The Best Teachers Institute draws on the research and expertise of Ken Bain and James Lang, two of the leading writers and consultants in higher education today, and on the experience and expertise of our fellows


Register Now for 2019 Summer Institute.  Limited Space

Ken Bain, an award-winning teacher and writer, is the author of What the Best College Teachers Do (Harvard University Press, 2004), which won the 2004 Virginia and Warren Stone Prize for an outstanding book on education and society, and has been one of the top selling books on teaching and learning.  It has been translated into twelve languages and was the subject of an award-winning television documentary series in 2007.  The sequel, What the Best College Students Do, also from Harvard University Press, won the Virginia and Warren Stone Prize in 2012, and has become an international best seller.   Ken is an historian whose books in that area focus primarily on mid 20th century US political history, and include The March to Zion and the forthcoming Last Journey Home: Killing Roosevelt.  He founded teaching centers at four major universities (Vanderbilt, Northwestern, NYU, and Montclair State), served as a professor of history for more than thirty years (winning several teaching awards), and held various administrative posts, including vice provost and provost.  He has given invited workshops or lectures at over six hundred schools and events--in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.  He has worked with elementary and secondary schools, universities and colleges, and has served as a special consultant with various governments (including the European Union) and with institutions around the world. Follow Ken on Twitter @KenBain1 and click here for an extended bio.

James Lang is the author of Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning (Jossey-Bass, 2016), a new book that draws on recent research in the learning sciences to help college faculty create dynamic and engaging courses, Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty (Harvard University Press, 2013), which provides an overview of how both institutions and individual faculty members can help create cultures of academic integrity on their campuses, and On Course: A Week-by-Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching (Harvard University Press, 2010), which provides anecdotes and concrete suggestions for inexperienced and veteran teachers, keeping them on course as they navigate the calms and storms of classroom life.  James writes a monthly column on teaching and learning for The Chronicle of Higher Education, where he introduces readers each month to new research, programs, and people that support excellence in higher education.  He edits a new series of books on teaching and learning in higher education for the University of West Virginia Press, and in 2016 he won a Fulbright Specialist Grant to work with three universities in Colombia on the creation of online resources in teaching and learning for Latin American faculty.  He has given workshops or consultations at more than one hundred colleges or universities in the US and abroad. Follow James on Twitter @LangOnCourse and click here for James's CV.

Register Now for 2019 Summer Institute.  Limited Space

Melinda Maris, Ph.D., is an award-winning educator and scientist whose work is transforming the way we approach teaching and learning in all disciplines.  She is a pioneer in the field of teaching and learning using evidence-based methods, and she has established herself as one of the rising stars using research to improve student learning.  As a testament to her expertise, talent, and reputation as one of today’s leading educational thinkers, she is widely sought to deliver seminars and lead workshops on evidence-based teaching and learning strategies at institutions around the world.  Dr. Maris is passionate about creating student-centered learning environments grounded in research on how people learn.  She has a proven record of successfully launching new academic initiatives, having established six new teaching and learning support centers at different institutions over the course of her career thus far.

 Dr. Maris earned her B.S. in biology from the College of William and Mary and her Ph.D. in genetics and molecular biology from Emory University.  She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at the Johns Hopkins University, and she held her first faculty position at Johns Hopkins  She has been Dean of Teaching and Learning, Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, and Associate Professor of Biology at Southern Vermont College, and Director of the Instructional Resource Center and faculty member with the biotechnology program at Johns Hopkins University.  Currently, she is the Director of Academic Programs with the National Institutes of Health’s Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences and a faculty member with the Center for Biotechnology Education at the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Maris has held faculty positions, student support positions, and faculty development positions at a wide range of institutions around the world, from organizations for gifted children to community colleges to liberal arts institutes to medical schools, providing her with insight into diverse learning environments.  Her research contributes to the body of data validating the efficacy of active learning methods, and she has received highly competitive grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to implement transformative, evidence-based undergraduate science courses. 

 Dr. Maris is a passionate advocate for increased educational access and opportunities for historically marginalized populations.  She has a deep commitment to serving students who are the first in their families to attend college, from low-income households, and from underrepresented backgrounds.  Over the course of her career, she has intentionally sought positions at institutions with a primary focus on serving these student populations.  In her role at Southern Vermont College, she had oversight for the College’s federally-funded TRIO grant, which provides academic opportunities and support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.  She advocates on Capitol Hill to increase pathways and reduce barriers to higher education, and she regularly serves as an adviser to policymakers on issues of educational equity, access, and retention.

 Dr. Maris is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including being selected as a member of the inaugural class of Emory University’s 40 Under Forty recognition program.  She was named a Biology Scholar by the National Science Foundation.

