276. Teaching at its Best

New faculty often start their faculty roles without training in teaching. In this episode Linda Nilson and Todd Zakrajsek join us to talk about the evolving roles and expectations of faculty and explore the new edition of a classic teaching guide.

Now Director Emeritus, Linda was the Founding Director of the Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation at Clemson University. Todd is an Associate Research Professor and Associate Director of the Faculty Development Fellowship in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Linda and Todd are each individually the authors of many superb books on teaching and learning and now have jointly authored a new edition of a classic guide for faculty.


  • Zakrajsek, T. and Nilson, L. B. (2023). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors. 5th edition. Jossey-Bass.
  • Nilson, L. B., & Goodson, L. A. (2021). Online teaching at its best: Merging instructional design with teaching and learning research. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Nilson, Linda (2021). Infusing Critical Thinking Into Your Course: A Concrete, Practical Guide. Stylus.
  • McKeachie, W. J. (1978). Teaching tips: A guidebook for the beginning college teacher. DC Heath.
  • POD
  • Betts, K., Miller, M., Tokuhama-Espinosa, T., Shewokis, P., Anderson, A., Borja, C., Galoyan, T., Delaney, B., Eigenauer, J., & Dekker, S. (2019). International report: Neuromyths and evidence-based practices in higher education. Online Learning Consortium: Newburyport, MA.’
  • Padlet
  • Jamboard
  • Eric Mazur
  • Dan Levy
  • Teaching with Zoom – Dan Levy – Tea for Teaching podcast – May 26, 2021


John: New faculty often start their faculty roles without training in teaching. In this episode we talk about the evolving roles and expectations of faculty and explore the new edition of a classic teaching guide.


John: Thanks for joining us for Tea for Teaching, an informal discussion of innovative and effective practices in teaching and learning.

Rebecca: This podcast series is hosted by John Kane, an economist…

John: …and Rebecca Mushtare, a graphic designer…

Rebecca: …and features guests doing important research and advocacy work to make higher education more inclusive and supportive of all learners.


John: Our guests today are Linda Nilson and Todd Zakrajsek. Now Director Emeritus, Linda was the Founding Director of the Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation at Clemson University. Todd is an Associate Research Professor and Associate Director of the Faculty Development Fellowship in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Linda and Todd are each individually the authors of many superb books on teaching and learning and now jointly have authored another superb book. Welcome back, Linda and Todd.

Linda: Thank you very much.

Todd: Really appreciate the opportunity to be here.

Rebecca: Today’s teas are: … Linda, are you drinking tea?

Linda: I’m drinking a tea called water. It’s rather dull, but I enjoy it.

Rebecca: It’s very pure.

Linda: Yes, very pure. Very pure.

Rebecca: How about you Todd?

Todd: Oh, I’ve got myself a Lemon Detox because I’ve spent most of my day getting all toxed and now I’m getting detoxed. [LAUGHTER] Wait a minute, that sounds bad. [LAUGHTER] But that will be all right. [LAUGHTER]

John: Especially at Family Medicine.

Todd: Well, we can fix it. [LAUGHTER] In general, life is good.

John: I am drinking pineapple green tea.

Rebecca: Oh, that’s a new one for you, John.

John: I’ve had it before, just not recently.

Rebecca: Okay. I’m back to the very old favorite, English afternoon. Because I stopped by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching and grabbed a cup before I came.

John: And we are recording together in the same room, which has been a fairly rare occurrence for the last several years. We’ve invited you here to discuss your joint endeavor on the fifth edition of Teaching at its Best: a Research-Based Resource for College Instructors, that Linda originally developed and now you’ve collaborated on this new edition. How did the collaboration on this edition come about?

