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What the Best College Teachers Do

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,345 Ratings  ·  178 Reviews
What the Best College Teachers Do
Hardcover, 207 pages
Published April 30th 2004 by Harvard University Press
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Robert Fulton None of the above. This book identifies the qualities of teaching that a great professor brings to the classroom to better engage with his or her…moreNone of the above. This book identifies the qualities of teaching that a great professor brings to the classroom to better engage with his or her students. It is not a book of "tips and techniques" but about the level of commitment to learning that the best teachers bring into the class. (less)

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Jul 01, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: professional
This book covers almost exactly the same ground as The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life without, fortunately, Parker Palmer's cloying woo-wooness. As with The Courage to Teach, it raised lots of interesting questions in terms of what I teach and how I think about teaching (and assessments and evaluations). Unfortunately, also like The Courage to Teach, it was a little vague on the details. While broad concepts were illustrated with touching and fascinating anec ...more
Jan 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Much of the content is about convincing you to adopt the mindset of a good teachers: You should be interested in the students' understanding, not just in getting them to regurgitate facts or plug & chug formulas. You should be patient with learners of different types and levels. Assessments for the sake of getting feedback should be frequent and separate from assessments for the sake of labeling the student with a final grade. You want the students to become able to learn independently, so t ...more
Jul 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: textbooks, education
I began What the Best College Teachers Do, my first required reading for graduate school, with enthusiasm; however, my enjoyment of and agreement with the book waned as I read through it. The style is one of the thousand variations on self-help books, and it lapses into one of the greatest faults of the genre: needless repetition and explanation of the main points. As an essay, it would be useful, but as an entire book, its redundancy snowballed. In tandem with this, Dr. Bain emphasizes and extr ...more
Oct 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Some good advice, but in many ways a frustrating read. First to me, a scientist, it's annoying early on when it talks about this study it did and how it selected participants, but then there's no solid data, no means of quantification, no controls, no hypothesis, nothing that one would typically consider part of a "study". You can say "we chose to study these individuals to see how they taught", but, to call it "a study" implies some sort of scientific vigor that wasn't there. Also, the book spe ...more
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: phd-stuff
This is a reflective report on a qualitative study on exceptional college teaching. Bain is the Vice Provost for instruction, professor of history, and Director of the Research Academy for University Learning at Montclair State University. He has over 20 years of experience researching what exceptional professors do to encourage learning in the classroom. After the completion of his doctorate degree, he realized that he had no idea how to teach or encourage learning of history to his college stu ...more
Michael Meeuwis
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
Frustratingly vague. This had been much-recommended to me, from a variety of different people and courses. When I finally sat down and read it--when is the right time to read teaching books?--I found it pretty lacking in interesting ideas. At its worst, this is Goofus and Gallant: "Good Teachers make sure students learn all material clearly; Bad Teachers lecture while students sit in acid baths." I wonder who this book is directed at, given that (it seems to me) no-one would see themselves as ac ...more
Jul 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
During the scenic two-hour shuttle ride from the Calgary Airport to Banff on my way to the Open Education Global conference I managed to plow through the slim little bestseller, What the Best College Teachers Do, by Ken Bain. Dr. Bain was one of the keynote speakers at the 2015 Virginia Community College System New Horizons Conference and I was really captivated by his talk, which he gave in the midst the keynote audience, wandering table to table like some Vegas crooner. His keynote was essenti ...more
Jun 25, 2010 rated it liked it
A good overview of excellent teaching and what it entails. But, little about how to actually do these things while maintaining your sanity, and more importantly, avoiding lynching from parents and colleagues. If I had tenure I might try some of these things, but the program really falters when it comes to assessment; which is also the thing that will most likely get you into trouble with administration, parents, and students. Nevertheless, found the book very helpful in getting me to think about ...more
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
Honestly? I took less than a full page of notes. I am not impressed. Spoiler: The best college teachers care about their students, ask them how they are, and listen to the answers. That's it? I hoped for more. I'm not sure of what, but I wanted more.
Nov 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: pedagogy
Reviewing this book feels complicated, because to do so I must acknowledge that teaching--like writing--is a deeply personal endeavor, and responding to any book about good teaching is likely to say more about my own struggles and insecurities than it says about the book itself. I happened to look at reviews of this book while I was reading it and noticed that many reviewers decry it for being fuzzy--like Parker Palmer. If I were Bob Bain, I would take that as a high compliment, because teaching ...more
Martijn Vsho
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: want-to-buy
This review will go through the basic premises and some of the arguments that Bain presents in this book. I also give a reflection on how the book has changed me and my attitude on teaching and learning.
If you want to know the basic premises of this book, Bain briefly goes through them in his first chapter. The overall philosophy of the book is twofold. First, “good teaching can be learned” (21). However, teaching is not a simple formula. Bain strongly believes that these ideas are not just prin
Geoffrey Benn
Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“What the Best College Teachers Do,” by Ken Bain, is the result of a 15 year study of exceptional college teachers from around the United States. Bain and his colleagues identified outstanding teachers through a process that considered student evaluations, recommendations from other teachers, and in-person interviews and observations. Sixty-three teachers from a wide variety of disciplines and institutions were selected and their teaching practices and philosophies were studied in detail. This w ...more
L. Marquet
Feb 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching
Isn’t it all about getting people to think?

College costs since I graduated in 1981 have risen twice as fast as medical costs, three times as fast as family incomes and four times as fast as inflation. With average private school costs approaching $40,000 a year and public school costs approaching $20,000 a year, the OECD estimates that the United States spent 2.6% of GDP in 2008 on education, about $370 billion. Given the investment, understanding what the best educators do is important.

