Considering that sooner or later I will, hopefully, be able to teach formally at a university level, I'm curious about the following. While I do have pretty decent (some people, even, say, very good [he is blushing]) informal pedagogical skills, especially in terms of explanatory power :-), I'm thinking about how best to improve my ability to teach (I have informal teaching experience via high school students tutoring, corporate IT classes teaching as well as informal advising online and offline).

With that in mind, I wanted to ask people's recommendations on what are the optimal strategy and useful approaches in terms of acquiring some additional formal knowledge on pedagogy, instructional design, learning theories and similar disciplines and areas of study. While currently I'm preparing my research (have an agenda) and teaching statements, this question is not concerned about that, but rather about establishing a solid foundation for the long-term teaching success. In addition to strategy and approaches, some advice on relevant resources, including MOOCs and books on the topic will be greatly appreciated. (This question is inspired by reading this and this.)


As Nicholas said, you can get a certificate, diploma, or even a master degree in education (some focus on higher ed, some on primary and secondary teaching). However, for me, I've always found it quite helpful to read-plan-use-evalate and repeat as necessary.

For the reading, Faculty Focus on the Teaching Professor are wonderful. There are countless good quality texts. I'm continually surprised at the percentage of high-quality books (like McKeachie's Teaching Tips) on higher ed teaching. By far most of the higher ed teaching books I've read have been very helpful. Resources aimed at primary and secondary school teachers have not been very helpful to me in my university teaching.

The Art of Teaching is also quite good as a video or audio book. I have not found MOOCs to be better than books and newsletters, at least not yet.

There is so much theory out there that it is difficult to read even a significant portion of it. However, I believe what is most important is to find what pedagogical styles best fit both you and your students (if you know much about them at this point). So, I return to my earlier point: read-plan-use-evaluate, then try something else to build up your toolbox. Granted, this is difficult to do without actually doing it.

Oh, it goes without saying that Academia.SE is a great resource. :-)

  • Excellent answer (+1) - much appreciated, especially advice and mentioned resources. Academia SE site is indeed a great resource, it is just not realistic to expect receiving some formal knowledge on this particular topic here :-) [it seems to be not one of the popular ones]. Jun 8 '15 at 15:42
  • So, if you would have to choose only one book on the topic, what would be your preference? Jun 8 '15 at 15:44
  • 1
    @AleksandrBlekh There is a Reference-Request tag if you are looking for some research to support your teaching (so formal knowledge is available here). As for books, I would never limit myself to one. In fact I would sooner read one of the two newsletters I referenced (Faculty Focus is free, Teaching Professor is not) which regularly include reference to research done in the area of pedagogy.
    – earthling
    Jun 9 '15 at 0:21
  • Thank you for the tag info as well as for resources clarification. The "single book" question is a hypothetical one. I don't plan to limit my learning on the topic to a single resource - I was just trying to get an idea on whether there exist a relatively comprehensive guide to start with. Jun 9 '15 at 0:53

Many universities now recognise that tertiary academic teaching can be taught as a scholarly subject. There is a growing body of research on the subject.

Similarly, tertiary institutions recognise that there has generally not been a requirement for academics (usually research-focused) to demonstrate any ability in teaching, nor are they exposed to any opportunities for training.

For this reason, many institutions (in the UK and Commonwealth, at least) offer a post-graduate diploma or certificate in Academic Practice. In such a course -- usually attended by research academics with a teaching component to their work -- students are exposed to current pedagogical theories.

My institution offers such a PGCert, and I am working my way through it now, with the support of my HoD. It's been pretty good, so far. See if your institution offers such a degree.

Bear in mind, I've seen this strategy -- institutions offering PGCerts in academic practice -- done very badly. Namely, staff are required to take the course, and pass. In the worst case, the quality of the teaching was poor.

I am pleased to say, that at my present institution, the teaching on the PGCert has been very good, the readings helpful, the exercises relevant. Your mileage may vary.

With respect to resources, I am generating an annotated bibliography of the readings (journal articles, books, etc) that we have been recommended for this course. If you are interested in this, I can share the link with you.

  • Very nice answer (+1). At the present time, I'm not affiliated with any institution - currently, I'm between being a recent Ph.D. graduate and holding a post-doctoral / junior faculty / industry position. My university doesn't offer postgraduate certificates in Academic Practice or similar (while it does offer some in other specializations). In regard to sharing the annotated bibliography, I would very much appreciate it. I think that I've seen some relevant MOOCs - any thoughts on this option? Jun 7 '15 at 22:57

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