Academia is not, by and large, a kind place. Individualism and competition are what count. But without kindness at its core, Catherine Denial suggests, higher education fails students and instructors—and its mission—in critical ways.
Part manifesto, part teaching memoir, part how-to guide, A Pedagogy of Kindness urges higher education to get aggressive about instituting kindness, which Denial distinguishes from niceness. Having suffered beneath the weight of just “getting along,” instructors need to shift every part of what they do to prioritizing care and compassion—for students as well as for themselves.
A Pedagogy of Kindness articulates a fresh vision for teaching, one that focuses on ensuring justice, believing people, and believing in people. Offering evidence-based insights and drawing from her own rich experiences as a professor, Denial offers practical tips for reshaping syllabi, assessing student performance, and creating trust and belonging in the classroom. Her suggestions for concrete, scalable actions outline nothing less than a transformational discipline—one in which, together, we create bright new spaces, rooted in compassion, in which all engaged in teaching and learning might thrive.
Catherine J. Denial is Bright Distinguished Professor of American History and Director of the Bright Institute at Knox College. A regular speaker and consultant on teaching and learning, she is also the author of Making Marriage: Husbands, Wives, and the American State in Dakota and Ojibwe Country. Find her online at www.catherinedenial.org.
“A Pedagogy of Kindness is girded by science and research but presented in a humane, personable way. Reading this book is akin to faculty development for the soul.”—Regan A. R. Gurung, coauthor of Thriving in Academia: Building a Career at a Teaching-Focused Institution
“All too often, kindness is conflated with insipid niceties, polite pretense, or hollow axioms. But, as Catherine J. Denial forcefully demonstrates, it can also be a revolutionary pedagogical practice. Replete with practical advice and actionable teaching takeaways, A Pedagogy of Kindness will make you a believer in the profound power of real kindness in the classroom.”—Jessamyn Neuhaus, author of Geeky Pedagogy: A Guide for Introverts, Intellectuals, and Nerds Who Want to Be Effective Teachers
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