What the Best College Teachers Do

Ken Bain, Author
Ken Bain, Author Harvard University Press $27 (207p) ISBN 978-0-674-01325-4
Ebook - 218 pages - 978-0-674-06554-3
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Bain's sound and scholarly yet exuberant promotion of America's""best college teachers"" abounds with jaunty anecdotes and inspiring opinions that make student-centered instruction look not only infectious, but downright imperative. Teachers may enjoy the book's plummy examples from their peers' interdisciplinary curricula--such as the Harvard chemistry professor whose""lesson on polymers becomes the story of how the development of nylons influenced the outcome of World War II"" or the U Penn art professor whose computer game allows students to determine the authenticity of a questionable Rembrandt. Bain's most compelling arguments, however, concern the quirks and motivations of today's college students. Though he acknowledges nationwide trends toward grade inflation, he invokes a 1990 study that suggests students are most driven by""high demands"" and prefer""plentiful opportunities to revise and improve their work before it receives a grade."" Likewise, the book argues that, even in the cutthroat climate of today's competitive colleges, students thrive best in cooperative classrooms. The best teachers, Bain avers, understand and exceed such expectations, and use them to create""natural critical learning environments."" Easy-to-follow headings--such as""Start with the Students Rather Than the Discipline""--help readers learn to create such environments, too. Inspiring though this slender book will be for college teachers at all levels, it may also delight the general reader with nostalgic reminders of their finest classroom experiences.
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