Skip to content Skip to navigation

Major new Ideas that Can Empower College Teaching

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

Message Number: 
"Below is a list of major ideas on college teaching that have been introduced by books on college-level teaching published since 1990."


The posting below is a list of major ideas on college teaching that have been introduced by books on college-level teaching published since 1990. It was compiled by  L. Dee Fink, Ph.D., national & international consultant in higher education, former president, POD Network in Higher Education and former director, Instructional Development Program, University of Oklahoma. Reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis
UP NEXT:  Guidelines for Inquiry-Based Project Work



Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

---------- 2,700 words ---------- 

Major New Ideas That Can Empower College Teaching


Below is a list of major ideas on college teaching that have been introduced by books on college-level teaching published since 1990.

The point of this list is to illustrate that the scholars of teaching and learning are continuing to generate powerful new ideas year after year, thereby creating the possibility of enhancing the capabilities of college teachers everywhere - IF faculty members can learn about these ideas and incorporate them into their teaching.

These ideas are shown in this document in two ways:

First, starting on this page, the ideas are shown in relation to four general themes and several sub-themes.

Second, on page 3 of this document, the same ideas are shown as annotated bibliographies inchronological order.

Also, at the end of the themes section, is a list of books and one website that contain collections of ideas on college-level teaching.

Four Themes and Sub-Themes

The four themes shown in this section are:

I.            General Perspectives on Teaching & Learning

II.           Basic Tasks of Teaching

III.          Dealing with Specific Teaching/Learning Situations

IV.          Getting Better at Teaching

Under each sub-theme are internal links to the brief description of a book with an important idea related to that sub-theme.  The links are in blue. Put your cursor on the blue link, and press "Ctrl" and the "enter" key on your keyboard (or left-click on mouse) - and you will be taken to the annotated description and citation.  Note: Some items are listed more than once.



A.   Designing learning experiences:  Integrated_Course_Design ;Examples_of_Integrated_Course_Design ; Constructive_Alignment ; Understanding_by_Design ;Constructing_College_Courses

B.    Identifying what students might learn:  Taxonomy_of_Significant_Learning ;Emotional_IntelligenceStudents_Engage_Ideas ; Deep_Learning ; Teaching for Critical Thinking

C.    Using active learning:  Active_Learning ; Service_Learning ; Leading_Discussions ;Skillful_Teaching ; Student_Engagement_Techniques

D.   Using small groups:  Cooperative_Learning ; Collaborative_Learning_Techniques ;Team_Based_Learning ; Assignments_for_Small_Groups ; Varied Uses of Small Groups

E.    Assessing student learning:  Classroom_Assessment_Techniques ; Grading_Rubrics ;Educative_Assessment ; Formative_Feedback ; Learning_Portfolios

F.    Motivating and enabling students to learn:  Emotional_Intelligence ;Theories_of_Learning_and_Motivation ; Learning_Portfolios ; Teaching_and_Student_Diversity ;Creating_Self_Regulated_Learners

G.   Using powerful teaching strategies:  Team_Based_Learning ; Problem_Based_Learning ;Inquiry_Guided_Learning








Chronological List of Books with Major Ideas on College Teaching


1991 - 1995

       1991 -

  • Students learn better if teachers have them do something with what they learn and reflecton the meaning of what they do
  • Source: Bonwell, C. and Eison, J. Active Learning. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Reports, #1.

       1991 -

  • Having students work in small groups can create powerful energy for learning.
  • Source: Johnson, D., Johnson, R., and Smith, K. Cooperative Learning. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Reports, #4.

       1992 -

  • Different students learn in different ways. Knowing what those differences are can help us find ways to increase their success.
  • Source: Multiple sources but an especially useful one is: Fleming, N.D. & Mills, C. Helping Students Understand How They Learn in The Teaching Professor, Vol. 7 No. 4.

