The other week, I blogged on Carl Wiemer’s podcast on research-based teaching. After thinking about it some more, I think I can do a more succinct job of defining what Wiemer calls research-based teaching.
1. Research-based teaching starts with an understanding of the recent literature on cognition. A good place to start is the National Academy of Sciences book, How People Learn. Research-based course design requires that you incorporate your understanding of how people learn into your thinking about what you’re trying to teach. Wiemer observes that teaching using heuristics can often be more effective than teaching as a practitioner. For example, students can learn more from a simulation than from an actual experiment since the simulation can be tailored to emphasize the key elements you want them to learn while de-emphazing real world complications.
2. Decide on well-defined course objectives, both in terms of content to be learned and performance goals: what students should be able to do when the course is complete.
I can hear some of my humanities colleagues complaining that this is reductionist. But if you can’t define what you’re trying to teach, how can you assess it?
3. Construct valid/reliable assessment tools to assess how well the students reach the objectives. Put some effort into designing tests that correctly assess your course objectives.
4. Be prepared to make changes to your teaching approach to the extent that the assessments warrant. If students are not learning the material, what you do in the class is not working.