Introduction
Teaching as Facilitating Learning
Unpacking Learning
Who is an Excellent Teacher?
How do we Evaluate Teaching and Teachers?
References
Who is an Excellent Teacher?

Ingredients of University Teaching

The mental transformation that we call learning on the part of the student can be facilitated by a combination of the following means on the part of the teacher who has the freedom to choose what (s)he regards as the best:

Curriculum design:
appropriate objectives, syllabuses, reading lists, and modes of assessment.

Curriculum implementation:
preparation of teaching materials, classroom activities in lectures and tutorials, design of exercises, assignments, projects, and quizzes, feedback to students, and final examinations.

Given our conception of teaching as a learning-triggering activity, it follows that excellent teaching is that which maximizes the chances of learning through the efficient use of the formulation of objectives and syllabuses, handouts, reading lists, teaching materials, classroom activities, choice of modes of assessment, design of exercises, assignments, projects and quizzes, feedback to students, and final examinations.

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Classroom Activities

The traditional view of teaching is that of classroom activity, and the traditional view of a university teacher is that of lecturing. From what is said above, classroom activities are one of the many ingredients of university teaching, and lecturing is only one of the many possible classroom activities, including the following.

Classroom activities of the teacher: oral presentation of material (= lecturing), asking questions, responding to questions, providing learning tasks, getting students to work in groups, and so on, in "lecture" sessions and tutorials.

Given this view, it follows that an excellent teacher is one who has mastery over the widest range of classroom activities, and uses them in a manner appropriate to the teaching-learning needs and the context.

We now see that there is a world of difference between the conceptions of teaching as lecturing and teaching as facilitating learning. If teaching is lecturing, one can be a good teacher only if one is a good lecturer. If teaching is facilitating learning, one can be a good teacher without necessarily being a good lecturer, although being a good lecturer is no doubt an important asset for a teacher, and inability to lecture well is indeed a handicap.

We can now add the following to our expanding characterization of the concept of excellent teachers:

An excellent teacher is capable of maximizing chances of learning through the efficient formulation of objectives and syllabuses, construction of handouts, selection of readings, classroom activities, choice of modes of assessment, feedback to students, and design of exercises, assignments, projects, quizzes, feedback to students, and final examinations.

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Profile of an Excellent Teacher

Let us put together the different pieces of excellent teaching that we have come up with in the course of our exploration. Our summary of excellence of teaching in terms of the quality of learning, as we saw earlier, involves helping learners to:

  1. acquire high quality knowledge content;

  2. acquire the ability to apply the knowledge to standard classroom problems;

  3. acquire the ability to apply the knowledge to novel types of problems and situations; and

  4. become self-directed independent life-long learners.

What the teacher does in order to trigger 1-4 can be summarized as follows:

Means to trigger learning

  1. The quality of the following learning triggers increase the likelihood of learning:

    1. formulation of objectives and syllabuses,

    2. construction of handouts, selection of readings,

    3. classroom activities,

    4. choice of modes of assessment,

    5. feedback to students, and design of exercises,

    6. design of assignments, projects, quizzes, and

    7. design of final examinations.

We have said very little about many of the qualities which typically appear in teaching evaluations, such as the scholarship, approachability, rapport with students, delivery style of lectures, and so on, except perhaps through implication. To see this clearly, let us add to the list in 1- 5 the following ingredients that go into the making of an excellent teacher:

Personal characteristics of an excellent teacher
  1. An excellent teacher:

    1. has a deep knowledge and understanding of the subject matter,

    2. is commitment to teaching and is hard working,

    3. continually seeks ways to improve, innovate, and be up-to-date,

    4. has a strong passion for subject,

    5. has a high enthusiasm for teaching,

    6. is an inspirational role model to students,

    7. has a high EQ to empathize with students, and

    8. is eminently approachable.

These items identify qualities of the teacher which are most likely to trigger the desired learning outcome. Deep knowledge and understanding of the subject matter, for instance, are necessary to help learners acquire high quality knowledge content (item 1). Likewise, the teacher's passion for the subject is important because it can be contagious and lead to inspired learning. A teacher who is not interested in the subject is unlikely to trigger significant learning. Being a role model is also important because a great deal of learning takes place through osmosis from role models. Much of the learning in graduate schools, for instance, typically takes place because graduate students act as apprentices to a group of researchers, and learn from observing them in action, consciously or unconsciously.

The items in 6 are enhancement qualities that act as learning catalysts. Recall that we began our inquiry into excellence in teaching by saying that the quality of teaching is to be measured in terms of the quality of learning, thereby shifting the focus from the teacher to the process of learning: At this centre, we identified the following components:

When we connect learning to the central ingredients of teaching that trigger the mental transformation that is part of learning, we get this picture of teaching and learning:

In contrast to the above, the items in 6 deal with the personal qualities of a teacher. Some of them go directly into the teaching (e.g., knowledge of the subject matter), others facilitate certain modes of learning indirectly (e.g., being a role model), and yet others influence the learner towards greater learning (e.g. approachability):

Qualities that enter into teaching activities: scholarship (6a); committment and conscientiousness (6b); ongoing efforts at improvement (6c).

Qualities that inspire learning: passion for the subject (6d); enthusiasm for teaching (6e); role model (6f).

Qualities that influence the learner positively: EQ (6g); approachability (6h).

That these qualities are relevant for the process of teaching and learning makes it necessary to introduce the teacher as well as the learner into our picture:

At the core of the concept of teaching excellence is the quality of learning, the items in 1- 4. The ingredients of teaching listed in 5 specify the activities that are likely to result in 1-4. The qualities of the teacher listed in 6 are the enhancement qualities that contribute towards 5, or accelerate the effect of 5 on 1- 4. Thus, value of the items in E depend on the qualities of 1- 4 they generate, and the value of 6 depends upon 1- 5.

 

 

 

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