Sunday, March 8, 2015
What the best college teachers do
Here's a book that all teachers at University should read. It is written by Ken Bain, an American history professor and expert in fostering teaching quality. It is the result of serious studies on the quality of teaching in US universities, using evidence from faculty members from many disciplines. It is a very well written book, far away from the bureaucratic style that sometimes affects the crusaders of new pedagogical styles. Its message is simple but at the same time not trivial. Good teachers do not believe that their teaching is about transmitting knowledge, but about collectively promoting a learning experience. Each of us should question his or her teaching habits and see how much they depart from the habits and ideas of the best teachers. In my case, I find comfort in finding myself in agreement with many of the ideas, mainly in treating students with respect and trying to promote participation and dialogue in and out of class. But of course I am far away from the best in that many times I still do too much "transmission" instead of collective learning. The book is not a list of recipes or techniques that will easily make us achieve better results in students' surveys. It is much more than that: it is a guide to help us think how can we be more effective at helping our students and ourselves to learn. As an endorsement says this book is "an inspirational summary of what teachers do that truly makes a difference in students' lives, and what any teacher can do to improve".