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Best Practices Scholarship

This page offers highlights from the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning on what are the best Practices in Teaching at a Distance or Otherwise. What is a Best Practice in teaching a Distance course is often a Best Practice of teaching in general.

I. Seven Principles of Good Undergraduate Education
In 1986, Art Chickering and Zelda Gamson set out to review all the available literature on good teaching, hoping to find basic common themes. Published in the AAHE Bulletin in 1987, these "Seven Principles" they found have been validated time and again by follow on studies since 1987. Further, integrating one, some or all of these will improve student outcomes, motivation and retention at the individual course, department or college levels.

II. Integrated Course Design
"...Course design has the greatest potential for solving the problems that faculty frequently face in their teaching.... if professors want to create courses in which students have significant learning experiences, they must learn how to design that quality into their courses. Unless a course is designed properly, all the other components of effective teaching will have only limited impact.... the model of integrated course design... has a number of attractive features. It is... Simple.. Holistic.. Practical... Integrative... & Normative..."
(Fink, Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An integrated Approach to Designing College Courses, pgs 24, 60 62). This is a course design model that incorporates much of the research on teaching and learning best practices and is being utilized around the country and the world to help faculty offer consistently high quality learning experiences. There are five basic steps to the process: 
  1. Consider the Situational Factors of Course/Students/Faculty
  2. Identify Your Learning Goals
  3. Develop Active Learning Activities
  4. Use Forward looking, Educative Assessment Strategy
  5. INTEGRATE 1-4!!!


III. Bloom's Taxonomy
Benjamin Bloom led a team in 1956 to develop a taxonomy of the intellectuals tasks key to learning, published in Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain (Addison Wesley, 1956). This is typically portrayed as a pyramid, where the higher you move up the pyramid, the more complex task and sophisticated form of education.  In 2000, Krauthwohl, Mayer et al. revisited and revised this in A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (Allyn & Bacon, 2000) :
Ken Bain in What the Best College Teachers Do (Harvard University Press, 2004) identifies what he calls the "Bulemic Student" that in most classes, is only asked to "Binge and purge" on content, which is the lowest level of Bloom's taxonomy, Knowledge/Remembering. Related to Chickering and Gamson's identified best practice of "Communicating Higher Expectations", they as well as various other critiques of higher education, argue that college students need to be challenged to higher order learning tasks in the taxonomy to not only retain material but also be able to apply it.


IV. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)
Much of the materials and resources listed here come from what has been called the "Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL for short). This has been an emerging movement for educators to share with their peers what is working and what isn't. Or as one of the originators of the term, Pat Hutchings,  describes it:

"it is a process which entails a kind of 'going meta,' in which faculty frame and systematically investigate questions related to student learning: the conditions under which it occurs, what it looks like, and how to deepen it and so forth..."
- Hutchins, "Promoting a Culture of Teaching and Learning". Learning from Change: Landmarks in Teaching & Learning in Higher Education from Change Magazine 1969-1999, pg. 2.

This body of research and scholarship is a pool any college educator can both draw from and contribute to as well (see the Faculty Learning Communities Program). It can be a great resource to address a specific issue or concern in your classroom without having to "re-invent the wheel". 

SoTL Starting Points:

V. Good Resources/Links