As the first full book on teaching that I have ever read, I found Ken Bain’s What the Best College Teachers do (2004) to be a perfect introduction to the academics of pedagogy. As an introduction to the teaching of teaching, Bain has brought together the ideas and practices of successful and effective college instructors from across the country, and from across multiple disciplines. He presented all this in a format that is easily read and understood. As soon as I began reading, I was imagining how any of the suggestions could be applied in my classroom. The tone set by Bain was exciting and contagious. He brought the reader along with him as he discovered what these different instructors created in their classrooms. He inspired the reader to wish to become one of those teachers.
Not only was the book easy to understand, but it was very logically organized. Bain begins with the first step when wanting to teach, knowing how people learn and brings the reader through the complete process of teaching ending with how to evaluate their students and themselves. Within each chapter, he gives multiple examples of what these good teachers do in order to prepare and do their jobs. Bain takes the reader through how others prepared to teach, student expectations, class conduct, and evaluations. The information given within each of these chapters was insightful and exciting, at times the explanations of what each teacher did was not very clear. I would have liked to have had more details on specific tools or processes that these teachers used.
The biggest things that I will take away from having read this book is 1) the way that these teachers view and treat their students and 2) that they continue to evaluate their teaching successes on a regular basis. These teachers expected much out of their students and told them so. They understood that their students were there for multiple reasons and with differing goals. The teachers also explained to their students that they were responsible for their own results and that the level of their success was their own decision. It was reassuring to read this as it is something that I do in my own classrooms. Secondly, these teachers are always evaluating how they are doing. They do not assume that everything they do will always work with every student. They kept notes of what went well and what did not during classes. These teachers are always trying to find new and innovative ways to keep students involved and interested.
As a new scholar of pedagogy, I was very pleased to have been given this book to read. While I would have like to have had more concrete and detailed examples of what these teachers did with their classes, I have a good foundational understanding of where to begin my own journey. I have already implemented a few ideas into my current classes (students writing their own class goals, guided notes, and more intentional pauses during lectures). I also have some more ideas for future classes and course content.