Teaching Handbook

Excellence in Teaching at WWU

Since its inception, Western has put great value on quality teaching. This is evidenced, in part, by the many instructors who have received teaching awards or who have developed ways to share great teaching (see column to the right). In addition, for over the past decade, the Innovative Teaching Showcase has featured innovative and best practices by Western faculty.

In 2010*, the Center for Instructional Innovation and Assessment asked those who had received teaching awards some questions about their teaching and learning practice. The following quotes may provide inspiration, insight, or ideas for teaching well.

What teaching practice has the greatest impact on your students’ learning?

"Modeling problem solving in real time... Showing the struggle, the joy, and the confidence that comes with problem solving, showing how real it still is for me." —Kristen Larson, Physics & Astronomy

"Getting to know my students by their names by the second week of class and by showing my passion for the subject.... [Also,] I give a lot of attention to character in several of my courses, which I think resonates with students."
—Charles Sylvester, PEHR

"Carefully choosing important philosophical topics that the students will be interested in... I spend a lot of time working out the best views and arguments for us to discuss in my classes." —Ned Markosian, Philosophy

"Trying to get to know each student as an individual and then making it clear that I am personally interested in each of them and their progress." —George Kriz, Chemistry

"Asking hard questions for which there are not easy, quick answers... questions that require initiative, inquiry, intellectual self-discipline." —Robert Keller, Fairhaven College

What strategies or techniques do you use to motivate your students?

"I am prepared and charged up for each class session... There is an energy that transfers to students when they see and know I truly enjoy what I am doing." —Elsi Vassdal Ellis, Art

"Using the skills I acquired in my acting/theatrical training such as role play, simulations, movement, animation, creativity, imaginative approaches... etc." —Bob Keiper, Woodring College of Education

"I build in choices for students in projects and exam questions... In addition to providing constructive criticism feedback, I encourage and praise students... I try to involve students in exciting opportunities such as presenting at conferences and working on research and publication with me."
—Joyce Hammond, Anthropology

"I ask for 'writer's memos' for each assignment, so I can get the students' perspective on how they approached the assignment and why they made the choices they made. I also ask them to point out areas they wish me to address in my comments." —Bill Smith, English

"Writing extensively on students' papers, indicating their strengths and weaknesses. It seems to me that praising students is as important or more so than criticizing their work.  I also gave students opportunities to rewrite their papers." —Lynn Robbins, College of the Environment

How do you evaluate and continue to improve your teaching?

"We discuss and modify the learning objectives together at the class start. During the quarter I ask for suggestions for improving the learning process via anonymous 'exit notes' and have a feedback discussion midway." —Wendy Walker, College of the Environment

"By taking on new challenges: teaching new material, new courses, weaving my research and teaching interests together, keeping abreast of the nature of adolescent experience and using that knowledge to keep my teaching connected to students lives beyond the classroom." —Mary Janell Metzger, English

"I try to keep abreast of what my students bring to the classroom, so that I can work realistically with their competence levels. I also always read and reflect on my class evaluation results and try to develop new areas of expertise." —Edward Vajda, Modern & Classical Languages

"I set aside time following each class to reflect on what I think went well and what did not go as well as I expected and how I might change my approach to be more successful in the future. I take students' comments very seriously... Finally, I observe my colleagues and 'borrow' approaches that I have observed them using successfully." —Dale Dinnel, Psychology

"I do believe frequent formative measures are important... Those measures can be short and sweet--but they provide valuable information about what students are understanding and what they're not."
—Sheila Fox, Educational Curriculum and Instruction

* In 2010, the Center for Instructional Innovation and Assessment conducted a survey entitled, "Faculty Survey: Learning from WWU's Outstanding Faculty" conducted with past recipients of WWU teaching awards.