Resources for Teaching Excellence at West Point

Tips for Teaching

Find help and resources about how learning occurs, planning, classroom management, and more. 

Learning Assumptions

 

The following are only a few assumptions about learning that tend to be recognized throughout education literature as fundamental to the planning of an education program. These assumptions came from the general field of educational philosophy.

  1. Persons at all ages have the potential to learn, with some learning faster than others. Age may or may not affect a person's speed of learning, and individuals vary in way they like to learn.
  2. The individual experiencing a change process, such as a new learning situation, is likely to feel stress and confusion. Some anxiety often increases motivation to learn, but too much anxiety may cause fatigue, inability to concentrate, resentments, and other barriers to leaning. Learning is more comfortable and effective when the environmental conditions support open exchange, sharing of opinions, and problem-solving strategies. The atmosphere should foster trust and acceptance of different ideas and values.
  3. In the classroom the instructor facilitates learning by incorporating students' experience, observations of others, and personal ideas and feelings. Exposure to varied behavior models and attitudes helps learners to clarify actions and beliefs that will aid in meeting their own learning goals.
  4. The depth of long-term learning may depend on the extent to which learners try to analyze, clarify, or articulate their experiences to others in their family, work or social groups. The depth of learning increases when new concepts and skills are useful in meeting current needs or problems. This allows for immediate application of the theory to a practical situation.
  5. An educational program may only provide one step in an individual's progress toward acquiring new behaviors. The adoption of a new behavior depends on many factors. Some conditions predispose and individual to take a particular action, such as former knowledge and attitudes. Availability and access to resources, such as exercise or practice facilities, may enable a person to carry out new plans of actions. Other environmental conditions and family characteristics help to reinforce or hinder behavior changes.
  6. Learning improves when the learner is an active participant in the educational process. When selecting among several teaching methods, it is best to choose the method that allows the learning to become most involved. Using varied methods of teaching helps the learner maintain interest and may help to reinforce concepts without being repetitious. In recent years teachers have found that many principles of adult learning also apply to children and adolescents. For example, adults and children prefer learning experiences that are participatory; they learn faster when new concepts are useful in their present as well as future lives. The roles of an educator for the young and elderly person is to assess the audience's interest, current skills, and aims. This information then guides the structuring of a learning atmosphere and selection of methods most satisfying and effective for the learners.

Teaching at West Point: An Introduction

As a West Point instructor, whether military officer or civilian, you will play a vital role in your country’s future. The United States Military Academy is charged with educating, training, and inspiring young Americans to provide the nation with leaders of character who serve the common defense. 

New Instructor Information

 

As a West Point instructor, whether military officer or civilian, you will play a vital role in your country’s future. The United States Military Academy is charged with educating, training, and inspiring young Americans to provide the nation with leaders of character who serve the common defense. The mission of the Academy is:

  • to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country; professional growth throughout a career as an officer in the United States Army; and a lifetime of selfless service to the Nation.

West Point provides graduates with a solid foundation for the intellectual growth that is essential for successfully handling high-level responsibilities in national service. As a member of the faculty, you will play an essential role in the accomplishment of that mission.

In coming to the Academy, you will find colleagues who will assist you in becoming familiar with your responsibilities and will provide a supportive climate that encourages and inspires quality instruction. Because so many new instructors arrive annually, the Academy provides extensive faculty development programs in academic departments throughout the summer.

However, there is general information about West Point and is common across departments, and that is the basis of the information provided on this website. It's designed to be a quick and easy introduction to teaching at USMA. 

Information Resources

Reading lists, research, and online resources for instructors.

Websites

 