Linda: Well, let me talk about that. Because it was pretty much my idea. Jossie-Bass contacted me and said “let’s put out a fifth edition” and I said “let’s not.” [LAUGHTER] I was not in the mood to do it. I’ve been retired six and a half years now and I’m loving it. I mean, I’m really loving it. And while retired, I was still writing the second edition of Online Teaching at its Best. And then I was writing a book, Infusing Critical Thinking Into Your Course, and I guess I had had it. I mean, I wanted to really make a change and I wanted to get specifically into working at an animal shelter. So I was all occupied with that. So I thought I remember Wilbert J. McKeachie, when he was doing Teaching Tips that he came to a certain point after I don’t know how many editions that he brought other people on to really do the revision work. And so I decided I’m going to do that. So Jossey-Bass said “Okay, fine.” They wanted three names. Okay, I gave him three names, but my first choice was Todd Zakrajsek, because 1. I knew he’d finish it. [LAUGHTER] I knew he’d finish it fast. I knew he do a great job. He knows the literature like the back of his hand, I wouldn’t have a worry in the world. And guess what? Todd accepted. Hip hip hurray. I was so happy. I couldn’t tell you.

Todd: Well, this is great because I said no when they asked me. [LAUGHTER]

Rebecca: Like any smart person would, right? [LAUGHTER]

Todd: Well, I did end up doing it, of course. But the reason I said no was I knew that book very well and I know Linda very well. And I said, “There is no way. I don’t know anybody who can step in and pick this thing up. She knows so much about so much that it’s just not possible.” And they said, “But she really wants you to do this.” So I went back and forth a couple times and I finally decided to do it. And I will tell you, Linda, because I haven’t mentioned this to you. The first three chapters, I had to go back and redo those when I got done with it, because I was so scared of the first three chapters [LAUGHTER] that it was really rough. And then finally it’s like, okay, I hit my rhythm and I walked into it with impostor syndrome a little bit, and I finally caught my footing, but it’s a good book to start with.

Linda: Thank you. Thank you very much. [LAUGHTER] Yeah, I know, the plot thickens, right? It becomes more interesting as you go from chapter to chapter, right. And before you know it, there’s a happy ending after all.

Rebecca: So Linda, Teaching at its Best has been around for a long time with a first edition published in 1998. Can you talk a little bit about how that first edition came about?

Linda: Yes, that was…I can’t believe… 1998. That’s 25 years ago. It’s almost scary how time flies. But anyway, the actual seed of the book came about in about 1994… 95. But I need to give you some background because I had been writing TA training books since like, the late 1970s when I was first given the task of putting together a TA training program. So back then, I was putting out weekly mimeos,[LAUGHTER] remember mimeograph machines. Some of you don’t know, what is she talking about? But anyway, that was technology then. But anyway, smetl great, though… it really did. [LAUGHTER]

Rebecca: That’s the second time today someone has made a reference about the smell of those.

Linda: Yeah, oh yeah.

John: The dittos are what I remember having the stronger smell

Todd: The ditto did, yeah. yeah, and I’ll tell you before we move on, when I was a graduate student, we had a ditto machine. I just have to say this, Linda, because you liked the smell and all there.

Linda: Yeah, Yeah.

Todd: But they had a ditto machine. And below the ditto machine, I noticed that the floor tiles were kind of eaten away by the ditto fluid. [LAUGHTER] And then here’s the best part is that one day I was rooting around in the closet looking for something and I found the extra tiles in a box and the side of the box said “reinforced with long-lasting asbestos.” [LAUGHTER] So the ditto fluid was eating through asbestos lined tile, but that’s how strong that stuff is. So yeah, we all enjoyed the smell of that stuff back in the day..

Linda: Yeah, yeah. I guess it’s a good thing for all of us they invented something else, like copying machines. So anyway, so I started doing that at UCLA. And then that turned into like a booklet of sorts. And then I was at UC Riverside, and I was writing books there. And I sort of revised it every couple of years. And I was also writing these with my master teaching fellows. So we were doing that. And then I came to Vanderbilt, and I decided, well, I’m going to do this, pretty much on my own, I’ll get some help from my master teaching fellows. But anyway, it turned into an actual book. I mean, it turned into a happy monster. And I was very pleased with it. Well, along about 94-95, my husband recommended that I turn it into a regular book, and talk to a publisher about it. So anyway, I said, “Oh, great idea. Great idea and just sort of didn’t think about it much. Then in 1996, he died. And I thought, “Well, how am I going to pull myself through?” I bet it would be a great idea and a great tribute to him if I took Teaching at its Best, the Vanderbilt edition, and turned that into a general book. And I decided to do that and kept my mind off of bad things. And it turned into Teaching at its Best, the first edition. That’s why I dedicated the book to him, by the way, because it really was his inspiration that got me to do it. And so anyway, tribute to him. So that’s where the first edition came from. I mean, it really grew out of tragedy. But it’s been a comedy ever since, right? [LAUGHTER] So anyway, it’s been a wonderful thing.

