Sensing the Possible
Super Courses: The Future of Teaching and Learning by Ken Bain
Princeton University Press, January 1, 2021
In his most recent book, Super Courses: The Future of Teaching and Learning, Ken Bain writes about the revolution in course design happening right now in colleges, universities, and high schools across the country and in China and Singapore. Drawing on decades of research on student motivation and cognitive science, the educators Bain cites have created evidence-based courses that engage and transform learning. Bain underscores the research design principles that undergird specific courses, and he provides ample evidence that the design principles – and not, for example, new technologies – give these courses their power. Every course exemplar offers inspiration as well as clarity regarding design. Particular courses like the University of Virginia's "Books Behind Bars" is an example of a Russian literature course that embeds service learning for students in ways that are profound, meaningful, and deeply engaging. Olin College of Engineering, another example, was designed from the ground up to be a school that offered a new, research-based, transformational college experience. Bain writes in an accessible, clear, and lively manner, and as such, all educators, from kindergarten to higher education, will be able to connect with the sense of the possible these "Super Courses" provide. Independent school leaders at every level might profitably utilize this book, as a whole or in sections, as a way to frame new course design and curriculum review within their schools.