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Best Practices in Teaching and Learning

Institutional Level Best Practices of Teaching & Learning

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Summary of literature:

  1. Declare good teaching (or student success) in vision statement.
  2. Provide student transition assistance and support.
  3. Know our students.
  4. Champion good teaching.
  5. Encourage student-faculty contact.
  6. Provide a good environment for teaching (tools, rooms, technology).
  7. Invest in teaching and learning units.
  8. Provide generous feedback to students.
  9. Reward good teaching.
  10. Ensure that diverse perspectives are represented.
  11. Recruit faculty and staff who are committed to student learning.
  12. Support internationalization of the curriculum and campus.
  13. Establish faculty learning communities.
  14. Create and maintain a culture of quality.

Review of literature:
Chickering & Gamson (1987):

  1. Encourages contact between student-faculty
  2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students
  3. Encourages active learning
  4. Gives prompt feedback
  5. Emphasizes time on task (effective time management)
  6. Communicates high expectations
  7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning

Kuh et al (2005):
 Ch. 13. Principles for Promoting Student Success:

  1. “Tried and true:
    1. “Student success starts with an institutional mission that espouses the importance of talent development and then enacts the vision.
    2. “Student success is enhanced when an institution provides many complementary policies and practices to support students academically and socially.
    3. “Making programs and resources available is necessary but not sufficient to promote student success. Schools must induce large numbers of students to use them.
    4. “Student success is promoted by setting and holding students to standards that stretch them to perform at high levels, inside and outside the classroom.
    5. “Student success becomes an institutional priority when leaders make it so.
    6. “Financial and moral support are both necessary and important for sustaining effective educational practice.
    7. “Staying the course.
    8. “Ultimately, it’s about the culture.
  2. “Sleepers:
    1. “Problems and challenges are converted into opportunities.
    2. “Engaging pedagogies are mainstreamed, rather than marginalized.
    3. “Organizational structure doesn’t matter (much) to student success.
    4. “Data were used to guide institutional reflection and action.
    5. “Assessment serves many important institutional purposes, only one of which is measuring student performance.
    6. “Widespread use of student paraprofessionals enhances the climate for learning.
    7. “Substantive, educationally meaningful student-faculty interaction just doesn’t happen; it is expected, nurtured, and supported.
    8. “Student success is enhanced when student affairs’ operating philosophy is congruent with the institution’s academic mission.
    9. “Electronic technology complements intentional face-to-face student-faculty interaction.
    10. “A powerful sense of place connects students to the institution and to one another.
  3. “Fresh ideas:
    1. “Effective educational practices are synergistic and ‘sticky.’
    2. “Students flourish when their prior learning is valued and their preferred learning styles are recognized.
    3. “Students are more likely to thrive when support comes from multiple sources.
    4. “Curricular improvements that enhance student learning are typically grounded in a contemporary fusion of the liberal and practice arts.” (pp. 265-287)

Ch. 14. Recommendations: (selected)

  1. Incorporate student success in vision/mission statements of university and departments.
  2. Champion undergraduate education.
  3. Establish high expectations of everyone.
  4. Know your students.
  5. Provide generous amounts of feedback.
  6. Balance academic challenge with academic support.
  7. Put someone in charge.
  8. Invest in activities that contribute to student success.
  9. Invest in teaching & learning centers.
  10. Ensure that diverse perspectives are represented in the curriculum.
  11. Align the reward system with the institutional mission, vision, and priorities.
  12. Recruit faculty and staff who are committed to student learning.
  13. Ensure high-quality student support services.
  14. Front load resources to smooth the transition (from high school to university).
  15. Teach newcomers about campus culture. (Pp. 295-317)

Seldin (2004):

  1. “Making the campus environment more responsive to teaching.
  2. “Providing the proper setting and tools to support instruction.
  3. “Rewarding improved teaching.” (p. 6)


Cowan et al (2004):

  1. “Curriculum development prospers when it is a consequence and part of explicit institutional development.
  2. “Such curriculum development will almost certainly call for concurrent staff development, must usefully develop directly when it is needed and will be used shortly thereafter.” (pp. 455-6)

Weimer (1996):
“Why is improved practice needed?”

  1. “better responding to our changing student body.
  2. “strengthening the links between teaching and learning.
  3. “seeing the interconnections among student experiences.
  4. “seeing teaching and learning issues in larger contexts.” (pp. 1-5)

Dezure (2003):

  1. “foreign language study,
  2. “study abroad,
  3. “global, diaspora, and area studies,
  4. “presence of international students.” (p. 42)

“Goals and outcomes of internationalization:

  1. “sensitivity to diversity,
  2. “multi-cultural and intercultural competencies,
  3. “civic global, and environmental responsibility and engagement.” (p. 42)

“International education can support other campus initiatives:

  1. “service-learning,
  2. “interdisciplinarity and integrative learning,
  3. “learning communities,
  4. “distance learning and other forms of instructional technology,
  5. “assessment of student outcomes.” (p. 49)

Kalivoda et al (2003):
“Establish a Teaching Academy:

  1. “The central idea of the academy is that effective teachers, working through an honorary and service-oriented collective, can have a significant impact on an institution’s pursuit of teaching excellence.” (p. 80)
  2. Case study of University of Georgia.