John: And it’s been a great resource.

Rebecca: It’s interesting that it pulled you through, but then has pulled many teachers through. [LAUGHTER]

Linda: And I’ve gotten such feedback from faculty members who said, “I saved their lunch,” you know, if they were really in big trouble, and some of them said, “I was in big trouble with my teaching and you got me tenure.” Yeah, like, right. But anyway, the book helped a lot of people. And I guess maybe something in me when I first published this book said, “Gee it would really be great to be the next Wilbert McKeachie, right, which is a very pretentious thing to think. But then they wanted the second edition, I was thinking, “Hey, maybe I’m on the road to something.” And then there was a third, and then there was the fourth. And it didn’t get any easier to write the subsequent editions really, it was just a matter of keeping up with the literature. And so right now, I’m off into another corner of the world. So I just didn’t want to immerse myself in that again.

John: So that brings us to the question of what is new in the fifth edition?

Todd: Well, that’s my question. I’ve known Linda for the longest time. By the way, I do want to mention before we go on, I can’t remember, Linda, if it’s been that long ago, but it might have been the second edition. When at POD, I said, “You need to do a second edition of this book” …or second or third. But I was using the book. I mean, I learned so much from it. So for the new edition. Number one, of course, the research has been updated only because the research is always changing. And it had been a few years. So that’s number one. In terms of changing the book, though, we only have a leeway of about 10,000 words. Now, for those out there listening 10,000 words sounds like a lot of words until you’ve got a 200,000 word book, it was about 190. And they said, you can’t go over 200 Because the book just gets too big then. So it is 10,000 words longer than it was in fact, I think it’s 10,003 words longer. So it’s right in there. [LAUGHTER]

Rebecca: So you snuck an extra 3 words in.

Todd: It could have been a squeeze to put three words in there. And it’s always hilarious because when they say there’s just a few too many words I just start hyphenating things so yeah, it kind of all works. [LAUGHTER] Yeah, just any words at all. So you can do “can you” as just a hyphenated word. It works. [LAUGHTER]K So is that terminology, the terminology does change and I find this fascinating. One of the things I love to write about books is learning. I mean, Linda, the same thing what as we write, we read a ton of stuff. And as we read stuff, we learn stuff. So this one in particular, for example, is that I grew up with PBL as problem based learning. And I had done workshops on it, I had worked on everything else, but I hadn’t looked at it for quite a while. And in this particular book, as I started looking at PBL, I couldn’t find anything on problem based learning. And it was fascinating because I was doing some digging, and then I called Claire Major, who was an early person who had a grant on problem based learning and everything I ran into was about 2002, it just started to drop off a little bit, and there was some, but it started to tail off. And when I talked to Claire, she says, “Oh, yeah, I used to do quite a bit about that, it was back around 2002-2003.” And now, and the reason I’m saying this is, every time I saw the letters PBL, it was project based learning. And project based learning sounds a lot like problem based learning, but they’re different concepts. And so anyway, going through and finding some of the terminology, so it was consistent with what’s being done right now has changed. There is now a chapter on inclusive teaching, because over the last three or four years, we finally realized that there’s a whole lot of individuals who haven’t been successful in higher education, partly because of the way we teach. And so I’ve been making an argument for a few years now that teaching and learning, the classroom situation has always really been based for fast-talking, risk-taking extroverts. And we’ve suddenly realized that if you’re not a fast-talking, risk-taking extrovert, you may not get a chance to participate, classroom and other things. So I looked at some different things with inclusive teaching. There’s a whole another chapter on that. And then just the language throughout, we talk a little differently now, just even over the last three or four years than we did five, six years ago, I was pretty surprised by that. But there’s some pretty significant changes in language. So the book has a slightly different tone in language, and those are the biggest changes. Oh, I should say, before we move on, one of the biggest other changes, and I did this one, Linda put a section in there that said learning styles had changed significantly from the previous edition. And so she had pointed out that there was no longer a section on learning styles. And I put the learning styles right back in there, I told Linda and she gasped just a little bit. And then I explained that I put it back in there, and then said exactly how terrible it was to basically teach according to learning styles, because it’s the myth that will not die. So that’s back in there.