Register Now for 2019 Summer Institute.  Limited Space

Stu Rosner.jpg

Eric Mazur Ph.D., is the Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics and Dean of Applied Physics at Harvard University, member of the Faculty of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and President of the Optical Society.  Mazur is a prominent physicist known for his contributions in nanophotonics, an internationally recognized educational innovator, and a sought after speaker. In education he is widely known for his work on Peer Instruction, an interactive teaching method aimed at engaging students in the classroom and beyond. In 2014 Mazur became the inaugural recipient of the Minerva Prize for Advancements in Higher Education. He has received many awards for his work in physics and in education and has founded several successful companies. Mazur is Chief Academic Advisor for Turning Technologies, a company developing interactive response systems for the education market. Mazur has widely published in peer-reviewed journals and holds numerous patents. He has also written extensively on education and is the author of Peer Instruction: A User's Manual (Prentice Hall, 1997), a book that explains how to teach large lecture classes interactively, and of the Principles and Practice of Physics (Pearson, 2015), a book that presents a groundbreaking new approach to teaching introductory calculus-based physics.

Mazur is a leading speaker on optics and on education. His motivational programs on interactive teaching, educational technology, and assessment have inspired people around the world to change their approach to teaching.


The Best Teachers Institute fellows include a range of other experts in the specific areas in which you might be seeking help for your institution.  We work to put together a team that will meet your individual institutional needs, drawing on award-winning faculty in multiple disciplines and leading thinkers and visionaries in the field of higher education teaching and learning.

The Best Teachers Institute has also provided its consultation and workshop services to a limited number of secondary institutions that are striving to meet the highest standards of excellence for their students.


Michelle D. Miller is the author of Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology (Harvard University Press, 2014), a guide to enhancing blended, hybrid, and online courses through the application of principles from cognitive and brain sciences. Her academic background is in cognitive psychology, emphasizing memory, attention, and language processing; her current research focuses on evidence-based pedagogy, distraction and learning, and effective college teaching, which she has written about in scholarly as well as general-interest publications including College Teaching, Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, Inside Higher Ed, and The Conversation.

Michelle is a Professor of Psychological Sciences and President’s Distinguished Teaching Fellow at Northern Arizona University. At NAU, she co-created and currently directs the First Year Learning Initiative, a program that supports faculty in redesigning foundational courses in ways that promote student success. She also co-created the award-winning Attention Matters!™ module, an educational resource that uses interactive online activities to teach students about how divided attention affects learning, and offers strategies for fighting digital distraction. Follow Michelle on Twitter at @MDMillerPHD and click here for her Minds Online blog.  She will join the Summer Institute as our remote "Ask the Cognitive Scientist" expert on the second day.

The Best Teachers Institute fellows include a range of other experts in the specific areas in which you might be seeking help for your institution.  We work to put together a team that will meet your individual institutional needs, drawing on award-winning faculty in multiple disciplines and leading thinkers and visionaries in the field of higher education teaching and learning.

The Best Teachers Institute has also provided its consultation and workshop services to a limited number of secondary institutions that are striving to meet the highest standards of excellence for their students.

Diana M. Thomas is an award winning teacher and the recipient of the Mathematical Association of America’s Distinguished Teaching Award and nationally recognized for her evidence based approaches to teaching and research across mathematics, medicine and the humanities.  She received her Ph.D. from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1996. She then completed a National Research Council funded post-doctoral fellowship at the United States Military Academy and the Army Research Laboratory.   She is currently a visiting professor of mathematics at the United States Military Academy and the director of the Center for Quantitative Obesity Research at Montclair State University in New Jersey.   The Center serves as a unique STEM educational facility housing students from five different departments across campus who work together to develop unique solutions for individuals affected by obesity.  She holds joint research appointments at the Columbia University New York Obesity Research Center and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana and serves on the editorial board for The Journal of Obesity and Metabolic Research, PloS One, and the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.    Her work has been covered by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fitness Magazine, Good Housekeeping, CBS News, and ABC News. She serves as a Principle Investigator on several NIH funded awards one of which is a short course that brings together individuals from the mathematical sciences and clinical fields to develop careers at the interface of several disciplines.

Jeanette Norden (Ph.D, Vanderbilt), Professor of Neurosciences in the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Cell Biology in the School of Medicine at Vanderbilt University and one of the subjects of the Best Teachers study. She was the first holder of the University Endowed Chair of Teaching Excellence (1994-1997) and also the first recipient of the School of Medicine's Excellence in Teaching Award (2000). She is an extraordinarily gifted educator who has also received numerous awards from students for her teaching. She has been named Best Lecturer in the Medical School, and she has been a multiple recipient of the Medical School's Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award (1993, 1994, 1995,1996) and the Jack Davies Award, presented in recognition of basic science professors who uphold the highest standards of teaching excellence (1992, 1994,1997, 1999). Even early in her career, she was recognized by the students by being awarded the Shovel by the graduating seniors as the professor who had the most positive influence on them in their 4 years of study. Most recently, she received the Robert J. Glaser Award for Outstanding Contributions to Medical Education, a national award from the American Association of Medical Colleges and the medical honor society Alpha Omega Alpha. Her course in Neurosciences to second year students is considered a model course. She has presented invited programs throughout the United States on education reform and acts as a consultant to many different kinds of schools. She maintained an active and NIH-funded research laboratory for twenty years before taking the position of Director of Medical Education in the Department of Cell Biology at Vanderbilt. In addition to her teaching in the medical school, she teaches a highly lauded course in the neurosciences for undergraduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences at Vanderbilt. We have explored and analyzed how she creates a natural critical learning environment in both a large lecture class and a smaller seminar.

