Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology

Book Circles - Spring Quarter 2023

Book CirclesThe CTLT hosts book circles every academic quarter and during summers. They are open to all Cal Poly educators. Selected books draw from a broad array of thoughtful and inspiring educational literature. These are opportunities to enrich your knowledge about timely and significant topics related to higher education while engaging with colleagues from across campus. Themes for book circle selections include: Mindful Educators, Mastery Teaching, Inclusive Educators, Navigating Academia, Sustainability Educators, and Writing Educators. 

Participants receive a complimentary copy of the selected book with the expectation that they will engage in three or more discussion sessions.

NOTE: Our cumulative Book Circles list of titles is available on the CTLT's Book Circle archival webpage.

Misconceiving Merit: Paradoxes of Excellence and Devotion in Academic Science and Engineering

by Mary Blair-Loy and Erin A. Cech

Misconceiving Merit Book CoverIn Misconceiving Merit, sociologists Mary Blair-Loy and Erin A. Cech show how cultural ideas about merit in STEM disciplines are linked with inequitable outcomes for minoritized groups. If you are interested in diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM, we urge you to join this book circle. 

Book description from the publisher (University of Chicago Press):  
"Blair-Loy and Cech studied more than five hundred STEM professors at a top research university to reveal how unequal and unfair outcomes can emerge alongside commitments to objectivity and excellence. The authors find that academic STEM harbors dominant cultural beliefs that not only perpetuate the mistreatment of scientists from underrepresented groups but hinder innovation. Underrepresented groups are often seen as less fully embodying merit compared to equally productive white and Asian heterosexual men, and the negative consequences of this misjudgment persist regardless of professors’ actual academic productivity. Misconceiving Merit is filled with insights for higher education administrators working toward greater equity as well as for scientists and engineers striving to change entrenched patterns of inequality in STEM."

Meeting Dates & Times: Alternating Fridays from 11:10 am-12:00 pm; April 21, May 5, 19, June 2

Meeting Location: Online in Zoom (link will be sent to registrants)

Facilitators: Dr. Jane Lehr (Ethnic Studies and WGQS), Dr. Zoë Wood (Computer Science), Dr. Sarah Macdonald (CTLT)

An "inclusive educator" selection

Register for Spring 2023 Book Circles

Grading for Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms

by Joe Feldman

 Resilient book coverDo you wish that more students would be intrinsically motivated learn rather focusing so intently on points and grades? Are you weary of when students plead for a few more paltry points? Do you have a nagging feeling that the grading practices that you use might have some shortcomings? This book was written for you. It's reasonable to assume that we all strive to use grading practices that are accurate, equitable, bias resistant, and motivational. Even better would be practices that minimize grade inflation, reduce failure rates and foster stronger student-faculty relationships. In this book Joe Feldman argues that traditional grading approaches have serious flaws that can inadvertently promote inequities and demotivate learners -- especially those learners that the educational system tends to disfavor. He offers a broad menu of more equitable and more effective approaches for adoption (selectively or comprehensively). The result over time will be grading practices that better reflect your core values as an educator dedicated to equitable practices that benefit all learners. For a brief overview of Feldman's ideas see: "What Traditional Classroom Grading Gets Wrong" (Education Week).

NOTE: Download book (free) from the Kennedy Library website

Meeting Dates & Times: Wednesdays from 1:10-2 pm; April 19, 25, May 3, 10

Meeting Location: CTLT conference room, room 35-319 on third floor of Kennedy Library

Facilitator: Dr. Stefanee Maurice, KINE

A "Mastery Teaching" selection
An "inclusive educator" selection

Register for Spring 2023 Book Circles

Life Beyond Grades: Designing College Courses to Promote Intrinsic Motivation

By Martin Covington, Linda von Hoene and Dominic Voge

 Resilient book coverCan we imagine life as a faculty member where grades do not dominate students' educational world and contribute less angst to faculty work? As the book's title suggests, the authors present a compelling argument that there can be life beyond grades for both students and faculty. However, they wrote the book because so many students are under the mistaken view that the purpose of taking classes is to earn points and grades rather than learning. Contrast that with most faculty's frustration with students' overwhelming focus on accumulating points for grades, which can come at the expense of learning. The discrepancy between students' view and faculty's view creates a tension that undermines the quality and value of the course for both groups. This book is an opportunity to explore and implement ways that educators can foster students' intrinsic (and enduring) motivations for learning and reduce the impact of grades as extrinsic (and transient) motivations in their coursework. Imagine how it would be to teach a class full of learning-focused students!

Meeting Dates & Times: Tuesdays from 12:10-1 pm; April 18, 25 and May 2, 9

Meeting Location: Online in Zoom (link will be sent to registrants)

Facilitator: Dr. Patrick O'Sullivan, CTLT

A "Mastery Teaching" selection
An "inclusive educator" selection

Register for Spring 2023 Book Circles

If I Understood You, Would I have this Look on my Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating

by Alan Alda

 Resilient book cover

Drawing on improvisation training, theater, and storytelling techniques from a life of acting, and with insights from recent scientific studies, Alda describes ways we can build empathy, nurture our innate mind-reading abilities, and improve the way we relate and talk with others. He shows how communication can be improved through learning to relate to the other person: listening with our eyes, looking for clues in another’s face, using the power of a compelling story, avoiding jargon, and reading another person. If I Understood You is a funny, thought-provoking guide that can be used by all of us, in every aspect of our lives.


  • Dates: Thursdays, April 27, May 4, 11, and 18
  • Time:  11:10 am-12 pm
  • Location: Online in Zoom (link will be sent to registrants)
  • Facilitator: Dr. Dianna Winslow

Register for Spring 2023 Book Circles

Language Incompetence: Learning to Communicate through Cancer, Disability, and Anomalous Embodiment 

by Suresh Canagarajah

 Resilient book cover

Conceived in 2014 in the wake of a cancer diagnosis and written largely during the period of COVID-19 lockdowns worldwide, Language Incompetence offers faculty and staff a way of imagining language, communication, and writing as acts of compassion. In the book, Canagarajah reflects on his own career as a researcher and educator in light of his diagnosis, treatment, and subsequent need for long-term monitoring and care. In the process, he offers critiques of those discourses that ascribe labels of competence or incompetence, of ability or deficiency, to both bodies and to language. He draws our attention instead to human vulnerability and relational ethics at the heart of all language use and communicative practice. 

Open to faculty and staff across campus, this book circle may be of particular interest to those seeking to engage in discussion about disability, language difference, communication, and community. 

Suresh Canagarajah is scheduled to visit Cal Poly’s campus May 15 through May 19 and will participate in the book circle’s final meeting in person on May 16. Canagarajah is the former president of the American Association for Applied Linguistics, former editor of TESOL Quarterly, and currently Edwin Earle Sparks Professor of Applied Linguistics, English, and Asian Studies at Penn State University. His research covers World Englishes, translingualism, and language pedagogy. 

This book circle is co-sponsored by the Disability Faculty Staff Association, the Office of Writing and Learning, the College of Liberal Arts, the First-Year Composition Program, and the Political Science department.

  • Dates: Tuesdays, April 25, May 2, 9, and 16 
  • Time:  12:10-1 pm
  • Location: For April 25, May 2, and 9, Online in Zoom (link will be sent to registrants); for May 16, 35-319b (w/option for virtual participation)
  • Facilitators: John Lee, Disability Resource Center, and Jason Peters, English Department

Register for Spring 2023 Book Circles

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