Linda: People love it. I know. [LAUGHTER]

John: We have that issue all the time, students come in believing in them and say, “Well, I can’t learn from reading because I’m a visual learner.” And I say “Well, fortunately, you use your eyes to read,” and then I’ll get them some citations.

Todd: Well, I’ll tell you, and before we move on, these are the types of things we learned. I couldn’t figure out why the thing is so hard to die. What is it that’s really doing this because other myths we’ve been able to debunk. And part of the reason is licensing exams, when you are in pre-service and you want to become a teacher, the exams you take to become a teacher, a large portion of those exams, have learning styles questions on there. So you have to answer about visual learners and auditory learners and kinesthetic. And so until we get those out of teacher education programs, we’re teaching teachers to believe this. So anyway, there you go. Public service announcement. Be careful about meshing. And if you don’t know what meshing is, look it up and then stop it. [LAUGHTER]

John: We have had guests on the podcast who mentioned learning styles, and then we edit them out and explain to them later why we edit out any reference to that. And I think most of them were in education, either as instructors, or they’ve been working as secondary teachers. It is a pretty pervasive myth. In fact, Michelle Miller and Kristen Betts, together with some other people, did a survey. And that was the most commonly believed myth about teaching and learning. It was done through OLC a few years back, about three or four years ago. Yep,

Todd: Yeah, I saw that survey. Yes, it’s pretty amazing. Michelle’s an amazing person.

Rebecca: The experience of the pandemic has had a fairly large impact on how our classes are taught. Can you talk a little bit, Todd, about how this is reflected in this new edition?

Todd: Things have changed pretty significantly because of the pandemic. There’s a couple things going on. Again, the inclusive teaching and learning, which I’ve already commented on, is really different now. And it’s interesting, because it goes back to the 1960s. We’ve known that, for instance, African Americans tend to flunk at twice the rate of Caucasians, in large machine-scored multiple choice exams. So we know it’s not the teaching, and we know it’s not the grades, it has to be something else. And it turns out that it was you put students into groups and those differences start to disappear. So I mean, even more so the last couple of years, it’s a lot of engaged learning, active learning. I’m still going to pitch my stuff that I’ve been ranting and raving about for years. And there’s no data out there that says that lecturing is bad. What the data says is that if you add active and engaged learning to lecture, then you have much better outcomes than lecture alone. But we’re learning about those types of things in terms of active and engaged learning, how to pair it with and mix it with other strategies that work, looking at distance education in terms of systems and how we can use technology. So a quick example is I used to have a review session before exams. And oftentimes, it’s hard to find a place on campus to have that. And so you might be in a room off in one hall or the library or something. And if the exam was on Monday, I’d have the review session at like six o’clock, seven o’clock on a Sunday night. And there are students who couldn’t make it. I would simply say, you can get notes from someone else. And we’ve known for the longest time, if a student misses class, getting notes from somebody else doesn’t work. Well, now I do review sessions on Zoom, we don’t have to worry about finding a place to park, we don’t have to worry about some students finding babysitters, if they’re working, it’s recorded, so they get the exact same thing. So things like Zoom have really changed teaching in a sense that you can capture the essence in the experience of teaching and use it for others, and it has helped with some equity issues. You can’t do it all the time. And teaching over Zoom is different than face to face. But there are now ways of using different technologies and using different modalities to help to teach in ways that were not really used before the pandemic.

John: Speaking of that, during the pandemic, there was a period of rapid expansion in both the variety of edtech tools available and in terms of teaching modalities themselves. In the description of your book, it indicates that you address useful educational technology and what is a waste of time? Could you give us an example of both some useful technologies that could be used and some that are not so useful? And also perhaps a reaction to the spread of bichronous and HyFlex instruction?

