Best Practices for Teaching and Learning

Course Overview: Best Practices for Teaching and Learning

In the Best Practices for Teaching and Learning course, our goal is to highlight important findings on the nature of learning and teaching that promote student understanding and demonstrate how instructors can incorporate these findings in their courses to increase learning. This course is recommended for graduate students, post-doctoral associates, instructors, and professors who wish to develop their teaching skills. The course is designed for participants with a variety of interests, backgrounds, and career goals, with an emphasis on the teaching of science, technology, engineering, and math fields.

Course Instructors

Lourdes Aleman, Ph.D. Lourdes M. Aleman, Ph.D.

Allison Brauneis, Ph.D. Alison L. Brauneis, Ph.D.

Session 1: The Science of Learning

Research into how students learn has grown enormously over the last twenty-five years, and the field continues to expand. We know, for example, that students are not passive recipients of information, but, instead, actively construct their own knowledge and understanding. We also know that instructors who have a good sense of themselves as teachers—their instructional preferences, their beliefs about teaching—are particularly effective in the classroom. This session will provide an introduction to how people learn, and an opportunity to explore your own philosophy about teaching and learning.

Session 2: Designing a Course and Constructing a Syllabus

Thoughtful course design begins with the articulation of goals and intended learning objectives. When preparing to teach a course, you should ask: What do I want the students to know and what skills do I want them to have when they finish my course? Once those questions are answered, the next step is to identify the specific ways in which students will achieve those goals. What big ideas should students understand? What topics will be covered? What pedagogies will you employ? Finally, you need to think about assignments and exams that will further student learning and help you determine if the desired learning has been achieved. With these decisions made, it becomes relatively straightforward to write a syllabus that clearly describes your expectations and the requirements of the course.

Session 3: Constructing Effective Assignments, Problem Sets and Exam Questions

This session highlights ways in which exams, problem sets and homework assignments can be designed to best support student learning and understanding. Participants identify positive and negative attributes of sample homework problems and work collaboratively to redesign these problems in order to more effectively reinforce desired learning objectives.

Session 4: Preparing and Presenting a Lecture

This session will explore how to organize and deliver a lecture. It will help you understand how to organize content and use verbal and non-verbal communication to keep your students’ attention and increase learning.

Session 5: Interactive Teaching and Active Learning

One of the most important findings in educational research is that students learn best by doing. Asking students questions based on key concepts engages students’ interest and can result in increased understanding. Instructors also learn what concepts students find most confusing. This session discusses the reasons for interactive teaching and provides examples of questions and techniques that can be used or adapted for teaching.