Teaching at Its Best A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors

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  • Edition: 4th
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2016-07-18
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass

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Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?


The classic teaching toolbox, updated with new research and ideas

Teaching at Its Best is the bestselling, research-based toolbox for college instructors at any level, in any higher education setting. Packed with practical guidance, proven techniques, and expert perspectives, this book helps instructors improve student learning both face-to-face and online. This new fourth edition features five new chapters on building critical thinking into course design, creating a welcoming classroom environment, helping students learn how to learn, giving and receiving feedback, and teaching in multiple modes, along with the latest research and new questions to facilitate faculty discussion. Topics include new coverage of the flipped classroom, cutting-edge technologies, self-regulated learning, the mental processes involved in learning and memory, and more, in the accessible format and easy-to-understand style that has made this book a much-valued resource among college faculty.

Good instructors are always looking for ways to improve student learning. With college classrooms becoming increasingly varied by age, ability, and experience, the need for fresh ideas and techniques has never been greater. This book provides a wealth of research-backed practices that apply across the board.

  • Teach students practical, real-world problem solving
  • Interpret student ratings accurately
  • Boost motivation and help students understand how they learn
  • Explore alternative techniques, formats, activities, and exercises

Given the ever-growing body of research on student learning, faculty now have many more choices of effective teaching strategies than they used to have, along with many more ways to achieve excellence in the classroom. Teaching at Its Best is an invaluable toolbox for refreshing your approach, and providing the exceptional education your students deserve.

Author Biography

LINDA B. NILSON is the founding director of Clemson University's Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation. Her career as a full-time faculty development director spans over 25 years. Along with four editions of Teaching at Its Best: A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors, she has authored three other books: The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating Your Course (Jossey-Bass, 2007); Creating Self-Regulated Learners: Strategies to Strengthen Students' Self-Awareness and Learning Skills (Stylus, 2013); and Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time (Stylus, 2015).

Table of Contents

The Author


Part I: Preparation for Teaching

1 Understanding Students and How They Learn

Your Undergraduate Student Body Profile

How People Learn

How Structure Increases Learning

The Cognitive Development of Undergraduates

Encouraging Cognitive Growth

Teaching Today’s Young Students

The Challenge

2. Outcomes-Centered Course Design

Why Outcomes-Centered Course Design?

Writing Outcomes

Types of Outcomes

Types of Cognitive Outcomes

Sequencing Outcomes into a Learning Process

Helpful Frameworks for Designing a Course

Showing Students Their Learning Process

Outcomes-Centered Course Development

The Big Picture

3. Building Critical Thinking into a Course Design

The Many Faces of Critical Thinking

Common Ground

Critical Thinking Outcomes for Your Students

Giving Students Practice in Critical Thinking

The Goal: Critical Thinking in Everyday Life

4. Deciding What Technology to Use

Choosing Technologies Intelligently

How Faculty and Students View Technology

Lecture-Related Software

The Learning Management System

The Flipped Classroom

Social Media

Mobile Learning in Class

Laptops in Class

Web Resources

Miscellaneous Technologies

The Future of Educational Technology

5. The Complete Syllabus

How Long? How Extensive?

The Case to Trim the Syllabus

Essential Syllabus Items

The Graphic Syllabus

The Online “Living Syllabus”

Getting Your Students to Read Your Syllabus

Adding a Creative Element

6. Copyright Guidelines for Instructors

Where Copyright Does and Does Not Apply

Common Copyright Misconceptions

Free Use: Fair Use, Facts, and Public Domain

Printed Text


In-Class Performances

Recording Broadcast Programming

Online/Electronic Materials and Distance Learning

Obtaining Permission or a License

How Copyright Violations Are Actually Handled

For Further and Future Reference

Part II: Human Factors

7. Creating a Welcoming Classroom Environment for All Your Students

Planning a Welcoming Classroom

A Welcoming First Day of Class

Learning Students’ Names

The Inclusive, Equitable Classroom

Maintaining a Welcoming Environment

8. Enhancing Student Motivation

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Students’ Perceptions of Motivators in Their Courses

Students’ Values about College and Their Impact on Motivation

Credible Theories of Motivation

55 Strategies for Motivating Students

No Magic Bullets

9. Preventing and Responding to Classroom Incivility

What Is Incivility?

Why Do Students Behave This Way?

Preventing Incivility: Your Classroom Persona

Responding Wisely to Incivility

Seeking Assistance

10. Preserving Academic Integrity

How Prevalent Is Cheating?

