Mines created a definition of effective teaching to establish a shared understanding to guide instructors and create consistency across campus. To create the definition, a Faculty Senate committee collaborated with the Trefny Center to review the empirical education literature. These efforts resulted in the identification of four characteristics of effective teaching that all Mines faculty can work towards. While each characteristic is distinct, the four overlap with and inform each other, together characterizing effective teaching. Below, each characteristic is described in more detail.
EXPLORE THE Four Characteristics of Effective Teaching
Effective teaching begins with a course and with class sessions that are designed to support student learning and motivation. Aspects of effective design include relevant student learning outcomes, a variety of learning experiences that give students space and time to practice the skills defined in those outcomes, and formative and summative assessments that give instructors and students feedback about students’ learning progress. Being intentional with how you structure, organize, and align your outcomes, experiences, and assessments is an evidence-based and inclusive practice that increases student motivation and helps all students learn (e.g. Ames 1992; Wiggins 1998; Ambrose et al. 2010; Tanner 2013).
Focused on Learning
Effective teaching is focused on creating learning opportunities. It considers how students’ prior experiences shape their learning, is based on research about how people learn best, and frames course content in terms of its relevance to students’ lives and future careers (e.g. Ambrose et al. 2010; Seidel & Shavelson 2007). Students learn best when they are actively engaged with the information they are acquiring (Freeman et al., 2014), are provided with multiple and diverse opportunities for low-stakes practice and feedback (e.g. Campitelli & Gobet 2011; Hattie & Timperley 2007;), and are invited to apply their learning in ways that feel “authentic” insofar as they replicate real-world situations and tasks (Wiggins 1990). An instructor who focuses on learning connects course content to students’ prior knowledge, motivates students by communicating the value and relevance of the course content, and helps students adopt a “growth mindset”(Dweck 2007) by monitoring and reflecting on their own learning.
Supportive of Students
Effective teaching is supportive of all students as learners and as people (Cornelius-White 2007). It fosters belonging through instructional strategies that explicitly communicate care, build community, and centralize students’ whole-humanness (hooks 1994) to support their emotional, intellectual, mental, and personal wellbeing. A strong sense of belonging has been shown to promote high-level learning, particularly for minoritized and first-year college students (Strayhorn 2022), is linked to increased student engagement and motivation (Wilson et al. 2015). Support can be communicated by showing care for students as learners, combining high expectations with learning supports, normalizing mistakes, using multiple and diverse examples, and making content accessible. Being supportive of students also involves showing care for students as people, for example, by learning students’ names, fostering social connection and interacting with students before and after class, and showing compassion when students encounter challenges.
Effective teaching is an ongoing process that involves active critical reflection, growth, and iteration in order to improve teaching and learning in the classroom (e.g., Condon et al. 2016; Meizlish et al. 2017). An instructor who is reflective iterates on their teaching by gathering, considering, and acting on relevant evidence of student learning and motivation. They seek out opportunities to continue learning about and developing in their teaching, and they collaborate with colleagues to build a culture of shared responsibility for student learning and success.