Metacognition is thinking about ways to improve your own thinking and learning processes. And for students, the act of knowing themselves and seeking to improve their learning process can positively impact their success in college. Importantly, for students it’s an internal guide that recognizes their own strengths and weaknesses, that helps them plan to achieve their goals, and enables them to monitor if they are doing what it takes to be successful. Realizing that you might not be on the right path to achieving your goals and correcting your course of action? That’s metacognition in action.
Students want to excel in college. In fact, 48% strive to get an A in all their courses, according to a study in Spring of 2022 of more than 1,400 undergraduate students by Student Monitor. Some of the more common activities they participate in outside the classroom to get a better grade are participating in a study group, or meeting a professor, and watching online videos.
Metacognitive and self-regulating behaviors help learners conceptualize their academic goals and then identify the tools and processes necessary to be successful. The act of regulating oneself as a learner is a critical area of focus in the company's recent grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. More broadly, the research will focus on how digital courseware can help to close equity gaps in course completion, retention, and performance rates for historically and presently underserved students.
In this brief blog series about metacognition, we’ll explore how students' metacognition impacts their behavior and attitudes in the classroom and, more broadly, in college. It’s part of Macmillan Learning’s commitment to sharing knowledge about what we learn throughout our research. Next month we’ll explore how metacognition impacts behaviors (goal setting, study habits, asking for help) and attitudes (self-efficacy/confidence, grit/productive struggle, intrinsic motivation.)
Learn more about Macmillan Learning’s partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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Andrea Lunsford, Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor, Emerita, Stanford University “Everything’s an argument,” says Andrea Lunsford, co-author of the eponymous book . If you disagree, she’ll ask you to provide her with an example. “What’s something that you don’t believe is an argument?” she’ll ask. Then she’ll argue that whatever example you provided is, indeed, an argument. She wins every time. She’s never yet been stumped.
“But, it’s not about winning,” she’ll tell you next. There are so many purposes for arguing, and winning is way down at the bottom of the list. Andrea will encourage you to think about the consequences of our arguments–what do we learn from arguments? “We also argue to explore,” she’ll say, “but mostly to understand things. Even meditation and prayer are forms of argument with oneself–to better understand oneself.”
This month’s Macmillan Learning Author Spotlight series features the co-author of Everything’s An Argument , Andrea Lunsford, who recently led a workshop titled “Teaching (Ethical) Argument Today” with our Bedford New Scholars . I met virtually with Andrea earlier this summer to learn more about her career as an educator and author, and to hear how retirement is treating her.
July 26, 2022 – It’s a beautiful midsummer Tuesday–depending on where you live. Even Americans’ favorite topic of smalltalk–the weather–is an argument. While large swaths of the country endure relentless heat, it’s pleasantly cool on the Northern California coast. Andrea spends this crisp morning harvesting vegetables from an organic community garden. Today she harvests broccolini, squash, and the first potatoes of the season. The members of the community call the garden “Posh Squash.”
Andrea works in the garden every Tuesday. Her shift begins at 8:30 in the morning and ends thirty minutes past noon. Though today she must cut that short. Her interview with me begins at one o’clock sharp, and she needs to rush home to freshen up.
She’s punctual, joining the call right on time. We spend the first few minutes discussing the pronunciation of our Germanic last names. We’re both fascinated with language. I learn that her niece-in-law speaks six languages, which provokes a short discussion about code-switching. I’ve the feeling we could spend hours talking about our mutual interests, but our time today is limited.
We begin discussing Andrea’s own education journey. Did she always know she wanted to be a teacher? When I ask her this, she tells me she was always an avid reader and writer as a young girl. “I used to make my brother and two sisters take lessons from me,” she says, “and when we went to the five-cent movies, I would make them walk in a line behind me,” she adds with a smile.
Growing up in a very segregated and restrictive society, Andrea learned early the liberatory potential of literacy. Born in Oklahoma, her family moved to Eastern Tennessee after her father was rejected from World War II because of his flat feet and poor eyesight. After he secured a job with an aircraft corporation and became an accountant, the family moved to St. Augustine, Florida.
“I couldn’t imagine going anywhere other than my state school,” Andrea says. So, she enrolled at the University of Florida, where she completed both her bachelors and masters degrees in English. While she was interested in pursuing her Ph.D., her advisor, whom she describes as an old, white man, told her that she should go home, get married, and have children. “At the time, I wasn’t offended,” Andrea says.
Andrea did go home after that, but she didn’t become a stay-at-home mother and housewife. Instead, she started teaching. “I taught every grade from seventh through twelfth,” she tells me. “Juniors and seniors were some of my favorite ages to teach,” she says, “though I liked teaching juniors a bit more because they aren’t yet jaded and don’t have senioritis,” she jokes. Andrea also believes that anyone who teaches middle school is a superhero. “Teaching seventh graders always felt like a battle; either they were going to kill me or me them,” she adds.
While continuing to teach high school English, Andrea also began teaching night classes at a community college. “It was then that I started to think more about my advisor telling me that I couldn’t get a Ph.D.,” she says, “and I started to become angry about it.” She started looking at schools, and decided to apply to The Ohio State University in order to study under Edward Patrick Joseph Corbett, author of Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student . It was Corbett’s book that really sparked Andrea’s interest in the study of rhetoric.
After spending a short time on the waitlist, Andrea was admitted and arrived in Ohio in 1972. “This was during the height of significant political and social unrest,” she says. “There were many protests and conflicts, and the Kent State Killings were only two years prior.” It was this time of Andrea’s life that instilled an ongoing interest and enthusiasm for feminist scholarship and writing about women’s issues. “I’ve always wanted to teach young people how to speak and write with power–to have agency and take control of their own lives through discourse,” she says.
Andrea retired a few years ago, but she continues to speak to many students during virtual classes, conferences, webinars, and workshops. “What I miss most about teaching is the students,” she says. When I ask her about her experience with the Bedford New Scholars, she tells me she most loved hearing about their own work. “These students are working on exceptionally interesting projects and implementing really innovative teaching strategies.”
Students often have just as much to teach their teachers as the teachers have to teach them. Andrea shares with me a recent instance when a student really made her think. “I gave a talk at UC Irvine about writing style, and this young man asked me how he could make his sentences sing,” she says. “That was one of the best questions I have ever been asked. It’s certainly possible to make a sentence sing; we all know one when we see it.”
Andrea enjoys the stylistic part of writing, and she credits many women and especially women of color for creating more freedom in academic discourse. She quotes Maya Angelou, who said “I love a sentence,” and she tells me about Gloria Anzaldúa. “Gloria told me that early in her career she was strongly discouraged from genre mixing, which is something she became quite known for,” Andrea says. “She had an old, white male professor at the University of Texas who did then encourage her to write as she wished, and that gives me hope for the world.”
Writing Everything’s An Argument was one of the highlights of Andrea’s career. She tells me that her co-author, John J. Ruszkiewicz, had students that were complaining about their argument book, and so they decided to write their own. Their book is designed to help students understand and analyze the arguments around them as well as create their own. Sounds like a good skill to me since, as Andrea has now taught me, everything ’s an argument.
Andrea tells me the most fun she had was developing the Hume Center for Speaking and Writing at Stanford University. There wasn’t an existing writing center when she first arrived at Stanford in 2000, and she didn’t want to institute a new curriculum without one. “We could make it however we wanted to,” she says enthusiastically. “But, we wanted it to first and foremost be a place for the celebration of writing.”
In the beginning, the center sponsored higher-level writing seminars that brought in a far larger audience than expected. “We learned quickly that we needed more room because so many people showed up,” she says. “Eventually, we started hosting writer’s nights, the Stanford Spoken Word Collective, tea parties for multilingual students, parents’ night during parents’ weekend, where parents and students could read together, music nights… everything you could think of!”
Photos from "Posh Squash" Community Garden Andrea tells me how much she misses spending time at the center. She always used to conduct office hours there, and she tutored thousands of students during her time at Stanford. Nevertheless, retirement has certainly allowed her to pursue other hobbies and interests, including tending to the community garden.
Andrea stays plenty busy. She tells me she goes to the gym three times a week. “Though I’m not a regular gym rat,” she says. “I’m a gym swan because I don’t sweat,” she jokes. Her nephew will come for a visit later this afternoon. If the good weather holds, which it surely will, they may enjoy a walk along the beach.
Andrea Lunsford, Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor of English emerita and former Director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University, joined the Stanford faculty in 2000. Prior to this appointment, she was Distinguished Professor of English at The Ohio State University (1986-2000) and, before that, Associate Professor and Director of Writing at the University of British Columbia (1977-86) and Associate Professor of English at Hillsborough Community College. A frequent member of the faculty of the Bread Loaf School of English, Andrea earned her B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Florida and completed her Ph.D. in English at The Ohio State University (1977). She holds honorary degrees from Middlebury College and The University of Ôrebro.
Andrea's scholarly interests include the contributions of women and people of color to rhetorical history, theory, and practice; collaboration and collaborative writing, comics/graphic narratives; translanguaging and style, and technologies of writing. She has written or coauthored many books, including Essays on Classical Rhetoric and Modern Discourse; Singular Texts/Plural Authors: Perspectives on Collaborative Writing; and Reclaiming Rhetorica: Women in the History of Rhetoric, as well as numerous chapters and articles. For Bedford/St. Martin’s, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer, and EasyWriter; the co-author (with John Ruszkiewicz) of Everything’s an Argument and (with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters) of Everything’s an Argument with Readings; and the co-author (with Lisa Ede) of Writing Together: Collaboration in Theory and Practice. She is also a regular contributor to the Bits teaching blog on Bedford/St. Martin’s English Community site.