  • Berkeley Compendium of Suggestions for Teaching with Excellence – This is a great site for browsing on topics related to actual classroom instruction. As its title says, it is a compendium of teaching tips based on interviews with University of California at Berkeley faculty members offering suggestions on encouraging class discussion, motivating students’ best work and similar useful topics.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education – News, articles, job postings, current events, etc for education professionals.
  • Classroom Assessment Techniques – This site presents a useful compilation of CATs mostly adapted from the Tom Angelo and Pat Cross publication: Classroom Assessment Techniques. Also shown are useful CAT sites from other institutions.
  • College Level One – This is an incredibly rich site for information about Collaborative Learning and Classroom Assessment. It includes a teaching goals inventory that helps an instructor match the Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) to individual course goals.
  • Copyright and Fair Use Issues – This site includes everything a faculty member should know about copyright and fair use in one central location.
  • The Digital Millenium Copyright Act – On October 12, 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This American Library Association (ALA) site explains the law in detail.
  • Deliberations – This is a good place to browse for articles on teaching at the college level. Deliberations is an electronic journal with articles on various subjects related to teaching and learning.
  • National Teaching and Learning Forum – Provides current issue of the Forum’s newsletter which is an EXCELLENT resource for anyone in higher education interested in teaching and learning.
  • No Significant Difference – The original research behind No Significant Difference posed the concept that the quality of teaching is far more important than the type of teaching strategy used (thus the idea that there is no significant difference between teaching strategies in terms of outcomes produced). The website continues to provide cutting edge research in education, both those that show no significant difference between teaching strategies, and those that do show significant difference. This is a useful resource for teaching research.
  • Teaching Tips – This site’s title is too modest. It has a plethora of brief articles on a wide range of subjects related to teachers and students, teaching and learning. It’s worth browsing on a regular basis.
  • The World Lecture Hall – The World Lecture Hall (WLH) is a well-known site that is extremely valuable for instructors. It contains links to pages created by faculty worldwide who are using the Web to deliver class materials. For example, you will find course syllabi, assignments, lecture notes, exams, class calendars, multimedia textbooks, etc. Even if you never plan to use the Web, you can browse in other people’s courses and garner useful ideas for teaching!

Reading Lists

 

  • Lowman, J. (2000). Mastering the Techniques of Teaching, Jossey-Bass, 2nd ed. San Francisco.
  • Davis, B.G. (1993). Tools for Teaching, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
  • McKeachie, W. J. and Svinicki, M. (2006). McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, 12th Ed., Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
  • Bain, K. (2004). What the Best College Teachers Do, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA.
  • Angelo, T. A., and Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
  • Barkley, E., Cross, K.P. and Major, C.H (2004). Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
  • Bloom, B. S., ed. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Longman, New York.
  • Brookfield, S.D. (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
  • Brookfield, S.D. (2006). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
  • Browne, M. N., and Keeley, S. M. (2006). Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking, 8th Ed. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
  • Cross, K. P. & Steadman, M. H. (1996). Classroom Research: Implementing the Scholarship of Teaching, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
  • Epstein, J. (1981). Masters: Portraits of great teachers, Basic Books, New York. Filene, P. & Bain. K. (2005). The Joy of Teaching: A Practical Guide for New College Instructors, University of North Carolina Press.
  • Fink, L.D. (2003). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco
  • Gregory, J. M. (2007). The Seven Laws of Teaching, Kessinger Publishing, LLC.
  • Orlich, et al (2006). Teaching Strategies, A Guide to Better Instruction, 8th Ed D.C. Heath and Co., Lexington, MA.
  • Wankat, P. C., and Oreovicz, F. S. (1993). Teaching Engineering, McGraw-Hill, New York. (Note: useful for all disciplines).
  • Wankat. P.C. (2001). The Effective, Efficient Professor, Allyn & Bacon, Boston.

 

Teacher Evaluation

A collection of assessments, worksheets, and other observations forms.

Faculty Teaching and Assessment

 

By Dr. Mark D. Evans, CFE Director

Faculty assessment and evaluation at USMA should seek to aid faculty development as teachers. The process should begin very early by articulating the mission, goals and vision of the department (consistent with the Academy’s) and/or describing how department leaders interpret those of the Academy.

That is, consistent with the Academy’s mission, goals, and vision, departments should articulate to what activities faculty members should be allocating their time. Models of “right” should be presented to faculty, not models that need to be mimicked, but models that present a mark on the wall — “this is what success looks like.” Leaders should be distributing their own support form, or a simpler version describing what MAJ X or CPT Y’s support forms might look like. Early counseling should include opportunities for new faculty to ask questions and make suggestions regarding their prioritization of activities, to see if they have properly interpreted their leader’s intentions.

In addition, leaders should provide spot-checks to provide formative feedback. The emphasis is on early formative feedback, not waiting to provide final evaluations at the end of the review cycle. So, leaders should routinely be visiting junior faculty classrooms to see how they are doing and to provide formative feedback.

Thanks for all of your efforts to actively guide the development of our junior faculty.

Contact Us

 

 LTC Ben Wallen, Chief of FLICR (Faculty Learning, Innovation, Collaboration, and Research)

 Dr. Mark Evans, Director, Center for Teaching Excellence

 Dr. Steve Finn, Associate Director, Center for Teaching Excellence

Suggestions for improvements to this website or best practices to capture? Please send them to Mr. Patrick Gill, Instructional Technology Director.