Teaching Techniques

Teaching Techniques

 

SEVEN PRINCIPLES FOR GOOD PRACTICE
IN UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION

 

By Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson
From The American Association for Higher Education Bulletin, March 1987
Reprinted with permission.

 

Apathetic students, illiterate graduates, incompetent teaching, impersonal campuses — so rolls the drumfire of criticism of higher education. More than two years of reports have spelled out the problems. States have been quick to respond by holding out carrots and beating with sticks.

There are neither enough carrots nor enough sticks to improve undergraduate education without the commitment and action of students and faculty members. They are the precious resources on whom the improvement of undergraduate education depends.

But how can students and faculty members improve undergraduate education? Many campuses around the country are asking this question. To provide a focus for their work, we offer seven principles based on research on good teaching and learning in colleges and universities.

Good practice in undergraduate education:

  1. encourages contact between students and faculty,
  2. develops reciprocity and cooperation among students,
  3. encourages active learning,
  4. gives prompt feedback,
  5. emphasizes time on task,
  6. communicates high expectations, and
  7. respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

We can do it ourselves – with a little bit of help…

These seven principles are not ten commandments shrunk to a 20th century attention span. They are intended as guidelines for faculty members, students, and administrators — with support from state agencies and trustees — to improve teaching and learning. These principles seem like good common sense, and they are — because many teachers and students have experienced them and because research supports them. They rest on 50 years of research on the way teachers teach and students learn, how students work and play with one another, and how students and faculty talk to each other.

While each practice can stand alone on its own, when all are present their effects multiply. Together they employ six powerful forces in education:

  • activity,
  • expectations,
  • cooperation,
  • interaction,
  • diversity, and
  • responsibility.

Good practices hold as much meaning for professional programs as for the liberal arts. They work for many different kinds of students — white, black, Hispanic, Asian, rich, poor, older, younger, male, female, well-prepared, underprepared.

But the ways different institutions implement good practice depend very much on their students and their circumstances. In what follows, we describe several different approaches to good practice that have been used in different kinds of settings in the last few years. In addition, the powerful implications of these principles for the way states fund and govern higher education and for the way institutions are run are discussed briefly at the end.

As faculty members, academic administrators, and student personnel staff, we have spent most of our working lives trying to understand our students, our colleagues, our institutions and ourselves. We have conducted research on higher education with dedicated colleagues in a wide range of schools in this country. With the implications of this research for practice, we hope to help us all do better.

We address the teacher’s how, not the subject-matter what, of good practice in undergraduate education. We recognize that content and pedagogy interact in complex ways. We are also aware that there is much healthy ferment within and among the disciplines. What is taught, after all, is at least as important as how it is taught. In contrast to the long history of research in teaching and learning, there is little research on the college curriculum. We cannot, therefore, make responsible recommendations about the content of good undergraduate education. That work is yet to be done. This much we can say: An undergraduate education should prepare students to understand and deal intelligently with modern life. What better place to start but in the classroom and on our campuses? What better time than now?

Seven Principles of Good Practice.

1. Encourages Contact Between Students and Faculty

Frequent student-faculty contact in and out of classes is the most important factor in student motivation and involvement. Faculty concern helps students get through rough times and keep on working. Knowing a few faculty members well enhances students’ intellectual commitment and encourages them to think about their own values and future plans.

2. Develops Reciprocity and Cooperation Among Students

Learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort that a solo race. Good learning, like good work, is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated. Working with others often increases involvement in learning. Sharing one’s own ideas and responding to others’ reactions sharpens thinking and deepens understanding.

3. Encourages Active Learning

Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.

4. Gives Prompt Feedback

Knowing what you know and don’t know focuses learning. Students need appropriate feedback on performance to benefit from courses. When getting started, students need help in assessing existing knowledge and competence. In classes, students need frequent opportunities to perform and receive suggestions for improvement. At various points during college, and at the end, students need chances to reflect on what they have learned, what they still need to know, and how to assess themselves.

5. Emphasizes Time on Task

Time plus energy equals learning. There is no substitute for time on task. Learning to use one’s time well is critical for students and professionals alike. Students need help in learning effective time management. Allocating realistic amounts of time means effective learning for students and effective teaching for faculty. How an institution defines time expectations for students, faculty, administrators, and other professional staff can establish the basis of high performance for all.

6. Communicates High Expectations

Expect more and you will get more. High expectations are important for everyone — for the poorly prepared, for those unwilling to exert themselves, and for the bright and well motivated. Expecting students to perform well becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when teachers and institutions hold high expectations for themselves and make extra efforts.

7. Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning

There are many roads to learning. People bring different talents and styles of learning to college. Brilliant students in the seminar room may be all thumbs in the lab or art studio. Students rich in hands-on experience may not do so well with theory. Students need the opportunity to show their talents and learn in ways that work for them. Then they can be pushed to learn in new ways that do not come so easily.

Teachers and students hold the main responsibility for improving undergraduate education. But they need a lot of help. College and university leaders, state and federal officials, and accrediting associations have the power to shape an environment that is favorable to good practice in higher education.

What qualities must this environment have?

  • A strong sense of shared purposes.
  • Concrete support from administrators and faculty leaders for those purposes.
  • Adequate funding appropriate for the purposes.
  • Policies and procedures consistent with the purposes.
  • Continuing examination of how well the purposes are being achieved.

There is good evidence that such an environment can be created. When this happens, faculty members and administrators think of themselves as educators. Adequate resources are put into creating opportunities for faculty members, administrators, and students to celebrate and reflect on their shared purposes. Faculty members receive support and release time for appropriate professional development activities. Criteria for hiring and promoting faculty members, administrators, and staff support the institution’s purposes. Advising is considered important. Departments, programs, and classes are small enough to allow faculty members and students to have a sense of community, to experience the value of their contributions, and to confront the consequences of their failures.

States, the federal government and accrediting associations affect the kind of environment that can develop on campuses in a variety of ways. The most important is through the allocation of financial support. States also influence good practice by encouraging sound planning, setting priorities, mandating standards, and reviewing and approving programs. Regional and professional accrediting associations require self-study and peer review in making judgments about programs and institutions.

These sources of support and influence can encourage environments for good practice in undergraduate education by:

  • setting policies that are consistent with good practice in undergraduate education,
  • holding high expectations for institutional performance,
  • keeping bureaucratic regulations to a minimum that is compatible with public accountability,
  • allocating adequate funds for new undergraduate programs and the professional development of faculty members, administrators, and staff,
  • encouraging employment of under-represented groups among administrators, faculty members, and student services professionals, and
  • providing the support for programs, facilities, and financial aid necessary for good practice in undergraduate education.

COMMON TEACHING METHODS

From “Getting the Most out of Your AIDS/HIV Trainings”
East Bay AIDS Education Training Center
Revised from 1989 addition by Pat McCarthy, RN, MSN, 1992

Lecture

 

STRENGTHS:

– presents factual material in direct, logical manner

– contains experience which inspires

– stimulates thinking to open discussion

– useful for large groups

LIMITATIONS:

– experts are not always good teachers

– audience is passive

– learning is difficult to gauge

– communication in one way

PREPARATION:

– needs clear introduction and summary

– needs time and content limit to be effective

– should include examples, anecdotes

Lecture With Discussion

 

STRENGTHS:

– involves audience at least after the lecture

– audience can question, clarify & challenge

LIMITATIONS:

– time may limit discussion period

– quality is limited to quality of questions and discussion

PREPARATION:

– requires that questions be prepared prior to discussion

Panel of Experts

 

STRENGTHS:

– allows experts to present different opinions

– can provoke better discussion than a one person discussion

– frequent change of speaker keeps attention from lagging

LIMITATIONS:

– experts may not be good speakers

– personalities may overshadow content

– subject may not be in logical order

PREPARATION:

– facilitator coordinates focus of panel, introduces and summarizes

– briefs panel

Brainstorming

 

STRENGTHS:

– listening exercise that allows creative thinking for new ideas

– encourages full participation because all ideas equally recorded

– draws on group’s knowledge and experience

– spirit of congeniality is created

– one idea can spark off other other ideas

LIMITATIONS:

– can be unfocused

– needs to be limited to 5 – 7 minutes

– people may have difficulty getting away from known reality

– if not facilitated well, criticism and evaluation may occur

PREPARATION:

– facilitator selects issue

– must have some ideas if group needs to be stimulated

Videotapes

 

STRENGTHS:

– entertaining way of teaching content and raising issues

– keep group’s attention

– looks professional

– stimulates discussion

LIMITATIONS:

– can raise too many issues to have a focused discussion

– discussion may not have full participation

– only as effective as following discussion

PREPARATION:

– need to set up equipment

– effective only if facilitator prepares questions to discuss after the show

Class Discussion

 

STRENGTHS:

– pools ideas and experiences from group

– effective after a presentation, film or experience that needs to be analyzed

– allows everyone to participate in an active process

LIMITATIONS:

– not practical with more that 20 people

– few people can dominate

– others may not participate

– is time consuming

– can get off the track

PREPARATION:

– requires careful planning by facilitator to guide discussion

– requires question outline

Small Group Discussion

 

STRENGTHS:

– allows participation of everyone

– people often more comfortable in small groups

– can reach group consensus

LIMITATIONS:

– needs careful thought as to purpose of group

– groups may get side tracked

PREPARATION:

– needs to prepare specific tasks or questions for group to answer

Case Studies

 

STRENGTHS:

– develops analytic and problem solving skills

– allows for exploration of solutions for complex issues

– allows student to apply new knowledge and skills

LIMITATIONS:

– people may not see relevance to own situation

– insufficient information can lead to inappropriate results

PREPARATION:

– case must be clearly defined in some cases

– case study must be prepared

Role Playing

 

STRENGTHS:

– introduces problem situation dramatically

– provides opportunity for people to assume roles of others and thus appreciate another point of view