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In early July, I made a trip back to my old neighborhood of Kingsbury in Trenton, New Jersey. I was on my way back from a board meeting for a nonprofit organization I support that serves Trenton and its surrounding communities. I couldn’t be in the area without stopping through Kingsbury Square to see where my journey began. So, instead of putting on my blinders and staying the course of the highway that cuts through the city and leads north to home, I took the off-ramp to Cooper Street and pulled up to park in front of my old building.
The neighborhood was a shell of the community it was in the late 70s and early 80s when, on a July day like this, men Kingsbury in the early 2000s would be out waxing their cars, Black and Hispanic mothers would be perched in their windows, and children would be running in and out of every corner of every building laughing and playing any game their minds could imagine. I ran across an older woman sitting in front of my building, Ms. Carmen. We shared stories about how the neighborhood used to be and how so much of the spirit of community had fled with the tenants who were able to escape to a better life.
I asked her what the main problem facing the neighborhood was today. Ms. Carmen paused for a moment and explained to me that it's education. The children aren’t going to school because they don’t see the value in it anymore. Everything is different without an education. It is as if the children in the neighborhood have lost a curiosity for the world, a desire to learn in and outside of the classroom, an appreciation for life and the discovery of new ideas, the articulation of dreams, and the power of hope–all of it left in the distant past. A deep sorrow came over me all at once. I realized that my story was so different from the story that Ms. Carmen had shared with me about the families living today in the shadows of Kingsbury.
My mother and father came to Trenton as transplants from the Jersey shore, looking to start a new life and a family together. They had a plan while we were living in that crammed apartment in Kingsbury. With me being just born and my sister a year old, they realized that the only way up and out of Kingsbury was to focus on their education. So, both of my parents enrolled in colleges in the suburbs, juggled jobs and transportation, and created relationships with older families at a local church they joined to support us in every way. They traded the anxiety and fear of what they were running from in their youth for the stress and challenges of what they were running towards in their future together. The sacrifice was tremendous for all of us. My sister and I had to adjust to being cared for by a new extended family of older women from the church and their full house of foster children, relatives, and children of their own.
Kingsbury, NJ in the early 2000s While standing there in front of my old unit, I asked Ms. Carmen what I could do to help. She replied, “Backpacks, Coltrane. The children need backpacks full of books.” It all made sense to me at that moment.
I had grown up in those early years with a sense of urgency, mobility and possibilities that started with watching my parents pack their backpacks every morning for a day of part-time work and college campus life somewhere far out beyond that crammed apartment. They would read to us at night and pack books into tiny backpacks before sending us to Mother Williams’ or Mother Sampson’s house for the day. We were literally a family whose future was being determined by what was in our backpacks and how we were using the books inside to transport us to new experiences.
That simple routine each day led to bookshelves lining the apartment on every subject from the socioeconomic state of Cuba to the collective works of Robert Frost. When my sister and I left the apartment each day, we felt like college students with part-time jobs too. We chose to sit and read from the books in our backpacks when we were away from home, instead of giving in to the mesmeric preoccupation of television.
No, we weren’t immune to the daily pressures of urban life and the encroaching onset of poverty that was slowly consuming Kingsbury and the city as a whole. But, the foundation was being laid early in the life of our young family that would push my parents to get masters degrees and to eventually buy a house on the other side of town; push my mother to start a policy consultancy aimed at supporting at-risk populations nation-wide; push my dad to be a school administrator and college professor and to write six books; and push my sister and I to win scholarships to Princeton area private schools and obtain college degrees of our own.
Ms. Carmen was right in seeing the power of backpacks and books. I was a witness to what they could do to empower a family and inspire you to personal excellence. There, in front of my old building, Ms. Carmen and I vowed to work together this fall to provide backpacks for the returning students living in Kingsbury. Hopefully we can plant seeds of hope for children returning to the classroom from their summer break. Maybe my story and my presence might somehow inspire this generation of Kingsbury residents to understand how valuable education can be to their dreams for the future.
As students all over the country return to school this fall, let’s appreciate the complexities and challenges that learners face at all levels of their educational and career journeys. As an educational community, we must continue to acknowledge the importance that dreams and aspirations, plans and structure, and guidance and support play in the success that all students seek through the foundation of an education.
Helping fill backpacks for students in need can make a difference and help them succeed in school and beyond. One of the charities Macmillan Learning and its employees have donated to in the past is Operation Backpack in New York City, but there are many other local and national charities to choose from, including Stuff the Bus and the Kids in Need Foundation.
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The first few weeks of classes are cruising, and your students aren’t yet snoozing. Either they haven’t yet lost that new-school-year excitement, or your active learning strategies are keeping them engaged–perhaps a mix of both!
Active learning requires that students learn by doing; they aren’t only passive observers of class lectures. Instead, instructors create an environment in which students are able to practice their understanding of course material and develop skills by actively participating.
Active learning not only improves student engagement; it also increases student performance. According to a 2014 meta-analysis of 225 previous studies, the implementation of active learning techniques correlated with students earning nearly half a letter grade higher on test scores in science, engineering, and mathematics.
Active learning works , which is why many instructors are already using these five active learning strategies in their classrooms:
Asking students to work through problems in class. This can include solving math problems, working through economics concepts such as supply and demand , or responding to an essay prompt.
Assigning group work . Each member of the group can also be assigned a specific task to ensure that all students are actively engaged.
Assigning presentations . When students are asked to present, they’re required to reflect on their knowledge and communicate their understanding. Presentations allow students to practice many skills including task or group member delegation, research, and speaking skills, among others.
Participating in LMS discussion boards . Students are able to share their thoughts about class material and interact with others virtually.
Asking students to facilitate small group discussions . Not all students feel comfortable sharing their ideas in large classes but are more inclined to in small groups.
Exhausted this repertoire of active learning strategies and looking for new techniques to try? No problem! Here are five less commonly used active learning strategies to keep your students engaged through the end of the semester:
Using Case Studies. Case studies provide students with real-world examples of the concepts they’re learning in the classroom and help them contextualize course content. Case studies also provide an easy way to foster collaboration between students by incorporating the common active learning strategies listed above.
In-Class Polling. Similar to asking students to work through problems or answer quiz questions, in-class polling gives every student a low stakes way to get involved. In-class polling promotes critical thinking and reflection by asking students questions that are more experiential.
Peer Instruction. Ever heard an instructor say that they finally learned the material by heart because they were tasked with teaching it? The same applies to your students. Having to communicate what you’ve learned with others reinforces your own grasp of the material.
Gamification. It’s time to turn classtime into gametime! Keeping learners engaged can be a challenge, and one solution is to teach through games. You can have your students participate individually or in teams, and you can provide incentives such as points earned for correct answers.
Pre-Class Activities. Unlike regular homework assignments turned in before class and not discussed until graded and handed back to students, pre-class activities require that students come prepared to class with something that will be used during that current class period.
Macmillan Learning’s digital learning platform, Achieve , and iClicker make it easy to implement many of these active learning strategies. Achieve is a comprehensive course management system that’s accessible to students before, during, and after class, and iClicker was designed specifically for student engagement, lending itself to teaching techniques such as interactive games and easy polling.
Have you tried some of these active learning strategies in your classroom or have others not included above? We’d like to hear from you! Let us know about your experiences with active learning strategies in the comments below.
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The importance of teaching and learning is nothing new to corporate America. Businesses have long known the value of educating their teams through learning and development departments. But there’s more that businesses can learn from higher education including how to best retain top employee talent, how to make hybrid and online meetings and events more engaging and how to improve corporate training.
At Macmillan Learning, we’ve worked with Fortune 500 companies to apply best practices from higher education in order to improve their organizations. The following are three examples of how we’ve seen higher education influence and improve corporate America.
Student Retention and Engagement:
According to the latest data , adults who are both out of school and have some college with no degree account for up to 11% of the US population. That means more than one out of every ten adults started college, but didn’t finish. Universities are keenly focused on retaining their students year after year and ensuring that they graduate on time. That’s why universities use solutions like Skyfactor’s retention surveys to identify students who may be off track for on-time graduation so they can intervene early and get them back on track.
But higher education isn’t the only industry focused on retention. You may have heard of the “Great Resignation.”
Employers are as focused as ever on understanding what keeps their best employees motivated, engaged, and retained year after year. But experts have differing opinions. Willis Towers Watson says that “health and retirement benefits appear to be the tipping points.” A Harvard Business Review article cites “inertia” as the reason, noting an employee will stay until something forces them to leave. And the Workforce Learning Report from LinkedIn notes that organizations should prioritize enabling employees’ personal success through career development to retain employees; they say companies that excel at internal mobility retain employees for an average of 5.4 years (which is about twice as long as companies that say they struggle with retention).
The bottom line: there’s no one way to retain employees. The methods companies use to retain their top talent are as varied as, well, their employees. Through our own research, Macmillan Learning has learned that the factors that drive employee retention vary from organization to organization and can even change year to year.
In one case study, Macmillan Learning partnered with a Fortune 500 company to apply proven methods for retaining students in higher education toward helping retain top talent at the organization. The results were fascinating. We were able to use the same methodologies developed for higher education to identify the key factors that influence employee retention at the organization. We were then able to identify the employees most “at risk” of leaving the organization and offer suggestions for how the organization can improve the employee experience such that employees are more likely to stay–and ultimately thrive–at the organization. A year later we measured the efficacy of the changes the organization made and found that the organization successfully improved the key factors that were driving employee retention.
Through the case study we learned that the methodologies used to retain students in higher education can be effectively used to improve employee retention and satisfaction. This bodes well for improving the overall employee experience and addressing the challenges of the “Great Resignation.”
