Building 5-122
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307

tel. 617.253.2850
fax. 617.258.8792

Programs and Services

Teaching College-Level Science and Engineering
5.95J, 7.59J, 8.395J, 18.074J

Lori Breslow, 5-122, 253-3780,
Office Hours: By appointment

Course Description

This seminar was created in response to a request by science graduate students planning to pursue careers as academics. They wanted to complement the training they were getting in research with the opportunity to improve their ability to teach. Thus, this course was put together to demystify such topics as: using the latest research in student learning to improve teaching; developing a course; promoting active learning, problem solving and critical thinking; designing exams and assignments; and using educational technology—with an emphasis on teaching science and engineering.

One of the most important findings in educational research is that students learn best by doing. In this class, you will be doing a good portion of the teaching by researching topics that interest you, and preparing interactive lessons to educate each other. I’ll help you with the preparation of the class, following guidelines we’ll discuss, and you’ll receive constructive feedback on your efforts from me and your classmates.

I hope this course will aid you in developing your professional identity as a teacher by giving you insights into how things work in the academy, and by providing opportunities for you to practice your professional skills.

Learning Objectives*

If I’ve done a good job as the instructor and you’ve put effort into the course, by the end of the semester, you should:

  1. Be familiar with the latest research in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learning in higher education, including research on diversity.
  2. Have an understanding of how to apply that research in your own teaching.
  3. Improve a set of teaching skills, including: constructing learning objectives; lecturing; using active learning techniques; and employing feedback to improve your teaching.
  4. Have a better appreciation for the skills needed to: assess student learning, use educational technology, and address some of the challenges that come with teaching college students.
  5. Be able to write a teaching philosophy statement.

*We will talk about how to write learning objectives. What do you notice about the characteristics of this list? For example, how is each learning objective phrased?


Because I hope this is a class in which you will learn from one another as well as from me, my expectations about our work together this semester include:

  • That you are willing to share your knowledge, opinions, and ideas in class.
  • That you will provide one another with clear, honest, concrete, and sensitive feedback on work that is done.
  • That any concept that is unclear or confusing will be explored and examined.

Texts & Materials

A Course Reader is available at CopyTech in Building 11.

In addition, there are two textbooks that I recommend for beginning teachers:

  • Barbara Gross Davis, Tools for Teaching, Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1993.
  • Wilbert J. McKeachie, et al., Teaching Tips, 9th edition, D.C. Health & Co., 1994.

And three texts I can recommend that focus specifically on STEM teaching, learning, and academic careers:

  • Cliff I. Davidson and Susan A. Ambrose, The New Professor’s Handbook: A Guide to Teaching and Research in Science and Engineering. Anker Publishing Co., 1994.
  • Richard M. Reis, Tomorrow’s Professor: Preparing for Academic Careers in Science and Engineering, IEEE Press, 1997.
  • Phillip C. Wankat and Frank S. Oreovicz, Teaching Engineering, McGraw-Hill, 1993.

Please also buy one DVD because at least a portion of the class you lead will be recorded. There may also be additional readings handed out in class. Finally, I would like you to subscribe to the Tomorrows-Professor Listserv, managed by Richard Reis, a Stanford engineering professor.


There are four short assignments in this class:

Due Date
List your goals for this course February 14
Write a teaching philosophy statement February 28
Analyze a class in your discipline April 11
Revisit your goals for this course and your teachingphilosophy statement May 16

In addition, you will have responsibility for creating and leading one entire class. I would like to know the topic of your class by February 28, so we can work on the learning objectives and performance criteria for it. I’d like those on March 14.

The four short assignments will each count for 15% of your grade, the class you will teach will count for 40% of your grade, and 10% of your grade will be determined by effort, enthusiasm, and general good will.

Each of these assignments is explained in more detail in the handout, “Assignments for Teaching College-Level Science and Engineering.”

