Books on college teaching: The get-in-it-and-drive list

Over on her blog, Rebecca Onion distills her tweeps’ recommendations for readings on (mostly college) teaching, and her list includes classics from McKeachie’s Teaching Tips to Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do. I like almost everything on the list a great deal, but I would not recommend that a teaching assistant (or faculty member) start with them unless she or he already has a good bit of (mostly happy) teaching experience under the belt. There are a few better sources to get started:

Huston is the (Benjamin) Spock of college teaching books in attitude: “Relax. You’ll be okay.” It and Rotenberg were the two books I wish had been around when I had started out as a T.A. in the late 1980s. Tremendously philosophical? Not really, nor are Huston or Boettcher/Conrad that deep in a theoretical sense,1 but if you have never taught a college class before, you need to know what to do Monday, as John Holt would put it, or you just need an orientation so you can get behind the wheel and start navigating. All of these books will help you do much more Monday morning than lecture like you remember being lectured to. For example, this coming Monday (the start of my frenetic six-week summer class), I’ll be drawing heavily from one of Huston’s first-day-of-term exercises.

Other books that Onion hasn’t mentioned?

Angelo & Cross is a classic now, a recipe book for qualitative informal assessments, some of which are now widespread such as the one-minute essay at the start or end of class. Stevens & Levi is a clear description of how to develop rubrics of different sorts, including giving teachers options for how much control to retain or give up to students. King & Cox is an accessible discussion of various technologies and is as important, I think, for its andragogy orientation to college teachers’ learning as for the specific technologies in the book. (King is a colleague in my college.)



  1. The exception is Huston’s references, which include the small but important literature on threshold concepts; I’d never seen that before, and the insight was worth the cost of the book in itself. []

3 responses to “Books on college teaching: The get-in-it-and-drive list”

  1. Delaney Kirk

    Lots of good book choices here. Might I also recommend my own that is based on my 30 years of teaching experience and 12 years of facilitating teaching workshops? It’s “Taking Back the Classroom: Tips for the College Professor on Becoming a More Effective Teacher,” available on Amazon. Thanks!

  2. Delaney Kirk

    I’m sharing your list (and Rebecca’s) with my own blog readers. Thanks again.