Linda: Yeah, I’ll take this one. And I’m drawing a lot of stuff from another book that I co-authored, with Ludwika Goodman. We were writing about Online Teaching at its Best, okay. And she was an instructional designer. And I came from teaching and learning and we put our literature’s together. And we were talking about modalities a great deal, especially in the second edition with the pandemic. Well, one thing I found out, not only from reading, but also from watching this happen was that this Hyflex or bichronous, whatever you want to call it, is a bust, if there ever was a modality, that’s a bad idea it’s that one, even though administrators love it because students can choose whether to come to class and do the things they would do in class, or to attend class remotely? Well, yeah, it sounds like “oh, yeah, that could be good.” But the technological problems, and then the social problems, especially the in-class social problems are enormous. And in-class social problems, like small group work, how do you hear what’s going on in the classroom over this low roar of small groups? Okay, so how can you help? How can the students that are learning remotely, what can they do? Now, the way this was invented, by the way, was for a small graduate class, and then okay, like, makes sense, because you’re only dealing with six students in this room and six students who are remote. But other than that, it’s so bad, the logistics, the sound logistics, the coordination that the instructor has to maintain, the attempt at being fair to both groups, at bringing in both groups, when the groups can’t even hear each other well. Now, if we had Hollywood level equipment in our classrooms, we might be able to make this work a little better, but we don’t, and we’re never going to have that. So there are just a lot of technological and social reasons why HyFlex, that’s what I called it in Online Teaching at its Best, what it was called at the time is a complete bust. Now, not to be confused with hybrid or blended learning, which we found has worked exceedingly well. So bringing in some technology, but into a face-to-face environment and that being the base of the class. Now, remote’s nice, but you might not want to do remote all the time for all things. It’s not quite the next best thing to being there. But it’s something and as long as you don’t just stand there and stare at the camera and lecture for an hour. You’ll get complaints about that quickly. And particularly with students today when they really need to be actively involved, actively engaged. So yeah, sure, fine, talk for three minutes, maybe even push it for five, but then give them something to do and you really, really must in remote because otherwise, you’re just some talking head on television.

Todd: I agree completely. In fact, it was funny because I happen to have a digital copy of the book here. And so I typed in a ctrl F and I typed in HyFlex and there’s one comment to the preface that said there’s many different formats out there and then I will tell the listeners, if you’re expecting to learn about HyFlex, the word never shows up again in the book. [LAUGHTER] So, it’s not in there. I mean, you look at the literature that’s out there. And I think it’s fair to say that maybe there are people who can do it. I haven’t really seen it done well and I think Linda’s saying she hasn’t either. And it’s so difficult, especially for a book like this. That’s not what we’re all about. I mean, again, if it even works well, which I’d love to hear that it would be a very advanced book and that’s not what this is. So we do have a lot in there about technology in terms of edtech tools, though. There are those in there, I would just say real quickly, for instance, Padlet’s one of my favorites, I’ll throw that out there. I like Padlet a lot. But there are tools out there, if you want to do a gallery walk, which for instance, if you happen to be in a face-to-face course, you’d set up maybe four stations with big sheets of paper, you put your students into groups, and then they walk from sheet of paper to sheet of paper, and they move around the room. And they can do what’s called a gallery walk. You can do the same thing online with a jamboard, you can set up jamboards so that there’s different pages, and then each group is on a page. And then you just say it’s time to shift pages, they could shift pages. So I’ve done gallery walks, and it’s worked well. I’ve used Padlet for brainstorming. And one of the things I love about Padlet, I’ll have to say is if you are doing some digital teaching in a situation, you can watch what each group is developing on the page for all groups at the same time. I can’t hear all groups at the same time when I walk around the room. So there are certainly some technologies coming out that can really do things well. There’s also things that don’t work very well, though. And I think one of the things you want to keep in mind is just learning theory. Does the technology you’re using advance students, potentially, through learning theory? Does it help with repetition? Does it help with attention? Linda was just mentioning attention, if you lecture too long, you lose their attention. If you do something ridiculously simple or not… I was gonna say stupid, but that sounds rude. But if we do something as a small group that makes no sense, you don’t get their attention either. So using clickers, I have to say, I watched a faculty member one time because they were touted as a person who was very engaging. And this is at a medical school, so I really wanted to see this. And the person used clickers, but used it in a way that asked the students a question, they responded, and the instructor looked up at the board and said, “Here’s how you responded, let’s move on.” And then moved on to the next thing. And about five minutes later gave another question said, “How do you respond?” and they clicked the clicker, and then they moved on again. That had no value at all, and in fact, there was no actual interaction there. So afterwards, I say, can’t you just ask a rhetorical question and just move on? We got to be careful not to use technology just because it’s being used, it should advance the learning process.