Ann Woodworth (M.A., Northwestern) is Associate Professor of Theatre and the Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University, and one of the subjects of the Best Teachers study. Her work on the stage and in directing have won strong praise in the theater, but she has also been one of the most successful and highly acclaimed teachers in the United States, especially recognized for her general insights into the art and craft of teaching and for her work with other faculty members in helping them achieve impressive improvements in their ability to communicate with students. She has conducted a master class for the institute on improving communication techniques in the classroom, in public forums, and in conversations with students.  But she has also dissected her own approaches and developed deep insights into what works best. Professor Woodworth has been a Fellow of the Searle Center for Teaching Excellence since 1993.  In recent years she had taught internationally at the Northwestern campus in the Middle East.


Andrew Kaufman (Ph.D. Stanford University)  An innovative, award-winning scholar and instructor of Russian language, literature and culture at the University of Virginia, Dr. Kaufman has spent the last twenty-five years bringing alive classical literature to diverse audiences. He is the creator and director of the community-based literature program, “Books Behind Bars: Life, Literature and Leadership,” where university students have life-changing discussions about Russian literature with incarcerated youth at juvenile correctional centers in Virginia. The program has been featured in the Washington Post, on Katie Couric, and on Russian national television, and will be the subject of a forthcoming documentary film.  Dr. Kaufman’s research focuses on pedagogical innovation in the humanities, the intersection of literature and practical ethics, and the relevance of classical literature to the social and spiritual challenges of the twenty-first century. An internationally recognized Tolstoy scholar, he is the author of Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times (Simon & Schuster, 2014; paperback 2015), Understanding Tolstoy (Ohio State University Press, 2011; paperback 2014), and numerous scholarly articles published in the U.S. and Russia. He has spoken about his scholarship and teaching innovation at TEDx, the Aspen Institute, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and at colleges and universities across the country, and he is frequently invited to appear on national and international radio and television programs. To learn more about Dr. Kaufman, please visit his website:

Pamela E. Barnett (Ph.D. Emory University) is Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at La Salle University. She is a passionate advocate for bringing the research on how people learn and best teaching practices to academic leadership. Dr. Barnett began her career as a professor of English and African-American studies at the University of South Carolina where she was named an Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 2003. Her book Dangerous Desire: Literature of Sexual Freedom and Sexual Violence Since the Sixties (Routledge, 2004) examines literature written in response to the liberation movement of the 1960s. Her more recent writing aims to advance diversity and inclusion in higher education. She is the author of “Discussions across Difference: Addressing the Affective Dimensions of Teaching Diverse Students about Diversity” (Teaching in Higher Education, 2011), “Unpacking the Teacher’s Invisible Knapsack: Social Identity and Privilege in Higher Education” (Liberal Education, Summer 2013) and “Not Preaching to the Choir: Techniques for Building Trust and Managing Conflict When about Teaching Race ” forthcoming in Stephen Brookfield's Teaching Race (2018).  She has also written about motivation for teaching in higher education, online teaching and advancing organizational change. As plenary speaker at the 2015 Lilly International Conference on College and University Teaching-Bethesda, she gave an address titled "How Good Teaching Can Change the World.”

Kathy Takayama Ph.D., is a Senior Science Education Fellow at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where she collaborates with colleges and universities across the nation through the Inclusive Excellence initiative to increase institutional capacity for inclusion of students from all backgrounds in science. For over 10 years, she was a professor at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia where she received the Australian Society for Microbiology David White Award for Excellence in Teaching; the Australian College of Educators Teaching Award; and the University of New South Wales Vice Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence. Later she was the Executive Director of the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning and professor of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry at Brown University; she then joined Columbia University to become associate provost and founding Executive Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. In 2014 she was elected President of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. She greatly values the perspectives and insights that emerge through cross-disciplinary partnerships beyond the sciences, and has developed identity and inclusivity workshops in collaboration with colleagues in theatre. Among other projects, she worked on a science-arts collaboration with visual artist John Nicholson.

Dr. Takayama was selected as a Carnegie Scholar in 2003 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, and in 2008 was named National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences by the US National Research Council.  Dr. Takayama serves on a number of editorial boards, including the International Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning; Teaching and Learning Inquiry; and as Research Editor of the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education.

Dr. Takayama received her B.S. in Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology from Rutgers Medical School.