Category Archives: …Matters

Communication from Academic Development

What the Best Teachers Do, Matters

The next several postings in the …Matters series will focus on the question What do the best teachers do. We’ll base the posts on Ken Bain’s 2004 book “What the Best College Teachers Do,” winner of the Virginia and Warren Stone Prize awarded annually by Harvard for an outstanding book on education and society.

In the mid-80’s, Ken Bain, then a professor of history and Director of the Center for Teaching in the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt University, began a 15-year research project that attempted to answer the question “What do the best college teachers do?” Bain and his colleagues studied nearly one hundred college and university teachers with proven records of effectiveness – those who had the most sustained, substantial, and positive influence on the way students thought and acted (Bain, pg. 5). Once these outstanding teachers were identified, the researchers examined their practice through classroom observations, conversations with the teachers and their students, examination of course material and student artifacts, and small group analysis. Based on their findings, Bain and his colleagues identified six broad patterns of thinking and practice common to these outstanding teachers (Bain, pp. 15-19):

The best teachers:

  1. Know their subjects extremely well
  2. Treat their lectures, discussion sections, and other elements of teaching as serious intellectual work
  3. Expect great learning results from their students
  4. Create “natural critical learning environments”
  5. Treat students with respect and trust
  6. Continually assess their effectiveness and make appropriate changes

The big question is … Can what these outstanding teachers do inform OUR teaching practices? We believe the answer is a resounding YES. To that end, we’ll devote the next several blog entries to examining each of the six areas of practice and offer practical ideas on how to strengthen what you already do and, perhaps, adopt a handful of new practices.

We leave you this month with a question for reflection: Is the ability to teach effectively innate or can it be developed? Can anyone become an outstanding teacher?


Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. (1st ed.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Our Students Matter

We educate a large and diverse student body at Macomb, so we thought we’d take the time this month to look briefly at some student demographic data (available on the MCC Intranet) from the Winter 2012 semester. We also found the Beloit Mindset List for the Class of 2016 fascinating and have excerpted a portion below.

  • 85.60% of Macomb students lived in the county
  • Students took 210,682 credit hours at all 4 campuses, off-campus, virtual and hybrid
  • Students took an average of 8.78 credit hours with 44.88% taking between 6.0 and 11.5 credit hours
  • 9.89% of Macomb’s students attended morning only classes, 19.16% attended morning & afternoon classes; 6.97% attended afternoon only classes, and 15.5% attended evening classes
  • The median age of Macomb’s students was 22; the largest age group was 18-19 years (24.96%)
  • Our oldest student was 86 and our youngest was 13

“Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.” The following is excerpted from the 2016 list and reflects many of the 18-year-old students in your classroom.

They have never needed an actual airline “ticket” or a set of bound encyclopedias

They prefer to watch television everywhere except on a television

Women have always piloted war planes and space shuttles

They have seen a woman lead the U.S. State Department for most of their lives

Michael Jackson’s family, not the Kennedys, constitutes “American Royalty”

Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge

Having grown up with MP3s and iPods, they never listen to music on the car radio and really have no use for radio at all

Kurt Cobain, Richard Nixon, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis have always been dead.

Point-and-shoot cameras are soooooo last millennium.

Syllabus Review Matters

2012-2013 is Syllabus Review Year. During the course of the year, faculty will review their course syllabi, looking at outcomes and objectives, content outlines, course descriptions, etc., make revisions if needed, and submit edits and review forms. No worries … we’ve put together resources to help with this process. During the August Faculty Development Day (Thursday August 16th), you can stop by the CTL resources table to pick up a hard-copy of your syllabus, the new Syllabus Review Process Guide, and the 2012-2013 Official Syllabus Review Form.  We’re also offering a break-out session at FDD for those who want to get started right away! If you have questions about how to complete the paperwork, want to spiff up your course outcomes and objectives, or just want a bit of assistance with the process, you can stop by one of our new Syllabus Review and Editing Drop-in Sessions. You’ll walk away with a syllabus that’s either fully reviewed or ready for the next step in the process. Dates, times, and locations are below:

Date Day Time Room
August 24th Friday 9:45 am – 11:45 am Center C-130
September 11th Tuesday 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm South J-212
September 25th Tuesday 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm Center C-130
October 17th Wednesday 9:45 am – 11:45 am South J-212
November 29th Thursday 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm Center C-130
November 30th Friday 9:45 am – 11:45 am South J-212

Oh yes … Why should you avoid the verb “understand” in an outcome or objective? Outcomes use language that allows a faculty member to observe and measure what students have learned. If you can’t observe what a student can do to demonstrate their mastery of course content, how can you measure it? If you can’t measure what students can do, how can you assess it?  As a faculty member, you can observe and measure explain, calculate, and analyze, but what does understand look like?