OK, so I don’t have any time for the mediocre scholars with lifeless research performance who pontificate about university teaching. There are no sure-fire techniques, despite what those gesticulators in workshops will try and tell you.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t useful principles to remember about how to do it well. Here are some from derived from THE BOOK (click on the image on the right to buy it).
1. Interest and explanation
The job of every teacher is to make their subject interesting. So make your subject irresistible to students. Arouse their curiosity. Explain things clearly, remembering to clarify the reasons why a particular fact or skill is essential for understanding the whole.
2. Concern and respect for students and student learning
Tree-hugging and basket-weaving with students as equals? Not a bit of it. Just practical advice if you’re an expert and they aren’t (which is what teaching is about, after all). Get interested in what students know and don’t know. Be generous – give students the benefit of the doubt. Challenge them, but simultaneously make it easy for them to master the ideas and facts. Strive to make the difficult parts easy. Remember – you were once as ignorant yourself.
3. Appropriate assessment and feedback
Set the right assessments; match them to the material to be learned. Question students in a way that demands evidence of understanding. When you give feedback, make sure they appreciate what they still need to study to get it right. Make sure they know it’s OK to admit, like an expert, that they’ve got more to learn.
4. Clear goals and intellectual challenge
Consistently high academic expectations produce better student performance. Hard work never hurt anyone. Clear statements of what’s to be learned encourage a good fit between student effort and course goals.
5: Independence, control, and engagement
Get students engaged with content in a way that enables them to reach understanding. Give them enough space to learn at their own pace and in their own sequence. They need to feel in control over what they’re doing, as well as feeling that you’re directing them – the right balance is important, both for learning well and for enjoying it. There’s no rule against hard work being fun.
6. Learning from students
From students, do you say? Yes, because the previous five principles are necessary but not sufficient for good university teaching. Effective teaching means seeing the relation between teaching, learning and content as problematic, uncertain and relative. It involves constantly trying to find out how teaching affects learning, and adapting it in the light of the evidence you collect. This is ‘evaluation’ of university teaching: learning from students and modifying what you do to make it more effective.