This is the first in a series of occasional excerpts to appear in Berkeleyan from the essays in "What Good Teachers Say About Teaching."

Ole H. Hald, Professor of Mathematics

I don't let my students take notes. My lectures are intended to be listened to, and notes will never be as good as required books. It makes some students very uncomfortable; they have had years of practice taking notes to avoid thinking.

I am also old-fashioned in not using overhead projectors. There is a tendency to put too much information on transparencies, and typical students cannot get anything out of the lecture as it flies by.

Instead, I use the blackboard, slowly creating ideas before their eyes. I keep them involved by insisting that they help me perform routine calculations. And students delight in catching my mistakes.

Just as in real life, my problems may have several answers. This irritates everyone; students want precise, tidy problems. But my job is to teach them how to take messy, vague questions and transform them into a precise model.

Sometimes, students get stuck. To unleash their creativity, I ask "What is the dumbest way we can solve this problem?"

After I have asked the question two or three times, it becomes a game in which everybody is willing to offer suggestions because of the playful nature of the question. We can then sift through the suggestions, weed out the bad ones, and study the good ones.

Stepehen Booth, Professor of English

I insist upon taking students seriously--seriously enough to argue with them, seriously enough to snap their heads off if they cannot show me logical bases for their assertions and seriously enough to retreat in open confusion when they disagree with me and show me I have in fact misunderstood the material I have presented.

I refuse ever to say the equivalent of "pretty good for a kid"--to say "That's an interesting point" to a student so that I can get on with the class.

Similarly, I probe and question every phrase of every sentence of every essay submitted to me. I treat freshman essays as if they were submissions to scholarly journals.

And I am not tactful in my comments. If you take a student as seriously as we faculty take each other when we argue on panels at conferences, then the student usually grows to meet that level of debate.

The best thing that happened to me as an undergraduate happened on the sidewalk outside a classroom building at Harvard in my freshman year. The instructor in the class I was taking was disgusted by the illogic of what I had been saying. He shook his fists in frustration and said, "You're making the same damn-fool mistake Dostoyevski made." I didn't feel vindicated, but I didn't feel patronized, either.

Ten Points Good Teachers Agree On

While one professor calls teaching "a wonder and a mystery," another may proclaim there is "no great secret to good teaching." But good teachers seem to agree on 10 points, Davis and Tollefson write.

1. The teacher's main task is to guide students through the learning process, not to dispense information.

2. The goal of teaching is to help students read, speak, write and think critically--and to expect students to do these things.

3. Learning is a "messy" process, and the search for truth and knowledge is open-ended.

4. Good teachers love their subject matter.

5. Good research and good teaching go hand in hand. Students' engagement with the subject is enhanced by knowing about the teacher's own research, and the interaction with students often provides a new insights into the research.

6. The best teachers genuinely respect students and their intellectual capabilities.

7. Good teachers are rarely satisfied with their teaching. They constantly evaluate and modify what they do.

8. Good teachers usually had good teachers, and they see themselves as passing on their own teachers' gifts to a new generation of students.

9. Good teachers treasure the small moments of discovery in the classroom and the more enduring effect they have on students' lives.

10. Good teachers do not see teaching as separate from other activities; rather, they see their lives as remarkably integrated.


Copyright 1995, The Regents of the University of California.
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