John: However, clickers can be effective if it’s combined with peer discussion and some feedback and some just-in-time teaching. If it’s just used to get responses that are ignored, it really doesn’t align with any evidence-based practice or anything we know about teaching and learning. But those per discussions can be useful and there’s a lot of research that show that does result in longer-term knowledge retention when it’s used correctly, but often it’s not.

Todd: Right. And I think that’s a really good point. I’m glad you said that, because Eric Mazur, and his concept tests, for a large extent, that’s where active and engaged learning really took off. And that is a clicker questions. And they can be used as great tools. But again, if you’re using it for the right reason, which is what you just said, My comment is, there’s technology out there, that is a waste of time, and not a good thing to have, because it’s just not being used in a way that’s conducive to learning. So good point, that’s fair.

Rebecca: Can you talk a little bit about who the audience of the book is?

Linda: Sure. It’s actually for anybody who teaches students older than children, I suppose, because it isn’t really designed for teaching children. But other than that, it’s really for people who teach but don’t have the time to read a book. The nice thing about Teaching at its Best is you can go to the table of contents, you go to the index, you could find exactly what you need for your next class. And it’s very oriented towards how to, so it could be for beginners or for experienced people who simply haven’t tried something specific before, or want a twist on it, or just want some inspiration. Because there there are a lot of different teaching techniques in there. And they’re all oriented towards student engagement, every single one of them. But I wanted to comment too, on just how the job of instructor or professor has changed over the past, I don’t know, 40 years, I suppose. I know when I started teaching it was a completely different job. And I started teaching in 1975, when I was 12, of course, but no and I was young to start teaching because I was 25 and there I was 180 students in front of me. So oops, my goodness, what have I done? But that’s exactly what I wanted to do. But you’d go in there, you’d lecture and you’d walk out. You were in complete control of everything. Like, you might throw out a question and you might get a discussion going. But it wasn’t considered to be essential. In fact, there were two teaching techniques back then: there was lecture, and there was discussion. And nobody knew how to do discussion. Now, I had to find out a few things about it when I was doing TA training, because TAs were supposed to be running discussions. But there wasn’t a lot out there. Thank God for Wilbert McKeachie’s book Teaching Tips, because that was about the only source out there you could go to. So anyway, but now the job, I mean, oh, it’s mind boggling what faculty are now expected to do. And they are supposed to, like, learning outcomes. Okay, I love learning outcomes. They’re wonderful. But I didn’t have to do that when I started, I just had to talk about my subject, which I dearly loved. And so, that was nothing. But you’ve got learning outcomes. So you’ve got to be like, a course designer, you have to deal with a student’s mental health problems, right? It’s part of the job, and you’re expected to respond to them. You’re supposed to give them career counseling in careers that you might not know much about, and possibly for good reason, because you’re in your own career. It’s so time consuming, not to mention fair use, oh, yes, fair use has changed, fair use has changed radically. And when you’re dealing with anything online, the rules are totally different. And you’re highly restricted as to what you can use, what you could do. When you’re in a face-to-face classroom, it’s a little bit easier. So yeah, so you got to be a copyright lawyer to stay out of trouble. And then you get involved in accreditation, you get involved in that kind of assessment. So you have to all of a sudden be totally involved in what your program is doing, what your major is doing, where it’s headed. There’s just too much to do. And there are more and more committees and oh, there’s a lot of time wasted in committees. Of course, you’re supposed to publish at the same time and make presentations at conferences. It was like that back then, too. But now, the expectations are higher, and it’s on top of more time in teaching, and more courses. I was teaching four courses a year, and you can’t find that kind of job anymore.

Rebecca: So Linda, you’re saying the animal shelter is going really well now?