– allows for exploration of solutions

– provides opportunity to practice skills

LIMITATIONS:

– people may be too self-conscious

– not appropriate for large groups

– people may feel threatened

PREPARATION:

– trainer has to define problem situation and roles clearly

– trainer must give very clear instructions

Report-Back Sessions

 

STRENGTHS:

– allows for large group discussion of role plays, case studies, and small group exercise

– gives people a chance to reflect on experience

– each group takes responsibility for its operation

LIMITATIONS:

– can be repetitive if each small group says the same thing

PREPARATION:

– trainer has to prepare questions for groups to discuss

Worksheets/Surveys

 

STRENGTHS:

– allows people to thing for themselves without being influences by others

– individual thoughts can then be shared in large group

LIMITATIONS:

– can be used only for short period of time

PREPARATION:

– facilitator has to prepare handouts

Index Card Exercise

 

STRENGTHS:

– opportunity to explore difficult and complex issues

LIMITATIONS:

– people may not do exercise

PREPARATION:

– facilitator must prepare questions

Guest Speaker

 

STRENGTHS:

– personalizes topic

– breaks down audience’s stereotypes

LIMITATIONS:

– may not be a good speaker

PREPARATION:

– contact speakers and coordinate

– introduce speaker appropriately

Values Clarification Exercise

 

STRENGTHS:

– opportunity to explore values and beliefs

– allows people to discuss values in a safe environment

– gives structure to discussion

LIMITATION:

– people may not be honest

– people may be too self-conscious

PREPARATION:

– facilitator must carefully prepare exercise

– must give clear instructions

– facilitator must prepare discussion questions

COMMON VISUAL AIDS

From “Getting the Most out of Your AIDS/HIV Trainings”
East Bay AIDS Education Training Center
Revised from 1989 addition by Pat McCarthy, RN, MSN, 1992

Flip Charts/Posters

 

ADVANTAGES:

– easy and inexpensive to make and update

– portable and transportable

– left in view of the audience

– good for interaction with the audience

DISADVANTAGES:

– unsuitable for large groups

– anxiety-provoking for facilitator with poor handwriting or poor spelling

Slides

 

ADVANTAGES:

– professional in appearance

– good for large groups

DISADVANTAGES:

– formal and impersonal

– shown in the dark

– not good for discussion and interaction

– more difficult to update than other visual aids

– require special equipment

Videos

 

ADVANTAGES:

– professional in appearance

– good for large or small groups

DISADVANTAGES:

– more expansive than other visual aids

– requires special equipment

– not good for discussion and interaction

– require accurate cueing

Overhead Transparencies

 

ADVANTAGES:

– good for large gropus

– easy to create

– easy to transport

– provide an informal atmosphere

– open to interaction with groups

– easy to update

DISADVANTAGES:

– impermanent; they yellow with age

– require less common equipment

Computer Projections (e.g., PowerPoint™)

 

ADVANTAGES:

– professional in appearance

– evidence of preparation

– good for large or small group

– easy to integrate with classroom discussion

– animated

– up-to-date technology

– easy to update

DISADVANTAGES:

– require special equipment/facilities

– require initial training to create

– require significant time to create

– require basic graphics/composition skills

Samples, Examples, and Mock-Ups

 

ADVANTAGES:

– real-world/authentic

– three dimensional

– sometimes inexpensive and readily available

– experience may be tactile/auditory as well as visual

DISADANTAGES:

– sometimes difficult or impossible to acquire

– often difficult to handle or distribute

– require storage space

– usually out of natural environment

IDEAS TO ENCOURAGE STUDENT RETENTION

 

The following ideas are a product of a faculty seminar at Jefferson Community College, Kentucky. Sixty-three ideas are presented for faculty use in dealing with retention/attrition. The 63 ideas are subdivided into four general categories.

Faculty/Student Interaction


This category contains elements directly related to the affective domain of student growth brought about by faculty/student interaction. Psych, ego, individual worth are all intricately bound within this framework.

  1. Learn the name of each student as quickly as possible and use the student’s name in class. Based upon the atmosphere you want to create:
    1. Call on students by their first names.
    2. Call on students by using Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms.
  2. Tell the students by what name and title you prefer to be called (Prof., Dr., Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms, First Name).
  3. At the end of each class period, ask one student to stay for a minute to chat (compliment on something: tell student you missed him/her if absent, etc.).
  4. Instead of returning tests, quizzed, themes in class, ask students to stop by your office to pick them up. This presents an opportunity to talk informally with students.
  5. Call students on the telephone if they are absent. Make an appointment with them to discuss attendance, make-up work, etc.
  6. Get feedback periodically from students (perhaps a select few) on their perceptions of your attitudes toward them, your personal involvement, etc.
  7. Socialize with students as your “style” permits by attending their clubs or social activities, by having lunch with them, by walking with them between classes, etc.
  8. Conduct a personal interview with all students sometime during the semester.
  9. Provide positive reinforcement whenever possible; give students a respectful answer to any question they might ask.
  10. Listen intently to students’ comments and opinions. By using a “lateral thinking technique” (adding to ideas rather than dismissing them), students feel that their ideas, comments, and opinions are worthwhile.
  11. Be aware of the difference between students’ classroom mistakes and their personal successes/failures.
  12. Be honest about your feelings, opinions, and attitudes toward students and toward the subject matter. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know all the answers. If a student tells you something in confidence, respect that confidence. Avoid making value judgments (verbally or non-verbally) about these confidences.
  13. Lend some of your books (reference) to students and borrow some of theirs in return. You can initiate the process by saying, “I’ve just read a great book on _______, would anyone like to borrow it?”
  14. Give your telephone number to students and the location of your office.
  15. A first class meeting, pair up the students and have them get acquainted with one another. Switch partners every five (5) minutes.
  16. Have the students establish a “buddy” system for absences, work missed, assignments, tutoring, etc. Exchange telephone numbers; pair them by majors or geographical proximity.

General Classroom Management


This section focuses literally on the day-to-day operations of your classes. The items as a group emphasize planning, orderliness, and general good sense.

  1. Circulate around the class as you talk or ask questions. This movement creates a physical closeness to the students. Avoid standing behind the lectern or sitting behind the desk for the entire period. Do not allow the classroom to set up artificial barriers between you and the students.
  2. Give each student a mid-term grade and indicate what each student must do to improve.
  3. Tell the students (orally and in writing) what your attendance policy is. Make them aware of your deep concern for attendance and remind them periodically of the policy and the concern.
  4. Conduct a full instructional period on the first day of classes. This activity sets a positive tone for the learning environment you want to set. Engage in some of the interpersonal activities listed elsewhere.
  5. List and discuss your course objectives on the first day. Let students know how your course can fit in with their personal/career goals. Discuss some of the fears, apprehensions that both you and the students have. Tell them what they should expect of you and how you will contribute to their learning.
  6. Let students know that the learning resources you use in class (slides, tapes, films) are available to them outside of class. Explain the procedures to secure the material, and take them to the area.
  7. Have students fill out an index card with name, address, telephone number, goals, and other personal information you think is important.
  8. If the subject matter is appropriate, use a pre-test to determine their knowledge, background, expertise, etc.
  9. Return tests, quizzes, and papers as soon as possible. Write comments (+ and -) when appropriate.
  10. Vary your instructional techniques (lecture, discussion, debate, small groups, films, etc.).
  11. When you answer a student’s question, be sure he/she understands your answer. Make the student repeat the answer in his/her own words.
  12. Get to class before the students arrive; be the last one to leave.
  13. Use familiar examples in presenting materials. If you teach rules, principles, definitions, and theorems, explicate these with concrete examples that students can understand.
  14. If you had to miss a class, explain why and what you will do to make up the time and/or materials.
  15. Clarify and have students understand what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in a classroom. Be consistent in enforcing your rules.
  16. Good eye contact with students is extremely important both in and out of class.
  17. Allow students to switch classes if work schedules changes or other salient reasons develop. Cooperate with colleague if he/she makes such a request.
  18. Be prepared to use an alternate approach if the one you’ve chosen seems to bog down. You should be confident enough with your own material so that student interests and concerns, not lecture notes, determine the format of instruction.
  19. Throughout the course, but particularly during the crucial first class sessions:
    1. stress a positive “you can handle it” attitude
    2. emphasize your willingness to give individual help
    3. point out the relevancy of your subject matter to the concerns and goals of your students
    4. capitalize on opportunities to praise the abilities and contributions of students whose status in the course is in doubt; well-timed encouragement could mean the difference between retention and attrition
    5. utilize a variety of instructional methods, drawing on appropriate audio-visual aids as much as possible
    6. urge students to talk to you about problems, such as changes in work schedule, before dropping your course. Alternate arrangements can often be made.
  20. Distribute an outline of your lecture notes before class starts. This approach assists students in organizing the material you are presenting.
  21. If you require a term paper or research paper, you should take the responsibility of arranging a library orientation. Librarians would be happy to cooperate.
  22. Have the counselors visit your classes to foster an awareness of counseling.

Student-Initiated Activities


This category is based on the premise that peer influence can play a substantial role in student success. Age differences, personality differences, and skill differences can be utilized to produce positive results if you can get the students to work with one another.

  1. Have students read one another’s papers before they turn them in. This activity could help them locate one another’s errors before being graded.
  2. If the class lends itself to a field trip, have the students plan it and make some or all of the arrangements.
  3. Ask students to submit sample test questions (objective or subjective) prior to a test. The class itself can compose a test or quiz based on your objectives.
  4. Create opportunities for student leaders to emerge in class. Use their leadership skills to improve student performance.
  5. If students are receiving tutoring help, ask them to report the content and results of their tutoring.
  6. Have students set specific goals for themselves throughout the semester in terms of their learning and what responsibilities they will undertake.

Faculty-Initiated Activities


This section presents the greatest challenge to the ability and creativity of each faculty member. You must take the initiative to implement these suggestions, to test them, and to device them.

