In Chapter 1 of the Bain text, the author discusses the methodology for their study on what makes a college teacher truly exceptional. The first guiding question is about what the best teachers know and understand. They are all accomplished in their fields but that isn’t enough. Chapter 2 talks about this; how the best teachers motivate their students to connect information and evaluate problems using what they know. “[The best teachers] know how to simplify and clarify complex subjects, to cut to the heart of the matter with provocative insights, and they can think about their own thinking in the discipline, analyzing its nature and evaluating its quality.” Do you ever think about what you think about? How can metacognition make you a better teacher? Was there anything else in Chapter 2 that particularly struck you?
Chapter 3 of the Bain text talks about the process the best teachers use when they are preparing to teach. If you are a seasoned teacher, you can probably look back on how your own process has changed over the years. If you are new to teaching, you may just be focused on survival. If you were to create a new college course (you may be doing this now!), what are the important questions you would ask yourself? After reading Chapter 3, what changed for you?
Chapter 4 is all about the expectations we have for our students. The word “expectations” is a loaded word that can be interpreted and implemented in a variety of ways. Some of these methods are more constructive than others, but the way in which we convey “high expectations” to our students is incredibly important. It begins with the beliefs that students have about themselves and ends with the beliefs that we have about them. What are some of the stereotype threats that affect your students? What do you currently do (or what could you change) to minimize these threats?
Chapter 5 talks about the manner in which the best teachers actually conduct their class and the learning environment they create for their students. For me, this may be the part of my teaching that has changed the most over the years as I have learned how to “reach” students more effectively. How do you currently create what Bain calls a “natural critical learning environment” for your students? After reading the chapter, how might you embed your discipline’s issues in larger contexts, using an interdisciplinary approach to understanding and solving problems?