1 Chapter 1: Introduction to Core Teaching Skills

Guiding Questions for Chapter 1

  1. What is the purpose of this class and how will it help me become an effective teacher?
  2. What are the assignments for this class?
  3. How is this class organized?
  4. How can I be successful in this class?

Why Teach?

People go into teaching for a variety of reasons but all great teachers are focused on their students. It is appropriate for you to start thinking about how you would like your students to remember you. . . . What kind of teacher do YOU want to become? What do you need to do to become THAT kind of teacher? Set high expectations for yourself; just as you will for your students. Great teaching is, among other things, an ART.  That doesn’t mean that some people are born to teach; rather, like artists, great teachers hone their craft by practicing basic skills; apply important principles to new situations; learn from experience; share ideas with others; develop an understanding of your audience; and ??  You get the gist.  There is also a SCIENCE of teaching (as there is to other forms of art–don’t think about that one too much just yet) that is important as well.  We’ll discuss those elements more later in the course and book.

You might also appreciate the perspectives of of a veteran, award winning educator: Heller, Rafael. “WHY WE TEACH: A Conversation with Sonia Nieto.” Phi Delta Kappan 101, no. 8 (May 2020): 31–36.

Effective teachers not only know where they come from, they also know where they are going. They have a clear sense of purpose—from both a personal and societal perspective.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

Here’s how some of your K-State College of Education students have answered that question.

Getting Started

You’re joining an amazing profession that will provide you and your future students years of meaningful engagement. Like all teachers, we want to help you figure out the world of around you, specifically the world of students, teachers, and schools. Effective teachers perceive, analyze, communicate, and engage the world in particular ways.

This course is one step in a lifelong journey. You’ll have additional coursework, teaching opportunities, and, most importantly, additional time to identify and articulate the skills and values that define you as a teacher. Great teachers seek balance among the virtues of effective teachers, the ideal and reality; the theory and practice; as well as the art and science.

It’s a wonderful journey, so let’s get started.

Throughout this course, continually ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the central acts of teaching?
  • How do effective teachers plan so all students can learn?
  • How does assessment frame instruction and aid student learning?
  • What techniques, strategies, and methods promote student learning?
  • How do effective teachers manage classrooms to create positive learning environments?
  • How do teachers improve their instruction?
  • What are the attitudes, dispositions, and contributions of teachers with a high level of professionalism?

Focus on these questions in terms of what effective experienced teachers do and in terms of what you will attempt to do as a novice teacher.

Highly effective teachers, those who motivate and maximize learning, vary. There is no single personality type, lesson model, classroom management strategy, or assessment scheme that will guarantee success.

In this course, we are on a quest to explore the concepts, skills, and attitudes that will increase your chances for success. Although we will isolate various ideas (e.g., how do I ask a meaningful question?), it is the unique combination of those ideas that will power your teaching.

Effective Teaching: Big Picture Context

Becoming an effective teacher requires some sense of history (as a history teacher, I would argue being a thoughtful human being requires some sense of history!). Although you are just beginning your career as a teacher, human beings have been teaching and learning for thousands of years.  In short, we have always been involved in some form of conscious social reproduction. Students, parents, and government officials ask, “What is most important to learn and how is it best taught?”

The answers to these questions have varied through the years. Highly effective teachers should have some sense of where they come from. Watch this brief video on the history of education in the United States.

Read: Labaree, David F. 2011. “Consuming the Public School.” Educational Theory 61 (4): 381–94.


  1. What major developments in education do you anticipate in the course of your career?
  2. What do you believe is the primary purpose of pre-collegiate education in the United States?
  3. What is your primary role as a teacher?
  4. What do you need to become an effective teacher?

How Will EDCI 320 Core Teaching Skills Help Me Become an Effective Teacher?

Teaching and learning are complex activities that often defy simple explanation or description.  Everyday, teachers face scores of decisions that influence student learning and development.  Even seemingly simple decisions may be more complex than they appear. Should you allow a student to turn in her paper late?  How should you respond to Josh and Steve who are talking, again?  What should you teach next week and how should it be organized?  How should you evaluate your unit on mammals?  This course is based on the assumption that the best teachers critically consider what to teach, how to teach, and how to assess students and their classes–before, during, and after instruction.  In other words, the best teachers are equipped with a well-developed and thoughtful intellectual framework that helps them to make sound educational decisions based upon the myriad of factors that influence those decisions.  EDCI 320 will enable you to further develop your own framework-of ideas, skills, and dispositions-that will help you make educational/teaching decisions and empower you to act on those decisions.

What are the Learning Objectives for EDCI 320?

Everything we do in this class is connected to one or more of the following learning objectives/outcomes. Effective teaching is, among other things, purposeful.

As a result of the learning opportunities and activities of this course, the learner will be able to:

  • perceive, interpret, and evaluate important issues in the landscape of teaching;
  • identify, describe, and use the skills, personality traits, and teaching strategies of effective teachers;
  • use professional language to describe curriculum, instruction, and assessment;
  • use pedagogical content knowledge to evaluate teaching and to make wise professional judgments;
  • plan clear, coherent, and standards-based lessons and units consistent with your beliefs about teaching, learning, and schools;
  • use a wide variety of resources to enhance curriculum, instruction, and assessment;
  • assess student readiness, progress, and mastery;
  • identify and describe issues, concepts, and skills that help to create a positive learning environment; and
  • appreciate the diverse needs of learners and explain how to address differences among learners.