  1. Utilize small group discussions in class whenever feasible.
  2. Take the initiative to contact and meet with students who are doing poor work. Be especially cognizant of the “passive” student, one who comes to class, sits quietly, does not participate, but does poorly on tests, quizzes, etc.
  3. Encourage students who had the first part of a course to be in the second part together. Try to schedule the same time slot for the second course.
  4. Ask the Reading faculty to do a “readability study” of the texts you use in your classroom.
  5. Develop library/supplementary reading lists which complement course content. Select books at various reading levels.
  6. Use your background, experience, and knowledge to inter-relate your subject matter with other academic disciplines.
  7. Throughout the semester, have students submit topics that they would like to cover or discuss.
  8. Take students on a mini-tour of the learning resources center, reading/study skills area, counseling center, etc. If a particular student needs reading/study skills help, don’t send him/her, TAKE him/her.
  9. Work with your division counselor to discuss procedures to follow-up absentees, failing students, etc.
  10. Use your imagination to devise ways to reinforce positively student accomplishments. Try to avoid placing students in embarrassing situations, particularly in class.
  11. Create situations in which students can help you (get a book for you from library, look up some reference material, conduct a class research project).
  12. Set up special tutoring sessions and extra classes. Make these activities mandatory, especially for students who are doing poorly.
  13. Confer with other faculty members who have the same students in class. Help reinforce one another.
  14. Look at your record book periodically to determine student progress (inform them) and determine if you know anything about that student other than his/her grades.
  15. Team teach a class with a colleague or switch classes for a period or two. Invite a guest lecturer to class.
  16. Use the library reference shelf for some of your old tests and quizzes. Tell the students that you will use some questions from the old tests in their next test.
  17. Engage in periodic (weekly) self-evaluation of each class. What was accomplished this past week? How did students react?
  18. At mid-term and at final exam, your last test question should ask if a student is going to continue at the college or drop out at the end of the semester. If a potential drop-out is identified, you can advise the student to work with the division counselor.

ENHANCING YOUR TEACHING EFFECTIVENESS

Source Unknown

 

Accurately assessing your students’ developmental state can direct your planning and impel your teaching. For instance, recognizing a 16-year-old’s concern about his appearance and his standing among his peers may promote your rapport with him and eliminate learning barriers.

Keep in mind that chronologic age and developmental stage are not always related. Throughout life, people move sequentially through developmental stages, but most people also fluctuate somewhat among stages, often in response to outside stressors. These stressors can cause a person to regress temporarily to an earlier stage. Sometimes a person may not achieve the task expected of his chronologic age. So you will need to address your students at their current developmental stages, not at the stages at which you would expect them to be because of their chronological ages.

In some situations, hopefully most, you will have time to sit down and develop a formal teaching plan. In others, you will be confronted with a “teachable moment” when the student is ready to learn and is asking pointed questions. Invariably, these moments seem to come at the most inopportune times. At times like these, you face the dilemma: to teach or not to teach. Having a knowledge of basic learning principles will help you take best advantage of these moments. Here are some principles proven to enhance teaching and learning.

Seize the moment

Teaching is most effective when it occurs in quick response to a need the learner feels. So even though you are elbow deep in something else, you should make every effort to teach the student when he or she asks. The student is ready to learn. Satisfy that immediate need for information now, and augment your teaching with more information later.

Involve the student in planning

Just presenting information to the student does not ensure learning. For learning to occur, you will need to get the student involved in identifying his learning needs and outcomes. Help him to develop attainable objectives. As the teaching process continues, you can further engage him or her by selecting teaching strategies and materials that require the student’s direct involvement, such as role playing and return demonstration. Regardless of the teaching strategy you choose, giving the student the chance to test his or her ideas, to take risks, and to be creative will promote learning.

Begin with what the student knows

You will find that learning moves faster when it builds on what the student already knows. Teaching that begins by comparing the old, known information or process and the new, unknown one allows the student to grasp new information more quickly.

Move from simple to complex

The student will find learning more rewarding if he has the opportunity to master simple concepts first and then apply these concepts to more complex ones. Remember, however, that what one student finds simple, another may find complex. A careful assessment takes these differences into account and helps you plan the teaching starting point.

Accommodate the student’s preferred learning style

How quickly and well a student learns depends not only on his or her intelligence and prior education, but also on the student’s learning style preference. Visual learners gain knowledge best by seeing or reading what you are trying to teach; auditory learners, by listening;and tactile or psychomotor learners, by doing.

You can improve your chances for teaching success if you assess your patient’s preferred learning style, then plan teaching activities and use teaching tools appropriate to that style. To assess a student’s learning style, observe the student, administer a learning style inventory, or simply ask the student how he or she learns best.

You can also experiment with different teaching tools, such as printed material, illustrations, videotapes, and actual equipment, to assess learning style. Never assume, though, that your student can read well — or even read at all.

Sort goals by learning domain

You can combine your knowledge of the student’s preferred learning style with your knowledge of learning domains. Categorizing what the students need to learn into proper domains helps identify and evaluate the behaviors you expect them to show.

Learning behaviors fall in three domains: cognitive, psychomotor, and affective. The cognitive domain deals with intellectual abilities. The psychomotor domain includes physical or motor skills. The affective domain involves expression of feeling about attitudes, interests, and values. Most learning involves all three domains.

Make material meaningful

Another way to facilitate learning is to relate material to the student’s lifestyle — and to recognize incompatibilities. The more meaningful material is to a student, the quicker and easier it will be learned.

Allow immediate application of knowledge

Giving the student the opportunity to apply his or her new knowledge and skills reinforces learning and builds confidence. This immediate application translates learning to the “real world” and provides an opportunity for problem solving, feedback, and emotional support.

Plan for periodic rests

While you may want the students to push ahead until they have learned everything on the teaching plan, remember that periodic plateaus occur normally in learning. When your instructions are especially complex or lengthy, your students may feel overwhelmed and appear unreceptive to your teaching. Be sure to recognize these signs of mental fatigue and let the students relax. (You too can use these periods – to review your teaching plan and make any necessary adjustments.)

Tell your students how they are progressing

Learning is made easier when the students are aware of their progress. Positive feedback can motivate them to greater effort because it makes their goal seem attainable. Also, ask your students how they feel they are doing. They probably want to take part in assessing their own progress toward learning goals, and their input can guide your feedback. You will find their reactions are usually based on what “feels right.”

Reward desired learning with praise

Praising desired learning outcomes or behavior improves the chances that the students will retain the material or repeat the behavior. Praising your students’ successes associates the desired learning goal with a sense of growing and accepted competence. Reassuring them that they have learned the desired material or technique can help them retain and refine it.

EVALUATING YOUR OWN TEACHING

By L. Dee Fink
Published in Improving College Teaching by Peter Seldin (ed.).
Reprinted here with permission of the University of Oklahoma Instructional Development Program, July 20, 1999.

 

Introduction


Each year faculty members in institutions of higher education take on the task of teaching others. For most of these people, this is a recurring task. In fact, for the majority, this is the central task of a life-long career.

Assuming that no one is perfect and therefore everyone has room for improvement, evaluation is the means by which we try to identify which aspects of our teaching are good and which need to be changed. The question then arises as to who should take responsibility for doing this evaluation. My belief is that evaluation is an inherent part of good teaching. Therefore it is the teacher himself or herself who should take primary responsibility for doing the evaluation.

In this chapter, I will offer a basic definition of evaluation, state a few reasons why one should invest time and effort into evaluation, describe five techniques for evaluation, and identify resources for helping us evaluate and improve our teaching.

A Definition of “Evaluation”

Doing good evaluation is like doing good research. In both cases, you are trying to answer some important questions about an important topic. The key to doing both activities well is (a) identifying the right questions to ask and (b) figuring out how to answer them.

What are the key questions in the evaluation of teaching? Basically they are: “How well am I teaching? Which aspects of my teaching are good and which need to be improved?” The first question attempts to provide a global assessment, while the second is analytical and diagnostic in character.

Before moving to the task of figuring out how to answer these questions, we should look at the reasons for taking time to evaluate.

Why Evaluate?


It takes a certain amount of time and effort to effectively evaluate our own teaching. Is this a wise use of time? I would argue that it is, for three reasons.

  1. First, consider the following diagram:

Figure 1

The Effect of Evaluation on Our Teaching

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Regardless of how good or how poor we are as teachers, we all have the potential to get better over time (see the arrow in Figure 1). Yet some teachers continually improve and approach their potential (see arrow) while others experience a modest improvement early in their career and then seem to level off in quality or sometimes even decline (see arrow). Why? I would argue that the primary difference between those who do and those who do not improve, is that only the former gather information about their teaching and make an effort to improve some aspect of it — every time they teach.

  1. A second reason to evaluate is to document the quality of one’s teaching for others. All career professionals have other people who need to know about the quality of their teaching. It may be the person’s current department or institution head, or it may be a potential employer. But once people teach, they have a track record, and others need and want to know how well they taught. The only way a teacher can provide them with that information is to gather it, and that means evaluation. Teaching portfolios are becoming a common way of communicating this information to others. As it turns out, putting a portfolio together also helps the teacher understand his or her own teaching better. (See Zubizarreta, this volume.)
  2. Third, there is a very personal and human need to evaluate. This is for our own mental and psychological satisfaction. It is one thing to do a good job and think that it went well; it is quite another, and a far more enjoyable experience, to have solid information and thereby know we did a good job. That knowledge, that certainty, is possible only if we do a thorough job of evaluation.

If evaluation is worth doing then, how do we do it?

Five Sources of Information


There are five basic sources of information that teachers can use to evaluate their teaching. All evaluation efforts use one or more of these basic sources. Each of these five sources has a unique value as well as an inherent limitation.

In the following portion of this chapter, I will discuss the unique value, recommended frequency, limitation, and appropriate response to that limitation, for each of the five sources of information.