       1993 -

  • There are many easy-to-use techniques that can help teachers assess learning, teaching, and student characteristics.
  • Source: Angelo, T. & Cross, P. Classroom Assessment Techniques, 2nd ed. Jossey-Bass.

1995 -

  • This classic article described a paradigm shift that is taking place in undergraduate education, where the focus changes from "teaching" to "learning." This article has had a major influence on conversations about higher education, globally as well as in the US.
  • Source: R.B. Barr & J. Tagg, "From Teaching to Learning: A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education," Change Magazine, 27/6 (Nov/Dec 1995), pp. 13-25.

1995 -

  • If we systematically collect information about teaching in general and about ourselves, over time we can become more competent as a teacher.
  • Source: Brookfield, S.D. Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. Jossey-Bass.

       1995 -

  • There are five basic sources of information all of which need to be used if we want to do a thorough job of evaluating our own teaching.
  • Source: Fink. L.D. "Evaluating Your Own Teaching," in P. Seldin, Improving College Teaching. Anker.

       1995 -

  • There is a second kind of intelligence that teachers need to have and that they could help their students learn.
  • Source: Goleman, D. Emotional Intelligence. Bantam Books.

1996 - 2000

       1996 -

  • Knowing how to integrate good writing assignments, critical thinking exercises, and active learning will enable students to engage ideas more fully.
  • Source: Bean, J.C. Engaging Ideas. Jossey-Bass.

       1997 -

  • Assembling a portfolio about oneself as a teacher can help us understand ourselves better and can communicate our teaching to others.
  • Source: Seldin, P. The Teaching Portfolio, 2nd ed. Anker.
    • Canadian professors have produced a number of excellent publications about the same idea, which they call the "teaching dossier."


  • Students become effective learners only when they understand and engage in deep learning.
  • Source: Marton, F., Hounsell, D., and Entwistle, N. The Experience of Learning. 2nd ed. Scottish, Academic Press.


  • When assessing student work, teachers need to have clear criteria and standards, i.e., a clear and effective grading rubric.
  • Source: Walvoord, B. and Anderson, V. Effective Grading. Jossey-Bass.

       1998 - AS A PERSON/TEACHER

  • By doing some "inner work", teachers can understand what calls them to teach, what fears they have, and eventually how to engage students more fully.
  • Source: Palmer, P. The Courage to Teach. Jossey-Bass.


  • Assessment of student learning should do more than measure "whether they got it"; it should also enhance the learning itself, i.e., be educative.
  • Source: Wiggins, G. Educative Assessment: Designing Assessments to Inform and Improve Student Performance. Jossey-Bass.


  • Having students engage in community-based service projects which are then related to classroom learning drives multiple kinds of powerful learning.
  • Source: Zlotkowski, E. Successful Service Learning Programs. Anker.


  • Small group projects will work much better when they are carefully structured with specific kinds of learning in mind.
  • Source: Millis, B. and Cottell, P. Cooperative Learning for Higher Education Faculty. Oryx.

  • There are some principles that need to be observed when having our teaching reviewed by peers.
  • Source: Chism, N.V.N. Peer Review of Teaching. Anker.


  • Learning communities, whether of students or of faculty, can lead to powerful forms of dialogue and growth.
  • Source: Shapiro, N. & Levine, J. Creating Learning Communities. Jossey-Bass.

2001 - 2004

       2001 - 

  • This is a distinctive teaching strategy that teaches students how to solve complex problems, in groups, and how to learn on their own.
  • Source: Duch, B., Groh, S. & Allen, D. The Power of Problem-Based Learning. Stylus.

       2002 -

  • An understanding of how learning occurs in the brain can inform can and should inform our actions as teachers.
  • Source: Zull, J. The Art of Changing the Brain. Stylus.

       2002 -

  • By sharing our power and decision-making with students, we can involve them more fully in taking responsibility for their own learning.
  • Source: Weimer, M. Learner-Centered Teaching. Jossey-Bass.