Linda: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Todd: That’s hilarious. Well, I want to point out too, and I think Linda’s said it very, very well is that we are expected to do things we never had to use before. Never worried about before. And I love the fair use is great, because when I first started teaching, and I’ve been teaching for 36 years, when I first started teaching, you’d videotape something off TV and show it in class and then put it on the shelf. And I knew people who showed the same video for 10 years. Right now you better be careful about showing the same video for 10 years. But these are things we need to know. I would say also, by the way, this is a really good book for administrators, anybody who would like to give guidance to faculty members, or better understand teaching and learning so that when promotion and tenure comes along, you get a sense of this. And so if you’re saying to the faculty, they should use a variety of teaching strategies. It’s not a bad idea to know a variety of teaching strategies. And so I think it’s good for administrators as well, and graduate students. But I want to take a second and tell you, one of the reviews of the book, I guess, came in just yesterday or the day before from Dan Levy. He’s a senior lecturer at Harvard University. And what he put was Teaching at it’s Best is an absolute gem. Whether you are new to teaching in higher education, or have been doing it for a while, you will find this book’s evidence-based advice on a wide range of teaching issues to be very helpful. The style is engaging and the breadth is impressive. If you want to teach at your best you should read Teaching at its Best. And I love what he put in there because it doesn’t matter if you’re a new teacher or you’ve been doing it for a while, this book’s got a lot of stuff in it.

John: And Dan has been a guest on our podcast, and he’s also an economist, which is another thing in his favor. [LAUGHTER]

Todd: That is good.

John: I do want to comment on lenders observation about how teaching has changed because I came in at a very similar type of experience. I was told by the chair of the department not to waste a lot of time on teaching and to focus primarily on research because that’s what’s most important, and that’s the only thing that’s really ultimately valued here or elsewhere in the job market. But then what happened is a few people started reading the literature on how we learn And then they started writing these books about it. [LAUGHTER] And these books encouraged us to do things like retrieval practice and low-stakes tests, and to provide lots of feedback to students. So those people…[LAUGHTER]

Rebecca: I don’t know any of them.

John: …but as a result of that many people started changing the way they teach in response to this. So some of it is you brought this on to all of us by sharing… [LAUGHTER]

Linda: I apologize.

Todd: Sorry about that.

Linda: I apologize.

Todd: We apologize and you know, I will say too is, so yeah, sorry. Sorry about doing that. But I’m glad you said that.

Linda: We made the job harder didn’t we?

Todd: We did, but you know to just be fair for Linda and I as well as I still remember a faculty member calling me, It must have been about 20 years ago, and I just started doing a little bit of Faculty Development, she was crying, she had given her first assignment in terms of a paper. And she said, I’m sitting here with a stack of papers, and I don’t know how to grade them. And it got me thinking a little bit, how many of the aspects of the job that we’re required to do, were we trained to do? And that’s the stuff that Linda was mentioning as well, is nobody taught me. I’m an industrial psychologist. And so nobody taught me the strategies for delivering information to a group of 200 people. Nobody taught me how to grade essay tests. Nobody taught me how to grade presentations, I didn’t know about fair use and how I could use things. I mean, you go through and list all of the things that you’re required to do. And then look at all the things you were trained to do. And this is tough. And that changed. So I have one quick one I’ll mention is I was hired as an adjunct faculty member before I got my first tenure-track job. And I was teaching 4-4. So I had four classes in the fall, four classes in the spring. And about halfway through the spring, I ran into the department chair, and I was interested to see if I was going to be able to come back and I said, “Hey, Mike, how am I doing?” And this was at Central Michigan University, a pretty good sized school. He said, “You were fantastic.” And I said, “Excellent. What have you heard?” He said, “absolutely nothing.” So when it comes to teaching, what I learned was: research, you had to do well, and teaching, you had to not do terribly. And that is what you were mentioning has changed is now you’re kind of expected to do teaching as well.

Rebecca: And there’s a lot more research in the area now too. So sometimes it’s hard to keep up on it. So books like this can be really helpful in providing a lot of that research in one place.

John: And both of you have written many good books that have guided many, many faculty in their careers, and eliminated that gap between what we’re trained to do and what we actually have to do.

Rebecca: So of course, we want to know when we can have this book in our hands.

Todd: Good news for this book, which is exciting because we really cranked away on this thing and it’s listed in Amazon as being due on April 25. But it actually went to press on January 23. So it’s already out and about three months ahead of schedule.

