Bain Book Review

Ken Bain does an excellent job of summarizing ways to be a successful and effective teacher in institutions of higher education. The constant self-reflections and assessment of educators can positively impact students and also help students feel encouraged and inspired to do more. Even with the helpful information there are some generalizations that could present challenges when applying the information provided because no institution is the same and cultural and social current events and problems can rarely be predicted before they have an impact on students and the classroom. Early in the book Bain provides very helpful insight for things that can lay the foundation for being a successful teacher or instructor. However, some key concepts, although likely correct, still are not specific to some extreme circumstances that could be encountered. “Human beings are curious animals. People learn naturally while trying to solve problems that concern them” (Bain, 2004). As more students become exposed to conditions that may make them become apathetic in personal and educational situations teachers must learn to adapt to generations of students who may have become indifferent to matters  they feel they cannot control. Although public elementary, middle and secondary education institutions encounter many problems bringing students from various backgrounds together in a classroom means that even the best practices may often fell. Bain’s teachings seemed to have a “how to” feel to them. The advice is well supported and scholarly, but it still cannot be applied to every situation. The book left me wondering if a teacher reading it who applied every suggestion in the book without making any needed adjustments based on their institution or students would still be a successful teacher.

Some of the views and suggestions made by Bain seem subjective. How fair a professor is or is not is often measured by the grade the student receives. Perception does matter, but how much attention should teachers’ pay to their student’s assessments of fairness, particularly if they received a less than desirable grade.  Bain suggests that, “good teaching can be learned”(Bain, 2004). Is it possible for a teacher to be trained and taught the best practices for teaching in higher education and still not be a good teacher? Yes, people can always improve, but there is a reason for diversity in occupation and some people are not meant to be teachers in institutions of higher education and Bain’s philosophy does not seem to account for that.

With the increasing influence and importance placed on scholarly research, pedagogy is often overlooked in preparation for training faculty in higher education. Planning questions prior to teaching is something that may not always done but is often beneficial. It was helpful to be reminded of the importance of being able to anticipate questions and answers prior to a lecture. Bain’s process almost seemed to suggest that the instructor prepare presentations in reverse order to account for questions and answers from students. This can be especially helpful when some students struggle more than others because the teacher would not automatically be assuming that solely presenting the information would result in every student having an understanding. Understanding and respecting differences is a necessity in education.

Bain’s recommendations provide a great structure for educational exchanges between professors and students. There were some concepts that were harder to process than others. Although teachers should find ways engage students regardless of perceived intellectual ability post-secondary education presents a number of challenges. As mentioned the backgrounds of students will vary greatly and with that diversity it can also be hard to see sustainable and noticeable gains in each student. Bain also places importance on using diverse methods in the classroom. Are there times where diversity in teaching techniques may not be the best thing? Depending on the discipline, length of class time, class size and a number of other uncontrollable factors how to create different types of instruction may be harder.

This book offered useful advice but could be considered over generalized. Respecting students, providing different ways for students to learn and engage and open communication are beneficial in most environments both inside and outside of the classroom. However, as educational environments encounter additional outside pressures such as student learning deficits, workplace safety and skills that connect learning and practical knowledge some of Bain’s suggestions may be hard to enact during a semester. In summary, best practices are helpful, but should not be considered conclusive.



2 thoughts on “Bain Book Review”

  1. Hi LeNa’,

    Your Bain review was extremely thought-provoking. I was caught up in Bain’s optimism and enthusiasm that I admittedly didn’t read his book through as critical a lens. There were times during my read that I was skeptical of Bain’s advice, particularly regarding how much instructors should trust that students will meet expectations. I didn’t consider the fact that his more general advice may not translate in every classroom or with all students. One major take-away from Bain’s book for me was that he believes that if teachers have the right attitudes and intentions going into teaching, that the rest can be learned and will come later. Although I agree that the right attitude and intentions matter tremendously, you are also right in bringing up the question of pedagogy. Given your own experience, what specifics could you fill in that are missing from Bain’s book? Do you believe that regardless of training and effort that some individuals are not meant to be teachers?


  2. Hi LeNa,

    I really enjoyed reading your post. I especially liked the insight that you provided into Bain’s suggestion that “humans are curious”. I appreciate the perspective that you took on this suggesting the teachers role in the changing curiosity of students. I also liked your discussion about student engagement. You mentioned achieving engagement may be difficult considering the diverse backgrounds of students. What do you think an instructor should do if he or she finds themselves in this situation?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s