Guiding Principles

Teaching, whether it be in the classroom or online environment, is most effective when based on sound principles that have been found to enhance student learning. Extensive research has been done to identify the things that teachers do to help students learn complex concepts, sharpen their thinking skills, write more effectively, engage in productive problem solving, and manage the uncertainties and ambiguities that abound in our world.

In 1987, Chickering and Gamson completed a meta-analysis of research that had been completed in the previous 50 years to identify the key principles that, over and again, were found to facilitate student learning. As a result of that analysis, they identified seven principles of good education that have been supported repeatedly through subsequent research.  (Examples include application of the Chickering and Gamson framework to online teaching by Bangert  (2004), Wingard (2004), and Puzzifero and Shelton (2009).

Chickering and Gamson’s seven principles of good educational practice are as follows:

  • Student-faculty contact
  • Cooperation among students
  • Active learning
  • Prompt feedback
  • Time on task
  • High expectations
  • Diverse talents and ways of knowing

When considering these principles as a guide for teaching in the online environment, one might consider the following:

Good Practice Encourages STUDENT-FACULTY CONTACT

  • Faculty are “present” and “visible” in the course
  • Varied ways of teacher/student interaction are provided
  • Faculty create a learning community where they and students are co-learners
  • Faculty effectively implement four roles – managerial, pedagogical, social, and technical


  • Opportunities are provided where students can teach and learn from one another
  • Students have opportunities to work in small groups
  • Students are encouraged and expected to provide support to their peers
  • Faculty facilitate student learning but, at the same time, let students “go” so they can learn from one another

Good Practice Encourages ACTIVE LEARNING

  • Faculty provide experiences that require students to apply, evaluate and synthesize what is learned
  • Faculty create meaningful activities (relevant, “real life,” and problem-based)
  • Faculty pose questions that stimulate deep, reflective thinking and are provocative
  • Learning activities may be few in number, but they are well-constructed in order to lead to numerous learning outcomes
  • Faculty create a learning environment that promotes/fosters a student’s development as a learner, motivation, and persistence

Good Practice Gives PROMPT FEEDBACK

  • Feedback to students regarding their performance is timely, meaningful/relevant, respectful, constructive, individualized, tied to objectives/expectations, “upbeat” and positive
  • Feedback is formative as well as summative
  • The criteria for evaluating performance are clear and given to students at the start of the course
  • Feedback is thoughtful and criterion-based, and it stimulates students to think more deeply about the material

Good Practice Emphasizes TIME ON TASK

  • Assignments are realistic
  • All course requirements and due dates for them are provided at the start of the course and not changed unless necessary and unless all students are notified
  • The course is well organized from the outset

Good Practice Communicates HIGH EXPECTATIONS

  • Expectations regarding student participation and performance are communicated at the start of the course and communicated clearly
  • All university policies related to student behavior, course integrity, and so on are clear and easily accessible
  • Norms of “netiquette” are established
  • Students are held to high standards regarding their participation in course activities, completion of course requirements, etc. … Mediocrity is not accepted


  • Options for course assignments are provided, invited or permitted, as appropriate to the course goals
  • Varied teaching strategies are used throughout the course
  • Varied methods are used to evaluate student performance
  • The teacher’s written and verbal comments and the design of the course itself reflect a valuing of the contributions and perspectives of all students
  • Learning experiences are designed to help students value the contributions and perspectives of all participants


Bangert, A. W. (2004). The seven principles of good practice: A framework for evaluating on-line teaching. Internet and Higher Education 7 (3), 217-232.

Chickering, A.W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education.  American Association Higher Education Bulletin, 39(7), 3-6.

Puzziferro, M., & Shelton, K. (2009). Supporting online faculty — Revisiting the Seven Principles (a few years later). Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 12(3). Retrieved from

Wingard, R. G. (2004).   Classroom teaching changes in web-enhanced courses: a multi-institutional study, EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 27(1), 26–35.  Retrieved from: