College Teaching at its Best:
Recognizing Good Practice and
Supporting Your Faculty
David Langley, Director
Center for Teaching and Learning
University of Minnesota
Purpose of the Presentation
recognize solid teaching practices in your
faculty in relation to the best college
teachers in the United States
examine the value of informational and
transformational professional development
as levers for change in your department
Our preferred way of teaching can become
a “rut” or deeply engrained habit that may
be difficult to change.
Building New Habits
Research on expert teachers provides
guidelines that can help all professors
develop new teaching habits
The best college teachers know their
content deeply; they also optimize the role
of examples to strengthen a student’s
understanding of difficult concepts
Expert teachers view the outcome of student
learning as the ability to perform in a setting
that matters –being able to solve problems in
“real life” settings.
Expert teachers design their course around
a small number of key, significant
questions or tasks.
Examples of Key Questions
BIOL 2002 Foundations of Biology
How does evolution serve as a central
unifying concept in biology?
ANTH 1005 Introduction to Cultural
How can diversity be understood through the
lens of “culture”?
PHIL 1005 Scientific Reasoning
What tools of scientific reasoning can be used
to evaluate the validity of information
presented through popular media?
Core Ideas on Expectations for
Expert teachers have ambitious, high
standards for students but also provide
instructional support to help students
Core Ideas on Conducting Class
The best college teachers:
use a conversational tone of voice
are clear and organized as speakers
Expert teachers do not believe one teaching method is
superior to others, but all methods must capture
students’ attention and engage them.
Examples of Active Student
Engagement During Class
PERFORMING skills needed to be a
successful professional, such as:
1. taping an ankle sprain in an athletic
training lab course
2. performing a piano recital in a music
3. analyzing soil samples in a plant biology
4. writing a literary analysis of a text in a world
5. solving an equation in a calculus course
Discussion Break #1
Challenges facing department chairs
on teaching (handout)
The best college teachers have deep trust
in each student’s ability to learn.
The best college teachers are invested in the
lives, careers, and development of their
What Do Students Value in
Credibility—the teacher has knowledge and wisdom
that will benefit the student significantly
Authenticity—the teacher is trustworthy, open, and
honest in helping students learn
Development in Your Dept.
Goal--improve the pedagogical skills and
capabilities of faculty
Goal—long term impact on the beliefs,
values, and attitudes of faculty toward their
Build on the existing belief systems of faculty
Help faculty develop an explicit rationale for
practice by uncovering assumptions
The Power of Insight for
Significant changes in neural networks and in behavior
occur when we focus attention on “moments of
insight” that we have generated.
Discussion Break #2
What is the smallest change you can make in your
department that will have a noticeable effect on
improving faculty teaching?