Student Engagement Best Practices for Online and Hybrid Meetings:
As a result of COVID, institutions of learning were forced to pivot from in-person to completely online learning almost overnight. It’s no surprise that the move to online learning presented significant challenges. Among these challenges was how to keep students engaged in online learning. Educators were now teaching from home and often staring at faceless rectangles in Zoom where once they saw students in classroom chairs. Educators met this challenge by adopting classroom engagement solutions like iClicker to encourage student attendance and facilitate engagement in the classroom. Educators reported that these solutions greatly improved their ability to keep students engaged in online learning.
While educators were struggling to create an engaging online learning experience, corporate America was dealing with their own COVID challenges. Employees who once met in person to solve business problems were now working from home and meeting entirely online using the same video conferencing solution as higher education. The challenges were similar: meetings–especially large meetings–were less engaging and employees with cameras turned off became faceless participants.
It may not surprise you that the solutions that worked in higher education also worked for corporate meetings. Corporations looked to audience engagement solutions like iClicker to make meetings and events more engaging and effective. Meeting facilitators were able to poll their audience using advanced question types like short answer, word cloud, multiple-response and heat maps. Facilitators were also able to solicit anonymous feedback to encourage participation and honest responses. Meeting participants had a voice and felt more engaged in decision making. While online meetings and events may not have been the same as when they were in person, the online experience improved with the addition of audience engagement solutions and methodologies from higher education were once again able to help corporate America.
Active Learning Best Practices Used for Corporate Training:
We all know the importance of learning and development in corporate training. In fact, the Workforce Learning Report from LinkedIn I mentioned earlier notes that nearly three-fourths of L&D leaders agree that learning and development have become more influential within their organizations over the past year. We also know that passive learning–where students passively read, attend a lecture, or watch videos to learn–isn’t particularly effective. That’s why a fortune 100 company turned to Macmillan Learning to find out how they can make their corporate training more effective.
Macmillan Learning is currently piloting its iClicker student engagement solution to help this fortune 100 company make corporate training more engaging and effective. The company uses videos to train its employees but found that they needed a way to ensure that employees were engaging with the materials and measure how effectively they were grasping the materials. For over a decade iClicker has been solving this same problem for educators and was selected ahead of its competitors during a preliminary review because of its ease of use and reliability. Macmillan Learning was also able to point to how its own Learning and Development team uses iClicker to improve corporate training.
Using iClicker, the Fortune 100 company will be able to easily stop their training videos and ask formative assessment questions that will not only help the employees to better understand the materials but also track their progress and performance on the questions. The addition of iClicker will turn the video training from “passive” to “active” learning and based on education research promises to improve learning outcomes.
As you can see from the examples above, best practices in higher education are indeed influencing corporate America in ways that can improve employee retention, engagement, and learning outcomes. Corporations are learning that some of the challenges they face are not dissimilar from those faced in higher education and that heavily-researched solutions to help them solve their problems already exist. It’s exciting to see two worlds that I care deeply about blending and finding solutions to both old and new challenges. And we’re only scratching the surface of the problems we can solve together.
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Dr. Eric Chiang is no stranger to being online and in front of a camera. The Economics: Principles for a Changing World 6e author and instructor was a pioneer in online learning, bringing tech to teachers and students - an environment he was very familiar with well before virtual learning took over during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, his stint on the nationally televised show Holey Moley was when I first met him. Just as I was curious about his time on the show in 2019, I’m curious about what got him to that point.
At Macmillan Learning, we recognize that the success of our textbooks and courseware is in large part due to our outstanding authors. With this Author Spotlight series, we offer students and instructors a unique opportunity to better get to know these extraordinary authors, whose remarkable careers and interests often extend far beyond higher education.
There’s so much genuine interest and passion about the world’s economies within Dr. Chiang that helps make Principles for a Changing World the compelling text that it is. Within it, learners can hear his distinct voice speaking to them as they are introduced to economic concepts and the many unique examples from both within the United States and around the world.
Economics can be practical
Economics doesn’t have to be some pie-in-the-sky, impractical set of concepts. And Dr. Chiang doesn’t teach it that way because he didn’t learn it that way.
His journey into economics began when he was just a boy, with everyday lessons from his father, a chemist by trade, who had immigrated from Taiwan in the 1960s. While his father had always been interested in economics, he felt compelled to go with the trend of the time within the Taiwanese culture of coming to the United States and studying either engineering or the sciences. Despite that, his father never lost his interest in economics, and he began to teach Dr. Chiang the principles of it with practical life lessons -- how to be frugal with money, how to save money and how to invest money.
“He got me excited because he spoke about it in ways that made sense. Oh, we eat at Wendy's a lot, do you want to own a piece of Wendy's?” Dr. Chiang did want to invest and he saved his birthday money and allowances for some time so that he could invest $100. “He taught me about how companies make profits, how companies work -- and the fact that I owned just a few shares of Wendy's … it felt really exciting.” And it’s that same practical thinking that he uses to teach his students at Florida Atlantic University and the College of Southern Nevada.
His interest was further piqued when, in high school, he had the opportunity to take classes at Indiana University South Bend. “Everything I’d learned as a child just sort of formalized into these economic models.” And while he considered pursuing careers in his other interests during his undergraduate years of college, like geography or hotel management, he was always drawn back to economics. “Economics provided a foundation that allowed me to study many other subjects,” he explained with a smile.
It was ultimately Game Theory, the study of how and why people make strategic decisions, that took him from the role of student to teacher. As a graduate student at the University of Florida (Go Gators ) he was expected to teach an undergraduate class; he saw that Game Theory was an option in the catalog and decided to go for it. It was his first teaching experience, so he over-prepared his lectures, memorizing and scripting them. As it turns out, that wasn’t necessary. “As soon as I stepped into the classroom it became so natural, I absolutely fell in love with it. From that point on, I knew I was going to be a teacher because spending time with my students in the classroom was the highlight of my week.”
And while he loved teaching Game Theory, the topic proved to be a specialty and niche subject. So niche that he was having to come up with his own course materials for his students because there wasn’t much out there for him to use. “I wasn't satisfied with the existing textbooks at the time, so I was always using my own content.” And while he went on to customize chapters in other economics textbooks, something was still missing in those textbooks and, well, most others.
“One part missing in most books that I wanted was the story behind the concept. For example, most principles textbooks jump right into supply and demand, they jump right into elasticity, and they didn't really start the chapter with ‘Why is this important, and how is this relevant to everyone's life?’, and that was the part that I kept sort of filling in right when I customized the book.” And soon enough, he got the chance to write one on his own terms.
At first he began as an accuracy checker and reviewer of an economics textbook written by Jerry Stone, but quickly became more and more involved as a contributor. The two authors had a lot in common, with both Stone and Chiang teaching at public universities catering mostly to non-traditional students, who often took classes at night because they were working during the day or had families. Both believed in teaching practical, usable versions of economics -- Chiang understood just how valuable the students' time was and wanted to help them invest it in their future.
To do that, Stone and thereafter Chiang tailored the textbook to the needs of those students with the philosophy of being practical and connecting economics to the real world. “You have to be a little more thorough in your explanations, and you have to provide those additional explanations and examples and connect what we're learning to the real world.” That philosophy may be the reason why the largest population of students using the book are those from community colleges.
A global perspective
When Chiang began authoring the Principles for a Changing World textbook in 2014, he brought in a wealth of modern examples and global perspectives to create even stronger connections with the students. He also placed a greater emphasis on data literacy, all while still staying true to the original philosophy of being practical and connecting economics with the real world.
In writing, he made sure that the text attempted to make connections with every student by offering examples from across various regions of the US and even the world. “Take, for example, sports. We’re not just talking about baseball and football in the examples. We’re also talking about cricket, soccer and field hockey. That makes it more relatable.”
Chiang is passionate about international travel and culture, which is evident throughout the textbook. Every chapter of the book has an “around the world” feature, offering a different way to think about economics. “If you look at most other textbooks, if they're talking about something in another country, it is because they're comparing their country with our country. It’s their growth rate vs. ours. For me it's more from an individual perspective -- if you were standing in that country, how would someone in that country solve a problem?”
Take, for example, Disneyland in Tokyo. It’s quite different from the Disney World or Disneyland that students in the U.S. are used to. Culturally, in Japan, they are not as interested in thrill rides, like roller coasters, but they love photo taking. “Line management in dealing with scarcity and surplus is different in Japan. The park is so crowded but everyone's having a great time because there's so many characters walking around, and you can always take a picture with them and it's a very fulfilling experience …It's just interesting to see how different countries address different demands, and different cultural differences of what people value and that goes into their decision making. It all goes to show there’s not just one way to solve an economic problem.”
Growing up, Chiang never traveled far from his Indiana hometown. So as an adult he makes up for it by trying to visit a new country every year. He wants to bring new examples, ideas and stories to his students, which is how he came up with the idea of his Around the world in 80 hours series which is “a fun way to show the class how economics is all around the world.” I asked him about his favorite spots and he mentioned Japan and Singapore. Although he tends to stay a very short time in each country, his reasoning is that there’s around 200 countries in the world, so he’d like to have a glimpse of as many countries as possible -- his face lights up just thinking about it.
His most striking economic lesson was when he traveled to Bhutan, a small agricultural Kingdom in the Himalayas. According to Chiang, while it’s not modern (he did not see a single traffic light in the entire country), it’s one of the safest, healthiest and happiest places in the world. “You know they don't have much, but they live very, very well so to me that's a striking economic example.”
