Chickering and Gamson 7 Rules for Undergraduate Education

Last Updated: September 21st, 2015

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7 principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education
By Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson

Foundations in Education

“The Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” was published in 1987 by Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson. In 1991 Chickering and Gamson published a book entitled “Applying the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. The original article and book are based on decades of research on undergraduate education supported by the Association for Higher Education, The Education Commission of States, and the Johnson Foundation.

The Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education

  1. Encourage contact between students and faculty
  2. Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students
  3. Encourage active learning
  4. Give prompt feedback
  5. Emphasize time on task
  6. Communicate high expectations
  7. Respect diverse talents and ways of learning

Educational Influence

From “The Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education:”

“These seven principles are not ten commandments shrunk to a 20th century attention span. They are intended as guidelines for faculty members, students, and administrators – with support from state agencies and trustees — to improve teaching and learning. These principles seem like good common sense, and they are — because many teachers and students have experienced them and because research supports them. They rest on 50 years of research on the way teachers teach and students learn, how students work and play with one another, and how students and faculty talk to each other.”

Application to All Courses

The following information includes an explanation of each of the 7 Rules of Undergraduate Education as well as examples of how an instructor may apply the 7 rules in the development and instruction of all courses including online, hybrid and regular enrollment courses.

  1. Encourage contact between students and faculty: “Frequent interaction with faculty members is more strongly related to satisfaction with college than any other type of involvement, or, indeed, any other student or institutional characteristic.” (Astin, 1985, pp. 133-151)
    • Utilize virtual or regular classroom environments to hold synchronous class activities and provide opportunities for the students to interact with the instructor at a distance by using Big Blue Button.
    • Provide personal feedback quickly to students on assignments and assessments.  Utilize rubrics for projects and papers to standardize grading and provide built-in feedback.
    • Hold office hours, virtual and in person, make opportunities for review sessions and study groups using a virtual classroom or the chat feature of your Learning Management System (LMS).
    • Provide opportunities for discussions using discussion activities and comment on student posts to show a “presence” in the course. Give work and study groups discussion boards for their use and “check-in” to see how students are progressing.
  2. Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students: “Students’ academic performance and satisfaction at college are tied closely to involvement with faculty and other students around substantive work.” (Light,1992, p. 18)
    • Provide opportunities for collaboration such as discussion, group projects and assignments, and peer evaluation. Utilize the tools in an LMS to provide students with a discussion and collaboration space.
  3. Encourage active learning: Learning is not a spectator sport. To internalize learning students must talk about what they are learning, write reflectively about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives.
    • Provide opportunities for students to interact with content during presentations or lectures utilizing tools such as Voice Thread, blogs, or live classroom response systems.
    • Allow students to relate the material to their own interests through written essays, Voice Thread presentations, projects, and so on. Encourage self-evaluation and peer-review. Provide students with rubrics for evaluation and have multiple students evaluate the same project by using the collaboration tools, chats, or discussion boards.
    • Discover the various communication tools and applications of your LMS such as Voice Thread, web conferencing, or your LMS’s chat tool to provide opportunities to interact with the content and each other.
  4. Give prompt feedback: Knowing what they know and don’t know helps the student focus learning.
    • Respond to student queries and problems quickly. Utilize Facebook, Twitter, or your LMS chat function during or after a lecture to provide opportunities for students to ask questions.
    • Utilize rubrics for grading projects and papers to standardize grading and provide prompt feedback to students.
    • Utilize low-stakes assessments to provide students with frequent assessments of their learning and provide frequent feedback on progress.
    • Provide frequently updated student grades by using the gradebook feature in your LMS.
    • Respond to distance students within a 24 hour time period if possible. If this is not realistic for the instructor, outline in the syllabus what students can expect for instructor response times.
  5. Emphasize time on task: Time plus energy equals learning. Learning to use one’s time well is critical for students and professionals alike. Allocating realistic amounts of time means effective learning for students and effective teaching for faculty.
    • Emphasize deadlines in the syllabus and provide students with reminders about upcoming deadlines. Utilize social network platforms or LMS announcements to send brief reminders or bits of information to students.
    • Give consistent and frequent deadlines to distance students such as weekly discussion requirements by the same day/time each week, low-stakes quizzes on the same day/time each week, and weekly reminders to continue work on long-term projects.
    • Break large projects into smaller, more manageable pieces and require students to hit benchmarks during the duration of the project. For example, require students to present a brainstorming list, an outline, resources, a rough draft, and a final draft to a paper or project.
  6. Communicate high expectations: Expect more and you will get it. High expectations are important for everyone – for the poorly prepared, for those unwilling to exert themselves, and for the bright and well-motivated. Expecting students to perform well becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    • Provide students with detailed explanations and expectations in the syllabus.
    • Provide students with rubrics for projects and papers detailing what must be accomplished and the grade value for each item. This allows students to know exactly what is expected of them.
    • Set realistic expectations for course activities and assessments that communicate high but attainable expectations.
  7. Respect diverse talents and ways of learning: Many roads lead to learning. Different students bring different talents and styles to college. Brilliant students in a seminar might be all thumbs in a lab or studio; students rich in hands-on experience may not do so well with theory. Students need opportunities to show their talents and learn in ways that work for them. Then they can be pushed to learn in new ways that do not come so easily.
    • Develop and implement the course using proven learning theories.
    • Incorporate a variety of activities into the course including collaboration, group and individual projects, papers, low stakes assessments, and discussions to reach a variety of learning styles.
    • Present course materials in a variety of methods to reach the most learning styles possible.

Getting Started

7 principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education
By Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson

  1. Encourage contact between students and faculty
    • Employ various communication mechanisms such as discussion boards and blogs as well as traditional face to face methods.
  2. Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students
    • Get students working with one another on substantive tasks, in and out of class.
    • Encourage collaborative learning and assign collaborative learning activities such as group work, group presentations, debate, and discussion.
  3. Encourage active learning
    • Have students write about and discuss what they are learning.
    • Use problems, questions, issues, polls, and case studies as points of entry into the subject and as sources of motivation for sustained inquiry.
    • Make courses assignment-centered rather than merely text- and lecture-centered.
    • Foster and encourage collaborative and hands-on learning such as labs, practical application, and presentations.
  4. Give prompt feedback
    • Knowing what they know and don’t know helps students focus learning.
    • Students need help in assessing existing knowledge and competence.
    • Students need frequent opportunities to perform and receive feedback on their performance.
    • Students need chances to reflect on what they have learned, what they still need to know, and how they might assess themselves.
  5. Emphasize time on task
    • Set deadlines for assignments and tasks.
    • Set several deadlines for larger assignments. For example: outline, rough draft, first draft, final draft, and final paper deadlines.
    • Help students achieve expectations.
  6. Communicate high expectations
    • Make standards and grading criteria explicit.
    • Set high yet realistic expectations for your students.
  7. Respect diverse talents and ways of learning.

Additional Resources

Articles – Journal and Academic

Articles – Blogs, Websites, Wikis

  • A counter-response: Education in 2030: A blog article from on educational methods and policy including discussion on the implementation of Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles of Good Practice for Undergraduate Education.
  • Implementing the Seven Principles: An article form the Teaching, Learning, and Technology Group on utilizing technology as a lever for applying the Seven Principles.
  • Wikipedia – Positive Education: A wiki article on methodologies and research on positive education including information on Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles of Good Practice for Undergraduate Education.


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