What we know: Teaching for learning: There are (at least) 7 principles of good teaching practice

The ‘What we know’ theories are going to be published here as a series of blog posts over the coming weeks but are also available now collected as a free eBook from the OCSLD shop, where there are now four titles available. Our new book, Assessment Literacy: The Foundation for Improving Student Learning is available in paperback and kindle formats

There are (at least) 7 principles of good teaching practice

What do we know?

A large scale research study was led by Arthur Chickering and Zelda Gamson in 1986, aimed at providing a user-friendly guide to the kinds of teaching/learning activities most likely to improve learning outcomes, based on the known research literature at that time. They produced the following seven principles for good teaching:

Good practice….

● Encourages student-staff contact

● Encourages cooperation among students

● Encourages active learning

● Gives prompt feedback

● Emphasises time on task

● Communicates high expectations

● Respects diverse talents and ways of learning

Implications for improving student learning

These headings are reasonably self-explanatory, and most are covered elsewhere within the theory summaries.  However, perhaps especially for the UK, it is worth highlighting two of the imperatives: to emphasise time on task and to communicate high expectations.  All the evidence is that if we have low expectations of our students, they will happily live down to them.  Several reports have highlighted that, while identifying disciplinary and institutional differences, on average UK students spend fewer hours on their studies, in total, when compared with other European students.  But at the same time, the UK has a very high percentage pass rate.  It is hard not to deduce from these facts that, in many cases, the work UK students are currently being set is not sufficiently demanding or challenging.

Further reading

Elaboration of the 7 principles from the AAHE Bulletin (1987) at: http://tinyurl.com/c5vqj9n 


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About the author

Chris Rust

Emeritus Professor of Higher Education, Oxford Brookes University. Before retiring in September, 2014, after over 25 years at Brookes, Chris had been Associate Dean (Academic Policy). Previously, for ten years, he was Head of the Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development (OCSLD), and Deputy Director of the Human Resource Directorate. Between 2005 – 2010 he was also a Deputy Director for two Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning – ASKe (Assessment Standards Knowledge Exchange) and the Reinvention Centre for undergraduate research (led by Warwick University).

In OCSLD, with thirteen colleagues, he helped to provide both staff and educational development support to the University’s academic Faculties and support Directorates for 23 years. For six years he was Course Leader for the University’s initial training course for new teaching staff.

He achieved a PhD by publication in 2003 and became a professor in March, 2010.

He has researched and published on a range of issues including:

  • the experiences of new teachers in HE
  • the positive effects of supplemental instruction
  • ways of diversifying assessment
  • improving student performance through engagement in the marking process
  • the effectiveness of workshops as a method of staff development.

Mostly he has focused on researching and writing about assessment, including:  improving student learning through active engagement with assessment feedback, and the significance of both explicit articulation and socialisation processes in improving students’ understanding of assessment requirements and assessment feedback.

He is also interested in the design, development and use of social learning space in universities, as well as the development of research-based learning in the undergraduate curriculum, including its potential effect on university organization.

In the 90s he contributed to the design and delivery of a national programme of staff development in higher education on the issue of teaching more students and over the years has run numerous workshops around the country and internationally on a range of issues including teaching large classes, developing assessment strategies, and engaging students with assessment and feedback.

Most recently he has been involved in a research project into the effectiveness of the external examiner system and how it might be improved

He has been a Fellow of the RSA, a Senior Fellow of SEDA (Staff and Educational Development Association) and was one of the first fourteen Senior Fellows of the UK Higher Education Academy, for whom he was also an accreditor.

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