These are three of six secrets I learned many years after entering the classroom as an educator and after getting my hands on a copy of Ken Bain's What the Best College Teachers Do. (And, yes, I wish I had this book before I started teaching!)
I have found the time has now come to no longer keep the secrets to myself or within the four virtual corners of my online classrooms; here are quotes from Bain's book that led me to those secrets, and I trust they will lead you to discover/uncover some teaching secrets of your own!
Bain writes "We cannot take single pieces … and simply combine them with other, less effective or even destructive habits and expect them to transform … teaching …" (p. 20).
He goes on to suggest instead we should "… make a systematic and reflective appraisal of … teaching approaches and strategies, [and ask 'Why do you do] certain kinds of things and not others[?]'" (p. 21)
So here's secret #1: Just as adding fresh herbs to a piece of burnt fish does not make it better neither does adding effective teaching practices to a collection of less than effective approaches improve the classroom experience. Make a conscious effort to review, reflect, and revamp.
"If college courses did not exist and you wanted to invent them, what questions would you ask yourself?" (p. 48)
Similarities should stem, regardless of discipline, from a deeper base, from primary conceptions of what it means to teach and learn that then shape the way faculty prepare any learning experience. The questions might likely be based on what the teacher does rather than on what the students are supposed to learn (p. 48).
Change the paradigm so teaching is "thought of as anything an instructor might do to help and encourage students to learn." Instead, ask
This led me to secret #2: Which of your professors made you want to hit the snooze button … again … and again … and again, and which ones kept you awake long after class ended? Harken back to your days of college, and create for your students the very best teacher experience you wish you had had as a student.
Finally, we are encouraged by Bain to "… Expect 'more' from … students …," which is totally separate from "expectations that may be 'high' but meaningless, from goals that are simply tied to the course rather than to the kind of thinking and acting expected of critical thinking" (p. 96).
Secret #3: Save the hurdles for the track meets and the hoops of fire for the circus. Set the bar high, but be conscious of the reason for why you set it and for how high it is set. Ensure students can enjoy small successes early on, then continue to insist they go beyond their comfort zones to realize their potential.