What Is Good Teaching?

By Wankat, P.; Oreovicz, F. | ASEE Prism, September 1998 | Go to article overview

What Is Good Teaching?


Wankat, P., Oreovicz, F., ASEE Prism


Good teaching involves five basic components.

This column is the first in a series in which Phillip Wankat and Frank Oreovicz, authors of Teaching Engineering (McGraw-Hill, 1993), explore teaching strategies and classroom issues related to engineering education.

The vast majority of professors want to be good teachers. In his book Reflective Faculty Evaluation (JosseyBass, 1993), author John Centra cites a study of 35,000 professors in which 98 percent of them considered being a good teacher an essential goal (we're not sure what's wrong with the other 2 percent). But what is good teaching? Traditional definitions often fall short, neglecting to specify content, ignoring sustainability, and failing to address the need to promote future student growth. With this in mind, we developed the following definition of good teaching.

Good teaching involves five basic components:

* instructional methods that facilitate student involvement

* the right content

* instructional strategies that maximize teaching efficiency and student learning

* good attitudes on the part of the teacher and the student

* promotion of lifelong learning skills.

By keeping these components in mind, we can all become better teachers. Here are some steps to get you started.

1. Effective Instructional Methods. You can boost learning levels by choosing instructional methods that increase student involvement, such as cooperative groups, simulations, real projects, involvement with industry, and mastery instruction. Writing course objectives and sharing them with students will also increase learning, if you test students on these objectives.

2. The Right Content. The right content includes both fundamentals and practical aspects of engineering. Ruthlessly cull obsolete material from your course outline. When deciding what material to discard, don't blindly follow textbooks as their authors tend to be very conservative. To determine appropriate technical content, consult your peers in industry and other professors, particularly those who teach follow-up and prerequisite courses. Be sure to stress the importance of communication, interpersonal, and other "soft skills" as well. The average workday requires engineers to use these skills as often as technical ones. …

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