Friday, January 27, 2012

Bain's View of Teaching

As we come up for a breath of fresh air after a frenzy of start-of-the-semester events, we can now concentrate on the main task at hand: Teaching!

There are several different ways of thinking about teaching. One approach looks almost entirely at the actions and behaviors of the instructor. In this approach, instruction is viewed as something that is provided to students. This approach is often characterized in ways that assume that learning cannot take place unless some type of teaching has happened.

In a study conducted by Bain (2004), he suggested highly effective instructors in higher education “thought of teaching as anything they might do to help and encourage students to learn” (p. 49). Bain points out that these instructors paid attention to creating an environment for learning. They also found teaching to be “an important and serious intellectual (or artistic) act” (p. 49).

Bain considered four questions in characterizing this view of teaching. From these questions, we can see a complex and rich approach to considering teaching.
  1. What should my students be able to do intellectually, physically or emotionally as a result of their learning?
  2. How can I best help and encourage them to develop those abilities and the habits of the heart and mind to use them.
  3. How can my students and I best understand the nature, quality, and progress of their learning?
  4. How can I evaluate my efforts to foster that learning? (p. 49)
 Great questions to consider as we continue in the sememster! Define, in your own terms, what students should know or be able to do as a result of your teaching. Define your actions to help students achieve those goals. Think carefully about what feedback students need to understand how they are progressing. Consider how you will know if your efforts are successful.


Bain, K, (2004). What the best college teachers do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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