is significantly easier to provide for varied diverse intelligence in the classroom than it could ever be to mental health, etc.
    I love your concept of taking a holistic approach to teaching… especially tying in your personal examples and how that developed your approach to higher education. This book is a good reminder that there are many diverse ways to encourage student success and how they be used in business.
    Thank you for your reflection…


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