We will check in on these again at the end of the course and ask ourselves, “Did we accomplish these objectives?”

What are the Assignments for the Class?

You will have a variety of assignments during the course; your syllabus will provide specifics.  All of the assignments further the learning objectives above. More specific expectations will be provided as the course develops.   Types of assignments include homework, worksheets, class activities, presentations, micro-teaches, and lesson plans, among others. Likewise, course participation and professionalism will be a part of your course grade.

Course Participation & Professionalism 

This portion of your grade is related to both the quality and quantity of your participation and interaction with your classmates, other professionals, and me.  The ability to discuss and analyze differences in professional philosophy from an open, honest, and mutually supportive perspective is a key element of professionalism.

How can I be a Successful in this Course and as a Pre-service Teacher?

  • Positive Attitude. Every day, every student, and nearly every situation are unique in teaching and preparing to be a teacher. Try as best you can to maintain a positive attitude–even when the chips are down!
  • Independence. This is a professional program that you have chosen as a career. We will not prescriptively tell you everything you need to do–that’s called learning to follow directions, not learning to teach.
  • Communicate. Keep the lines of communication open and clear with your instructors, with your CTs (once you are in the schools), and with everyone else with whom you interact professionally.
  • Big Picture. Keep the big picture in mind as you are going through the teaching program–you are doing all of this so you can be the very best teacher you can possibly become. Great students are able to find value in their assignments and experiences. If you come across ANYTHING in this class that you think will not have an impact on your teaching, contact us immediately and, if you are correct, we will remove the superfluous assignment or activity.
  • Work Hard. How much you get out of EDCI 320 is usually proportional to the amount of work you are willing to expend.

How Is this Text Organized?


Chapter 1: Introduction to Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

Guiding Questions for Chapter 1:

  1. What is the purpose of this class and how will it help me become an effective teacher?
  2. What are the assignments for this class?
  3. How is this class organized?
  4. How can I be successful in this class?

Chapter 2: Practical Wisdom

Guiding Questions for Chapter 2:

  1. What is practical wisdom?
  2. How does practical wisdom connect to teaching?
  3. How does understanding practical wisdom help me become a better teacher?

Chapter 3: The Personal Attributes and Skills of Effective Teachers

Guiding Questions for Chapter 3:

  1. What personality traits seem most related to effective teaching?
  2. What skills seem most related to effective teaching?
  3. What personality traits or skills do I currently possess that will help me be an effective teacher?
  4. What personality traits or skills will I need to work on most to be an effective teacher?

Chapter 4: The Art and Science of Teaching—Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Guiding Questions for Chapter 4:

  1. What is pedagogical content knowledge?
  2. How does knowledge of student development and learning influence teaching?
  3. How does knowledge of content influence teaching?
  4. How does a knowledge of methods, strategies, and skills influence teaching?

Chapter 5: Content Standards

Guiding Questions for Chapter 5:

  1. What is the content scope and sequence for content standards in my subject(s)?
  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of content standards?
  3. What are the most important ideas and skills you will be responsible for teaching?
  4. How do wise teachers maximize the use of content standards?
  5. What is Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)?

Chapter 6: Curriculum Planning

Guiding Questions for Chapter 6:

  1. What resources are available to teachers to plan the curriculum?
  2. What are the strengths and weaknesses of Understanding by Design as a model for curriculum planning?
  3. What is Bloom’s Taxonomy and how does it help teachers construct questions and objectives?
  4. How do effective teachers plan clear, coherent, and standards-based lessons?
  5. How do effective teachers plan clear, coherent, and standards-based mini-units?

Chapter 7: Teaching All Students

Guiding Questions for Chapter 7:

  1. In what ways are students alike and in what ways are they are unique?
  2. How do teachers effectively meet the needs of diverse learners in their classroom?

Chapter 8: Research-Based Instructional Strategies

Guiding Questions for Chapter 8:

  1. What are research-based teaching strategies?
  2. How do effective teachers think about teaching strategies?
  3. How do effective teachers maximize the use of research-based teaching strategies?

Chapter 9: Assessment and Classroom Management

Guiding Questions for Chapter 9:

  1. What key terms are associated with assessment and classroom management?
  2. How do teachers assess student learning, mastery, and achievement?
  3. How do teachers provide a safe, healthy, and productive learning environment?
  4. What important principles will guide your assessment and classroom management decisions?

Chapter 10: Curriculum Mini-Unit

Guiding Questions for Chapter 10:

  1. How does my curriculum unit represent my ideas about curriculum, instruction, and assessment?

Bonus Chapter : Legal Issues in Teaching (can be completed anytime or not at all)

Guiding Questions for Bonus Chapter:

  1. What are the sources of laws, policies, and regulations that govern public schools and teachers?


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Core Teaching Skills Copyright © 2020 by Thomas Vontz and Lori Goodson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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