What to read to improve your teaching?


People often ask me what they might to read to get started with teaching science at the college level —  or they ask for concrete suggestions about how to do active learning efficiently.

So, here are some book suggestions. This list is by no means complete, feel free to add more in the comments.

I think Handelsman et al.’s Scientific Teaching (2007) is spectacular, and is an outgrowth of this article in Science that’s been cited 1000 times.

If I was to suggest one book to those thinking seriously about pedagogy, it would be Ambrose et al (2010), How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. This book goes deep into educational theory, but with a focus on specific practices and approaches, though it isn’t specific to science.

If you’re looking for a description of many ways to do simple active learning approaches, check out Student Engagement Techniques, by Barkley (2010).

If you’re looking for a catalog of evidence of what works, then the National Research Council’s Reaching Students: What Research Says About Effective Instruction in Undergraduate Science and Engineering (2015) will be your jam. Also of interest is a 2000 report from the National Research Council, How People Learn. Which is, I realize, almost two decades old, but there are a lot of fundamentals in there that can be of great use for folks who are thinking about teaching.

If you’re serious about teaching biology to undergraduates, then I think the Vision and Change Final Report (2011) from AAAS is a must-read. Its pragmatic antecedent is the 2003 report from the National Research Council, Bio2010.

I have yet to read Felder and Brent’s Teaching and Learning STEM: A Practical Guide (2016), but it looks really promising.

But I don’t really think that there’s a practical and accessible guide out there for scientists who would prefer to get a basic guide to effective science teaching without a heavy dose of educational theory. Which is why I’m now finishing up the Field Guide to College Science Teaching. So stay tuned.

6 thoughts on “What to read to improve your teaching?

  1. I could swear by the Handelsman book as well, Terry! Very accessible and easy to get through!

  2. Felder and Brent is a good start up guide without too much theory.

    I very much enjoyed Creating Significant Learning Experiences by Fink as well.

    I also enjoyed the CIRTL MOOCs, but they are for more advanced instructors. http://stemteachingcourse.org

  3. “Small Teaching” by Lang (2016) is a pretty quick read about relatively easy to integrate methods that reinforce learning in the classroom. Many of the suggestions can be integrated with minor revisions to your syllabus. It is not specifically about teaching science, however.

  4. All of these are great suggestions and I would also recommend:

    Uno, G. E., Handbook on Teaching Undergraduate Science Courses: a survival training manual. McGraw-Hill, Publishing Co., Dubuque, IA.
    Donald Finkel, Teaching With Your Mouth Shut.

  5. You should consider Gray, W. Michael, Unforgettable: Enabling Deep and Durable Learning, Resource Publications, Eugene, OR.

    Gray is a scientist, but the book is accessible to non-scientists and is based on how the brain works.

Leave a Reply