Ken Bain
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: prof-dev
1. First day of class: rather than laying out a set of requirements for students, they usually talk about the promises of the course, about the kinds of questions the discipline will help students answer, or about the intellectual emotional or physical abilities that it will help them develop.

2. Trust begins to emerge as students and teachers listen to each other. Talk with students about their lives and to share personal moments from his own.

3. Shift power to the students until they
Jan 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching
An excellent book! Very timely that I read it right now as we are making lesson plans and waiting to go to Papua to begin teaching young adults.

This book is an accessible yet thorough report on an extensive 15-year qualitative study of 63 great college teachers. The book answers six questions:
1) What do they know about how we learn?
Short answer: Learning is NOT a bunch of knowledge I open your head and pour in. Learning is always built on previous knowledge and experience, and takes place when t
Jan 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
So far, not much new, though I'm working at keeping an open mind. Having read Finding Freedom in the Classroom ages ago, and Parker Palmer (ARGH YUK) more recently, I will say that so far, this is more accessible to instructors in disciplines other than humanities, and for that reason alone it may well be more effective than PP, for instance.

Revision/Update: Bain's not helpful. If you want to figure out how to be a "best" college teacher, read first: Bridging the Class Divide by Linda Stout, an
Jan 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As the director of our university's teaching and learning center, I used this book in a faculty reading group. All agreed that it has provided valuable, evidence-based insights into the kinds of teaching approaches that lead to transformative learning. It has also left plenty of room for further debate and discussion. And best of all, it's readable and engaging, and well-organized. Well done, Ken Bain! I'd buy a copy for each professor at our university if I had the funds.
Jul 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I'm preparing to teach my first class as an Assistant Professor, so I got this book because I saw all the positive reviews. I have to admit that the cheesy cover really turned me off at first. But this book is excellent! It has made me radically change my approach to preparing my courses. I'm very excited about implementing what I've learned from it.
Jul 10, 2016 rated it liked it
I wouldn't say I learned a great deal--Bain's study seems to have led him to a lot of conclusions about effective pedagogy that have been well-established for quite some time, but this was a really good recharge-the-batteries read, and I definitely picked up a couple ideas that I will be implementing this coming school year.
Sep 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book changed my life, no exaggeration. I started to think about the social aspects of learning, cognition, and ability in an entirely different way. ALL teachers whose students are teenagers or older should read this.
Jeffrey Niles
Oct 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
It was his first day of class and mine. One week fresh from Central America, Hannah approached the class with a grimace and drove panic into our souls. Little did we know that the same fear gripped him and served as the catalyst for his abrasive approach and harsh demeanor. But he then began to do what the best college teachers do. Ken Hannah created an environment in which the students began to realize their potential to learn. He spoke, he connected, he changed our thinking, he affected our wo ...more
John Henry
Nov 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-library
1. Overview
This book, What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain, is the result of an extensive study of a set of the “best” college teachers. This study is not based on student evaluations, however it does follow a criteria of outcomes to determine if these professors truly stimulated learning. Ken Bain sought to find those teachers who stimulated deep thinking and “fundamental conceptual shifts” in the thinking of learners.

Bain asks six questions about the teachers examined: 1) What do th
Robert Genevro
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I highly recommend this book for any college instructor. He informs results from a study to determine what makes a great college instructor. All of the chapters are worth examining. Topics include: planning class activities in addition to lecture/discussions; connecting with students; grading and evaluating.
The author believes professors can learn and change teaching tactics; no one is a born professor.
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Evidence based research on what teaching methods produce lasting and deep learning.
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This books is great. Wish someone had given it to me when I was a new professor. Highly recommend it to graduate students and veteran faculty alike.
Timothy Decker
Not impressed. Higher education isn't for everyone, teachers or students. Yet this book argues that it is. I disagree.
Aug 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good book about the nature of excellence in collegiate teaching. Thanks to my friend Maria for loaning me the copy. Take homes - reflect, evaluate, listen, be willing to change and do no harm.
Scott Cox
Mar 20, 2017 rated it did not like it
As a feel goo narrative to motivate teachers, it was ok. As a piece of academic research. not good.
Mario Paredes
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Es un libro indispensable para alguien que se dedique a la docencia universitaria. El autor recoge las buenas prácticas de un grupo de "mejores" profesores. Invita a cuestionarse la forma actual en que impartimos clases, la forma en que todos aprendemos y es una reflexión sobre nuestras motivaciones para ser docentes. Ampliamente recomendable. Cuatro estrellas porque parte del paradigma de selección de buenos casos para (aunque el autor lo niega) sugerir una receta de buenas prácticas.
Robert Fulton
Dec 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was of unexpected value to me because it placed the idea of learning engagement front-and-center. It was not a book of "tips and techniques" that can be pulled off the shelf and tried as the situation warrants. Instead, through meticulous research, fully elucidated in the appendix, the author is able to identify what he called “broad patterns of thinking and practice” (15) that comprise effective instruction and student engagement. Lists of applied techniques suits those who believe th ...more
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“Donald Saari uses a combination of stories and questions to challenge students to think critically about calculus. “When I finish this process,” he explained, “I want the students to feel like they have invented calculus and that only some accident of birth kept them from beating Newton to the punch.” In essence, he provokes them into inventing ways to find the area under the curve, breaking the process into the smallest concepts (not steps) and raising the questions that will Socratically pull them through the most difficult moments. Unlike so many in his discipline, he does not simply perform calculus in front of the students; rather, he raises the questions that will help them reason through the process, to see the nature of the questions and to think about how to answer them. “I want my students to construct their own understanding,” he explains, “so they can tell a story about how to solve the problem.” 2 likes
“The best teaching is often both an intellectual creation and a performing art.” 2 likes
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