Teaching Best Practices

This page provides a compilation of research-based overviews for best practices in teaching at the higher education level. 


  • Group work, team quizzes, and peer teaching are all examples of classroom collaboration that play an important role in students’ learning experiences. There are certain things faculty should be aware of in order to ensure collaborative learning goes smoothly.
  • In the context of collaborative learning environments, there is a positive relationship between high social self-efficacy and grades and leaders in groups tend to have higher social self-efficacy than followers. It is important to keep this in mind when creating curriculum (Curseu, Chappin, & Jansen, 2018).
  • In regards to group-work at the higher education level, free-riding and communication issues are among the greatest concerns (Hall & Buzwell, 2012; Smith et al., 2011; Popov et al., 2012). It’s also important to consider how to move through socio-emotional challenges in group work. For example, students may be frustrated to be receiving the same grade as their non-contributing group member(s). Faculty should identify free-riding behavior early to reduce its impact (Hall & Buzwell, 2012).
  • Faculty should also be able to recognize and respond to the socio-emotional challenges in group work. Research shows that group work challenges need to be resolved on the emotional level, not just the cognitive level, in order for work to get accomplished (Naykki et al., 2014).
  • Students’ cultural background, specifically measured on the individualist-collectivist dimension, affects their perceptions/importance of group work challenges. For example, there may be different expectations with respect to learning in groups and the behavioral motives of others, which may lead to conflict (Popov et al., 2012).
  • The higher proportion of women in groups, and the group level need for cognition and core self-evaluations positively predicted discussion quality, which in terms predicted group academic performance (Curseu, Chappin, & Jansen, 2018).
  • When quizzes are both collaborative (discussing in pairs how to answer questions) and open-book, students perform better on their final exams and projects (Rezaei, 2015)
  • Professors report that peer teaching benefits students’ critical thinking, communication, and personal development, but not necessarily their academic development (Stigmar, 2016).

  • Students prefer active learning and it has been shown to increase engagement (Fook, 2012; Ní Raghallaigh & Cunniffee, 2013). However, a learning environment that is safe and welcoming, where students can take risks, give opinions, and reflect together is critical to the success of the active learning methodology. The teacher-student relationship also plays a role in the success of the methods used (Ní Raghallaigh & Cunniffee, 2013).
  • Flipped classrooms—an instructional model in which the most lecture material is filmed and viewed by students for prior to class and the class session is spent primarily on engaging activities—are related to academic gains, higher levels of self-efficacy beliefs, increased creativity, better peer interaction, and improved faculty and student class satisfaction (Jensen, Kummer, Godoy, 2015; Kurt, 2017; Al-Zahrani, 2015; O’Flaherty & Phillips, 2015; Zainuddin & Perera, 2019; Thai De Wever & Valcke, 2017). More specifically, the active learning component of the flipped classroom that leads to higher learning gains and better attitudes, rather than the flipped classroom itself (Jensen, Kummer, & Godoy, 2015). 
  • Graduate and credential students have been shown to benefit from the flipped classroom model. Preservice teachers displayed higher levels of reflection and inquiry and modelled a higher number of instructional strategies compared to their peers that received traditional instruction. Master’s students demonstrated more critical thinking and better peer collaboration than their peers receiving traditional instruction. (Vaughan, 2014; Moraros et al., 2015).
  • Flipped classroom design is important for its success. Some faculty run into issues with the flipped classroom when students are not preparing outside of the class and are not able to fully engage in classroom activities (Al-Zahrani, 2015). Flipped classroom design must include an opportunity for students to gain first exposure prior to class, enough time for students to carry out assignments, and an incentive for students to prepare (Kim, Kim, Khera, Getman, 2014).