“The government doesn't measure their well-being through gross domestic product, which is how every other country measures the size of their country.” Rather, Bhutan has a Gross National Happiness Index comprising of nine domains that include psychological well-being, health, education and good governance, among others. “I think Bhutan offers an example of the opposite of what we think of as societal norms - you don't have to have money or lots of possessions, but you have to have community. And that’s a different way of thinking about the health of a country and its economic well-being.”
And that’s what makes Bhutan Bhutan. And what makes each student their own person as well, which is why it’s so important that diversity is not only recognized, but championed.
“Everyone faces different circumstances and manages resources differently, and that's what economics is about. How you manage your money and your time is different from how I do it. A lot of it's based on our circumstances and values, and how we grew up, and that's based on cultural diversity,” Chiang said. Students growing up in a small town have vastly different experiences than students growing up in an agricultural community, which differs vastly from those in a large city. And that’s just taking into account population size, let alone ethnicity, background, gender or income, among other factors.
And that’s true for the world around us, for our classrooms and also for our textbooks. “In the past century there have been so many prominent economists and Nobel Prize winners that are women and people of color, and we highlight the biographies of many of these important contributors to economics,” Chiang noted. He cited Cecilia Rouse and Phyllis Wallace as examples. He further explained, “People always talk about prominent macroeconomist Milton Friedman, but actually he worked most of his life with Anna Schwartz , who was equally deserving of the Nobel Prize.”
Dr. Chiang just finished writing the sixth edition Economics: Principles for a Changing World and notes that it will offer the practical and relevant content that’s been counted on for many years as well as fantastic new features like interactive graphing. But this new edition will offer even more information about diverse economists like Rouse and Wallace and how their contributions have affected our everyday lives -- including the economic decisions we make today. It will also include more stories, just like the Gross National Happiness Index from Bhutan that help students understand different ways of thinking about economics. Until then, you can find Dr. Chiang at FAU, UCS, or somewhere at cruising altitude.
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“One of my passions is to help students succeed,” said Dr. Kevin Revell, author of Introductory Chemistry . “It’s part of what drives me.” During his sixteen-year tenure as a chemistry professor at Murray State University, Kevin has helped many students succeed, and this isn’t limited to his own students. As the author of a popular, introductory level textbook, his passion to help students stretches much further than his own classroom.
Writing a textbook is challenging, as educators work to channel their experience and knowledge into a tool to teach others. Macmillan Learning’s authors are accomplished experts in their fields; often distinguished academics at some of the most reputable colleges, universities, and institutions around the globe; and they also have remarkable careers outside the classroom. They use all of these experiences as practical examples when teaching or writing their books.
Macmillan Learning’s new Author Spotlight series gives students an opportunity to learn more about the educators authoring their textbooks. What have their careers looked like? Did they always know that they wanted to work in higher education? When did they turn from teaching to writing? This month’s spotlight is Kevin Revell, an author whose successes and struggles as a student and teacher have informed the way he teaches and writes today.
Dr. Kevin Revell, Murray State University Kevin became interested in chemistry at an early age. He told me he remembers sitting in a tree at eight-years-old trying to figure out what plastic was made of. “It’s not made of wood. It’s not metal. So, what is it?” Kevin said. His developing interest in science continued to grow, and he described everything as “clicking” during his high school chemistry class.
“Most students didn’t like the class,” Kevin said, “but I was fascinated by the material and couldn’t stop asking questions.” Less than two years later, Kevin started his undergraduate career at the University of New Orleans as a chemistry major. Despite his strong interest and enthusiasm for the sciences, he struggled during his first year, describing this as a formative part of his education that greatly influenced the way he teaches today.
It’s an age-old piece of advice that students should visit professors during their office hours. Nevertheless, many students are often hesitant to take them up on their offer. I shared with Kevin that my younger sister recently completed her first year of college as a declared biochemistry major and that she struggled during the spring semester in her Chemistry II course. “Tell her to come to Murray State,” Kevin joked.
Kevin wants his students to take advantage of his and other professors’ willingness to offer one-on-one help. “I know I may look sort of big and scary,” he said with his military-style haircut and two folded U.S. military flags in his office, “but I really want my students to know that they are welcome. I want to see them succeed.”
Kevin told me about a frequent visitor to his office hours. “This young woman took both Chemistry I and Chemistry II with me last year, and she really struggled,” he said. “We spent hours working through problems together on the whiteboard, and she got better and better.” Kevin impressed the importance of working through problems on the whiteboard. “I can better understand students’ thought-processes and see where they get hung up,” he said. “We go through a bunch of whiteboard markers.”
The student Kevin described didn’t take organic chemistry with him, yet she still continued to visit him during office hours for help. “She’s on her way to vet school now,” Kevin said. “It’s gratifying to see students not necessarily know where to begin with a problem and then emerging at the end of a semester or academic year with a really developed cognitive skill set. They know how to tackle big problems and persevere until they make it through.” Kevin described many of his students as being far ahead of where he was at their age. “At nineteen I had no idea what I was doing. These students are going to accomplish things that I never could,” he said.
When asked what career Kevin saw himself pursuing as a student, he told me his goal was to obtain his PhD. “I wanted to do high-level research and be a big shot in the field of chemistry,” he said. But, after entering graduate school, he became frustrated with his research and felt he needed to step away for a while to reassess. “I moved to Florida and taught at a high school for one and a half years. That’s where I learned how much I love teaching,” Kevin said.
Kevin and his wife had two small children at the time, and he realized that going back to school was going to be the best option to support his growing family. “So, I returned to school and finished my master’s degree,” he said. “Afterwards, I worked for a couple of years in the pharmaceutical industry. I learned so much chemistry during that time. It’s just such a different world from academia. It’s no longer theoretical, and the stakes are really high.”
Fortunately, Kevin also found a way to continue doing what he loved most during this transitional time – teaching. While working for Eli Lilly, Kevin taught one night a week at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis. “I’d get off work an hour before class, make a quick stop at White Castle for dinner, and then rush over to the community college with a handful of markers and a vague plan!” Kevin said. “I really came to appreciate what a community college does, and the challenges and opportunities that professors have,” he said.
Like many others, 9/11 made Kevin reflect about where he wanted to be and what he wanted to do with his life. “It was always going to be teaching,” Kevin said. An opportunity popped up in Florida, so Kevin and his family made the move back to the Sunshine State. “This little college was just beginning to launch into the physical sciences and build the program from the ground up,” he said. Kevin has fond memories of this time. “Everything was new and there wasn’t much of a budget, so the other teachers and I had to be a little experimental.” Kevin described all the “goofy” stuff they were doing – from dropping bowling balls to measure the acceleration of gravity to using old record players from the school’s library to measure rotation. “We even built our own primitive fume hoods to conduct microscale organic experiments,” Kevin laughed.
Although Kevin was thriving as a teacher, he wanted to complete his PhD. “The experience with my master’s degree left a bad taste in my mouth, and I was very reluctant to go back,” Kevin said. It was a mentor, the provost at the college where he was teaching, who made all the difference. “It’s really valuable to have someone in your life who will tell you the things you don’t want to hear,” he said. “He told me the hard truth – that if I wanted to succeed in academia, going back for the PhD was essential.”
It turned out that the PhD experience was much better than his time as a master’s student. “I ended up working with Professor Ed Turos at the University of South Florida. “He was terrific to work with. He understood that I was an adult, balancing the responsibilities of being a teacher and dad, and that I needed to figure out how to make it all fit,” he said. “He helped me make it fit.” Kevin finished his PhD in 2006 and has been teaching at Murray State University ever since.
While there are many chemistry professors, only a few are writing introductory textbooks for thousands of college students. So, how did Kevin become a textbook author? When I asked him, he told me it was sort of a funny process. “I ended up working with Sapling Learning, doing virtual product demos with colleagues around the country. I was able to build a lot of great relationships and learn about the teaching challenges that my colleagues were facing,” Kevin said. It was through this experience that Kevin met the publisher, Roberts & Company (which eventually merged with Macmillan Learning), and started the Introductory Chemistry project.
“It’s amazing how it all came together,” Kevin said. “Our department chair assigned me the non-majors chemistry course. It was a night class, and I was originally pretty grouchy about it because it was during my son’s basketball season, and I hated missing games. But I fell in love with the class, and have been closely involved with the non-majors course ever since.”
Originally, the non-majors class used a textbook that had some gaps in it, so Kevin ended up writing an entire chapter himself to fill those holes. When he was approached by a publisher interested in producing a digital-first textbook, Kevin was already prepared with a writing sample.
After signing his project, Kevin noted, “I had this great team with the energy and know-how to make my vision of helping students succeed a reality,” he said. “I wanted to create digital tools that emulate the ways I work through problems with my students in the classroom and office. I feel we achieved that.”
Another thing that was important for Kevin to consider with his textbook was practicality. “I’ve had the benefit of working in the pharmaceutical industry, so I’ve seen how industrial chemistry really works,” he said. “I want students to have the context they’ll need to succeed in their jobs.” Introductory Chemistry exposes students to a wide variety of different potential career paths for students of chemistry. “I’ve provided chapter introductions that tie in stories from different disciplines – forensic, conservation, archeological, geological, manufacturing – all sorts of different things. There are so many opportunities out there that students aren’t even aware of.”
Kevin Revell teaches introductory, general, and organic chemistry at Murray State University, and also serves as the assistant dean for the MSU Jones College of Science, Engineering, and Technology. A passionate educator, his teaching experience includes high school, community college, small private, state comprehensive, and state flagship institutions. His work encompasses curriculum, technology-enhanced pedagogy, assessment, and active-learning design. He has hosted multiple science education workshops, and is the senior editor for flippedchemistry.com, an online community for college-level instructors implementing active-learning pedagogies. A synthetic chemist by training, his research involves the synthesis and evaluation of functional organic materials. With his wife, Jennifer, Kevin has three children – James, Julianne and Joshua – and two grandchildren.
