Thinking through Bain’s “How Do They Conduct Class?”

For a student good teaching can be difficult to explain. What makes one professor effective and another less so? As Bain’s work illustrates, there is no formula for good teaching. Instructors adopt the pedagogies that work best for them and their students. While teachers might debate the “best” methods and practices or denounce those with which they disagree, good teachers do have something in common. They care that their students are learning.

Effective teachers place the student first, rather than the subject. They focus on the student’s understanding and thinking, not on the memorization on facts. The goal of these good teachers is that the students learn to think in terms of their discipline. In order to do that effective teachers, require their students to work though questions. They create an environment in which students feel able to engage. Something that struck me in this chapter was the way in which some professors create this environment. These professors would analyze student behavior, reacting to nonverbal cues and adjusting their own behavior. Reading this gave me insight to my experience as a student. Interactions I hadn’t thought much of suddenly have new purpose. Some of my favorite professors took time to build a relationship with the class. They would ask questions and allow for honest thought, instead of forcing the class to guess what the professor wanted to hear.

Something I’m struggling with now as I think about library instruction, is how to implement some of the practices I most identify with. Time is limited to only a few or even just one class. The students already have a relationship with their professor, that professor decides on any class themes and creates class assignments. Should these limitations even matter?

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