Course Outline


Introductions (to the Course and Each Other); A Short History of Teaching and Learning in the American University; The Impact of College on Students


Bok, Derek (2005). “The Evolution of American Colleges,” and “Purposes” in Our Underachieving Colleges.

Pascarella, Ernest T. and Terenzini, Patrick T. (2005). “Studying College Outcome in the 1990s: Overview and Organization of Research,” in How College Affects Students. Volume 2: A Third
Decade of Research.

Cooper, Lane (1987). “Louis Agassiz as a Teacher,” in Teaching and the Case Method, C. Roland Christensen with Abby J. Hansen, eds.


What We Know about Student Learning in Higher Education


Everyone will read: Ewell, Peter T. (1997). “Organizing for Learning: A Point of Entry,” Prepared for the AAHE Summer Academy, retrieved from:, 1/24/06, pp. 1-10.

Pellegrino, James W., Chudowsky, Naomi, and Glaser, Robert (2001). “Advances in the Sciences of Thinking and Learning,” in Knowing What Students Know.
Plus the handouts: “Bloom’s Taxonomy” and “Intellectual Development in College”

Teams will read and report back on one of the following:

Kolb, David A. (1981). “Learning Styles and Disciplinary Differences,” in The Modern American College, Arthur W. Chickering and Associates, eds.

Ramsden, Paul (1992). “Approaches to Learning,” in Learning to Teach in Higher Education.




Constructing a Syllabus (with special emphasis on learning objectives and performance criteria)


Wiggins, Grant and McTighe, Jay (1998). “What Is Backward Design?” in Understanding by Design.

Perkins, David (1998). “What Is Understanding?” in Teaching for Understanding, Martha Stone Wiske, ed.

Breslow, Lori (2004). “Strategic Teaching,” “The Implicit Contract,” “Learning Objectives,” at TLL Teaching Materials.


Teaching Methodologies (with a special emphasis on lecturing and active learning)


Bain, Ken (2004). “What Makes Great Teachers Great?” The Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 50, issue 31, p. B7, April 9, 2004.

Smith, Karl A., Sheppard, Sheri D., Johnson, David W., and Johnson, Roger T. (2005). “Pedagogies of Engagement: Classroom-Based Practices,” Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 94, no., 1, pp. 87-101.

Bligh, Donald A. (U.S. edition 2000; first published in the U.K. in 1971). “Lecture Organization” and “Lecture Styles,” in What’s the Use of Lectures?

Christensen, C. Roland (1991). “The Discussion Teacher in Action: Questioning, Listening and Response,” in Education for Judgment: The Artistry of Discussion Leadership, C. Roland Christensen, David A. Garvin, and Ann Sweet, eds.


Diversity in the Classroom


Clinchy, Blythe (1989). “On Critical Thinking & Connected Knowing,” Liberal Education, vol. 75, no. 5, November/December, pp. 15-19.

Krupnick, Catherine G. (1985). “Women and Men in the Classroom: Inequality and Its Remedies,” On Teaching and Learning, Margaret Morganroth Gullette, ed.

Steele, Claude M. (1999). “Thin Ice: ‘Stereotype Threat’ and Black College Students,” The Atlantic Monthly, August 1999. Accessed at:

Treisman, Uri (1992). “Studying Students Studying Calculus: A Look at the Lives of Minority Mathematics Students in College,” College Mathematics Journal, vol. 23, pp.362-372.
Accessed at:

Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning and the Office of Race Relations and Minority Affairs, “Tips for Encouraging Students in a Racially Diverse Classroom,” Harvard University 1992.


Assessing for Learning


Forsyth, Donelson R. (2003). “Testing: Strategies and Skills for Evaluating Learning” and “Grading (and Aiding): Helping Students Reach Their Learning Goals,” in The Professor’s Guide to Teaching: Psychological Principles and Practices.


Spring Break

4/4, 4/11

Student Presentations



4/25, 5/2, 5/9

Student Presentation


Course Wrap Up

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