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At the time of this writing, legislation has passed in seventeen US states that prohibits or restricts instruction on a widespread array of topics and pedagogical approaches. Nine additional states have legislation proposed or pending. The prohibitions range from bans on the teaching of critical race theory, restrictions on the adoption of pedagogical practices like social emotional learning and culturally responsive pedagogy, and the inclusion of classroom topics related to LGBTQIA+ communities, gender studies, and gender identity.
These laws and regulations are not just rhetoric. In addition to being the basis for queries about the content of our titles, they have created an environment in high schools and at colleges and universities in which course materials are evaluated not solely on their educational merit, but through a political lens. These laws have resulted in a reduction in transparency into how K-12 titles are evaluated and approved by state boards and agencies and a lack of guidance on how community reviews influence the decision-making process. This is even true for titles developed for high school Advanced Placement courses that had been previously taught in classrooms by school districts without complaint and which strictly align to national standards developed by the College Board.
Despite these most recent infusions of politics into the evaluation of course materials, we remain committed to a publishing process that does not compromise the educational value of what we produce. The recent legislation affects the way we conduct business and makes it harder for us to support our educational mission – we oppose these and other legislative acts that create a political barrier between us and the classrooms we serve.
Macmillan Learning: Diverse Views United To Support An Educational Mission
Our company’s mission is to improve lives through learning.
At Macmillan Learning and BFW Publishers, we participate in students’ lives through our publications and digital tools. Our employees and the authors we work with take pride in the learning materials we produce and our contributions to better student outcomes for communities, schools, and universities around the world. To value these things means we also value the right of each employee and author at Macmillan Learning to have a political view of their own and to bring their lived experience to bear in the work we do in partnership every day; it is that very diversity of thought that adds to the quality of our materials and to the betterment of our company.
The breadth of our authors and our publications, our commitment to inclusivity, and the effectiveness of our digital products provide educators with choices and builds equity for every learner in the classroom. You need to look no further than our economics list to see the diversity of viewpoints that we support. From ardent defenders of free market capitalism to proponents of the value of government regulation and intervention in the economy, our authors present a diversity of views and we are proud that several of them have put those views into practice in public service to U.S. presidents from both sides of the aisle.
Our commitment to free speech and diversity of perspectives in the classroom provides a foundation for our stance from which we will not waver: We believe classrooms must be places where ideas are fostered, engaged with, and critiqued – not banned. We believe it is essential for every learner to have a secure classroom environment where an individual’s identity is respected, the inherent human dignity of every person is acknowledged, and their lived experience is valued. We believe that educators and students should see themselves in their learning materials, and our content is written and our digital programs are developed in ways that support that belief. We promote the free exchange of ideas, oppose censorship, and denounce efforts that place politics ahead of pedagogy.
Our Values Are The Lens Through Which We Make Decisions
Our values help us navigate this difficult political climate. We are first and foremost an education company. We agree with PEN America and the American Association of Colleges and Universities that the principle of academic freedom undergirds all academic environments. And further, that “any legislative effort to circumscribe freedom of inquiry and expression in order to hew to political directives and agendas denies students essential opportunities for intellectual growth and development.”
We will meet this evolving political environment head-on by continuing to support free speech and academic freedom, and we will defend our publishing process and our right to publish. We will not compromise the integrity of our content, our values, or the relationships with our authors and each other that bind us through our common mission. We hold to these promises because these principles are encapsulated in our mission, and being a privately held, family owned company, we measure our success by each student we serve more than the next dollar we earn.
We know that what we do makes a difference, and we work everyday to meet our responsibility to unlock the potential of each learner. There are more voices still to be heard, more students still to be reached; as we listen to and learn from them and each other, we are energized by our mission and our role as a positive force in education.
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At Macmillan Learning, we recognize that the success of our textbooks and courseware is in large part due to our outstanding authors. We want to offer students and instructors an opportunity to get to know these extraordinary authors, whose remarkable careers and interests often extend far beyond higher education. While many are distinguished professors and academics at some of the most reputable colleges, universities, and institutions around the world, there’s often a very interesting career path that they have taken to get to where they are today.
Such is the case with Dr. James (Jim) Morris, co-author of Biology: How Life Works and professor at Brandeis University, which is why he immediately came to mind as an author to feature in our new Author Spotlight series. Dr. Morris is passionate about “sparking wonder” by inspiring curiosity and an interest in the sciences. And it shows. Plus, he has a History of Life Wall -- more about that later.
Dr. Morris’ genuine enthusiasm for teaching was immediately apparent when I began our interview, as he thanked me for helping foster an interest in learning and science. He struck me as the kind of professor I always appreciated in college: one who is more interested in teaching scientific thinking and problem solving than the memorization of an encyclopedia of terms
Throughout our conversation, we spoke about his unlikely career path that ultimately brought him to teaching and authoring, what it’s like to author a text from scratch, how teaching has evolved over the years, and why biology and (more broadly) science, is for everyone.
We are all science people. Science is all around us.
Dr. Morris loves teaching biology to all students, but he’s particularly interested in teaching those who are not majoring in biology. “I want to get through to the students who don't see themselves as science people,” he noted, and then paused. “Let me put it another way -- we are all science people.”
Science can be described as the systematic study of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. We all have a body and experience chemical and anatomical processes. “If you really want to understand something about yourself, you have to understand something about biology.” Knowing and understanding how our own body works is just one of the many aspects to the vast study of biology. The various aspects of biology and the natural world are all around us with plants, animals, issues like climate change and even the pandemic, he explained. It’s more than that though, we naturally think scientifically.
He offered an example to illustrate this point: imagine that the light goes out. You may think that it’s the light bulb that went out, and by doing that you have formed a hypothesis. It’s a scientific term for the guess that you naturally came up with. By switching the light bulb out to see if that works, you’re testing the hypothesis. If swapping the bulb doesn’t bring the light back on, you’re on to the next hypotheses.
“I think we're all naturally curious about the world,” he said. That tracks with his philosophy to have students leave his classes more interested in learning about how the world works. “You don't want to ‘wring the life’ out of biology, so to speak, you want to tap into that natural way of thinking and that natural curiosity and just build on it.” And that needs to start prior to a college education. Students can become overwhelmed, or overly focus on the quantitative data in a course, resulting in them claiming they are not a “science person,” but science is about more than that. It’s about being curious, asking questions, and observing. “I think those are exactly the people I am trying to reach.”
He added that it's with those students in mind that he develops his textbook resources. He wants to foster a love of science not in spite of the textbooks, but rather because of them, which he noted, is a tall order because “nobody generally likes a textbook.” He and the How Life Works team strive to make the materials engaging, topical, contemporary, and -- importantly -- not overwhelming as students are learning this material.”
Medicine is based on science but there’s a lot of pattern recognition. And so is biology.
Dr. Morris is interested in many things; among them are evolution, genetics, epigenetics, the history of science, and science education. He’s currently a teacher, a learner and a researcher. But in his long and interesting career, he’s also been a doctor, a teacher at a high school for deaf students, and more. He has a PhD in genetics and an MD from Harvard. His passion? Well, that’s all about teaching biology and the sciences. And his path to becoming a top instructor at Brandeis was what he described as a “long and meandering one.” And it was certainly unexpected.
He noted that his own high school biology teacher was an inspiration to him on his journey to learn about biology (this acknowledgement can be found in Biology for the AP Course ). While he originally pursued a biology degree, being in “one of these very large lecture classes” dissuaded him from that path. He ultimately finished his undergraduate degree in History and Science -- a unique degree that combines history, science and the history of science -- where he enjoyed the smaller classes, was given mentorship, and had many opportunities to hone his writing skills. His love of teaching and learning led to a position teaching deaf children and studying sign language at the National Institute for Deaf Children in Paris, France.
It was there that he recognized how much he loved teaching; so much so, that it sparked his interest in pursuing his MD. He explained that medicine is based in science and has a scientific underpinning. “As a practicing doctor it's a lot of pattern recognition. You're putting pieces together and forming a picture, and science is really about asking questions that we don't know the answer to. They're related, but distinct.”
Medical school offered him a broad scientific education, learning about anatomy, physiology, genetics, chemistry, microbiology, and more. In medical school he also learned a new way of teaching, which focused less on lecturing and more on problem solving, case studies, and working together in small groups, and learning through peer to peer instruction.
Dr. Morris had an opportunity to work in a small lab with “a fantastic mentor” to ask and answer questions about flies and epigenetics, which examines how the context of a gene - in a chromosome, nucleus, cell, organism, and environment - affects gene expression. So, how a gene is turned on or off. He really enjoyed this work as well as being in an academic setting; it led to him to apply to an MD/PhD program and ultimately earning both degrees at Harvard. He spent the next 20 years on a “meandering path” of postdoctoral work, internships and toggling between research and medicine. He was already working on How Life Works when he settled into his role at Brandeis, which he chose because he could teach, run a small lab and author the textbook. “I remember thinking that, you know, I found my home.”
It all came together in a marvelous way for the physician scientist. “I kept gravitating towards teaching,” he noted. “I can absolutely see in retrospect how much my exposure to different kinds of education and my own training and working with so many people set me up well to think about science, education, and even textbook writing.”