John: Excellent. We’re looking forward to it. I’ve had my copy on preorder since I saw a tweet about this. I think it was your tweet, Todd, a while back. And I’m very much looking forward to receiving a copy of it.

Todd: Excellent. We’re looking forward to people being able to benefit from copies of it.

Rebecca: So we always wrap up by asking what’s next.

Todd: It’s hard to tell what’s next because I’m exhausted from what’s been [LAUGHTER] ever moving forward, as I’m working on and just finishing a book right now that’s to help faculty in the first year of their teaching. So it’s basically off to a good start. It’s what specifically faculty should do in the first year of getting a teaching position. And aside from that, probably working on my next jigsaw puzzle, I like to do the great big jigsaw puzzles. And so I just finished one that had 33,600 pieces. It is five feet….

Rebecca: Did you say 33,000 pieces?

Todd: No, I said 33,600 pieces.It was the 600 that…

Rebecca: Oh, ok.

Todd: …was difficult. [LAUGHTER]

Rebecca: Yeah.

Todd: When the puzzle is done, it has standard sized pieces, and it is five feet by 20 feet. So I just enjoy massively putting something together. It’s very challenging. So quite frankly, for those about and listening to this is if you imagine 33,600 puzzle pieces, that’s about as many studies as Linda and I have read to put this book together. [LAUGHTER]

Linda: Nothing to it. [LAUGHTER]

Todd: So that’s it for me. [LAUGHTER] Linda, what are you up to these days?

Linda: Oh, well, I live in la la land. So I’m still doing workshops and webinars and things like that mostly on my books of various kinds, various teaching topics. But I think what I want to do is retake up pastels and charcoals. My father was a commercial artist. And so he got me into pastels and charcoals when I was in high school. Well and then I dropped it to go off to college. Well, I want to get back into it in addition to working at the animal shelter. I know. It’s la la land and I wish la la land on everybody that I like.[LAUGHTER] I hope you all go to la la land and enjoy being a four year old all over again, because that’s the way I feel. I adapted to retirement in about 24 hours. That’s pushing it… you know, it’s more like four. But anyway, I slept on it. [LAUGHTER] That was the end of it. But I know I eased into it. I eased into it. I was still writing. I was still doing, especially before the pandemic, a lot of speaking. So then the pandemic hit and it just turned into online everything. And now I’m back on the road again, to a certain extent. I love it. So anyway, it’s a nice balance. So yeah, I wish you all la la land too.

Todd: That’s great.

Rebecca: That’s something to aspire to.

Todd: Yeah, it is. But you know, since you mentioned the speaking things, I just have to do the quick plug here. Linda, I think you and I, years and years ago, were joking around at POD about who would be the first one to get to the 50 states and have done a presentation in every state. And so I gotta tell you, I’m not even sure where you’re at in the mix, but I am at 49 states. And if any of your listeners are in North Dakota, [LAUGHTER] I could certainly use a phone call from North Dakota.

Linda: Well, I want to go to Vermont. I have not been to Vermont…

Todd: Oh, you haven’t.

Linda: …to give a presentation. So I would enjoy that. But I’ll go to Hawaii. I’ll do anything in Hawaii for you. Absolutely anything. [LAUGHTER] I’ll do gardening, [LAUGHTER] I’ll do dishes, your laundry. I don’t care.

Todd: That is good. Yeah, Linda and I had this gig. It was a long, long time ago. And I don’t know, it must have been 20 years ago we talked about it even. And there was some rules too. You had to be invited. And there had to be some kind of an honorarium or just I mean, it didn’t have to be much, but the concept was you just couldn’t show up at a state and start talking. [LAUGHTER] Otherwise, we’d have both been done a long time ago. But yeah,

Linda: Yeah.

Todd: … it was fun. This is the way nerds have fun. [LAUGHTER]

John: Well, that’s a competition that’s benefited again, a lot of people over the years.

Rebecca: Well, thanks so much for joining us. It’s great to see both of you again, and we look forward to seeing your new book.

Linda: Thank you for this opportunity. It was a pleasure.

Todd: It was so much fun. Thank you


John: If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast service. To continue the conversation, join us on our Tea for Teaching Facebook page.

Rebecca: You can find show notes, transcripts and other materials on teaforteaching.com. Music by Michael Gary Brewer.