Reading, Learning, Teaching: A Book Club Experience

Book Club Members
EDU Book Club Members Reading Creating Significant Learning Experiences

Cheryl Jeffs, Educational Development Consultant, Educational Development Unit, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning

We just finished discussing the last chapters of Dee Fink’s book, Creating Significant Learning Experiences (2013), had a quick photo taken, (thank you Irfaan, EDU), and agreed we needed to meet again.

We are members of a book club, I organized and facilitated it, and it was sponsored by the Educational Development Unit (EDU), Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, which also provided registration, and snacks (thank you Mary-Jane). The book club idea was suggested by the EDU Director, Natasha Kenny, as a way to engage participants prior to the 2015 U of C Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching, and highlight the work of keynote speaker, Dee Fink.

As soon as the book club was announced, there were registrations from faculty, students, and staff, from across disciplines. Part of the attraction to the book club was the offer of a gift of Dee Fink’s book to all participants. Three meetings were scheduled, and we met once a month over a lunch hour. We discussed selected book chapters, analyzed the content, and considered implications of, and applications to practice. Lin Yu (EDU) generated a book club course in D2L, I managed the content, generated questions, monitored the discussions, and kept in contact with the participants. Book club members posted comments, suggestions, and resources.

The book club was informed by several works, including the ‘slow scholarship’ notion by Hartman and Darab (2012), that we learn, and process information when we take the time to think, and reflect. Levine (2007), provided a model for a faculty-driven book club (teaching ourselves), and Barthelmess (2014), practical guidelines on book discussion were adopted. There is also a body of literature that supports the intentional, and organized book club is a classroom activity that promotes learning, (Scourfield & Taylor, 2014, and others.)

After our last meeting, I had a chance to reflect on the book club – my experience, and the participants’ experience. I found the time it took to coordinate, and prepare for the book club was more than I expected. The book club enhanced my professional development and learning through the reading (334 pages, 7 chapters, 2 appendices), especially Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning. Even though the meetings were face-to-face, blending D2L into the book club was an efficient way to organize content, and communicate with members. Facilitating the book club, making the commitment to read, feedback from, and discussion with the participants was all worth the effort.

Book club participants rated the experience as “very good” to “excellent”, they indicated they would join another book club or journal club if it was established, and that they learned something new about course design, teaching and learning. It was encouraging to hear that several were planning to incorporate some of the course design, and teaching ideas in their practice.

The opportunity to discuss, and share with colleagues from various disciplines, added to the richness of the meetings, plus it pushed our thinking beyond the perspective of our own disciplines. Overall, the book club allowed the structure and time, for discussion, reflection, and learning.


Barthelmess, T. (2014). Thom’s rules of order: Ten tips for good book discussion. The Horn Book Magazine, p. 28-32. Retrieved from

Fink, L.D. (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Hartman, Y. & Darab, S. (2012). A call for slow scholarship: A case study on the intensification of academic life and its implications for pedagogy. The Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 34(49), 49-60.

Levine, L., Fallahi, C., Nicoll-Senft, J., Tessier, J., Watson, C. (2007). Teaching ourselves: A model to improve, assess and spread the word. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 1(2), Article 24.

Scourfield, J. & Taylor, A. (2014). Using a book group to facilitate student learning about social work. Social Work Education, 33(4), 533-538.

About cljeffs 5 Articles
Cheryl L Jeffs, EdD, is an educational development consultant and faculty member at the University of Calgary, Educational Development Unit, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning. Cheryl is committed to excellence in teaching and learning through a range of research-informed educational programs and initiatives, workshops, consultations, and collaborative projects. With a diverse background in professional and educational development, and adult education, Cheryl’s research interests include formative feedback for teaching development, and graduate student teaching development. She is the chair of the University of Calgary Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching, and Editor of Papers on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching (PPLT).

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