The key (to writing a book) is starting from scratch
Similar to how the classroom itself has changed to become more engaging, so have the materials that students use. To reflect those changes, it’s not just an author sitting down and writing anymore. There are writers, but there are also many other authors including a media team, a team working on assessments and activities, videos and simulations and editors working in parallel to pull it all together. Jim is clear that How Life Works is a team effort between the author team and Macmillan Learning and Bedford, Freeman, & Worth editorial groups.
Writing a book is different than it was many years ago, he noted, because students use content differently than they have in the past. As it turns out, course materials are not just for reading anymore. When Dr. Morris and the team envisioned How Life Works about 15 years ago, they threw out the textbook, so to speak, and started from scratch. “The textbooks were, in some ways, out of date. They were up to date in the latest science, but they weren't modern in terms of how students learn.” He explained that the typical textbooks of the past had been encyclopedic and long, which made sense before advances like Wikipedia and the internet.
The book’s goal was to move away from an emphasis on terms and facts, and instead convey concepts and ways of thinking that scientists use to understand the world around them and solve contemporary problems. To do that, they rethought everything, including how much content to include, how to organize it, the best ways to include questions from learning and assessments, how to innovate with media, and how all of it should be integrated together to tell the story of how life works. Their goal was to do this all in a way that engages and doesn’t overwhelm the learner. The process yielded ideas like how to make better use of media by using a Google map-like interface to have students explore a cell, digital animations that were created by fellow author, Robert (Rob) Lue.
Students are good at learning modular facts, the challenge is connecting them. And that is the story of biology.
I asked Dr. Morris whether there were differences between the writing process for his college students and for high school students. (Dr. Morris currently authors two textbooks, Biology: How Life Works and Biology for the AP Course .) Without hesitation, he remarked “it really was completely different.”
Because the college version of How Life Works was very engaging and visually oriented, the team originally thought it wouldn’t be that much work to create a high school version of the text. But after considering the existing levels of knowledge, different curriculum, order in which students learned the topics, it was back to the drawing board for Dr. Morris and the How Life Works team. He used his previous knowledge as a high school teacher, partnered with the Bedford, Freeman, & Worth high school editorial team and worked with a few high school biology teachers as advisers on the new text. For him, it was both a fun and meaningful project.
Writing for high school students is more like writing for a general audience, he noted. “You go from first principles. You go slowly and you tell it in different ways.” It’s repeating information without being repetitive, but rather by approaching the topics from different angles. Ultimately that line of thinking and writing resulted in a modular organization, composed of smaller and more focused blocks of material to build a foundation of knowledge and create context.
The way the foundation was built within the text was designed to help students continue to build connections and scaffold and layer information upon it. And, ultimately, to place what they just learned within the broader context of biology. “You can find that students are pretty good at learning individual facts and the challenge is connecting them. And that is the story of biology.”
The History of Life Wall
This brings us back to the History of Life Wall that I’ve heard so much about from my colleagues. It wraps up his experiences and passions into an example that lives on in the halls of Brandeis. The History of Life wall was a project curated by his undergraduate students who were inspired by one of his visual demonstrations about the timespan of the planet’s formation to modern day. Dr. Morris explained how, when you walk down the history of life, you see so many familiar events crowd at the end of the timeline. And that it gives you “a very visceral, tangible sense of things that are hard to convey by just talking about it.”
There's more than one way to do this. He used to use a roll of paper towels in his demonstrations and he also points me to a video that demonstrates the evolution of life condensed into 60 seconds. He welcomes these active ways of experiencing science that exist at the intersection of science and art. “It’s an informal science education that takes place outside of the classroom, when you may not even recognize that you’re learning about science.” Indeed, we are all science people. Both born of science and imbued with the natural curiosity of a scientist. The engaging walk seems pretty symbolic of Dr. Morris’ career -- offering an unexpected path of life itself, but made to spark curiosity and wonder in those who pass by.
One last point about that wall: “I want students to leave with a sense of both scale and really where we are in the history of life. It's about your place in the universe, but it's your place in time.”
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Macmillan Learning recently partnered with the Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services (RCAAS) to learn more about supporting employees and coworkers with autism in the workplace. The presentation was led by Giulietta Flaherty, a third year School Psychology doctoral student, and Jane Matto, a senior at Rutgers University and member of the College Support Program who has spoken at various events to discuss her experiences with Autism Spectrum Disorder. They were joined by Courtney Butler, M.S., BCBA, the Program Coordinator of the College Support Program (CSP) for students on the autism spectrum at Rutgers.
During the presentation, Giulietta and Jane discussed what autism is, provided strategies to best support employees and coworkers with autism, and emphasized autism as something to be acknowledged and celebrated. The event was organized and facilitated by Macmillan Learning’s employee resource group, AVID (Awareness of Visible and Invisible Disabilities). Here are the key takeaways from their presentation:
What is autism?
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5, 2013), autism is defined as a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social communication and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, interest, and activities.
What is the importance of language when considering people with autism?
Diagnostic labels can be important, but sometimes carry a stigma. What should one say when talking about a fellow employee: employee with autism or autistic employee? There is no wrong answer here because it depends on personal preference. In the past, clinicians used identity-first language (autistic employee), but members of the autism community then felt that they wanted to be identified as a person first and preferred person-first language (employee with autism). Thereafter, members of the autism community began to reclaim identity-first language, so it’s important to ask what different people prefer.
Why is understanding of autism important?
More people with autism are attending college and entering the workforce. Companies want to hire these individuals and just like other people, people with autism bring their own unique strengths and talents.
How can one best support autistic employees?
Employees with autism should be treated the same way that all employees are treated, though additional understanding of people with autism will create a more inclusive workplace. People with autism typically experience social situations differently or have social difficulties. For example, people with autism might struggle with:
Interacting with new people or places. If they’re a new employee, they may find it difficult to find their way around the office or fear asking for help.
Maintaining eye contact. For some people with autism, maintaining eye contact feels as intimate as kissing another person.
Demonstrating emotions with facial expressions. A person with autism may be happy but not actively smiling. Similarly, they may not readily recognize other peoples’ facial expressions.
Understanding differences in tone of voice. People with autism might also speak regularly with a neutral tone of voice.
Understanding sarcasm or exaggeration. This can include verbal and visual communication or messages via email.
Intensive pervasive interests. People with autism often have an interest or activity, which they can fixate their energy on.
Following social norms. A person with autism may not always say hello when entering a room or thank someone who has offered help or assistance.
All people with autism are different, and it’s important to remember that just because they don’t follow the exact social norms you may be accustomed to (like maintaining eye contact or greeting you), it does not mean that they are intentionally being rude.
Knowing that people with autism might have these social difficulties, employers and colleagues can make social interactions easier. The following can benefit all employees, not just those with autism:
Allowing time for breaks in social environments.
Being literal. Remember that autistic people may not always understand sarcasm or exaggeration. Provide concrete deadlines and clear expectations.
Avoiding physical touch. People with autism may experience something such as a high five as being too intimate.
Being considerate when giving constructive criticism.
Not taking their behavior personally. As mentioned above, autistic people may not always follow social norms, so their response may not be directed at you personally.
In addition to social differences, people with autism also experience sensory differences. One difference in autistic people is what’s known as stereotypy, which is the persistent repetition of an act for no obvious purpose. This can be vocal stereotypy: humming, laughing, shrieking, or talking to oneself; or it can be motor stereotypy: hand flapping or a tic in the neck. It’s important to remember that everyone engages in stereotypy–things like cracking one’s knuckles or tapping their foot–but people with autism are typically more stigmatized for this type of behavior.
People with autism might also experience executive functioning difficulties. Executive functioning skills are the mental processes that people use to plan, focus attention, self-regulate, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. So, when giving directions, it’s important to:
Write out explicit steps and give these written instructions to your employees.
Assign tasks in order of most important to least important.
Check for understanding and clarity.
Provide visual examples and use modeling.
Many of the strategies for working with autistic employees are generally good management tips and advice for working with all types of employees. Managers should provide one-on-one support to employees who may be struggling, whether that be in social situations or with a specific work task; they should speak privately with employees about performance issues; and they should provide validation and encouragement.
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“It’s a lot of work to write a textbook,” said Jamie Pope, co-author of Scientific American Nutrition for a Changing World , “Much more work than popular press.” As the author of both popular science books and an award-winning textbook, Jamie would know. Writing a textbook isn’t easy. Not only do authors need to have a wealth of experience and expertise in their respective fields, but their writing also needs to pass a rigorous editing and review process.
Macmillan Learning recognizes that the success of our textbooks and courseware is in large part due to our outstanding authors, many of whom are distinguished professors and academics at some of the most reputable colleges, universities, and institutions around the world. Our authors have remarkable careers that extend far beyond higher education; they are excellent teachers; and they are impeccable writers and storytellers.
Students don’t often think about the authors of the textbooks with which they spend so much of their time. What if there were an opportunity to get to know these extraordinary authors, to learn about their lives, their backgrounds, and how they got to where they are today? Now there is with our Author Spotlight Series. Each month, we will feature a different Macmillan Learning author, and we’re beginning this month with Jamie Pope.
Jamie Pope, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., F.A.N.D., Vanderbilt University There was no grand plan for Jamie. She didn’t know growing up that she was going to study nutrition; work in a hospital as a registered dietitian; contribute to some of the most popular weight-loss and dieting books of the 80s and 90s; serve as a consultant and spokesperson for several large food companies; develop one of the most successful open, online nutrition courses; and write an award-winning textbook – to name but a few of her many career accolades and achievements.
