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What Constitutes Good Teaching?
By Shirley Ronkowski   Printer Friendly Version

Students and faculty "know" good teaching when they experience it, but often find it difficult to articulate the specifics of what they experience as good teaching. With access to today's technology any one can get a teaching degree online, but good teachers share common qualities. The many approaches to understanding teaching have been addressed in broad reviews of the research literature on post secondary teaching.

One such review synthesized 31 studies in which students and faculty members specified characteristics important to good teaching (Feldman, 1988). The analysis revealed extensive similarities across studies and between the two groups. In these studies, students and faculty members at the same institutions (universities, four-year colleges, and 2-year colleges) were asked to describe attitudes or practices important to good teaching; some students asked respondents to characterize "best" or "ideal" teachers. Both students and faculty members gave high rankings to the following seven categories (although students placed somewhat more emphasis than faculty on instructor's stimulation of interest and their elocutionary skills). The following phrases from survey questions used by researchers serve to define the seven categories.

Faculty and Students Agree -- Good Teaching Involves:

Sensitivity to, and Concern with, Class Level and Progress:

  • instructor communicates effectively at a level appropriate to studnets' understanding
  • textbook is of appropriate difficulty for the student
  • instructor seems to be concerned with whether students learn the material
  • instructor determines if one student's problem is common to others
  • instructor realizes when students are bored or confused

Preparation; Organization of the Course:

  • instructor is well prepared for class
  • instructor organizes the course in a logical manner
  • the course organization assists students in developing basic concepts
  • new information is presented logically, and is related to ideas already introduced
  • students perceive the instructor as well-organized
  • lectures are easy to outline

Knowledge of the Subject:

  • instructor demonstrates comprehensive knowledge of his/her subject
  • instructor knows the current research and literature in his/her field
  • instructor knows his/her field of specialization very well

Enthusiasm (for Subject or for Teaching):

  • instructor seems interested in teaching the course
  • instructor's ability to convey interest and enthusiasm for subject matter
  • instructor is dynamic and energetic

Clarity and Understandableness:

  • instructor explains clearly and attempts to answer all questions
  • students are able to follow and understand class lectures/presentations
  • instructor relates concepts in a systematic manner that helps understanding
  • instructor uses well chosen examples to clarify points
  • instructor summarizes major points
  • instructor interprets abstract ideas and theories clearly

Availability and Helpfulness:

  • instructor encourages students to see him/her if in difficulty
  • instructor is readily available to students outside class for consultation
  • instructor has rapport with students
  • special 'group help' sessions are provided for students who need it
  • instructor is conscientious in keeping appointments with students
  • instructor is willing to give personal assistance

Impartial Evaluation of Students; Quality of Examinations:

  • concepts emphasized in class are those emphasized in exams
  • exams cover material on which students expect to be tested
  • exams require student to do more than recall factual information
  • exams allow student to adequately demonstrate what was learned in the course
  • exams require synthesis of various parts of the course
  • the instructor tells students how they will be evaluated in the course
  • grades are based on a fair balance of course requirements and content
  • students are satisfied with the way they have been evaluated
  • students are quizzed frequently
  • instructor announces tests and quizzes in advance
  • instructor uses more than one type of evaluation device

These phrases could be useful in putting together a mid-term course evaluation while there's still time to make improvements. Collecting feedback at the end of the course is useful as feedback and for evaluation, but mid-term evaluations often are more useful in improving instruction.

Reference: Feldman, K.A. (1988) "Effective College Teaching from the Students' and Facultys' View: matched or mismatched priorities?" Research in Higher Education . 28 (4). 291-344.

*Taken from Instructional News. Dr. Shirley Ronkowski (ed.) Instructional Development. University of California Santa Barbara. Fall, 1993.

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