Ken Bain - What the Best College Teachers Do

Drawing on the experiences and techniques of a number of college and university professors who have been called "the best," Ken Bain discusses what the title indicates. There isn't much in the book that surprised or was totally new to me. Most of the ideas and methods were things that I thought up on my own during my first year of teaching at the college level. However, this is still a valuable guide to those just going into teaching or those who have been at it a while and who are looking to improve their current teaching methodologies.

The book is aimed more at those teaching in the humanities and similar areas than those of us teaching in, say, a school of business or professional school. Also, the author usually assumes that the students at the college level are highly motivated and bright. Teachers and students at Harvard and similar "reach" schools are mentioned frequently; whereas, community colleges and other higher education centers that admit basically everyone aren't really addressed. Those of us teaching at a "safety school" would like some pointers that are aimed at teachers instructing those students who are less enthusiastic and intelligent.

This is still a good book that I would recommend even if you are not teaching philosophy at Harvard.

from the publisher:
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, 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.