Best Practices in Teaching
Can we reform teaching and learning throughout higher education one class at a time? I used to think so, but the pace of change has made me less optimistic. I just finished preparing an article for The Teaching Professor newsletter that reports the results of a survey of 744 full- and part-time faculty teaching at eight two-year technical colleges across Georgia. The researchers presented the respondents with a list of 18 instructional strategies and asked them to identify how often they used each one in their last 10 class sessions. Over 90% of the respondents said they lectured for four or more class sessions with more than 50% of those saying they lectured during all 10 class sessions.
In the now classic article Confidence in the Classroom: Ten Maxims for New Teachers, author Jim Eison offers priceless advice for new teachers. Over the years, I have given hundreds of copies of this article to new and not-so-new faculty. Even though it was published more than 20 years ago, it still deserves a place in your collection of indispensible articles on college teaching.
My former colleague Jim Fairweather has written a paper commissioned by the National Academies National Research Council Board of Science Education which makes some interesting points. But first a bit of background.
The quest to identify the ingredients, components, and qualities of effective instruction has been a long one. Starting in the 1930s, researchers sought to identify the common characteristics of good teachers. Since then, virtually everybody who might have an opinion has been asked, surveyed, or interviewed.
It’s been a while since I was an undergrad, but I still remember my two favorite professors. They had completely different personalities and teaching styles, they even taught in different departments, but they did some things in very similar ways. I think that’s what made them so effective. It really wasn’t the content — although that was part of it — it was more the classroom experience they created.
Congratulations! You’ve accepted a position as a professor, instructor, or lecturer. Now comes the hard part. Unless you have spent your professional career studying curriculum, instruction, assessment, online learning, classroom management, and the many other topics with which you now face, you have stepped into a whole new world. Your subject matter expertise or technical knowledge that got you the job is simply not enough.
It’s not a new finding — in general, more exams lead to better grades—but it’s always nice when research confirms some of our best practices in teaching. In the educational assessment study referenced below [...]