Cox (2003):
“Faculty learning communities:

  1. “Briefly, each faculty learning community is a cross-disciplinary community of eight to ten faculty engaged in an active, collaborative, year-long curriculum focused on enhancing and assessing student learning, with frequent activities that promote learning, development, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and community. A faculty participant in any faculty learning community selects a focus course in which to try out innovations, assess resulting student learning, and prepare a course mini-portfolio to report the results…Evidence shows that faculty learning communities provide effective deep learning that encourages and supports faculty to investigate, attempt, assess and adopt new (to them) methods.” (p. 110)
  2. Promotes the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL).
  3. Case study from Miami University (Ohio).

Bellows and Danos (2003):
“Online workshops for faculty:

  1. “…took advantage of the many opportunities technology provides to plan, design, develop, and deliver an online workshop in syllabus construction for faculty.” (p. 161)
  2. Two case studies compared: University of Nebraska, Lincoln and Delgado Community College.
  3. Benefits:
    1. “Support system to help ease faculty transition into the use of new technology.
    2. “helping faculty view the use of technology and the learning process from the students’ point of view.
    3. “a vehicle for faculty to reflect on and discuss their teaching.” (p. 173)
  4. Drawbacks:
    1. “Up-front work involved in developing the workshop.
    2. “increased FTE time focused on one event.
    3. “ability to respond to problems inherent in new technology.”

Seymour (1993):
“Causing quality in higher education:

  1. “Developing a lot of happy, satisfied customers – whether they are students, parents of students, alumni, professors, or industry employers – should be a primary goal of causing quality in higher education.” (p. 42)
  2. “A unifying, guiding, and distinctive vision is the foundation on which a ‘house of quality’ is built.” (p. 60)
  3. “A distinctive vision allows a college or university to establish a unique position in the higher education environment.” (p. 66)
  4. “A distinctive vision is an organizational rallying force.” (p. 68)
  5. “Solving problems is not the answer to causing quality. The solution is understanding and continuously improving the processes that give rise to the problems.” (p. 75)
  6. “Let’s focus on the essential variables – those that can provoke improvement.” (p. 91)
  7. “The responsibility for quality in higher education is not something that resides in special offices or with selected persons. Causing quality requires the energy, commitment, and knowledge of everyone within the organization.” (p. 96)
  8. “Causing quality in higher education involves the process of creating and maintaining an ‘unshakeably’ prideful administration, faculty, and staff.” (p. 113)
  9. “Continuous improvement, a fundamental element in causing quality, is easier to accomplish in strong cultures than in weak cultures.” (p. 146)
  10. “A strong culture enable people to feel better about what they do.” (p. 147)
  11. “A culture of quality can be profoundly reinforced and amplified through an institution’s recruiting practices.” (p. 157)
  12. “A culture of quality requires open, honest, efficient, barrier-breaking, and fault-free lines of communication.” (p. 159)


Bellows, Laurie and Joseph Danos. 2003. “Transforming instructional development: online workshops for faculty.” Pp. 160-175 in C.M. Wehlburg and S. Chadwick-Blossey (eds.) To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional and Organizational Development, Vol. 21. Bolton, Mass.: Anker.

Chickering, A. W., and Z.F. Gamson. 1987 “Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin 39(7):3-7.

Cox, Milton. 2003. “Proven faculty development tools that foster the scholarship of Teaching in faculty learning communities.” Pp. 109-142 in C.M. Wehlburg and S. Chadwick-Blossey (eds.) To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional and Organizational Development, Vol. 21. Bolton, Mass.: Anker.

Dezure, Deborah. 2003. “Internationalizing American higher education: A call to thought and action.” Pp. 40-55 in C.M. Wehlburg and S. Chadwick-Blossey (eds.) To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional and Organizational Development, Vol. 21. Bolton, Mass.: Anker.

Cowan, John, Judith M. George & Andreia Pinheiro-Torres. 2004. “Alignment of developments in higher education.” Higher Education 48: 439-459.

Kalivoda, Patricia, Josef Broder, and William Jackson. 2003. “Establishing a teaching academy: cultivation of teaching at a research university education.” Pp. 79-92 in C.M. Wehlburg and S. Chadwick-Blossey (eds.) To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional and Organizational Development, Vol. 21. Bolton, Mass.: Anker.

Kuh, George, Jillian Kinzie, John H. Schuh, Elizabeth J. Whitt, and Associates. 2005. Student Success in College: Creating Conditions that Matter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Seldin, Peter. 2004. “Improving College Teaching.” http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/vc_academic_affairs/improve.html

Seymour, Daniel T. 1993. On Q: Causing Quality in Higher Education. Phoenix: American Council on Education and Oryx Press.

