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Spring 2011 Selection: Ken Bain's What the Best College Teachers Do

A handful of copies of the book were sent to each campus the week of April 4 for distribution and library reserve. Contact your campus representative to the VTLC Advisory Committee for details about getting one of the (limited!) free copies and participating in a campus discussion, or any of the other ways of participating. (See the column to the right.) If the free copies run out, you can use the copy on reserve in your library, check your local library, or order your own copy from Amazon. Read the book by April 25.  


From the Book Jacket
What makes a great teacher great? Who are the professors students remember long after graduation? This book, the conclusion of a fifteen-year study of nearly one hundred college teachers in a wide variety of fields and universities, offers valuable answers for all educators.

The short answer is--it’s not what teachers do, it’s what they understand. Lesson plans and lecture notes matter less than the special way teachers comprehend the subject and value human learning. Whether historians or physicists, in El Paso or St. Paul, the best teachers know  their subjects inside and out--but they also know how to engage and challenge students and to provoke impassioned responses. Most of all,  they believe two things fervently: that teaching matters and that students can learn.

In stories both humorous and touching, Bain describes examples of ingenuity and compassion, of students’ discoveries of new ideas and the depth of their own potential. What the Best College Teachers Do is a treasure trove of insight and inspiration for first-year teachers and seasoned educators.


From Booklist on Amazon
With the strong conviction that good teaching can be learned, and after 15 years of observing teachers in action, Bain undertook an exploration of the essentials of effective teaching. The result is an insightful look at what makes a great teacher, based on a study of three dozen teachers from a cross section of disciplines from medical-school faculties to undergraduate departments. After interviewing students and colleagues, observing classrooms and laboratories, and examining course materials from syllabi to lecture notes, Bain concludes that the quality of teaching is measured not by whether students pass exams but whether they retain the material to such an extent that it influences their thoughts and actions. Bain focuses on what the best teachers know and understand about their subject matter as well as the learning process; how they prepare; what they expect of their students; how they treat students; and how they evaluate student progress. Although this book is aimed at teachers, it is a thoughtful and valuable resource for students and parents as well. --Vanessa Bush