Teaching is complex. It is a craft–a series of tricks and habits. It is a social skill–requiring empathy and listening. It is an art–rewarding intuition and the ability to conjur a metaphor.
Not surprisingly, most people suck at teaching at the outset. Good teaching has a steep learning curve.
When I sat down to put together a reading list on becoming a good teacher, it struck me that almost everything on the Reading List page thus far, and everything that will follow, qualifies. Teaching is that multivariate.
So I simplified the problem. What is the one book that every beginning graduate student should read, nay, inhale, to make the most progress toward good teaching in a short period of time?
The answer, in my opinion, is Wilbert J. McKeachie’s Teaching Tips. This book, with plenty of contributed chapters, is subtitled “Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers”. I discovered Teaching Tips relatively late, when I was assigned, a year before tenure, a 600 student course in Intro Zoology. Holding down the panic, I asked for advice from a number of good teachers. Teaching Tips, hands down, came up in more conversations.
As its subtitle suggests, this book is one-stop-shopping for the beginning teacher. It includes bits on course preparation, different ways students learn (and the activities that promote learning), what to do on your first class meeting, how to grade, deal with cheaters, organize a lecture, lab group or discussion. And it is written in an easy, modular style. The price is a little steep new (especially for a paperback), but there are plenty of used copies floating around. And you will likely want to have your own copy, as you will have to fight the urge not to scribble in the margins.
What’s the best book of practical teaching advice you’ve read?