Who Cheats and Why?

Detecting Cheating

42 Ways to Prevent Cheating

Honor Codes

Changing Student Values

Part III: Tried-and-True Teaching Methods

11. Matching Teaching Methods with Learning Outcomes

Types of Tools

Has Our Knowledge Changed Our Teaching?

A Tool for Organizing Your Course

12. Lecturing for Learning

When and How Much to Lecture

Preparing an Effective Lecture

Delivering an Effective Lecture

Incorporating Student-Active Breaks: The Interactive Lecture

Inducing and Teaching Students to Take Good Notes

Making the Lecture Effective

13. Leading Effective Discussions

When to Choose Discussion

Setting the Stage for Discussion at the Start of Your Course

Policies to Encourage Participation

Skillful Discussion Management

Questioning Techniques

Organizing Discussion Questions

Turning the Tables

14. Coordinating Experiential Learning

Student Presentation Formats

Role Playing

Simulations and Games

Service-Learning and Civic Engagement: The Real Thing

Maximizing the Value of Experiential Learning

15. Managing Productive Groups

A Group by Any Other Name. . .

The Case for Group Learning

Cautions about Group Learning

Managing and Troubleshooting In-Class Ad Hoc Groups

Team-Based Learning

Preparing Students for Life

Part IV: Inquiry-Based Methods for Solving Real-World Problems

16. Inquiry-Guided Learning

Definitions of Inquiry-Guided Learning

The Effectiveness of Inquiry-Guided Learning

The Need for Student Guidance

Objects of Inquiry

Modes of Inquiry

Variations of Inquiry-Based Learning

Upcoming Inquiry-Guided Methods

17. The Case Method

The Effectiveness of the Case Method

The Subject Matter and Websites for Cases

What Makes a Good Case and How to Write Your Own

Types of Cases

Debriefing Cases

A Postscript for Pioneers

18. Problem-Based Learning

How PBL Works

Good PBL Problems and Where to Find Them

What Students Think

Creating Your Own PBL Problems

19. Problem-Solving in the STEM Fields

Where STEM Education Falls Short

Improving Student Learning in STEM Courses: General Advice

Improving Student Learning in STEM Courses: Specific Strategies

“Getting Real” in the Lab

Online Resources for STEM Education

Why STEM Education Is So Important

Part V: Tools and Techniques to Facilitate Learning

20. Helping Students Learn How They Learn

Learning As an “Inside Job”

The Learner’s Questions

The Evidence for Self-Regulated Learning

Activities and Assignments for Every Occasion

Self-Regulated and Self-Directed Learning

Sources for Teaching Your Students How to Learn

21. Ensuring Students Prepare for Class

Why Students Don’t Prepare

How We Can Equip and Induce Students to Come Prepared

Specific Tools for Holding Students Accountable

Managing Your Workload

22. Teaching in Multiple Modes

Kolb’s Learning Styles Model and Experiential Learning Theory (ELT)

Felder and Silverman’s Learning Styles Model

Multimodal Learning

Combining Modes

23. Making the Most of the Visual Mode

How Visuals Enhance Learning

Types of Visuals for Learning

The Future of Visuals in Learning

24. Improving Student Performance with Feedback

When Feedback Fails

Student Peer Feedback


Student Portfolios

Instructor Feedback: Helping Students Improve with It

Classroom Assessment Techniques

During-the-Term Student Feedback

Part VI: Assessment and Grading

25. Preparing Students for Exams

Test Preparation Measures

Measures to Ensure Students Understand Our Language

Anxiety-Reduction Measures

What the Effort Is Worth

The Power of Feedback

26. Constructing Student Assessments for Grading

General Testing Guidelines

Objective Test Items

Constructed-Response Tests Items and Assignments

Student Assessments as Teaching Assessments

27. Grading Student Assessments

Grading Systems

Grading Constructed Responses

Grading Lab Reports

How to Grade and Teach Mechanics at the Same

Specifications (“Specs”) Grading

Returning Students’ Work

The Real Purpose of Grades

28. Assessing and Documenting Teaching Effectiveness

What Is Teaching Effectiveness?

What Student Ratings Do and Do Not Measure

How to Improve Your Student Ratings

Documenting Your Effectiveness

A Comprehensive Approach to Faculty Evaluation

Complex beyond Measure

Appendix: Instructional Support and Resources at Your Institution

For Faculty, Staff, and Students

Just for Students



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