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Resources for Educators

The Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) is available to help educators enhance their teaching skills. We have compiled the following information for your review. We would be happy to answer any questions you have or arrange a consultation to discuss you or your department’s needs in this area. What follows is a description of strategies for large and small group teaching. Please feel free to contact us:

Seven Practices of Effective Teaching

Developing a climate conducive to learning.
Key elements in developing a climate conducive to learning for both teacher and learner include: the freedom to voice doubt and uncertainty to safely say, “I don’t know;” an admission of limitations, involvement and participation in the learning; mutual respect among all in the learning group; and a personal and group sense of comfort. Important also in fostering a stimulating learning climate are the learners’ involvement and active participation, as well as the influence of the physical setting and institutional environment.
Communicating Goals

Explicit communication of goals — with input from the learners where appropriate. These will be written in the curricular content and verbally discussed when appropriate. Goals help to describe what is to take place and highlight what is important for learners — for example, the minimum body of knowledge to be assimilated should be clearly and rigorously defined,, allowing learners to know the material for which they are responsible. Communicating goals also gives some guidance to appropriate teaching exercises and sets a basis for evaluating the learners.

Identifying methods to improve learning

Effective teachers are able to communicate well in a wide variety of settings and to develop teaching exercises that enhance the learners’ understanding, integration, and retention of the material as they interact in a meaningful way with that content.

Where good teaching can take place in both large and small group settings, faculty members must be skilled in choosing a method appropriate to the setting, the content, the intended outcomes and the audience. Topics/concepts that fit into this category include: pacing, focus, clarity, organization of material, motivating learners, providing rationale for why this material is important to them, and audiovisual tools (the board, handouts, power point, etc.).

Allowing for learner involvement in the process of teaching and learning

Effective teaching is a dialogue over time and not a unidirectional transfer of information. It begins by understanding where the learners are in terms of their knowledge base and then proceeds through exchanges and negotiation to setting educational goals relevant to the learner, the material, as well as the teacher.  Involving the learner in the teaching session offers the opportunity to make learning more timely, more personally relevant, and more effective. 

Approaches can include: asking the learners questions; designing exercises in which they need to challenge, manipulate and integrate the content; involving them in giving and receiving feedback; planning with them for corrective action in the case of critical feedback; listening to learners to understand when and why they don’t understand the material; listening to learners to find what they have to add to our understanding, etc. 

Meaningful involvement of the learner in the process of learning at all phases has the ability to increase the amount learned and the amount retained. This skill/principle integrates across other topics.

Leveraging assessment as a teaching strategy

While summative assessment signifies assessment “of” learning, formative assessment represents assessment “for” learning and is rightly considered a teaching strategy in and of itself.   Assessment enhances learning in three ways.  First, it operates indirectly by influencing prospective anticipatory study behavior.  Secondly, the act of retrieving (or, even better, producing) information in the assessment context improves retention compared to simply studying the same material.4  First observed as a short- term effect in the cognitive psychology laboratory, this test enhanced learning has been confirmed over longer time periods medical education for both medical knowledge and clinical skills.  

Finally, by illuminating areas in which students’ performance and self-monitoring judgments are misaligned, formative assessment motivates students and permits them to focus their subsequent self-regulated learning. This is especially potent if the feedback includes meaningful and actionable information.  Reflection appears to mediate the assimilation of feedback.  Students who reflect on the assessment remain more likely to accept and act on feedback information.  Faculty can stimulate reflection by creating comfortable favorable learning environments, establishing trusting relationships, encourage self-awareness, and asking provocative questions about the content and the students’ thinking process.  

Multiple formative assessments over time can inform students’ developmental progress toward the achievement of required competencies, such as those reflected in the eight overarching goals. 

Developing skills in providing effective feedback

Feedback is the process of informing the learner about how he or she performed, for the purpose of helping the learner make improvements and move on to the next level in their education. 

While teachers often struggle with giving it, effective feedback is based on a careful assessment of performance in relation to defined and relevant educational goals and in relation to the learners' acquiring and assimilating knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Feedback includes having the learner self-assess, letting the learner know what was done well and what needs to be improved, and negotiating an action plan.  Effective feedback is descriptive, non-judgmental, timely, and replete with details and examples of the learner’s behavior. The overarching purpose of feedback is to promote learning — feedback provided within the Yale system (in a safe, constructive manner where expressing uncertainty is critical) helps learners understand how they have done, and how they can themselves improve their own learning process. 

Developing skills in becoming reflective teachers

Reflective practice “is an integrated way of thinking and acting focused on learning and behavioral change” (Osterman and Kottkamp, 1993, p.1). Reflection focuses on theory and practice, on thinking and doing. One first identifies and assesses current behaviors and then explores how to appropriately modify approaches in ways that enhance learning. 

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