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What Makes Good Teaching?

In a short documentary, three HGSE students — now alumni — interviewed faculty to find out what good teachers have in common

November 6, 2014
three students in front of widener library

In the midst of their master’s work at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Ray Ward, Catherine Park, and Kevin Lee — all Ed.M.’14 — embarked on a mission to answer the question, “What makes good teaching?”

With the help of classmates and faculty members from HGSE and Columbia’s Teachers College, Ward, Park, and Lee received a bounty of answers, many of which can be found in their 12-minute film.

With commentary from HGSE faculty including Heather Hill, Paul Reville, Chris Dede, Kay Merseth, and Terrence Tivnan, along with Christopher Emdin from Teachers College, the film sheds light on strategies, advice, and approaches that make a difference in the classroom, including:

  • Know who the student is, and what they care about.
  • Model how to learn really well.
  • Focus on students; utilize empathy.
  • Establish a personal relationship with students to better engage them.
  • Take your students seriously. Treat them as people capable of sophisticated thought.
  • Be able to think on your feet and improvise
  • Love to learn.
  • Be reflective.
  • Pay attention to how you’re communicating. Tone of voice is important.


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