  • This contains a valuable collection of techniques and strategies for dealing with large classes.
  • Source: C.M. Stanley & M.E. Porter, Engaging Large Classes. Jossey-Bass.

2003 -

  • This taxonomy, a possible successor to the Bloom taxonomy, identifies six kinds of significant learning can be used to formulate learning goals.
  • Source: "A Taxonomy of Significant Learning," Chapter 2 in L.D. Fink, Creating Significant Learning Experiences. Jossey-Bass.

       2003 -

  • Identifies the key decisions that must be made before a course begins, and that need to be aligned to maximize significant student learning..
  • Source: Fink, L.D. Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. Jossey-Bass.
    • Note: A very similar set of ideas about designing learning experiences has been developed by John Biggs, a Tasmanian professor. He uses the language of "constructive alignment", essentially the same as what Fink refers to as "integrated course design." (See citation in 2007 below.)

       2004 -

  • Familiarizing ourselves with different theories of learning and motivation can enable us to shape more effective teaching.
  • Source: Svinicki, M.D. Learning and Motivation in the Postsecondary Classroom. Anker.

       2004 -

  • This is a collection of numerous specific ways to get students to dialogue and work together, thereby improving their understanding of the material.
  • Source: Barkley, Elizabeth, et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. Jossey-Bass.

       2004 -

  • An unusually versatile teaching strategy that enables teachers to take small-group learning to a greater level of effectiveness.
  • Source: Michaelsen, L., Knight, A., & Fink, L.D. Team-Based Learning: A Transformative Use of Small Groups. Stylus.

       2004 -

  • A special procedure in which students reflect on and assess their own learning.
  • Zubizarretta, J. Learning Portfolios: Reflective Practices for Improving Student Learning. Anker. (2nd edition published: Jossey-Bass, 2009)

2004 -

  • Ideas and procedures for using student inquiry as a basis a variety of types of learning outcomes.
  • Lee, Virginia, ed. Teaching & Learning Through Inquiry. Stylus.

       2004 -

  • Identifies 7 principles for giving formative feedback in a way that will enable students and teachers to improve learning. Includes examples.
  • Source: Juwah, C.; et al. Enhancing student learning through effective formative feedback. The Higher Education Academy, York, England.

2004 -

  • Based on a study analyzing the practices of some of the best teachers in the country.
  • Source: Bain, K. What the Best College Teachers Do. Harvard University Press.

2005 - 2006       

       2005 -

  • Provides a wide range of ideas and resources for dealing with the challenge of diversity - at the level of the individual classroom, the department, and the institution.
  • Source: Ouellett, Mathew, ed. Teaching Inclusively: Resources for Course, Department and Institutional Change in Higher Education. New Forums Press, Stillwater, OK.

       2005 -

  • A new edition on this topic. This one includes thoughts on how to lead discussions in online courses.
  • Source: Brookfield, S. and Preskill, S. Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms, 2nd ed. Jossey-Bass.

       2005 -

  • Examines the pros and cons of different ways of teaching, and helps new teachers think their way through these choices by adapting to their own personalities, goals, and values.
  • Source: Filene, P. The Joy of Teaching: A Practical Guide for New College Teachers. University of North Carolina Press.

  • Provides a way of designing courses to promote a wider range of ways of "understanding". Like Fink's model of Integrated Course Design, it starts with identifying important kinds of learning and then identifies appropriate kinds of learning activities and assessment activities.
  • Source: G. Wiggins, Understanding by Design. Prentice Hall, 2nd ed.

2006 -

  • Pulls together a wide and rich assortment of ideas that can greatly enrich the process of creating courses that promote high quality learning.
  • Source: Richlin, Laurie. Blueprint for Learning: Constructing College Courses to Facilitate, Assess and Document Learning. Stylus.