So, how did Jamie first become interested in nutrition? When I asked her this question, she told me it’s a story she tells fairly often. Jamie went to an all girls high school that did not have a traditional cafeteria. There were vending machines with limited options but no robust “hot lunch” for the students. As part of an assignment for her English class, Jamie needed to conduct a survey, and that was when she first thought more about what everybody was eating for lunch. “The two most commonly consumed items were Cheetos and Milky Way candy bars,” Jamie told me. “At the time I wasn’t thinking too much about vitamins and minerals, but when I considered the implications of this simple survey it made me more aware of why food choice and balance might really matter.”
A couple of years later, when Jamie was flipping through the pages of her university course catalog, she remembered thinking she needed to choose a major. “I saw a course on vitamins and minerals and thought it sounded interesting,” she said. To Jamie it ended up being more than just interesting. She loved it, and decided to major in nutrition.
“From there I had sort of the traditional path of a registered dietitian, working in a hospital setting with patients,” Jamie said. She lived in Boston at the time, specializing in the area of heart disease and obesity. One day in 1986, when she was leaving the hospital to catch a flight back to her hometown of Nashville, the medical director stopped her and told her to reach out to Dr. Martin Katahn, a health psychologist at Vanderbilt University writing popular science diet books. Jamie described this as her entry into publishing.
Dr. Katahn had a lot of success. He was featured in People Magazine and appeared in many national talk shows, but Jamie noticed something missing from his team of researchers. “I couldn’t believe he didn’t have a dietitian on his team,” she said. “He was conducting all of this diet related work, but he didn’t have anybody with a nutrition background.” Soon after Jamie returned to Boston, Dr. Katahn asked her to come work with him at Vanderbilt, where she’s been located ever since.
Initially, Jamie was doing weight-loss research and consulted on some of Dr. Katahn’s books. One of these books was The T-Factor Diet , for which Jamie compiled an extensive appendix including thousands of foods with their grams of fats, calories, sodium, and other nutritional information. The book sold millions of copies and quickly became a bestseller. “One day,” Jamie said, “on a call with our publisher, they told me they wanted the appendix to be its own publication because so many people were copying it and carrying it around with them.” The little spin-off fat gram “counter” that she co-authored sold over seven million copies and spent more than three years on The New York Times bestseller list.
Jamie’s success with popular press opened the door to many opportunities. When I asked her about the most interesting roles she’s had, she told me about her time as a spokesperson or consultant for a few different food companies. “One of the fun things about my career were the media opportunities,” Jamie said. “I did a media tour with Chick-fil-A releasing their Gallup poll on fast food nutrition in the 90s. I’ve gone on book tours. I appeared on the Today Show a couple of times.” Chick-fil-A provided her with media training, where she learned media strategy and etiquette. “That was a lot of fun!”
“Getting to do those types of things was scary, but there was also always a lot of adrenaline pumping,” Jamie said as she reminisced about the different people she met during this part of her career. “I remember sitting in a green room and being interviewed by Katie Couric.” Jamie also did some consulting for Super Bakery, which was owned by Franco Harris. “Have you ever heard of him?” she asked me with a smile. Jamie admitted she’s not much of a football person, so she hadn’t recognized that he was a multiple-time Super Bowl winner with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“One day I had to pick him up at the airport, and I thought his name was Frank O’Harris, not Franco Harris,” Jamie said. “I had a sign with his misspelled name on it and was looking for someone who I thought probably looked Irish,” she laughed. “All of a sudden he comes up and tells me ‘I think you might be looking for me.’” Franco thought it was funny, and Jamie’s brother, who is a football fan, couldn’t believe his sister had done that. Thereafter, when Franco would call, he would keep the joke alive and tell Jamie “Hey, this is Frank.”
In 2000, after gaining experience in research, publishing, media, and consulting, Jamie started teaching her introductory nutrition course at Vanderbilt University. “Out of all of the things I’ve done in my career, teaching is what I love most,” she said. Jamie doesn’t expect students to leave her course as nutrition experts. Instead, she described her course much like a music or art appreciation course. “When you take an art class,” she said, “you never walk into a museum the same way again. You look at things differently, you have new questions, and you have a greater appreciation for artists of all types.” She wants her students to appreciate the evolving science of nutrition. “I want them to be better consumers and be equipped to better evaluate and question what they read or hear about food and nutrition in the media, from friends, and on food products.”
Writing a textbook gave Jamie an opportunity to reach even more students. Macmillan Learning approached Jamie in 2012 to ask her about the possibility of writing a textbook. She remembered wondering why the team was asking her, and they provided three reasons. “The first was that I had a publishing history. The second was that I had good reviews on Rate My Professors, which I thought was funny because at the time I had never heard of that before,” she said. Jamie then looked immediately afterward at the website. “And third, they told me that they heard good things about my introductory nutrition course at Vanderbilt.”
The same day Jamie agreed to write the textbook, she was boarding a plane back to Nashville from New York and received an email from her provost and dean at Vanderbilt. They asked her to teach one of Vanderbilt’s inaugural MOOCs ( M assive O pen O nline C ourses). Although feeling overwhelmed, she agreed to teach this MOOC, which aligned with her introductory nutrition course and involved creating course content, filming over 80 videos, and managing the course. “At first I thought maybe 300-400 people might enroll, but then it just kept growing!” she said. “Once we got over 50,000, I remember one of my colleagues telling me that we just filled Nissan Stadium.” The course was offered three times ultimately enrolling more than 175,000 participants from all over the world.
Jamie credits her career opportunities for providing her the experiences necessary to write a textbook. “My co-author, Steven Nizielski, and I make a good team,” she said. “Our textbook follows a story-based approach with science weaved into relevant stories.” Jamie said that what sets their book, Scientific American Nutrition for a Changing World , apart from others on the market is the fact that it’s written by two authors who bring different perspectives, allowing different types of readers to connect to the material. “As a registered dietitian nutritionist I bring my nutrition background and practical experience and Steven brings his nutrition and biochemistry expertise, so he provides much of our scientific backbone for the book,” she said.
While Jamie admitted that balanced, sound nutrition is part of how she lives her life, she loves to eat, experience new foods, and eschews restrictive “dieting”. “I made an incredible chocolate cake yesterday,” she said. “I love to bake, which doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with nutrition, but it's another form of creative expression for me.” She also enjoys long walks as her main form of exercise, and she listens to audiobooks on those walks; her favorite genre is historical fiction. She lives with her husband, her younger of two daughters, their big dog, Stanley, and their two cats.
Jamie Pope, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., F.A.N.D. currently serves as Adjunct Assistant Professor in Nutritional Sciences at Vanderbilt University, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and academic author. Jamie came to Vanderbilt in 1986 and has worked in the areas of obesity research, health promotion, and heart disease prevention. Teaching since 2000, her popular classes have reached over 6,000 undergraduate students from a wide range of majors to learn about nutrition science and its application to their personal and professional lives. Beyond the classroom, Jamie adapted portions of her nutrition courses to produce a Massive Open Online Course or “MOOC” which earned her an Innovation in Teaching award from the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. Jamie is the co-author of the award winning textbook Nutrition for a Changing World . Jamie is a recent recipient of the 2021 Outstanding Dietetics Educator Award from the Tennessee Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and has served on the executive leadership committee for Nutrition Educators of Health Professionals Dietetic Practice Group. Jamie has authored or contributed to numerous scientific and popular press publications. She has held several corporate positions including at Chick Fil-A and Smart Balance, serving as nutrition consultant and media representative.
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Higher education has always been about broadening horizons and exploring a diversity of thought and experiences. I met people of all backgrounds and perspectives when I went to college and those experiences had a profound effect on my thinking about education. To this day, I feel I learned as much in my freshman dorm room at Daniels Hall at University of Cincinnati as I did in the upper-level literature courses in McMicken Hall.
Those formative experiences have also informed my nearly-30-year career in educational publishing and software, where I have been seeking to amplify the impact of learning products for all students. It is complex work, with an equal balance of research, development, design, and testing. At Macmillan Learning, I’m fortunate to lead a team of product managers, user experience designers/researchers, and learning science researchers as we tackle these complex challenges. I am most proud that our new learning platform, Achieve, has already proven to positively impact outcomes for students, no matter their background, ethnicity, or income level.
We began our Achieve design process in 2017 with a series of co-design sessions in which we paired a diverse group of students and faculty. We armed them with post-it notes and markers at a whiteboard to share ideas, and learn what was most important to them. The observations of campus life and learning experiences from those sessions broadened our horizons to the needs of all learners, including the most underserved and vulnerable.
Because our impact researchers obtain two levels of Institutional Review Board approval from each institution we work with, we are able to use demographic data–with strict and appropriate privacy and security measures in place–to measure the impact of Achieve for all learners. I’m especially proud of the research we do to measure the impact Achieve has on underserved populations. While we have seen evidence that underserved populations see better outcomes when they use Achieve, our work is far from done. By pairing our impact researchers with Achieve product managers and user experience designers, we continue to improve the product.
It is this commitment to impact research and continuous product improvement that brought Macmillan Learning to a conversation with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We’ve taken the first steps in a new research project to better understand how courseware products such as Achieve can be used to help support Black, Latin, Indigenous and low-income students’ success. I’m interested in discovering more about how we can produce an impact that is “greater than the sum of its parts” between all education institutions who share the mission of serving these traditionally underserved populations.
While we are justifiably proud of the progress we’ve made with Achieve, we always have an eye on continuous improvement. Our goal has always been to support the ongoing success of all learners, and we are all glad that Achieve is helping to do that.
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In the summer of 1980, my family moved into our first home. I was six years old and was excited to have my own room, two floors to scamper through, and a yard. That home would be where my sister and I would spend the remainder of our childhood. It would serve as the anchor to a young life filled with school commutes, church functions, community service, summer jobs, and family outings. We had a sense of permanency in a world that constantly demanded our attention with each passing year.
