What makes a great teacher great? Who are the professors students remember long after graduation? This book, the conclusion of a fifteen-year study of nearly one hundred college teachers in a wide variety of fields and universities, offers valuable answers for all educators.
The short answer is—it’s not what teachers do, it’s what they understand. Lesson plans and lecture notes matter less than the special way teachers comprehend the subject and value human learning. Whether historians or physicists, in El Paso or St. Paul, the best teachers know their subjects inside and out—but they also know how to engage and challenge students and to provoke impassioned responses. Most of all, they believe two things fervently: that teaching matters and that students can learn.
In stories both humorous and touching, Ken Bain describes examples of ingenuity and compassion, of students’ discoveries of new ideas and the depth of their own potential. What the Best College Teachers Do is a treasure trove of insight and inspiration for first-year teachers and seasoned educators.
[What the Best College Teachers Do] remains for me the single most inspiring and thought-provoking work in the field. Bain’s deep analysis of the teaching attitudes and practices of a small cohort of outstanding teachers, buttressed by research from the learning sciences and narrated in lively prose, provides multiple models for college educators to reflect upon, discuss, and emulate. Nine years after its initial publication, it continues to stimulate my own continuing meditations on teaching.
It combines a robust theoretical framework grounded in the latest scholarship, the wisdom of best practices, and a unique depiction of how successful educators think about their teaching.
Ken Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do has generated considerable buzz, and rightly so. Based on a careful study of 60 outstanding teachers from a variety of disciplines and institutions, it distills valuable lessons that warrant the consideration of anyone who wishes to be more effective in drawing students into the life of the mind… [Readers] will find its various discussions to be uncommonly well grounded and uncommonly inspiring.
Bain, a historian and director of New York University’s Center for Teaching Excellence, studied 63 outstanding college teachers (as deemed by students and colleagues as well as by an examination of their students’ work) from diverse institutions in an attempt to identify their common traits. What he discovered is pertinent to all teachers, including those at the K–12 level.
With the strong conviction that good teaching can be learned, and after 15 years of observing teachers in action, Bain undertook an exploration of the essentials of effective teaching. The result is an insightful look at what makes a great teacher, based on a study of three dozen teachers from a cross section of disciplines from medical-school faculties to undergraduate departments.
Bain’s sound and scholarly yet exuberant promotion of America’s ‘best college teachers’ abounds with jaunty anecdotes and inspiring opinions that make student-centered instruction look not only infectious, but downright imperative… Though he acknowledges nationwide trends toward grade inflation, he invokes a 1990 study that suggests students are most driven by ‘high demands’ and prefer ‘plentiful opportunities to revise and improve their work before it receives a grade.’ Likewise, the book argues that, even in the cutthroat climate of today’s competitive colleges, students strive best in cooperative classrooms. The best teachers, Bain avers, understand and exceed such expectations.
Reading this book is a joy. Ken Bain has conducted years of careful research on a variety of campuses, and the result is an inspirational summary of what teachers do that truly makes a difference in students’ lives, and what any teacher can do to improve. As a teacher myself, I found I couldn’t put this book down.
- 224 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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