UAlbany Principles of Effective Teaching

Communicate high expectations for students. 

The expectations for learning, performance and classroom behavior should be explicitly stated in writing at the beginning of each course and reiterated verbally. Evaluation practices and grades should be based on students’ accomplishments related to stated expectations. Some best practices associated with this principle include:

  • Appropriately challenging standards for student learning
  • Clear statements of high-level learning goals in syllabi
  • Evaluation schemes based on clear criteria and standards that apply to all students

Encourage active learning. 

Effective instructors enable students to take responsibility for their learning through writing assignments, problem-solving tasks, collaborative projects, discussions, research and other hands-on activities. Some best practices associated with this principle include:

  • Tasks, in class or online, that help students practice disciplinary thinking
  • Homework designed to help students master use of course content
  • Asking students to work together to solve problems or answer challenging questions 

Include clear organization and smart preparation. 

Instructors should make explicit the learning objectives of their courses and develop purposeful, structured learning activities based on those objectives. Some best practices associated with this principle include:

  • Creation of a syllabus that communicates clear goals and expectations, evaluation criteria and standards, policies and appropriate accommodations
  • Publishing a calendar of anticipated assignments and events at the beginning of a course
  • Management of work to ensure a short turnaround for grading assignments such as papers and homework

Respect diverse talents.

Instructors should be committed to teaching all students, regardless of their talents. They should become aware of students’ prior knowledge and experiences, and use that knowledge to inform course design and classroom teaching. Some best practices associated with this principle include:

  • Surveys or pre-tests of students’ background knowledge at the beginning of a course or unit for the purpose of shaping instruction
  • Use of varied task and assignment design
  • Presentations of content using a variety of media and formats

Ensure prompt, frequent and constructive feedback. 

This can include feedback from instructor to student or from student to student, or opportunities for self-assessment. Some best practices associated with this principle include:

  • Assigning frequent activities such as tests, quizzes, problems and tasks (both graded and ungraded) that allow students to check their own comprehension and thinking
  • Instructor feedback on writing that focuses on substantive improvements rather than only small corrections
  • Peer feedback in which students respond to the work of other students for the purpose of helping improve their work

Involve productive student-faculty interactions. 

Instructors should create face-to-face and/or online interactions in which students can learn directly from the instructor. As much as possible, instructors should involve students in their research and mentor their students in their discipline. Some best practices associated with this principle include:

  • Creating opportunities for students to conduct research, when possible
  • Meeting with students one-on-one or in small groups to provide direct feedback on their work
  • Using active learning activities in class to create opportunities for the instructor to respond directly to student work

Maintain respectful and ethical student-faculty interactions. 

Instructors should create a safe space for their students and not take advantage (including sexually) of the power relationship they have with students. Some best practices associated with this principle include:

  • Valuing students’ contributions as well as their diverse identities
  • Maintaining and applying consistent evaluation criteria and standards
  • Avoiding categorically romantic relationships with students currently enrolled in the instructor’s course or under their advisement.

Invest in continuous improvement. 

Instructors should frequently refine their practice based on inquiry, feedback and reflection. They should remain aware of advances both in their field of expertise and in instructional methods, tools and technologies. Some best practices associated with this principle include:

  • Reading books and articles, or consulting other resources on teaching
  • Participation in professional development opportunities focused on teaching offered on campus, online or at conferences
  • Making changes in course and assignment design in response to information attained through assessment of teaching and student learning outcomes
  • Participation in peer observations, both as an observer and the observed


Select References

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