3 Paths to Better Teaching, and When to Stray From Them

3 Paths to Better Teaching, and When to Stray From Them 1

Tom Cogill for The Chronicle

David B. Daniel, an associate professor of psychology at James Madison U.: "Part of our work as teachers is to, in a sense, trick people into doing the most efficient learning they can."

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Tom Cogill for The Chronicle

David B. Daniel, an associate professor of psychology at James Madison U.: "Part of our work as teachers is to, in a sense, trick people into doing the most efficient learning they can."

David B. Daniel spends a lot of time thinking about how to improve college teaching. It helps, he says, to think of the classroom like a comedy club. The success of a comic routine depends heavily upon the particular audience, the shape of the room, the lateness of the hour, and the volume of alcohol flowing.

A college classroom also has its own particular ecology, involving a host of interlocking factors. Instructors—and the education researchers who study them—ignore