Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What students think makes for effective teaching

(From Delaney et al., Student Perceptions of Effective Teaching in Higher Education)

Comments invited. Are the students right? Are these the traits that make for effective teaching? Are any ranked too high? Too low? Any traits missing?
  1. Respectful
  2. Knowledgeable
  3. Approachable
  4. Engaging
  5. Communicative
  6. Organized
  7. Responsive
  8. Professional
  9. Humorous


  1. I wonder how much these adjectives refer to the teacher or the entire learning experience? Would the list differ if students were asked to describe the types of interaction needed in order to have a more effective learning experience?

  2. From a (fairly recent) student's perspective:

    I found it helpful if the professor was intimidating, set a high bar. Teddy bear teachers who tried to make classes comfortable were not as effective in my experience. Comfort encourages relaxation, not engagement and assiduousness. I worked the hardest and did some of my best work in the classes where the professors commanded respect (without demanding it).

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, I also think "approachable" is a little too high. It should be there, but professors aren't and shouldn't be students' buddies. But (/and) I think humorous could be higher, so long as the humor is not forced or irrelevant.

  3. I think that 6 is pretty important. I'm not sure it should be higher, but as a professor it is a necessary condition for me related to many of the other items on the list.

  4. It seems like a nice list of what I find makes for effective teaching in my own courses. However, looking over 10+ years of student evaluations in our department, when it comes to what students are saying on evaluations I find that they rank effective teaching by:

    (1) How fashionable a teacher dresses,
    (2) How easy it is to earn high marks in assignments and exams,
    (3) An inverse relation to the amount of reading and/or writing required in the course, and
    (4) A relation to the amount of material they can regurgitate back versus how much thinking and personal responsibility they have to take in their own education.

  5. Just out of curiosity: Teachers, what would your top 10 student traits for effective learning be?

  6. Challenging. Students may not be consciously aware of valuing this, but I think they do. They don't want to take a course that insults their intelligence. It's fine with them if everyone gets high grades, but the actual day to day course-content has to make them feel like they aren't wasting their time.

  7. I recently took a seminar of principles & practices for design in adult learning (and we can quibble about when it's appropriate to treat 18-year-olds as adults), and FWIW, this list is a pretty close approximation of the curriculum structure for the "creating an environment that enhances learning" portion of the seminar. (I should say that I wasn't particularly convinced of the seminar's basic assumptions about learners, and by the fact that were I to implement the "learning design" suggestions, all of my classes would become two semesters rather than one!)

  8. Richard TownsendJuly 2, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    Maybe number 11 might be Enthusiasm for subject matter (it can be contagious).

  9. My alumni directory asked that alumni write about the professors that had the greatest impact on their lives. The financial rewards go to those with popular courses. It's much harder to figure out who will be most valued when the alumni look back over their lifetime.


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