You’ll soon be writing your annual review narrative so it’s a good time to reflect on the year. What have you learned about your students and about yourself that will impact your teaching going forward? What did you do this year that was most impactful in your classroom? What will you change and why?

In Chapter 7, the author states, “Like so many others, I failed to understand [in the first year of teaching] that testing and grading are not incidental acts that come at the end of teaching but powerful aspects of education that have an enormous influence on the entire enterprise of helping and encouraging students to learn.” How should we determine whether students have learned in our class? What questions do you wish were on a student evaluation of teaching and why?

In Chapter 6, the author talks about the importance of trust between teacher and student. Some students enter our classroom with the mindset that our class is something to “get out of the way,” while we expect that they all are there because they want to learn. First, write about a highly influential teacher or professor in your own life. In what ways have they influenced your classroom? What techniques do you employ to develop trust between you and your students?

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?