Figure 2

TECHNIQUES FOR EVALUATING YOUR OWN TEACHING

Techniques

Unique Value and
Recommended Frequency

Limitations

Appropriate
Response to
Limitations

1.

Self-monitoring

2.

Audio-tape/video-tape

3.

Information from students

  1. Questionnaires

(1) Beginning of year

(2) Mid-year

(3) End-of-year

  1. Interviews

4.

Students’ test results

5.

Outside observers

  1. Fellow faculty member

  2. Admin./Senior Fac. Member

  3. OU Instruc. Devel. Prog.
    Dee Fink & Arlene Knight
    Phone: 5-2323

  1. Self-monitoring

Self-monitoring is what people do semi-automatically and semi-consciously whenever they teach. Most of their mental activity is concerned with making the presentation or leading the discussion. But one portion of their mental attention is concerned with “How is it going?” “Are they with me?” “Am I losing them?” “Are they interested or bored?”

Unique Value. The first value of this is that it is immediate and constant. You do not have to wait a week or a day or even an hour to get the results. It happens right away. Hence adjustments are possible right away.

The second value is that this information is automatically created in terms that are meaningful to the teacher because it is the teacher who creates the information. It is the teacher, not someone else, who looks at the situation and says “This is what is happening.” This does not mean that we always know why it is happening, or what to do about it if it is something we do not like. But we do have our own sense of what is happening.

Frequency. This does and should happen all the time. We may only take a mental pause every few minutes to size up the situation. But by comparison with the other sources of information discussed below, this takes place continuously.

Limitation. The very strength of this source is also its weakness. Because this information is created by us for us, it is also subject to our own biases and misinterpretations. I thought they were understanding the material. I thought they looked interested –when in fact they weren’t. We all have our own blind spots and lack complete objectivity. This means that, at times, we are going to misread the responses of students to our teaching.

Appropriate Response. What can be done about the subjectivity of self-monitoring? Turn to an objective source of information, one without subjective bias.

  1. Audiotape and Videotape Recordings

Modern technology has given us relatively inexpensive and easy access to audio and video recordings of what we do as teachers. We can put a small audio recorder on the teachers desk or put a video recorder on the side of the classroom and let it run during a class session. Then later we can listen to or view it.

Special value. The value of this kind of information is that it gives us totally objective information. It tells us exactly what we really said, what we really did, not what we thought we said or did. How much time did I spend on this topic? How many times did I ask questions? How often did I move around? These are questions the audio and video recordings can answer with complete accuracy and objectivity.

Frequency. I had the experience of giving a workshop once that was recorded. Listening to the recording later, I discovered to my surprise that I had some disruptive speech patterns of which I was completely unaware. And I am an experienced observer of teachers! The lesson from this was that, no matter how good we are at monitoring others, we can only devote a certain amount of our mental attention to monitoring our own teaching; hence we miss things.

As a result of that experience, I now try to do an audio recording at least once or preferably twice in each full-semester course I teach. This gives me a chance to see if any speech problems are still there or if new ones have cropped up. If they have, the second recording tells me if I have gotten them under control.

Video recordings are probably useful once every year or two. What do we look like to others? As we grow older, we change, and we need to know what the continuously anew me looks like to others.

Limitation. What could be more valuable than the objective truth of audio and video recordings? Unfortunately the unavoidable problem with this information is that it is true but meaningless — by itself. The recordings can tell me if I spoke at the rate of 20 words per minute, or 60 words, but they can’t tell me whether that was too slow or too fast for the students. They can tell me whether I moved and gestured and smiled, but it can’t tell me if those movements and facial expressions helped or hindered student learning.

Appropriate response. To determine the effect of my teaching behavior, rather than the behavior itself, I need to find another source of information. (Are you starting to see the pattern here?)

  1. Information from Students

As the intended beneficiaries of all teaching, students are in a unique position to help their teachers in the evaluation process.

Special value. If we want to know whether students find our explanations of a topic clear, or whether students find our teaching exciting or dull, who else could possibly answer these kinds of questions better than the students themselves? Of the five sources of information described here, students are the best source for understanding the immediate effects of our teaching, i.e., the process of teaching and learning.

This information can be obtained in two distinct ways: questionnaires and interviews, each with its own relative values.

    1. Questionnaires. The most common method of obtaining student reactions to our teaching is to use a questionnaire. Lots of different questionnaires exist but most in fact ask similar kinds of questions: student characteristics (e.g., major, GPA, reasons for taking the course), the students characterization of the teaching (e.g., clear, organized, interesting), amount learned, overall assessment of the course and/or the teacher (e.g., compared to other courses or other teachers, this one is …), and sometimes, anticipated grade.

The special value of questionnaires, compared to interviews, is that they obtain responses from the whole class and they allow for an anonymous (and therefore probably more candid) response. The limitation of questionnaires is that they can only ask a question once, i.e., that cannot probe for further clarification, and they can only ask questions that the writer anticipates as possibly important.

Questionnaires can be given at three different times: the beginning, middle and end of a course. Some teachers use questionnaires at the beginning of a course to get information about the students, e.g., prior course work or experience with the subject, preferred modes of teaching and learning, and special problems a student might have (e.g., dyslexia). Many use mid-term questionnaires to get an early warning of any existing problems so that changes can be made in time to benefit this set of students. The advantage of end-of-term questionnaires is that all the learning activities have been completed. Consequently, students can respond meaningfully to questions about the overall effectiveness of the course.

    1. Interviews. The other well-established way of finding out about student reactions is to talk to them. Either the teacher(if sufficient trust and rapport exist) or an outside person (if more anonymity and objectivity are desired) can talk with students for 15-30 minutes about the course and the teacher. As an instructional consultant, I have often done this for other teachers, but I have also done it in some of my own courses. I try to get 6-8 students, preferably a random sample, and visit with them in a focused interview format immediately after class. I have some general topics I want to discuss, such as the quality of the learning thus far, reactions to the lectures, labs, tests, and so forth. But within these topics, I will probe for clarification and examples of perceived strength and weakness. I also note when there is divergence of reactions and when most students seem to agree.

The special value of interviews is that students often identify unanticipated strengths and weaknesses, and the interviewer can probe and follow-up on topics that need clarification. The limitation of course is that a professor can usually only interview a sub-set of the class, not the whole class. This leaves some uncertainty as to whether their reactions represent the whole class or not.

As for the frequency of interviews, I would probably only use a formal interview once or at most twice during a term. Of course, a teacher can informally visit with students about the course many times, and directly or indirectly obtain a sense of their reaction to the course.

General limitation. Returning to the general issue of information from students, regardless of how such information is collected, one needs to remember that this is information from students. Although they know better than anyone what their own reactions are, they can also be biased and limited in their own perspectives. They occasionally have negative feelings, often unconsciously, about women, people who are ethnically different from themselves, and international teachers. Perhaps more significantly, students usually do not have a full understanding of how a course might be taught, either in terms of pedagogy or content. Hence they can effectively address what is, but not what might be.

Appropriate response. As with the other limitations, the appropriate response here is to seek another kind of information. In this case, we need information from someone with a professional understanding of the possibilities of good teaching.

  1. Students’ test results.

Teachers almost always give students some form of graded exercise, whether it is an in-class test or an out-of-class project. Usually, though, the intent of the test is to assess the quality of student learning. We can also use this same information to assess the quality of our teaching.

Special value. The whole reason for teaching is to help someone else learn. Assuming we can devise a test or graded exercise that effectively measures whether or not students are learning what we want them to learn, the test results basically tell us whether or not we are succeeding in our whole teaching effort. This is critical information for all teachers. Although the other sources of information identified here can partially address this question (I think they are learning, The students think they are learning.), none address it so directly as test results: I know they are learning because they responded with a high level of sophisticated knowledge and thinking to a challenging test.

Frequency. How often should we give tests? Many teachers follow the tradition of two mid-terms and a final. In my view this is inadequate feedback, both for the students and for the teacher. Weekly or even daily feedback is much more effective in letting students and the teacher know whether they are learning what they need to learn as the course goes along. If the teacher’s goal is to help the students learn, this is important information for both parties. And remember, not all tests need to be graded and recorded!

Limitation. It might be hard to imagine that this information has a limitation. After all, this is what it’s all about, right? Did they learn it or not?

The problem with this information is its lack of a causal connection: we don’t know why they did or did not learn. Did they learn because of, or in spite of, our teaching? Some students work very hard in a course, not because the teacher inspires or motivates them but because their major requires a good grade in the course and the teacher is NOT effective. Therefore they work hard to learn it on their own.

Appropriate response. If we need to know whether one’s actions as a teacher are helpful or useless in promoting student learning, we need a different source of information, such as the students themselves.

  1. Outside observer

In addition to the two parties directly involved in a course, the teacher and the students, valuable information can be obtained from the observations of a third party, someone who brings both an outsider’s perspective and professional expertise to the task.

Special value. Part of the value of an outside observer is that they do not have a personal stake in the particular course, hence they are free to reach positive and negative conclusions without any cost to themselves. Also, as a professional, they can bring an expertise either in content and/or in pedagogy that is likely to supplement that of both the teacher and the students.

A variety of kinds of observers exist: a peer colleague, a senior colleague, or an instructional specialist.

    1. Peer colleagues, e.g., two TA’s or two junior professors, can visit each others classes and share observations. Here the political risk is low and each one can empathize with the situation and challenges facing the other. Interestingly, the person doing the observing in these exchanges often finds that they learn as much as the person who gets the feedback.
    2. Senior colleagues can be of value because of their accumulated experience. Although one has to be selective and choose someone who is respected and with whom the political risk is low, experienced colleagues can offer ideas on alternative ways of dealing with particular topics, additional examples to illustrate the material, etc.
    3. A third kind of outside observer, an instructional consultant, is available on many campuses. They may or may not be able to give feedback on the clarity and significance of the content material, but their expertise in teaching allows them to comment on presentation techniques, discussion procedures, and ideas for more active learning.

