Category Archives: Education

Book Review: Practicing Christian Education: An Introduction for Ministry, by Mark A. Maddix and James Riley Estep, Jr.

Practicing Christian EducationIn Practicing Christian Education: An Introduction for Ministry, authors Mark A. Maddix and James Riley Estep, Jr. appear to be primarily concerned with Wesleyan tradition and ecclesiology in combination with a business model ecclesiology. While the stated purpose(s) of the text are unclear and sometimes contradictory, it is apparent that the book is geared toward those who are looking to be paid “Education Ministers/Pastors” in large congregations who fit the stated models with significant budgets. The book is not about Christian education in a broad sense (e.g., teaching various subjects from and with a Christian manner and perspective), and many will likely find it confusing and unhelpful if looking to it for any purpose other than that stated above.

Assessing it for what it is, and not for what I thought it might be, the text falls short of being very helpful. Disjointed, redundant, contradictory, and unclear throughout, I would not recommend it for the seminary students the authors hope will read it. While there are certainly helpful moments, largely by way of quoting others’ material, I do not find them to be justifiable reasons for wading through the whole. If I had not agreed to review the book, I would have stopped reading after chapter six (out of seventeen) because it felt like I was simply being taken for a ride with no purpose or destination in sight—it didn’t get much better.

While I concur with the authors that churches need to take seriously what, how, and when they teach so that all can (and will!) mature in their faith and life in the kingdom of God, I did not find this book as a whole to be a clear and helpful tool for educating those leading, guiding, and/or undertaking that task.


*I received a temporary, pre-published digital copy for review from Baker Academic via NetGalley.

Book Review: College Rules!: How to Study, Survive, and Succeed in College, by Sherrie Nist-Olejnik, PhD & Jodi Patrick Holschuh, PhD

College Rules!Are you thinking about going to college? Are you already in college and wondering why you’re not doing that well, or maybe you think you’re doing well but find that you’re frustrating your professors (and maybe even your classmates)? Are you completely unable or unwilling to be introspective and, therefore, have no clue how you’re doing in college? If you answer any of these questions in the affirmative, pick up a copy of College Rules!: How to Study, Survive, and Succeed in College today. In fact, read it even if you don’t think you need to. You’ll thank me later.

Originally published in 2002, College Rules! is now in its fourth edition, updated with technology advice and tips for adult learners among other things. Authors, longtime teachers, and PhD holders Sherrie Nist-Olejnik and Jodi Patrick Holschuh have done a marvelous job communicating the necessities, pitfalls, and escape routes of college life. I wish this book had existed when I was in college (or before). If so, I may not have had what I call my “first attempt” at undergrad. Of course, there are two problems with this book from the perspective of my former self: 1) it’s a book, and 2) it’s over 300 pages! I was one of those who never studied in high school, was in AP everything, involved in a number of extra curricular activities, and got an A in most courses. I hated reading, so I didn’t do it—why would I if grades were all that mattered? Well, college is not high school, as the authors point out on several occasions, and if grades are all that matter (they aren’t), then reading matters. (I, however, didn’t read anything until the summer before my final year of undergrad when I was required to read eleven books over three summer courses with no way around it. That broke my barrier of distaste for reading and cured me of falling asleep after every couple pages, but didn’t help any of my previous years of college. If I had not forced myself to read and read well [key], I never would have made it through my graduate work. I now read several books a week and get books for free [like this one] to review. Yes, we can change.) So, for students who hate to read, it may be beneficial to begin with chapters 18 and 19 in this book just to get a heads up on the importance of reading and paying attention, but know that the book is already written in a very accessible and engaging manner—this isn’t like one of your dreaded textbooks! (For the authors, this may be a good point to encourage the scripting and production of a short video series to be viewed on Netflix for all these millennials.)

From a professor’s perspective, this book covers virtually every question and concern I’ve had to or wanted to address but didn’t have the time or place to so do. Much of this is universal and doesn’t seem to change, to which my wife can attest with her students class after class and year after year. So, for those professors who need a resource to point to for struggling students—freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and even the late-blooming seniors—this is it.

If you are faculty or staff at a high school that has (or is looking to develop) college-prep curriculum, consider adopting this book. Many colleges and universities have a one-credit course akin to “welcome to our school/college” that could also benefit from this book’s incorporation. There are twenty-five chapters that can easily be spread out among a semester for college students or a chapter a day (reading homework!) for high school seniors. College Rules! may very well find its way onto all future syllabi as recommended reading, if not required!

Oh, so highly recommended!


*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Book Review: Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding, by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins

Essential QuestionsMcTighe and Wiggins effectively and succinctly define, explain, and pave the way toward a culture of inquiry that may be applied to virtual any field of learning. Rather than focusing merely on rote memorization and regurgitation of material for exams to be graded based solely on “right or wrong” answers, we aid our students (and one another) by considering larger concerns—what McTighe and Wiggins call Essential Questions, those that require continued thought and inquiry. By encouraging better thinkers, we encourage better learners and doers. Packed with helpful charts, examples, Q&As, problems and resolutions that address a number of fields (the arts, English, history, literature, and mathematics, to name a few) this will prove to be helpful for any educator, regardless of field, venue, and age/level of student. I recommend this book as a “must read” for any educator, and I would go so far as to encourage students to read it, as well. It will likely cause a complete reassessment of one’s own teaching and learning experience!

A fellow teacher gave me the gift of Essential Questions by McTighe and Wiggins when I was sitting in on a brainstorming and planning session he and my wife were having in preparation for a class they are tag-teaming. He has several copies on a bookshelf in his office, I imagine just for this purpose, and I’m grateful for being one of the recipients!