Enhancing the Seven Practices
How can you improve your teaching?
One way is to observe what effective teachers do, and make sure you do more
of it. The trick is knowing what effective professors do.
The "seven practices of good teaching," first published in the March
1987 American Association of Higher Education bulletin by Arthur Chickering
and Zelda Gamson, has become the most frequently used yardstick of teaching
effectiveness. According to their research, teaching is most effective when
- Encourages contact between students and faculty. Frequent student-faculty
contact in and out of class is the most important factor in student motivation
- Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students. Learning is enhanced
when it is more like a team effort rather than a solo race.
- Encourages active learning. Learning is not a spectator sport. Students
must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past
experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn
part of themselves.
- Gives prompt feedback. Knowing what you know and don’t know focuses learning.
Students need appropriate feedback on performance to benefit from courses.
- Emphasizes time on task. Time plus energy equals learning. There is no
substitute for time on task.
- Communicates high expectations. Expect more and you will get more.
- Respects diverse talents and ways of learning. There are many roads to
learning. Students need the opportunity to show their talents and learn in
ways that work for them.
As we consider which of the new computer-enabled learning strategies should
be part of our own teaching, the list of good teaching practices is a reliable
and helpful yardstick.
The seven practices are an important element in both the logical and empirical
proofs. From numerous studies that have nothing to do with technology we know
that learning increases when there is more interaction and quicker feedback
between students and their professors, when students (and siblings) help each
other learn, and when students have access to the same material in multiple
formats. Furthermore, in computer-enhanced courses when communication between
faculty and students is more frequent and timely, more collaboration occurs
among students, and students have access to a broader range of materials and
people. Finally, it is only logical to conclude that because computers enable
more interaction, collaboration, and customization, there is more learning.
Pursuing a more empirical approach, Shouping Hu and George Kuh have used three
of the seven principles as proxies for learning. They have related responses
to the College Student Experience Questionnaire from 18,844 students at 71 American
colleges and universities with the extent of computer availability on each campus
Student responses from wired campuses (i.e., their campuses were listed by Yahoo
as one of the most wired) have been compared with the rest.
Their results show that students at more wired campuses reported more contact
with their professors (#1 best practice), more substantive interaction with
their peers (#2 best practice), and the same amount of active learning (#3 best
practice). More wired students also reported more frequent use of e-mail to
communicate with an instructor or classmates, and more frequent searches of
the Internet for materials related to their courses.
In the end, the Chickering-Gamson seven practices of good teaching provide
both a framework for redesigning courses and a metric for the impact of technology
David Brown (firstname.lastname@example.org) is vice president and dean of the International
Center for Computer Enhanced Learning at Wake Forest University.