Frequency. Beginning TA’s and beginning faculty members should consider inviting one or more outside observers to their classes at least once a semester for two or three years. They need to get as many new perspectives on teaching as soon as possible. After that, more experienced teachers would probably benefit from such feedback at least once every year or two. We change as teachers; as we do, we need all the feedback and fresh ideas we can find.

Limitations. Again, the strength of being an outsider is also its weakness. Outside observers can usually only visit one or two class sessions and therefore do not know what happens in the rest of the course.

Apart from this general problem, each kind of observer has its own limitation. The peer colleague may also have limited experience and perspectives; the senior colleague may be someone who makes departmental decisions about annual evaluations and tenure; and the instructional consultant may have limited knowledge of the subject matter.

Appropriate response. As with the other sources, the response to these limitations is to use a different source, either a different kind of outside observer or one of the other sources described above.

A Comprehensive Evaluation Scenario


The thesis of this chapter is that a comprehensive plan of evaluation for improvement requires all five sources of information. Each one offers a special kind of information that none of the others do. How would this work out in action?

To answer this question, I will describe a hypothetical professor who is not a perfect teacher and therefore has some yet-to-be identified weaknesses in his teaching, but he also wants to improve his teaching. What steps should he take to evaluate his teaching as a way of identifying those aspects that need changing?

The Case of Professor X


Professor X is a relatively young person, only two years into his tenure track position at University Would Be Good. This fall he will be teaching a junior level course on International Trade. He once attended a workshop on Evaluating Your Own Teaching, so he knows what he should do.

On the first day of class, he keeps his eyes and ears open (self-monitoring) to see what sort of personality this year’s class has. In addition, he asks students to fill out a short questionnaire about business or international experience they have had, prior course work in related areas, and what they hope to get out of the course. From this he discovers a wide range of backgrounds. Some students have extensive international experience and others have none at all. Perhaps he can use the former as a resource for the latter.

A few weeks into the course, he brings a small cassette recorder into class and makes an audio recording. After listening to it, he feels reasonably good about his presentation but notes there is little student participation. Class time consists mainly of “teacher-talk.”

The weekly quizzes are turning out okay, but he had hoped that, since they were upper division students, the class would be getting into it a bit more.

After thinking about this awhile and talking to one of his departmental colleagues, he decides to call the university instructional development program and request a class review. His colleague said these people actually make some good suggestions once in awhile.

The consultant, who was recently hired into the program because of her doctorate in instructional communication, meets with the professor, visits his class twice, and then shares her observations with him. Her reaction is that the lectures seem good enough, but there is just too much of the same thing day after day: lecture, lecture, lecture. She suggests using some active learning strategies.

After hearing the reaction of the consultant, Professor X decides to use a mid-term questionnaire available from the instructional development program to see if the students feel the same way. The consultant helps him interpret the results, which indicate a degree of boredom with the steady diet of lectures. The consultant gives him a handout on “enhanced lectures” that shows how to intersperse some active learning activities in between shorter lecture segments. They also discuss some possible larger modifications for next semester.

On the end-of-semester course evaluation, Professor X adds some special questions about the changes he has made. The responses indicate that students like the changes, and the overall results, while not yet outstanding, are appreciably higher than in previous terms.

The point of this scenario is to illustrate that a thorough evaluation of teaching can be effective in identifying important changes that can be made, and that such evaluation is much more extensive than simply looking at one comparative statistic on an end-of-semester questionnaire.

But how costly is a comprehensive evaluation plan in terms of the time required? The case study above is a composite of actual cases. Based on these cases, I would make the following estimate of the time required beyond what happens anyway in normal teaching:

Task

Additional Time (hrs)

Self-monitoring

0 (did automatically anyway)

Initial questionnaire

1 (writing, interpreting)

Audio-recording

1 (reviewing afterwards)

Weekly quizzes

0 (did this anyway)

Visit with consultant

3 (three times)

Mid-term questionnaire

1 (constructing, interpreting)

End-of-term questionnaire

1 (for added questions)

Total

7 hours

The seven hours required for a comprehensive evaluation is an addition of about 5% to the total time required for teaching one three-credit hour course in one semester. This amounts to less than 1/2 hour per week for the whole term. This is a small but wise investment that informed Professor X of an important area of his teaching that needed improving. This investment will pay big dividends in effectiveness and satisfaction in a major area of his professional life for many years.

Sources of Assistance


Professors should not think that they have to do it alone when it comes to evaluating their teaching. I will describe some sources of assistance that are available for two important activities: constructing or selecting a questionnaire and figuring out how to make needed improvements.

Student questionnaires.
The first option for getting a questionnaire to use in class is to write it yourself. At institutions with instructional development programs, consultants can help in this process. Custom-made questionnaires can focus on specific questions the professor has about his or her teaching. Or they can be open-ended, asking questions like: How satisfied are you with what you are learning? What do you like most about the course? If you could change one thing about the course, what would it be?

A second source is often the institution itself. Many institutions have questionnaires that are available, or required, for end-of-term use. These have the advantage of being ready-made, but they also frequently allow the professor to add his own questions.

The third option is to use a nationally available questionnaire. The two I recommend on our campus are the TABS for mid-term use and the IDEA system for end-of-term use. The TABS questionnaire was developed at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and is based on 20 common problems in teaching. The recommended use is for the professor to assess the course in terms of these characteristics, and then to compare his/her assessment with student reactions. The IDEA system is available from the Center for Faculty Evaluation and Development at Kansas State University. Its central criterion for assessing effectiveness is whether or not students learned what the professor was trying to teach. It also includes a diagnostic section and national norms that incorporate class size and initial student interest.

Ideas for improving.
The primary thrust of this chapter is on how to find out what one’s strengths and weaknesses are as a teacher. But having identified them, a professor still needs ideas and assistance on how to make needed improvements. Four resources can be helpful with this: selected colleagues, books and journals, institutionally-based instructional development programs, and off-campus workshops.

The handiest resource is undoubtedly colleagues who are creative and effective in their own teaching. They are usually flattered by requests to visit their classes, review their course materials, and discuss their teaching strategies and philosophy. (See the chapters by (a) Sorcinelli, (b) Millis and Kaplan, and (c) Gmelch, this volume).

A wide variety of reading material is available on teaching and ways to improve it. Several disciplines have journals with articles on teaching a specific subject matter. Some are focused specifically on college-level teaching. One journal, College Teaching, is not subject-specific but contains high quality articles that are relevant to essentially all subjects. As for books, three that I often recommend to teachers are Teaching Tips by Wilbert McKeachie, Mastering the Techniques of Teaching by Joseph Lowman, and Active Learning by Eison and Bonwell.

A third resource, which is available on many campuses, is an instructional development program. During the last two decades more and more institutions have seen fit to sponsor such a program as an appropriate investment in the single most costly and important factor in a university’s quality: the faculty. The professional staff in these programs can offer selected reading material, share their own ideas, and provide classroom observations and feedback to faculty members. (See the chapters by (a) Simpson and Jackson and (b) Wadsworth, this volume.)

Finally, a number of disciplinary associations, regional consortia, and entrepreneurial persons at various universities now offer workshops, often in the summer, for regional and national audiences of faculty members wanting to learn how to become better teachers. These range from a few days to a few weeks in length. They give participants a chance to hear new ideas, systematically study a wide range of issues and topics, and practice new possibilities in a low-risk setting with feedback from understanding and sympathetic peers.

Conclusions


People who have chosen careers as teachers in higher education owe it to themselves, to their students, and to their institutions to fulfill their responsibilities as effectively as possible. The thesis of this chapter is that the only way to improve one’s teaching over time is to continuously monitor and evaluate that teaching, and then to use the information obtained to make needed changes. The various techniques described in this chapter, especially when used together, can give us the deep personal and professional satisfaction of being able to say, after a single course or after a career of teaching, “I did my best, and it was good!”

References


Bonwell, C.C. and Eison, J.A. Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1, 1991. Washington, D.C.: George Washington University, 1991.

IDEA Evaluation System. Information about it can be obtained from the Center for Faculty Evaluation and Development, 1615 Anderson Avenue, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66502-1604. Phone: 800-255-2757.

Lowman, J. Mastering the Techniques of Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1984.

McKeachie, W.J. Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers. 9th edition. Lexington, Massachusetts: Heath, 1994.

TABS Evaluation System. Information about it can be obtained from the Center for Teaching, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 239 Whitmore, Amherst, MA 01003. Phone: 413-545-1225.

GOOD TEACHING

By Theodore R. Sizer, Former Dean, Harvard University College of Education.
Reprinted with permission.

 

I’d like to talk briefly about good teaching. I fear doing this,knowing well how fine teachers differ as their characters and styles differ. Idiosyncrasy is a virtue to the extent that successful teaching rests on character – and I believe it heavily rests there. By describing a generalized view of good teaching, I may unintentionally signal to you an intolerance of idiosyncrasy. I do not wish to do so.

I am also concerned that I may give the impression that I think teaching per se is important. Of course, it isn’t; what is only important is what the students learn. By speaking of teaching, I hope I won’t muddy the truism that our actions as instructors are a means to an end — a pupil’s knowledge — rather than an end in themselves.

However, with these reservations expressed, let me proceed. Brilliant teaching, in my view, at its heart reflects scholarship, personal integrity and the ability to communicate with the young.

Scholarship is both the grasp of a realm of knowledge and a habit of mind. An effective teacher provokes both from his students. But particularly the latter, as it is a habit of mind, rather than facts, which endure in a person over a lifetime. Scholarship is not only an affair of the classroom, but, at its best, is a way of life, one which is marked by respect for evidence and for logic, by inquisitiveness and the genius to find new meaning in familiar data, and by the ability to see things in context, to relate specificities to generalities, facts to theories, and theories to facts.