That same summer that we moved into our new home, my father, who taught sixth grade at the elementary school we attended, accepted an assignment to teach New Jersey’s Migrant Education Program. We thought that it was odd that during the summer, when most teachers took a break from the challenges of the urban classroom, my father drove out each morning to help educate a much-forgotten population of students - the children of migrant workers. These children came from Black and Latinx families from the rural south who made their way to New Jersey to work the Garden State’s tomato crops.
For most of the school year, I’d watch my dad struggle with the challenges of educating our city’s urban youth, many of which came from single parent homes or foster home environments in poor neighborhoods. By the end of the school year, he would come home exhausted and depleted from playing so many roles all year long- surrogate father, life coach, and disciplinarian all in one. I didn’t understand why he wanted to give his summers, his only reprieve from the chaos of the inner-city public school, and give his time to the children of migrant workers.
One day during that summer of 1980, I asked my father why. He told me that my mother had told him stories of the work she had done as a high school student volunteering as part of the Interfaith Youth Council to prepare food and provide clothing to migrant worker families. Her stories about the tough conditions that these families endured, on the job and in their home life, had lit a spark in him to do something intentional about it as a young teacher. He learned that there was a national movement to bring attention to the work standards and quality of life of farm workers that was being led by a charismatic and powerful organizer named Cesar Chavez.
My father described the justice and equality that he was fighting for as an extension of the foundational civil rights work done by Dr. Martin Luther King. He and my mother were teaching me through their work, that there is always a marginalized group in our society that deserves the sense of permanency and promise that comes from a quality education, decent housing, and fair pay. I learned that the wave of protest, awareness, and legal action that Cesar Chavez had sparked while organizing farm labor in California in the 60’s was alive on the East coast by the early eighties, inspiring a new generation of activists, organizers and educators like my father and mother.
My parents represented the realization of Cesar’s dream to protect the most vulnerable populations in our society- the American family with no permanent residency, no job security, and little formal education. I looked at the new house that my sister and I were so excited to now occupy as a privilege never to be taken for granted. I learned that there were courageous leaders, like Cesar Chavez, who dedicated their lives to fight for the basic rights of America’s forgotten families.
During this year’s observance of Cesar Chavez Day, I’m honored to know that his enduring legacy of selfless service continues to inspire generations of activists, advocates and educators to fight for a more inclusive and equitable America where all have the right to a meaningful and fulfilling life.
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Throughout the history of the United States, women have shaped efforts to gain greater rights and achieve economic and social justice. But it wasn’t until the late 1980s that the whole of American history began to be included in textbooks, when Mary Beth Norton and a team of co-authors wrote the first American history textbook that attempted to integrate the history of women, African Americans, immigrants and American Indians alongside that of men and white Europeans.
Since then, contextualizing history through different perspectives and offering a greater representation of diverse peoples has become much more common. This Women’s History Month, Macmillan Learning Author, Professor Nancy Hewitt, spoke with Macmillan Learning about some of those complexities and the women and movements that sought to gain greater rights and achieve economic and social justice -- all of which can be found in her textbook co-authored with Steven Lawson, Exploring American Histories .
“Stories of women and girls from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, classes, regions and religions now appear in every American history textbook,” noted Professor Hewitt, co-author of Exploring American Histories and Emerita Professor of History and Women’s Studies at Rutgers University. Within those different stories, women's activism is an important theme that helps to illustrate the complexity of American history over time. There were different perspectives from the activists on topics like the intersection of gender and race as well as which movements should be addressed first.
Here are some of the stories that Professor Hewitt shared:
In the 1830s, social justice movements were almost always segregated by race and sex, and women had limited roles . That started to change with women like Amy Kirby Post, who became involved in anti-slavery and women’s rights movements. Amy was raised in a Quaker farming community, and moved to Rochester, NY in the 1830s. While Quakers’ activism was generally limited to testimonies within the Society of Friends, Amy and her husband, Isaac, became active members of the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society, which was among the early efforts within social justice movements to create truly interracial and mixed sex organizations.
As part of that effort, she circulated anti-slavery petitions and forged more personal relationships across the color line by hosting Black activists in her home. The Posts also hosted traveling lecturers, including Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, and participated in the underground railroad. In 1849, she joined with members of the city's African American Union Sewing Society to host an interracial dinner with the goal, according to Hewitt, of “persuading their white neighbors to embrace equality individually as well as philosophically.”
These efforts contrast with the goals of other activists of the time, such as Reverend Charles Grandison. His evangelical religious views led him to promote social reforms, such as abolition and equal education for women and African Americans. However, while denouncing slavery, he opposed women's participation in the abolition movement along with other activities he considered “political”, including expanding women's rights.
But the complexity of women’s movements and the fight for equal rights doesn't end there. Despite ratification in 1920 of the 19th Amendment, which stated that women could not be denied the right to vote on the basis of sex, the need for women's activism continued. Large percentages of Black women – like Black men – were denied the right to vote until Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Women like Pauli Murray helped make the case for equal rights for Black people and women.
A descendent of white, African American, and American Indian ancestors, Pauli Murray grew up in North Carolina and moved to Washington D.C. in 1940 to attend Howard University Law School. There she led demonstrations against segregation in restaurants and on buses. She also wrote an important book on state segregation laws and her analysis was used to support the successful arguments in the 1954 Supreme Court Case Brown v. Board of Education. She went on to help launch the National Organization for Women (NOW). There she focused her attention on equal rights for all women, regardless of race or class.
Eventually, Murray’s support for NOW waned, as she believed that it became too focused on the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. She believed most NOW leaders failed to see that, as Hewitt explained, “race and class oppressions were deeply intertwined with inequalities of gender.” The era dealt with sex discrimination, but ignored the ways that Black and working-class women were discriminated against.
The ERA also sparked a strong conservative movement, led by Phyllis Schlafly. She was a conservative activist from California who gained popularity among housewives by claiming feminists disparaged them and wanted to do away with “natural” differences between the sexes. She also appealed to Christian women, whose values she claimed were under attack from feminists. These groups kept the ERA from being ratified.
In exploring American history, scholars now focus on the importance of women's activism across the entire span of American history. They illustrate the complexities of the various movements and the diverse goals of the participants. As with men, many of these differences were informed by the activists’ race, class, ethnicity, religion, region and political party affiliations. “Women activists embrace different, even opposing views about the kinds of change that would best serve their communities and themselves,” Hewitt said.
Because of this diversity, we find women involved in every important movement for social change, past and present. Hewitt said, “We can trace the deep roots of current campaigns to transform our nation back to its founding decades. Fully integrating these stories into American history textbooks can help to transform both the faculty who assign them and the students they teach.”
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As our working life has evolved over the past two years, I have been thinking about the experiences and jobs I have had throughout my publishing career. Although I did not necessarily love every job, nor was I the best fit for every one, what I know to be true is that each step built on the last one and each one helped me grow as a person and as a professional. A common thread for me as I built my career has been the ever present role of my mentors. Mentoring is widely considered a critical component to career success, and today, w omen are focusing much more on networking and mentorship. This often provides help for us as we navigate our lives as working women, and we are better for it.
Throughout much of its early history, the publishing industry had a reputation for being a “gentleman’s profession;” one in which women like the first female newspaper publisher Elizabeth Timothy could only be found behind the scenes. At the turn of the century, women who wanted to work in publishing found themselves in secretarial roles because the editorial roles they coveted were dominated by men. As the 20th Century progressed, the industry started to see editorial positions and other roles open up to women. In fact, a 2019 study on the US publishing industry revealed that 74% of employees are women. At Macmillan Learning, women are a majority of our employees.
Much of the reason for the change can be attributed to support and mentorship of women. Elizabeth Timothy relied on her partnership with Benjamin Franklin to publish the South Carolina Gazette , and many women who had ambitions to work in publishing relied on their connections within the industry to get their first roles. Mentors can be invaluable to helping support and nurture women for a career in publishing, no matter where they are in their career journey.
Early in my career I never thought I was ready for the next position. In fact, I remember having to be talked into applying for some new roles. Thankfully, my managers and mentors believed in me. My doubts made me one of the 75% of women who manage their imposter syndrome, second guessing whether I was ready for a new role, and to take the next step in my career. And like 72% of these talented women, I relied on a mentor to help me manage and move past those feelings. And as it turns out, they were right.
We all have a part to play in helping women grow and nurture their careers both inside and outside the publishing industry. While informal mentorships are a critical part of growth, they’re just one piece of the mentoring puzzle. More and more, companies are recognizing the significance of having a diverse workplace, and an important part of that is gender equality.
But I didn't just rely on mentors early in my career -- they have helped me progress throughout my career. My mentors have been male and female. But unlike what one would think a typical mentorship looks like, many of these were informal relationships that formed organically. I worked on nurturing those connections by asking questions and seeking advice. As my responsibilities grew, I also grew my network of people I could rely on for advice, for empathy and sometimes some tough talk.
Today, I’m paying it forward by being a mentor to other women inside and outside Macmillan Learning. I am part of a Women’s Leadership Network, and I sit on the Board of Directors of the not- for- profit organization Reach Out and Read of Greater NY. I’m proud that I’m part of the company’s mentorship program, and the Executive Sponsor of Proud@ML, one of the company’s Employee Resource Groups.
This Women’s History Month, I wanted to take a moment to recognize those who have mentored me and countless other women to develop their publishing career. For me, being a mentor has brought such joy and pride helping those early in their careers grow and stretch themselves when they are not sure they can. For those who might be reticent, I encourage you to think about those that inspire you, or spark your curiosity and start having those organic conversations that can oftentimes grow into lifelong mentorships.
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