Weimer, Maryellen. 1996. “Why scholarship is the bedrock of good teaching.” Pp. 1-12 in R. Menges, M. Weimer and Associates (eds) Teaching on Solid Ground. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Fred Evers
Educational Research & Development Unit
University of Guelph
November 24, 2006



Classroom Techniques

Literature Review November 2006
Click on the name to download the article

The Nine and a Half Commandments of Good Teaching (Word Doc)—Robert A. Ferguson, University of Chicago. He is currently at Columbia University
Good advice for new and seasoned professors alike. Techniques 5, 6, 7, & 9 especially;

          • 5: An idea is not an idea until you hear it from your students—the premise here is that you need to set the stage for learners to illustrate or demonstrate their understanding of the concepts being discussed
          • 6: Never answer your own questions—again this idea draws on students expressing their understanding of class discourse. The author stresses not to be afraid of silence in the classroom and offers techniques to navigate the potential drawn out awkwardness
          • 7: Take a few calculated risks and even some uncalculated ones now and again—it is stressed that you need to use care when exercising this technique. Aimed at the seasoned professor to keep the vitality and learning in the classroom
          • 9: Make sure they enjoy it—this point here is to give learners a reason to be in your classroom. Students should look forward to your class. Do not assume interest in your subject


      Problem-based Learning: Preparing Students to Succeed in the 21st Century (Word Doc)—B. Duch, D. Allen and H. White III, University of Delaware.
      Promoting skills inherent in working with a problem-based learning environment. Also discussed are issues of managing multiple groups necessary for PBL and the role of faculty

      Three Keys to Using Learning Groups Effectively (Word Doc)—L. Michaelsen, University of Oklahoma.
      Principles aimed at small group instructional methods, namely;

          1. Promoting individual and group accountability
          2. Using assignments that link and mutually reinforce individual work, group work and total class discussions
          3. Adopting practices that stimulate give-and-take interaction within and between groups


      Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education  (Word Doc)—A. Chickering and Z. Gamson.
      Sound pedagogical methods with strategies;

          1. Encouraging contact—students and faculty
          2. Reciprocity and cooperation among students
          3. Active learning
          4. Prompt feedback
          5. Time on task
          6. High expectations
          7. Diverse ways of learning

      Enhancing Your Teaching Effectiveness (Word Doc)—Author unknown, Source University of Honolulu.
      Short and to the point. Strategies include;

          • Seize the moment
          • Involve students in planning
          • Start from the student knowledge base
          • Move from simple to complex
          • Accommodate student learning styles
          • Use “learning domain” goals
          • Make material meaningful
          • Plan for periodic rests
          • Use feedback and rewards

      Good Teaching: The Top Ten Requirements (Word Doc)—R. Leblanc, York University, Ontario.
      Good advice, some suggestions include;

          • Use passion to motivate
          • Listen and question
          • Be flexible
          • Be real and unpretentious
          • Nurture, mentor and encourage

      Classroom Assessment

      Assessing Large Classes (PDF)—Assessing Learning in Australian Universities, CSHE (centre for the study of higher education), (AUTC) Australian Universities Teaching Committee
      Suggestions on providing feedback to guide student learning, including;

          • Assess early in the semester
          • Provide marking criteria with assignments—rubrics
          • List of common problems with model answers
          • On-line discussion boards
          • Course website

      Classroom Assessment Techniques (Word Doc)—and— Classroom Assessment Techniques—Examples  (Word Doc) —T. Angelo and K.P. Cross, A Handbook for College Teachers, 2nd Ed.
      Useful and practical advice for getting and giving feedback in creative ways, including;

          • Background knowledge probes
          • Minute papers
          • Muddiest point technique
          • One sentence summary
          • “What’s the principle?”

      Rubrics  (Word Doc)—M. Allen, The California State University System
      How to use and develop a rubric scoring system for subjective assessments. Includes other useful links to rubric resources

      Active Learning

      Active Learning (Word Doc)—L. Dee Fink, University of Okalahoma
      Great illustrative model of active learning and methods of implementation. Using dialogue with self and others and experience to reinforce learning activities

      Principles of Adult Education (Word Doc)—S. Lieb, Arizona South Mountain Community College
      Key points to think of when instructing adults. The article suggests how adult motivation toward learning differs to that of children and therefore requires a different mode of instruction. Some characteristics to keep in mind are;

          • Adults are goal and relevancy-oriented
          • Adults have life experience and knowledge
          • Adults are practical
          • Adults self-directed and autonomous

      Motivating Students

      Motivating Students- 8 Simple Rules (Word Doc)—L. Becker & K.N. Schneider, East Tennessee Sate University.
      Good general rules reinforcing ideas of repetition of key points in-class and using “hands-on” practice with theoretical material

      Motivating Students  (Word Doc)—B. Gross Davis, University of California, Berkeley
      Strategies for motivating the most difficult of students. Some suggestions include;

          • Making students active participants in learning
          • Incorporating instructional behaviours that motivate students—holding high, reasonable expectations for students, encouraging dialogue
          • Rubrics—telling students what is expected in the course
          • De-emphasizing grades
          • Reducing anxiety and competition with peers
          • Timely feedback
          • Rewarding success

      General Principles of Motivation (Word Doc)—Author Unknown, Source: University of Honolulu
      Good basic principles applicable to a variety of learning situations

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      © University of Guelph, 2006