The second characteristic of great teaching is integrity, in at least two of its separate meanings. First there is probity: characteristics of honesty, principle and decent candor. These qualities are fundamental, of course, to the good life for anyone, but they play a special role in the behavior of those of us who inevitably, as we live together with them, influence younger people by our example.

Another, but equally important, kind of integrity is completeness or unity of character, the sense of self-confidence and personal identity a fine teacher exhibits. There is much pop jargon around to describe this, some of it useful: “knowing who you are,” “getting it together,” “not losing one’s cool.” Because they are teenagers, most of our students’ most painful trials are in finding their own selves, in gaining proper self-confidence, and they look to us as people who have learned to control the ambiguities, pressures and restrictions of life rather than having them control us. A fine teacher is not particularly one who exudes self-confidence from every pore — a superperson (more likely, a hypocrite!). Far from it. A fine teacher does have confidence, but the honest confidence that flows from a fair recognition of one’s own frailties as well as talents and which accommodates both joyfully. The lack of assurance that typically marks adolescence and that takes observable form in pettiness, distortion, scapegoating, over-reacting, or withdrawl ideally is balanced in a school by the presence of adults who have grown to channel and control these sturdily persistent human traits. A teenager leans little from older folk, of whatever scholarly brilliance, who as people are themselves yet teenagers.

The ability to communicate with the young is the third basic characteristic of good teaching. It means, obviously, liking young people, enjoying their noisy exuberance and intense questioning, which is their process of growing up. It means the ability to empathize, to see a situation as the student sees it. A good teacher must be, obviously, a compulsive listener. It means the skill of provoking more out of a student than he believed possible, of knowing the tests to which to put a young scholar in order that he be convinced of his own learning and to lure him into further learning. It means a belief in the dignity of young people and in the stage of life at which they now find themselves. Great teachers neither mock nor underestimate the young.

I am intensely aware that the foregoing description sounds pretentious and begs specificity. I won’t apologize for the pretension. I believe these goals are both achievable and proper for each of us as professional teachers to hold. Lesser goals, or more pragmatic goals demean us, I believe, and would suggest that the teacher’s craft is less human and more mechanical than it properly should be. But I do recognize that lack of specificity, and respond to it by recounting some little incidents and practices I’ve observed among members of this assembled company. Acts which may appear trivial in themselves, but which, when added to the hundreds of similar acts, create a standard and a style from which young people can learn.

For example, here are some apparent minutiae:

  • knowing student’s names, and calling them by name
  • greeting students and colleagues pleasantly
  • going to see student friends on varied occasions (i.e., the House Counselor or teacher, attending a game or play because of a youngster who’s playing)
  • remembering something that had earlier worried a student, and asking about it (“Is your mother recovering from her operation?”)
  • resisting the sarcastic, if funny, bon mot that could be an amusing but hurtful rejoinder to a foolish comment a student has just made in class
  • never tolerating ad hominem remarks among students and colleagues, such as apparently benign but really insulting jokes arising from one’s sex or ethnic origin
  • scrupulously following the dictum which all our parents taught us: “If you can’t say anything good about someone, don’t say anything at all.”
  • telling a student the unvarnished truth, privately (i.e., “Susan, I honestly suspect you…”, “George, you’re not working hard enough.”, “Sam, you are an insult to the olfactory nerves; go take a shower.”, “Joan, you’re a bully.”)

I could go on, but I trust the point is clear; such actions signal the importance a teacher feels for an individual, for his dignity and for his growth.

Some others; minutiae, of a different sort:

  • always insisting on the reasons for things — in class and out — and always taking time, one’s self, to give reasons. This takes patience, indeed stretches it often to Biblical extremes
  • knowing the difference between asking students to listen to you and to hear you – and acting upon it
  • “hearing” students, and questioning them thoroughly enough to know just how they see or are confused by an issue
  • showing that you can change your mind, when evidence and logic suggest it
  • being on the edge of your subject and interests; exhibiting the same questing in your field that you would have your students feel

The point here is obvious, the need to help students develop rational habits of mind and a sense of the joy of inquiry.

Some others, apparent trivia:

  • never being late to class or cutting it for some personal convenience
  • returning papers to students within twenty-four hours
  • insisting on neat written work, delivered on schedule
  • insisting on a formality of conduct in a classroom comparable to the formality of thought implicit in the subject being studied
  • clearly signalling the imperative of scrupulous intellectual honesty
  • insisting on clear thinking and fair-mindedness in the dormitory, on the playing field and elsewhere, as expected in the classroom
  • perceiving the results of a class as “My students know XYZ,” rather than “I covered XYZ in class” – and knowing the difference between the two

The message here unequivocally is the deep seriousness we have for intellectual values and for learning.

Some other minutiae; ones that help students to grow:

  • always expect a bit more of a student than he expects of himself
  • accentuate the positive; be careful always to praise good work. No one learns anything faster than when he feels he is successful
  • exhibit the greatest possible friendliness that one can honestly exhibit to a student one doesn’t like, and try to repress personal annoyances
  • be friends with students, but not buddies; the obligations of the latter relationship limit one’s freedom to teach well
  • never give up on a student, or categorize or ‘brand’ him permanently

One can go on, and we should go on among ourselves all year. I admit that this definition of teaching — a mix of scholarship, integrity and the gift of communicating with the young — is in its generality often as difficult to categorize as it is to describe. It turns on a person’s style, character. We mustn’t be afraid to confront this fact, and deal with it.

I take heart in this situation by recalling the consternation of some university colleagues of mine when they discovered a persistently inconsistent hiccup in their masses of research data on students’ school performance, a hiccup of excellence that could be explained by the fact that the teachers in a particular school gave a damn. The students in my colleagues’ study shouldn’t have performed well in this — but they did. It’s so much easier for social scientists to explain realities in terms of income level, or ethnic origin, or average ages. But “giving a damn”? Caring about kids? It made a difference, they — but they were embarrassed to admit it. We shouldn’t be embarrassed!

GOOD TEACHING: THE TOP TEN REQUIREMENTS

By Richard Leblanc, York University, Ontario

This article appeared in The Teaching Professor after Professor Leblanc won a Seymous Schulich Award for Teaching Excellence including a $10,000 cash award. Reprinted here with permission of Professor Leblanc, October 8, 1998.

 

One. Good teaching is as much about passion as it is about reason. It’s about not only motivating students to learn, but teaching them how to learn, and doing so in a manner that is relevant, meaningful, and memorable. It’s about caring for your craft, having a passion for it, and conveying that passion to everyone, most importantly to your students.

Two. Good teaching is about substance and treating students as consumers of knowledge. It’s about doing your best to keep on top of your field, reading sources, inside and outside of your areas of expertise, and being at the leading edge as often as possible. But knowledge is not confined to scholarly journals. Good teaching is also about bridging the gap between theory and practice. It’s about leaving the ivory tower and immersing oneself in the field, talking to, consulting with, and assisting practitioners, and liaisoning with their communities.

Three. Good teaching is about listening, questioning, being responsive, and remembering that each student and class is different. It’s about eliciting responses and developing the oral communication skills of the quiet students. It’s about pushing students to excel; at the same time, it’s about being human, respecting others, and being professional at all times.

Four. Good teaching is about not always having a fixed agenda and being rigid, but being flexible, fluid, experimenting, and having the confidence to react and adjust to changing circumstances. It’s about getting only 10 percent of what you wanted to do in a class done and still feeling good. It’s about deviating from the course syllabus or lecture schedule easily when there is more and better learning elsewhere. Good teaching is about the creative balance between being an authoritarian dictator on the one hand and a pushover on the other.

Five. Good teaching is also about style. Should good teaching be entertaining? You bet! Does this mean that it lacks in substance? Not a chance! Effective teaching is not about being locked with both hands glued to a podium or having your eyes fixated on a slide projector while you drone on. Good teachers work the room and every student in it. They realize that they are the conductors and the class is the orchestra. All students play different instruments and at varying proficiencies.

Six. This is very important — good teaching is about humor. It’s about being self-deprecating and not taking yourself too seriously. It’s often about making innocuous jokes, mostly at your own expense, so that the ice breaks and students learn in a more relaxed atmosphere where you, like them, are human with your own share of faults and shortcomings.

Seven. Good teaching is about caring, nurturing, and developing minds and talents. It’s about devoting time, often invisible, to every student. It’s also about the thankless hours of grading, designing or redesigning courses, and preparing materials to still further enhance instruction.

Eight. Good teaching is supported by strong and visionary leadership, and very tangible institutional support — resources, personnel, and funds. Good teaching is continually reinforced by an overarching vision that transcends the entire organization — from full professors to part-time instructors — and is reflected in what is said, but more importantly by what is done.

Nine. Good teaching is about mentoring between senior and junior faculty, teamwork, and being recognized and promoted by one’s peers. Effective teaching should also be rewarded, and poor teaching needs to be remediated through training and development programs.

Ten. At the end of the day, good teaching is about having fun, experiencing pleasure and intrinsic rewards … like locking eyes with a student in the back row and seeing the synapses and neurons connecting, thoughts being formed, the person becoming better, and a smile cracking across a face as learning all of a sudden happens. Good teachers practice their craft not for the money or because they have to, but because they truly enjoy it and because they want to. Good teachers couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

A DOZEN TEACHING TIPS FOR DIVERSE CLASSROOMS

By Piper Fogg
From The Chronicle of Higher Education – Community Colleges
http://chronicle.com, October 26, 2007, Volume 54, Issue 9, Page B12


For the majority of community-college professors, teaching is the most important part of their jobs. And it’s not easy. Community-college students are a diverse bunch but often face a particular set of challenges. Many entering students are not prepared for college-level work. And while some students plan to transfer to competitive four-year colleges, others struggle to complete remedial courses. Some students commute long distances, and many have jobs or families. In one class, a teacher may face an 18-year-old who is fresh out of high school, a single mother who works part time, and a first-generation college student who doesn’t speak English well.

