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What the Best College Teachers Do?

By Ken Bain (2004)
This book is based on an extensive research study which was compiled into conclusions selected or summarized by Dr. Lamberski.

The Observable Attributes of the Mind –

  1. What Do the Best Teachers Know and Understand?

    1. Outstanding teachers know their subjects extremely well
    2. Publication is not correlated to outstanding teachers
    3. Best teachers assume that learning has little meaning unless it produces a sustained and substantial influence on the way people think, act, and feel
  2. How Do They Prepare to Teach?

    1. Exceptional teachers treat teaching as a serious intellectual endeavor
    2. Exceptional teachers begin with questions about student learning objectives rather than about what the teacher will do
  3. What Do They Expect of Their Students?

    1. The best teachers expect “more”
    2. The best avoid objectives that are arbitrarily tied to the course and favor those that embody the kind of thinking and acting expected for life
  4. What Do They Do When They Teach?

    1. Create challenging yet supportive conditions in which learners feel a sense of control over their education
    2. Have learners work collaboratively with others
    3. Students believe that their work will be considered fairly and honestly
    4. Students can try, fail, and receive feedback from expert learners in advance and separate from any summative judgment
  5. How Do They Treat Students?

    1. Highly effective teacher tend to reflect a strong trust in students and a simple decency
    2. Display openness and are enthusiastic
    3. Talk about their own intellectual journey, its contributions, triumphs, frustrations, and failures
  6. How Do They Check Their Progress and Evaluate Their Efforts?

    1. All great teachers have some systematic program to assess their own efforts and to make appropriate change
    2. Assessment of student flows from the primary objectives
    3. Avoid judging student on arbitrary standards

The Common Philosophy of the Heart –

Superior teachers have a strong sense of commitment to the academic community and not just to personal success in the classroom. They see their own efforts as a small part of a larger educational enterprise rather than as an opportunity to display personal prowess. In their minds, they are mere contributors to a learning environment that demands attention from a fellowship of scholars. They frequently work on major curriculum initiatives and join public conversations about how to improve teaching in the institution. Many of them talk about how the success of their own teaching hinges on something students learn in other classes. Consequently, they maintain vigorous exchanges with colleagues about how best to educate students, and often cite something they learn from working with others. Fundamentally, they are learners, constantly trying to improve their own efforts to foster student’s development, and never completely satisfied with what they had already achieved.

  • Center for Teaching Excellence
  • Dr. Stephanie Taylor-Davis, Director
    103 Stabley Library
    429 South Eleventh Street
    Indiana, PA 15705
  • Phone: 724-357-7800
  • Fax: 724-357-2281