What is “good teaching?”
A core dimension of Concordia University’s identity has been its dedication to good teaching at all levels. This principle has been re-confirmed by our recent strategic exercise, which identified at least five directions that pertain to teaching or to instructional approaches within our academic programs. Yet, we do not have a definition of “good teaching,” either in the undergraduate or graduate calendar, nor on our website. Nor do we articulate the values, which constitute good teaching or the standards in teaching to which we aspire.
Even before the strategic process began, it was clear that we needed a broad definition of teaching as a foundation on which we could base our endeavours. Once we have a broad understanding of what good teaching is, we can then use this conceptualization as a basis for the formulation of questions for student evaluations; various assessments for teaching in the hiring, contract-renewal and tenure process; the establishment of department, faculty and university teaching awards; and as a benchmark for a professor’s personal validation self- assessment of teaching progress.
And everyone, students, staff, faculty members and administrators, has an opinion about what constitutes good teaching. Sometimes this is based on our own experience of excellent or poor teachers; sometimes it is based on informal feedback from students about which instructors they prefer and why. However, this can vary according to the context or the discipline. For example, technical, laboratory, and studio staff are generally hands-on instructors, focusing on skills and tools that are essential to academic success. Course instructors are the most obvious “teachers” in the classroom; but there also exist varied understandings of teaching values, reflecting different disciplinary, methodological, pedagogical and personal styles.