The Top Ten Requirements
Richard Leblanc, Ph.D.
Editorís note: In 1998, professor Leblanc was awarded the Seymous Schulich Award for Teaching Excellence. His top ten requirements for good teaching was originally published in The Teaching Professor, Vol. 12, # 6, 1998.
GOOD TEACHING is as much about passion as it is about reason. Itís about not only motivating students to learn, but teaching them how to learn, and doing so in a manner that is relevant, meaningful, and memorable. Itís about caring for your craft, having a passion for it, and conveying that passion to everyone, most importantly to your students.
GOOD TEACHING is about substance and training students as consumers of knowledge. Itís about doing your best to keep on top of your field, reading sources, inside and outside of your areas of expertise, and being at the leading edge as often as possible. But knowledge is not confined to scholarly journals. Good teaching is also about bridging the gap between theory and practice. Itís about leaving the ivory tower and immersing oneself in the field, talking to, consulting with, and assisting practitioners, and liaising with their communities.
GOOD TEACHING is about listening, questioning, being responsive, and remembering that each student and class is different. Itís about eliciting responses and developing the oral communication skills of the quiet students. Itís about pushing students to excel; at the same time, itís about being human, respecting others, and being professional at all times.
GOOD TEACHING is about not always having a fixed agenda and being rigid, but being flexible, fluid, experimenting, and having the confidence to react and adjust to changing circumstances. Itís about getting only 10 percent of what you wanted to do in a class done and still feeling good. Itís about deviating from the course syllabus or lecture schedule easily when there is more and better learning elsewhere. Good teaching is about the creative balance between being an authoritarian dictator on the one hand and a pushover on the other. Good teachers migrate between these poles at all times, depending on the circumstances. They know where they need to be and when.
GOOD TEACHING is also about style. Should good teaching be entertaining? You bet! Does this mean that it lacks in substance? Not a chance! Effective teaching is not about being locked with both hands glued to a podium or having your eyes fixated on a slide projector while you drone on. Good teachers work the room and every student in it. They realize that they are conductors and the class is their orchestra. All students play different instruments and at varying proficiencies. A teacherís job is to develop skills and make these instruments come to life as a coherent whole to make music.
GOOD TEACHING is about humor. This is very important. Itís about being self-deprecating and not taking yourself too seriously. Itís often about making innocuous jokes, mostly at your own expense, so that the ice breaks and students learn in a more relaxed atmosphere where you, like them, are human with your own share of faults and shortcomings.
GOOD TEACHING is about caring, nurturing, and developing minds and talents. Itís about devoting time, often invisible, to every student. Itís also about the thankless hours of grading, designing or redesigning courses, and preparing materials to further enhance instruction.
GOOD TEACHING is supported by strong and visionary leadership, and very tangible instructional support resources, personnel, and funds. Good teaching is continually reinforced by an overarching vision that transcends the entire organization from full professors to part-time instructors and is reflected in what is said, but more importantly by what is done.
GOOD TEACHING is about mentoring between senior and junior faculty, teamwork, and being recognized and promoted by oneís peers. Effective teaching should also be rewarded, and poor teaching needs to be remediated through training and development programs.
AT THE END OF THE DAY, good teaching is about having fun, experiencing pleasure and intrinsic rewardsÖlike locking eyes with a student in the back row and seeing the synapses and neurons connecting, thoughts being formed, the person becoming better, and a smile cracking across a face as learning all of a sudden happens. Itís about the former student who says your course changed her life. Itís about another telling you that your course was the best one heís ever taken. Good teachers practice their craft not for the money or because they have to, but because they truly enjoy it and because they want to. Good teachers couldnít imagine doing anything else.
Association for Experiential Education
Schools & Colleges Professional Group Newsletter
Spring 1999, Vol. 2, # 1 (Electronic Version)