Seven Principles of Effective Teaching

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Simply put, good teaching online is good teaching. It isn't primarily about technology. Indeed, a sleek, highly produced online course steeped in technological bells and whistles will not compensate for an underlying lack of thoughtfulness and intention about the teaching and learning relationships and practices at its core. This is what matters most, and what ideally guides design.

In the 1980’s, educational researchers Chickering and Gamson established The 7 Principles of Good Teaching in Undergraduate Education. These principles continue to exemplify good teaching today - and apply to the context of adult learning as well.They are below along with some exaples of putting them into practice:

  1. Encourage student-faculty contact - Through introductions, announcements, online office hours, and prompt response to student questions and concerns
  2. Encourage cooperation among students - Through all-class or small-group discussions and well-supported group work using both asynchronous and synchronous collaboration tools
  3. Encourage active learning - As discussed in the Active Learning unit
  4. Give prompt feedback - Including both summative and formative feedback
  5. Provide clear instructions regarding due dates and participation - Emphasizing the need to spend as much (or more) time on online elements as well as in-person class activities. At the same time, be reasonable in your expectations regarding quantity of reading and work in both face to face and online modalities.
  6. Provide clear expectations for student work - And participation through rubrics, examples, and carefully detailed guidelines
  7. Use multiple means of instruction, engagement, and assessment - Such as audio, video, screencasts, diagrams, etc. to make learning accessible for all students

Chickering and Gamson’s widely-cited 1987 article, Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education is available here:

A decade after the initial publication of their research, they published a short piece that considers how technology can be leveraged to practice the seven principles. Please read Implementing the seven principles: Technology as Lever available here:

The following article, by Dr. Oliver Dreon of Millersville University, takes a more in-depth look at how to apply the 7 principles: Applying the Seven Principles for Good Practice to the Online Classroom. Available here:

Teaching as Humanizing Practices

At California State University Channel Islands, the Teaching and Learning Innovations team has developed expertise around "humanizing" online learning. This is really about presence. Leading this effort, Michelle Pacansky-Brock is an educator and researcher of online learning who is making important contributions to the work of humanizing online learning. This section of the module introduces you to her work, for background, strategies, and inspiration.

She synthesizes effective strategies, tools and practices in the following two documents/infographics:

Behaviors & Strategies for Improving Instructor Presence in Online Classes available here:

How to Humanize Your Online Class available here:


Within a conventional classroom experience, assssments most often mean tests or quizzes. These assessments are often over-represented because they require low effort to administer, are easy to 'score', and align easily to the provision of student grades. To their credit, when thoughtfully created and aligned to pre-determined objectives, these kinds of assessments can produce a strong impression of student learning. The Learning Management System (e.g. Canvas) automates a great deal of the labor of designing, administrating, and grading assessments of this kind, too.

But for the online classroom, the conventional multiple choice and short answer assessment presents new challenges. Think back to the Seven Principles of Good Practice:

  1. Encourage contact between students and faculty
  2. Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students
  3. Encourage active learning
  4. Give prompt feedback
  5. Emphasize time on task
  6. Communicate high expectations
  7. Respect diverse talents and ways of learning

How might online assessments work with or against these seven principles? What is your experience with online tests as an instructor? As a learner? How might over-reliance upon online tests and quizzes negatively impact the online student experience?

What follows is an exploration of ways to modify the conventional online exam that build reciprocity and cooperation, respect diverse ways of learning, and encourage active learning without sacrificing prompt feedback.

Formative Assessment

A pre-quiz to measure learners' background subject knowledge

A free-write activity gauging student understanding of an important concept

A pop-up question embedded into a video lecture to encourage more active engagement

A directed reflection (video, audio, or written) submitted at the end of class

These and similar tasks and techniques help determine the effectiveness of one's instruction, and are most helpful when employed to provide feedback at strategic points along the way. They are examples of formative assessment. Formative assessment provides insight to instructors.These insights then guide modification.This might mean slowing down to more thoroughly cover material, or it may mean speeding things up. When used normatively, formative assessments can reveal a need to make slight changes for the benefit of particular students.These adjustments often can be made more effectively, and with better long-term outcomes for learning, than those made after poor results are achieved on high-stakes tests.

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)

Formative assessment is about deriving feedback when it can matter most. This is especially important within the context of the online classroom. Carnegie Mellon University's Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation provides a good list of what are called Classroom Assessment Techniques, available here:

Another concise guide from the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Iowa State University is availabe here: Please have a look at both.

Do you utilize any of these techniques? Do you have any others of your own to share? Most importantly, can you imagine ways formative assessment can be adapted to the online classroom?

Summative Assessment

Summative assessment, or assessment of learning, determines a learner's mastery of material after instruction has occurred. Summative assessments may also attempt to align programmatic objectives to evidence of student learning. These assessments tend to fall at the end of particular units or at key points in the semester (e.g., mid-terms and finals). Most often, summative assessments come with high stakes for learners. Performance generally translates into course grades.

Within an online classroom emphasizing active learning, high stakes summative assessments present challenges. Some courses necessitate learners to commit large amounts of declarative or procedural knowledge to memory. This foundational or requisite learning can be efficiently and fairly evaluated by conventional summative assessments.

But with creative modifications, summative assessments can be re-worked to build social presence and incorporate more collaborative and active learning characteristics. As José Antonio Bowen writes in The Teaching Naked Cycle , "the world is 'open book': when was the last time you were asked to produce work without access to the Internet or other sources?" The online classroom requires a reconsideration of the proportion of assessments of learning to the overall student grade. Similarly, the nature of questions within a summative assessment needs to adapt.

The Team Test Technique

One strategy might be to assign a Team Test. Canvas supports question banks and question grouping for test building. Team Tests may have students work synchronously via Zoom to provide a single negotiated answer to each question. Another possibility is to administer round one of a test individually, and then have a second round soon after that re-orders questions for a Team Test assigned to small groups. In either scenario, learning is more collaborative and engaged. The social bonds and student learning communities are strengthened by the designed interaction. Grading can be averaged across the two rounds of test taking, lessening learner anxiety around high-stakes assessments.

Can you imagine using this technique in your online course? Do you have material well-suited to this approach? Can you think of other ways that conventional test/quiz assessments can be adapted to reflect the 7 Principles of Good Practice?

Your Trail Guide

For guidance and support on the path to developing your online course, we encourage you to use Open SUNY Course Quality Review (OSCQR) every step of the way. OSCQR helps ensure quality in online course design through its standards and robust repository of helpful resources and examples. More about OSCQR can be found here:

Specific quality standards related to good teaching, or overview and information, can be found here:

OSCQR items 1 - 10

Specific quality standards related to assessment and feedback can be found here:

OSCQR 44 - 50

In the next module we will learn more about Peer Review and the emphasis we place on peer learning, and how working with cohort members and Digital Faculty Fellows can benefit online course design.