Community-college students require teachers who are engaging, creative, responsive, and energetic – and who understand their students’ needs. Professors have to be up on the latest teaching methods, know which of them work for their students, and be flexible enough to change when something isn’t working. Here are a dozen tips – many from seasoned professors – for those just starting out, or for veterans who want fresh ideas.

  1. Remember that your students are freshmen and sophomores. One trap new faculty members fall into in their first jobs out of graduate school is to harbor inflated expectations, says Robin D. Jenkins, director of the Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College. “One new instructor in my department, for instance, asked students to write four lengthy essays during one 75-minute period,” he says, “because that’s the sort of thing she’d been expected to do in her graduate courses.” Mr. Jenkins advises new teachers to look at what their more-experienced colleagues are assigning, and to check out their syllabi. Even better, take them to lunch, he says, and pick their brains. “We all want to have the appropriate amount of rigor in our classes,” he says, but that doesn’t mean piling on the work when students aren’t ready for it.
  2. While setting realistic expectations is important, you must also share them with your students. If you are a stickler for grammar, let it be known on Day 1, advises Delaney J. Kirk, a professor of management at the University of South Florida at Sarasota-Manatee. Tell students if you give grace periods for assignments or if you will not tolerate tardiness. “Have a rationale so the policy is seen as reasonable,” says Ms. Kirk, the author of Taking Back the Classroom: Tips for the College Professor on Becoming a More Effective Teacher (Ti-berius Publications, 2005). After explaining your philosophy, take time to learn what students expect of you as well: Teaching is a two-way street.
  3. Take advantage of the technology-training courses your college offers, but don’t feel pressured to use technology for its own sake. Sample everything that interests you, find the applications that best fit your teaching style, and try to incorporate them into your teaching. Just because your college offers fancy technology with a big “wow” factor doesn’t always mean it will help you. “Experiment with what works for you,” says Georgia Perimeter’s Mr. Jenkins. “Feel free to ignore the rest.”
  4. Look at the whole experience – including the syllabus, the textbook, and the classroomfrom your students’ perspective. Are the books affordable or easy to find in the library? Is the classroom comfortable? Are assignments well spaced? It pays to think like your students, says Ellen J. Olmstead, an English professor at Montgomery College, in Rockville, Md., who was the 1999 Carnegie Foundation Community College Professor of the Year.
  5. Consider keeping a teaching journal. Verna B. Robinson, a professor of English at Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland, says it’s a great way to keep track of your experiences, including successes and failures, challenges, aspirations, inspirations, expectations, and, yes, complaints.
  6. Be mindful of the pressures on students, some of whom have families, jobs, or long commutes. Use the Internet, for example, to make course material, assignments, and feedback available online, so students can log in any time from home.
  7. Know what services are available at your college to help struggling students. It’s great if your college offers tutoring, English-language help, or career counseling, but they’re useful only if students actually use them. Distribute a handout at the start of the term and approach individual students if they seem to need a hand. Have a counselor come and introduce himself or herself to the class.
  8. Make sure students understand why the subject matter of the course is worth learning, and how it relates to the real world. If you get students invested, they will put in more work, says Richard L. Faircloth, a biology professor at Anne Arundel. Mr. Faircloth, who teaches anatomy, asks students to find a topic in current events that relates to the week’s assignment and write a short essay on why the topic is relevant in everyday life. “I’ve always found these aha’s that occur outside of class, when we’ve learned something in class, help to reinforce it,” says Mr. Faircloth. Expanding students’ media diets, he says, helps them find those everyday connections. It also gives them fresh perspectives and “gets them out of their little circle of e-mail and their circle of cellphones and text messaging.”
  9. Encourage your students to give you feedback on your teaching. Anne Arundel’s Ms. Robinson suggests passing out index cards midway through the semester and asking students what they would like to see more of and less of. Or ask students to grade you in one or two areas of your teaching. “Students appreciate being asked,” she says. Listen to what they have to say and try to incorporate their reasonable responses.
  10. If you are concerned about plagiarism, consider increasing the load of in-class work, such as problem sets and essays. You will learn quickly who is struggling, and it helps procrastinators and those who might otherwise turn work in late, says Tiina Lombard, an associate professor of English at Miami Dade College. It also teaches students to work better under pressure.
  11. Develop at least one assignment that requires each student to meet with you, one on one, in your office. The meeting could be devoted to reviewing an essay or homework assignment. Then use that time to discuss the student’s progress and answer any questions. “You will be amazed at how beneficial even a brief face-to-face meeting can be for you and the student,” says Ms. Robinson.
  12. Identify at least one quality you appreciate in each student, and keep it in mind every time you come in to class. “It’ll make you smile when you walk in to the classroom and look around at everyone,” says Ms. Olmstead, of the English department at Montgomery College.

GRADING PRACTICES

By Barbara Gross Davis, University of California, Berkeley.
From
Tools for Teaching, copyright by Jossey-Bass. For purchase or reprint information,
contact
Jossey-Bass. Reprinted here with permission, September 1, 1999.

 

There are no hard-and-fast rules about the best ways to grade. In fact, as Erickson and Strommer (1991) point out, how you grade depends a great deal on your values, assumptions, and educational philosophy: if you view introductory courses as “weeder” classes — to separate out students who lack potential for future success in the field — you are likely to take a different grading approach than someone who views introductory courses as teaching important skills that all students need to master.

All faculty agree, however, that grades provide information on how well students are learning (Erickson and Strommer, 1991). But grades also serve other purposes. Scriven (1974) has identified at least six functions of grading:

  • To describe unambiguously the worth, merit, or value of the work accomplished
  • To improve the capacity of students to identify good work, that is, to improve their self-evaluation or discrimination skills with respect to work submitted
  • To stimulate and encourage good work by students
  • To communicate the teacher’s judgment of the student’s progress
  • To inform the teacher about what students have and haven’t learned
  • To select people for rewards or continued education

For some students, grades are also a sign of approval or disapproval; they take them very personally. Because of the importance of grades, faculty need to communicate to students a clear rationale and policy on grading.

If you devise clear guidelines from which to assess performance, you will find the grading process more efficient, and the essential function of grades — communicating the student’s level of knowledge — will be easier. Further, if you grade carefully and consistently, you can reduce the number of students who complain and ask you to defend a grade. The suggestions below are designed to help you develop clear and fair grading policies. For tips on calculating final grades, see “Calculating and Assigning Grades.”

General Strategies


Grade on the basis of students’ mastery of knowledge and skills. Restrict your evaluations to academic performance. Eliminate other considerations, such as classroom behavior, effort, classroom participation, attendance, punctuality, attitude, personality traits, or student interest in the course material, as the basis of course grades. If you count these non-academic factors, you obscure the primary meaning of the grade, as an indicator of what students have learned. For a discussion on why not to count class participation, see “Encouraging Student Participation in Discussion.” (Source: Jacobs and Chase, 1992)

Avoid grading systems that put students in competition with their classmates and limit the number of high grades. These normative systems, such as grading on the curve, work against collaborative learning strategies that have been shown to be effective in promoting student learning. Normative grading produces undesirable consequences for many students, such as reduced motivation to learn, debilitating evaluation anxiety, decreased ability to use feedback to improve learning, and poor social relationships. (Sources: Crooks, 1988; McKeachie, 1986)

Try not to overemphasize grades. Explain to your class the meaning of and basis for grades and the procedures you use in grading. At the beginning of the term, inform students, in writing (see “The Course Syllabus”) how much tests, papers, homework, and the final exam will count toward their final grade. Once you have explained your policies, avoid stressing grades or excessive talk about grades, which only increases students’ anxieties and decreases their motivation to do something for its own sake rather than to obtain an external reward such as a grade. (Sources: Allen and Rueter, 1990; Fuhrmann and Grasha, 1983)

Keep students informed of their progress throughout the term. For each paper, assignment, midterm, or project that you grade, give students a sense of what their score means. Try to give a point total rather than a letter grade. Letter grades tend to have emotional associations that point totals lack. Do show the range and distribution of point scores, and indicate what level of performance is satisfactory. Such information can motivate students to improve if they are doing poorly or to maintain their performance if they are doing well. By keeping students informed throughout the term, you also prevent unpleasant surprises at the end. (Sources: Lowman, 1984; Shea, 1990)

Minimizing Students’ Complaints About Grading


Clearly state grading procedures in your course syllabus, and go over this information in class. Students want to know how their grades will be determined, the weights of various tests and assignments, and the model of grading you will be using to calculate their grades: will the class be graded on a curve or by absolute standards? If you intend to make allowances for extra credit, late assignments, or revision of papers, clearly state your policies.

Set policies on late work. Will you refuse to accept any late work? Deduct points according to how late the work is submitted? Handle late work on a case-by-case basis? Offer a grace period? See “Preparing or Revising a Course.”

Avoid modifying your grading policies during the term. Midcourse changes may erode students’ confidence in your fairness, consistency, objectivity, and organizational skills. If you must make a change, give your students a complete explanation. (Source: Frisbie, Diamond, and Ory, 1979)

Provide enough opportunities for students to show you what they know. By giving students many opportunities to show you what they know, you will have a more accurate picture of their abilities and will avoid penalizing a student who has an off day at the time of a test. So in addition to a final exam, give one or two midterms and one or two short papers. For lower-division courses, Erickson and Strommer (1991) recommend giving shorter tests or written assignments and scheduling some form of evaluation every two or three weeks.

