Teaching Excellence

 What is Teaching Excellence?

Inclusive, Engaged, Research-Led Teaching at the University of Oregon

The University of Oregon is committed to exceptional teaching, discovery, and service. Achieving excellence in teaching means first defining it to reflect the best of what we know about how people learn and the rich practices that characterize the work of UO’s distinguished faculty. TEP and the Provost’s Teaching Academy offer “inclusive, engaged, and research-led” as broad principles to define teaching excellence. These principles are reflected in the selection criteria for UO’s distinguished teaching awards and Williams fellowships.

Here is some of what these principles mean in practice.

Inclusive Teaching

Inclusive teaching engages and values every student and attends to the social and emotional climate of the classroom [1]. A broad philosophy that should be realized in each and every UO course by each and every UO teacher, inclusion is enacted through particular choices faculty make in their presentation of self and content and through deliberate ways of drawing on assets each student brings to the classroom.

Specifically, UO faculty...

  • Take concrete steps to attend to the social and emotional dynamics of the class, including:
    • Conveying that each student matters and brings valuable assets and goals to their work.
    • Introducing the instructor’s own intellectual journey and process of expert thought.
    • Ensuring that the course materials expand the racial, ethnic, gender and ability diversity of the field and the contested and evolving status of knowledge.
    • Deploying a range of methods to engage students and bring out their strengths.
  • Call students by their chosen names and pronouns.
  • Know students’ goals for their learning and find ways to explicitly link the concerns of the course to students’ own concerns.
  • Maximize student motivation by leveraging students’ sense of the relevance, rigor, and supportiveness of a course—and of their own self efficacy within it.
  • Design courses with physical and content accessibility in mind.

Engaged Teaching

Engaged teachers participate in ongoing professional development, experimentation, and reflection about their work; they are connected to campus, national, and scholarly conversations about teaching and learning.

Specifically, UO faculty...

  • Reflect on their teaching practice, making changes over time that are informed by experimentation, professional teaching development, collegial interactions and class observations, and the scholarship of teaching and learning.
  • Know the UO policy and support resources that surround their teaching; know the UO policy and support resources relevant to their students.

Research-led Teaching

Research-led teaching means the university’s research mission infuses into its undergraduate program. Or, as the 1998 Boyer Commission put it: “The teaching responsibility of the university is to make undergraduates participants in the [research] mission.” This can be as simple as faculty leading with questions and modeling expert thought by “thinking aloud” when encountering problems. It can be as significant as partnering with students to create new knowledge.

A crucial second meaning of research-led is that it’s informed by what we know about how students learn: actively, in contexts of high challenge and support, through collaborative work across differences of identity and viewpoint in response to frequent feedback, and with deliberate reflection on and integration of ideas across contexts.

Specifically, UO faculty...

  • Communicate compelling goals for student learning and design courses tightly aligned with those goals (backward design). [1]
  • Clearly convey the purpose, process for completion, and criteria for evaluation of class assignments before students begin work (transparency). [2]
  • Build occasions for student reflection about their own learning processes, challenges, and growth (metacognition). [3] [4] [5]
  • Use students’ time in and out of class strategically by, for example:
    • assigning preparatory work to get more out of class time; [6]
    • using class time to harness the power and energy of the peer community to share demonstrations, real-time experiences, new scenarios, problems, artifacts, and complications that capture students’ knowledge and skills; [7] [8]
    • following class with opportunities for reinforcement and reflection; [3] [9]
  • Give students simple, helpful feedback on low-stakes practice. [10] [11]
  • Help students understand the process of inquiry and expert thought, including through multiple means of expression and representation.

Works Cited  

[1]  G. Wiggins and J. McTighe, Understanding by Design, 2nd ed., Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005.  

[2]  M.-A. Winkelmes, M. Bernacki, J. Butler, M. Zochowski, J. Golanics and e. al., "A Teaching Intervention that Increases Underserved College Students' Success," Peer Review, vol. 18, no. 1/2, pp. 31-36, 2016.  

[3]  P. C. Brown, H. L. Roediger and M. A. McDaniel, Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 2014.  

[4]  S. A. Ambrose, M. W. Bridges, M. DiPietro, M. C. Lovett and M. K. Norman, How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching, Hoboken, New Jersey: Jossey-Bass, 2010.  

[5]  C. Dirks, M. P. Wenderoth and M. Withers, Assessment in the College Classroom, New York: W. H. Freeman, 2014.  

[6]  S. Freeman, D. Haak and M. P. Wenderoth, "Increased Course Structure Improves Performance in Introductory Biology," CBE-Life Sciences Education, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 175-186, 2011.  

[7]  C. Crouch and E. Mazur, "Peer Instruction: Ten Years of Experience and Results," American Journal of Physics, vol. 69, pp. 970-977, 2001.  

[8]  S. Freeman, S. L. Eddy, M. McDonough, M. K. Smith, N. Okoroafor, H. Jordt and M. P. Wenderoth, “Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 111, no. 23, p. 8410–8415, 2015.  

[9]  P. Connor-Greene, "Making Connections: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Journal Writing in Enhancing Student Learning," Teaching of Psychology, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 44-46, 2000.  

[10]  D. J. Nicol and D. Macfarlane-Dick, "Formative Assessment and Self-Regulated Learning: A Model and Seven Principles of Good Feedback Practice," Studies in Higher Education, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 199-218, 2006.

[11]  D. S. Yeager, V. Purdie-Vaughns, J. Garcia and e. al., "Breaking the Cycle of Mistrust: Wise Interventions to Provide Critical Feedback Across the Racial Divide," Journal of Educational Psychology: General, vol. 143, no. 2, pp. 804-824, 2014.