       2006 -

  • A new edition of this classic by a leading writer on teaching. This edition includes the author's thoughts on dealing with diversity and online teaching.
  • Source: Brookfield, S. The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom, 2nd ed. Jossey-Bass.

       2006 -

  • Offers information about the characteristics of beginning college students and strategies for teaching them effectively.
  • Source: Erickson, B. et al. Teaching First-Year College Students. Jossey-Bass.


2007 - Present


  • Another form of design courses that indicates teachers should make sure the desired learning outcomes, learning activities, and assessment activities should be aligned. Also offers the SOLO taxonomy that identifies levels of understanding of particular kinds of learning. This book has been especially influential in the British Commonwealth countries.
  • Source: J. Biggs & C. Tang, Teaching for Quality Learning. Open University Press, 3rd ed.

2007 -

  • Another book on the challenges of teaching large classes, an increasingly familiar situation in colleges and universities.
  • Source: Heppner, F. Teaching the Large College Class. Jossey-Bass.

       2008 -

  • This book argues that everyone needs learn how to be more innovative and creative, and offers ideas on how to incorporate that into our teaching.
  • Source: McWilliam E. The Creative Workshop: How to Launch Young People into High-Flying Futures. University of New South Wales Press (Australia).

       2009 - "

  • This book builds on Weimer's initial ideas (see 2002 above) by identifying numerous specific actions that can transform one's teaching into being more learner-centered.
  • Source: Blumberg, P. Developing Learner-Centered Teaching: A Practical Guide for Faculty. Jossey-Bass.


2009 -

  • This is a collection of 10 essays by professors who have used Fink's taxonomy of significant learning and model of integrated course design, to design their courses. In their essays, they describe how they applied these ideas to specific courses and what happened when they did - to student engagement and student learning.
  • Source: "Designing Courses for Significant Learning: Voices of Experience" in Jossey-Bass' quarterly series New Directions for Teaching and Learning, Issue #119 (Fall 2009), co-edited by L. Dee Fink & Arletta K. Fink.


2010 -

  • This book, modeled after the structure of "Classroom Assessment Techniques," offers a well-organized set of activities that will improve your ability to get students more engaged in their learning.
  • Source: Barkley, Elizabeth. Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. Jossey-Bass.


2010 -

  • This book lays out 7 research-based principles about how learning works, that have clear implications for what we should do as teachers.
  • Source: Susan Ambrose, et al. How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. Jossey-Bass.


2010 -

  • This is a major addition to the general literature on small groups. The chapter authors describe how they have used small groups effectively in settings as diverse as developmental math in a community college and graduate courses in history.
  • Source: Millis, Barbara (Ed.). Cooperative Learning in Higher Education: Across the Disciplines, Across the Academy. Stylus.

2012 -

  • This is a topic that all college-level teachers embrace, and Stephen Brookfield does his usual great job of taking a complex subject and making it understandable and actionable.
  • Source: Brookfield, Stephen. Teaching for Critical Thinking: Tools and Techniques to Help Students Question Their Assumptions. Jossey-Bass.


  • We have all been aware that technology is and needs to be a more important part of our teaching. This book, without overstating the case, makes an argument for and provides guidelines on how to do this.
  • Source: Bowen, José. "Teaching Naked": How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. Jossey-Bass.

2013 -

  • College teachers need to help students better understand and take responsibility for their own learning. This book provides major guidance on how to do that.
  • Source: Nilson, Linda B. Creating Self-Regulated Learners. Stylus.


  • This book, written for learners rather than teachers, explores our current understanding of how the brain works, as a basis for laying out guidelines for how students can maximize the quantity and quality of their own learning.
  • Source: Doyle, Terry and Zakrajsek, Todd. The New Science of Learning. Stylus.


-Updated:  October, 2013


      L. Dee Fink, Ph.D.

  • National & international consultant in higher education
  • Former president, POD Network in Higher Educ.
  • Former director, Instructional Development Program, University of Oklahoma