Teaching Practices is one of the four pieces of the the Fearless Teaching Framework. Learn more about the other pieces: ContentClimate, and Assessments

Teaching Practices that promote student engagement rely on a supportive, active, and responsive pedagogy. For example, providing students with clear expectations and timely feedback has been shown to promote student engagement and learning, because students are better equipped to meet the demands of the course, and adjust their approach over time. We believe that Fearless teachers improve teaching and learning by reflecting on how they engage students with active pedagogy, clear expectations and feedback, and intentional lesson design.

Varied & Diverse: Fearless teachers have a toolbox of teaching techniques and technologies to add variety to how students engage with course content. Research suggests that using varied practices better addresses the principles of Universal Design but also increases student success (Rose & Meyer, 2002). For example, Doymus (2008) found that students who learned about chemical bonding with a jigsaw teaching practice were more successful than students in regular small group structures.

Active & Collaborative: Structuring learning so that students are required to respond to one another’s ideas, create a product together, and teach each other, can be an effective teaching strategy. Collaborative or cooperative learning has stimulated significant literature. Relying on strategies beyone lecturing can promote student engagement and learning (Forsyth, 2016). Fearless teachers use many practices and tools to engage learners in active and collaborative learning. Learn about strategies here:

Connect & Scaffold: Scaffolding – explicitly connecting new ideas onto pre-existing knowledge and skills without going too far too fast – is related to better learning outcomes (Bruner, 1961Van de Pol, Volman, & Beishuizen, 2010). Research shows that scaffolding is an effective instructional strategy for metacognition and cognitive activities (Van de Pol, Volman, & Beishuizen, 2010). Fearless teachers develop appropriate and well-sequenced scaffolds that connect new content to earlier topics already mastered by learners.

Explain Relevance: Fearless teachers encourage intrinsic motivation by explaining the relevance of the topics to their learning and career goals. DeLong and Winter (2002) developed “cues” for showing students the appeal and relevance of the course topics such as saying, “This next topic is something that we’ll use again and again. It contains really valuable ideas that we’ll use throughout the later sections of the course” (DeLong & Winter, 2002, p.165).

Clear, High, and Reasonable Expectations: By being consistent with praise, rubrics, and mastery goals, Fearless teachers set high expectations that can motivate students to stay engaged. When teachers provide comfort instead of coaching during failure or praise accomplishing simple tasks they signal that they don’t believe the learner is capable of high-intelligence tasks. A 2012 study of the relationship between a fixed theory of intelligence and instructor comfort by Rattan, Good, & Dweck found that instructors who held a fixed theory of intelligence gave perceived low-intelligence students comfort based on low expectations which resulted in lower student reported motivation and expectations.


  • Pick one practice to improve upon it this semester. 
  • Plan a mid-semester evaluation to touch base with your students about their progress and content understanding. 
  • Start using Active and Collaborative practices such as Think-pair-share:
    • Give students a discussion prompt, question, short problem, or issue to consider. Individuals work briefly on a response. Peers report their responses to each other in pairs. Some (or all) pairs summarize their discussion for the large group.
  • Try using practices that vary the students’ experiences like jigsaw cooperation practices (Doymus, 2008). 


  • In 1989, Arthur W. Chickering, Zelda F. Gamson, and Louis M. Barsi created a series of inventories related to the seven principles in an effort to help faculty self-evaluate and improve their teaching, and those inventories remain well-respected to date. Copies of the “Faculty Inventory: 7 Basic Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” are available at the TLTC, and you are encouraged to request a copy or find them online.


  • Cuseo, J.B. (1996). Cooperative Learning: A Pedagogy for Addressing Contemporary Challenges & Critical Issues in Higher Education Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press.
  • Davidson, N. & Worsham, T. (Eds.). (1992). Enhancing Thinking through Cooperative Learning. New York: Teachers College Press. DeLong, M., & Winter, D. (2002). Strategies for Motivating Students. In Learning to Teach and Teaching to Learn Mathematics (pp. 159-168). Mathematical Association of America. Retrieved from
  • Stein, R. F. & Hurd, S. (2000). Using Student Teams in the Classroom: A Faculty Guide. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company Inc. 
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