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.
|Publisher:||Johns Hopkins University Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Table of ContentsPreface
Introduction. Personality over Bureaucracy: The Paradox of College Teaching in America
Chapter One. Between the Two Ends of the Log: Teaching and Learning in the Nineteenth Century
Chapter Two. Scholarship and Its Discontents: Teaching and Learning in the Progressive Era
Chapter Three. The Curse of Gigantism: Mass-Produced Education and Its Critics in Interwar America
Chapter Four. "Teaching Made Personal": Reform and Its Limits in Interwar College Teaching
Chapter Five. Expansion and Repression: Cold War Challenges for College Teaching
Chapter Six. TV or Not TV? Reforming Cold War College Teaching
Chapter Seven. The University under Attack: College Teaching in the 1960s and 1970s
Chapter Eight. Experimentation and Improvement: Reforming Teaching in the 1960s and 1970s
Epilogue. The Decade of the Undergraduate? College Teaching in the 1990s and Beyond
Appendix. Archives of College Teaching
What People are Saying About This
"In finely-honed prose, The Amateur Hour limns twentieth-century reformers' earnest, and ultimately futile, efforts to persuade colleges to take teaching seriously. It belongs on the bookshelf of everyoneprofessors and administrators alikewith a stake in how we're educating our undergraduates."
"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."
"An entertaining and insightful account of efforts to improve college teaching. Zimmerman shows that today's issuesthe promise (or menace) of technology, priority of research over teaching, grade inflation, course evaluations, political coercion, job insecurityare not new but have a long history. A valuable book for anyone concerned with how professors can better serve students now as well as in the post-pandemic future."
"An informative and engaging account of how teaching has been viewedbut not assessedthroughout the history of American higher education. Zimmerman tells a lively story of ongoing resistance to solving obvious problems while also offering suggestions for improvement, calling attention to the need for communities of teachers that can function as constructively as communities of scholars."
"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."
"With a historian's eye and a teacher's love, Zimmerman makes visible the oft-hiddenand largely entrenchedworld of postsecondary teaching. A must-read for all who wish to untangle the complexities and contradictory themes that remain at the heart of American higher education. We can't improve what we don't understand; The Amateur Hour helps us understand."