Consider allowing students to choose among alternative assignments. One instructor presents a list of activities with assigned points for each that take into account the assignments’ educational and motivational value, difficulty, and probable amount of effort required. Students are told how many points are needed for an A, a B, or a C, and they choose a combination of assignments that meets the grade they desire for that portion of the course. Here are some possible activities:

  • Writing a case study
  • Engaging in and reporting on a fieldwork experience
  • Leading a discussion panel
  • Serving on a discussion panel
  • Keeping a journal or log of course-related ideas
  • Writing up thoughtful evaluations of several lectures
  • Creating instructional materials for the course (study guides, exam questions, or audiovisual materials) on a particular concept or theme
  • Undertaking an original research project or research paper
  • Reviewing the current research literature on a course-related topic
  • Keeping a reading log that includes brief abstracts of the readings and comments, applications, and critiques
  • Completing problem-solving assignments (such as designing an experiment to test a hypothesis or creating a test to measure something)

(Source: Davis, Wood, and Wilson, 1983)

Stress to students that grades reflect work on a specific task and are not judgments about people. Remind students that a teacher grades only a piece of paper. You might also let students know, if appropriate, that research shows that grades bear little or no relationship to measures of adult accomplishment (Eble, 1988, p. 156).

Give encouragement to students who are performing poorly. If students are having difficulty, do what you can to help them improve on the next assignment or exam. If they do perform well, take this into account when averaging the early low score with the later higher one. (Source: Lowman, 1984)

Deal directly with students who are angry or upset about their grade. Ask an upset student to take a day or more to cool off. It is also helpful to ask the student to prepare in writing the complaint or justification for a grade change. When you meet with the student in your office, have all the relevant materials at hand: the test questions, answer key or criteria, and examples of good answers. Listen to the student’s concerns or read the memo with an open mind and respond in a calm manner. Don’t allow yourself to become antagonized, and don’t antagonize the student. Describe the key elements of a good answer, and point out how the student’s response was incomplete or incorrect. Help the student understand your reasons for assigning the grade that you did. Take time to think about the student’s request or to reread the exam if you need to, but resist pressures to change a grade because of a student’s personal needs (to get into graduate school or maintain status on the dean’s list). If appropriate, for final course grades, offer to write a letter to the student’s adviser or to others, describing the student’s work in detail and indicating any extenuating circumstances that may have hurt the grade. (Sources: Allen and Rueter, 1990; McKeachie, 1986)

Keep accurate records of students’ grades. Your department may keep copies of final grade reports, but it is important for you to keep a record of all grades assigned throughout the semester, in case a student wishes to contest a grade, finish an incomplete, or ask for a letter of recommendation.

Making Effective Use of Grading Tactics


Return the first graded assignment or test before the add/drop deadline. Early assignments help students decide whether they are prepared to take the class (Shea, 1990). Some faculty members give students the option of throwing out this first test (Johnson, 1988). Students may receive a low score because they did not know what the instructor required or because they underestimated the level of preparation needed to succeed.

Record results numerically rather than as letter grades, whenever possible. Tests, problem sets, homework, and so on are best recorded by their point value to assure greater accuracy when calculating final grades. (Source: Jacobs and Chase, 1992)

Give students a chance to improve their grades by rewriting their papers. Many faculty encourage rewriting but do not count the grades on rewritten papers as equivalent to those of papers that have not been rewritten. See “Helping Students Write Better in All Courses.”

If many students do poorly on an exam, schedule another one on the same material a week or so later. Devote one or more classes to reviewing the troublesome material. Provide in-class exercises, homework problems or questions, practice quizzes, study group opportunities, and extra office hours before you administer the new exam. Though reviewing and retesting may seem burdensome and time-consuming, there is usually little point in proceeding to new topics when many of your students are still struggling. (Source: Erickson and Strommer, 1991)

Evaluating Your Grading Policies


Compare your grade distributions with those for similar courses in your department. Differences between your grade distributions and those of your colleagues do not necessarily mean that your methods are faulty. But glaring discrepancies should prompt you to reexamine your practices. (Source: Frisbie, Diamond, and Ory, 1979)

Ask students about your grading policies on end-of-course questionnaires. Here are some sample questions (adapted from Frisbie, Diamond, and Ory, 1979, p. 22):

To what extent:

  • Were the grading procedures for the course fair?
  • Were the grading procedures for the course clearly explained?
  • Did you receive adequate feedback on your performance?
  • Were requests for regrading or review handled fairly?
  • Did the instructor evaluate your work in a meaningful and conscientious manner?

References


Allen, R. R., and Rueter, T. Teaching Assistant Strategies. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt, 1990.

Crooks, T. J. “The Impact of Classroom Evaluation Practices on Students.” Review of Educational Research, 1988, 58(4), 438-48 1.

Davis, B. G., Wood, L., and Wilson, R. The ABCs of Teaching Excellence. Berkeley: Office of Educational Development, University of California, 1983.

Eble, K. E. The Craft of Teaching. (2nd ed.) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass,1988.

Erickson, B. L., and Strommer, D. W. Teaching College Freshmen. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991.

Frisbie, D. A., Diamond, N. A., and Ory, J. C. Assigning Course Grades. Urbana: Office of Instructional Resources, University of Illinois, 1979.

Fuhrmann, B. S., and Grasha, A. F. A Practical Handbook for College Teachers. Boston: Little, Brown, 1983.

Jacobs, L. C., and Chase, C. I.. Developing and Using Tests Effectively: A Guide for Faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992.

Johnson, G. R. Taking Teaching Seriously. College Station: Center for Teaching Excellence, Texas A & M University, 1988.

Lowman, J. Mastering the Techniques of Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1984.

McKeachie, W. J. Teaching Tips. (8th ed.) Lexington, Mass.: Heath, 1986.

Scriven, M. “Evaluation of Students.” Unpublished manuscript, 1974.

Shea, M. A. Compendium of Good Ideas on Teaching and Learning. Boulder: Faculty Teaching Excellence Program, University of Colorado, 1990.

SELECTING A DELIVERY STRATEGY

 

Introduction


The term “delivery strategy” is overused and often misunderstood. Books have been written about it and often equate it to the term “method.” Most undergraduate teaching-training programs even require a course in methods. For the purpose of this article, choosing a delivery strategy will be presented as a choice among the lecture, demonstrations, or discussion. The common nature of these choices do not answer the question How?, but focus on the question, Why ? A series of questions is presented to help you make a decision on which delivery method to use.

Choosing a Lecture


The purpose of a lecture is to clarify information to a large group in a short period of time. It is not to convey information! Lectures require a great deal of preparation time and need to be supported by various audio-visuals. The lecture is a great opportunity for instructors to feed their egos! It is instructor-centered. Handouts, programmed instruction, information handouts, modules, student presentations, guest speakers, films, film strips, and reading assignments are adaptations of lectures.

The following questions should assist you in determining the appropriateness of a lecture.

  1. What knowledge, skill, or attitude needs to be learned?
  2. How many students need the content?
  3. Do all or most of the students need the content now?
  4. How much preparation time is available?
  5. Are you in command of your nonverbal cues?
  6. Can you develop interest in the lecture?
  7. Are there appropriate audio-visual support systems?
  8. Would a handout work just as well?
  9. Can you devise means to ensure that more than one sense is used by students?
  10. Are there natural divisions that equate to 20 minutes or less?
  11. Would a videotape work just as well?
  12. Do your impromptu lectures last 5 minutes or less?
  13. Could you provide an outline of important parts of the lecture?
  14. What portion of your teaching time do you spend lecturing?
  15. Would a text assignment work just as well?
  16. Do you summarize regularly in the lecture?
  17. Do you pose questions in your lectures?
  18. Have you ever listened to or watched one of your lectures?

Choosing a Demonstration


The purpose of the demonstration is to transmit the big picture to a relatively small group of students in a short period of time. Demonstrations usually require a lot of preparation time and must be supported with various audio-visuals. Demonstrations are particularly useful in teaching skills and are more teacher-centered than student-centered. There are several variations of demonstrations. Projects, peer tutoring, research papers, practice, field trips, on-the-job training, simulated experiences, and videotapes are adaptations of demonstrations. The following questions should assist you in determining the appropriateness of a demonstration:

  1. Does the learner need to see the process?
  2. How many students need the content?
  3. How many students need the content now?
  4. How much preparation time is available?
  5. Can you tell and show the content?
  6. Can you appeal to other senses?
  7. Do you want the students to imitate you?
  8. Is there a-v support available?
  9. Will the demonstration last more that 20 minutes?
  10. Could you use a videotape just as well?
  11. Can you ask questions during the demonstration?
  12. Can the students take notes?
  13. Will there be practice time for the students?
  14. Can the student easily identify the steps?
  15. Will you permit the students to ask questions?
  16. Is there only one right way?
  17. Will you support the demonstration with handouts?
  18. Have you ever listened to or watched one of your demonstrations?

Choosing a Discussion


The purpose of a discussion is to solicit and involve the student in content transmittal. Discussions are limited to small groups and require considerable time. The discussion method does not require much audio-visual support. This method is particularly useful in an affective area. It promotes understanding and clarification of concepts, ideas, and feelings. There are numerous variations, and the discussion method can vary from teacher-centered to student-centered. Role playing, debate, panel discussion, reviews, supervised study, brainstorming, buzz groups, idea incubation, tests, show-and-tell, worksheets, conferences, and interviews are examples. The following questions should assist you in determining the appropriateness of a discussion:

  1. Do you need active involvement from the student?
  2. How many students need to be involved?
  3. Must you hear everything being said?
  4. How much time is available?
  5. Is divergent thinking a desirable end?
  6. Could you just as well tell them?
  7. Can there be more than one right answer?
  8. Is there time to clarify differences?
  9. How much control do you need?
  10. Can you accept the students’ views?
  11. Can interest be aroused and maintained?
  12. Is there time to draw conclusions?
  13. Is there time to follow up?
  14. What needs to be tested?
  15. Is two-way communication necessary?
  16. Are checks and balances available to prevent certain students from dominating?
  17. Are there means to keep on the topic?
  18. Have you ever listened to or watched yourself in a discussion?

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