Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What the best college teachers do

Don't let the title to this book fool you. If you teach--at whatever level or age--this would be a good book to read because it has many useful tips on what to do to be a good teacher. The author, Ken Bain, Director of the Center for Teaching at New York University, along with some colleagues, did a comprehensive study of teachers who significantly impact how students think, act, and feel.

In the introduction Bain lists six broad questions the study asked:

i. What do the best teachers know and understand? They know their subjects very well and can do whatever they ask their students to do. But, more importantly, Bain says, they have developed techniques and organizing principles so that students might begin to understand the subject well and start building their own understandings. They simplify things and use illustrations and insights to get to the core of the matter. They do not speak about transmitting knowledge or conveying facts but about helping students wrestle with ideas

ii. How do they prepare to teach? They begin by asking what the student learning objectives are not what the teacher will do.

iii. What do they expect of their students? They expect more not by piling enormous amounts of work on but by tying objectives to thinking and acting for life.

iv. What do they do when they teach? They try to create a “natural critical learning environment.”

v. How do they treat students? They trust students. They assume students want to learn and can learn. They discuss with students their awe over life.

vi. How do they check their progress and evaluate their efforts? They have systemic programs to assess their efforts and to make changes.

The rest of the book answers those six questions more in-depth.

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