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Attaining Excellence in Teaching Effectiveness

Faculty at UConn should be actively encouraged and expected to pursue excellence in teaching, and the University must support diverse paths to achieving this goal. We define excellence in teaching as the successful engagement of our students in learning, experimenting, and achieving their full potential. We seek to foster a bold and innovative spirit in faculty teaching, and in this academic vision, identify new ways to reach even higher standards of excellence in faculty teaching endeavors. We encourage our faculty colleagues to reward creativity, risk-taking, and collaboration, and to foster teaching partnerships as optimal ways to encourage students’ learning and pursuit of creative work and transformative ideas. We expect strong teaching from UConn faculty, teaching that encompasses multiple approaches for student learning and engagement. Our students learn in different ways, increasingly relying on and leveraging technology.

Our faculty must also teach in innovative ways to engage and educate all students that fosters a spirit of inquiry. Our students will pursue knowledge and develop intellectual curiosity; acquire a lifelong love of learning and discover how to learn independently; learn to make the world a better place by giving of one’s time and talents; celebrate and learn from our diversity; and promote global education on campus and abroad.

We will continue to support faculty who aspire to become great teachers. Two years ago, we expanded our outreach in the Institute for Teaching and Learning, a part of our newly formed Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. We offer increasing levels of assistance to improve teaching, including mentorships, classroom observations, teaching enhancement plans, individual consultation, coaching for presentation skills, and a series of lunchtime seminars on innovative topics such as flipped classrooms and hybrid teaching. We provide financial incentives for teaching and learning innovation, faculty learning communities, as well as discussions of pertinent and provocative books. We also offer innovative teaching institutes for faculty and teaching assistants, as well as access to a network of our exemplary professors who have agreed to enable teaching assistants and junior faculty to observe their classrooms.

We also provide, in many departments, teaching and research mentors that are discipline-based. In addition, we offer multiple services in our eCampus branch of the Center to help faculty integrate technology into teaching, online and hybrid courses. Our efforts have succeeded, as approximately 40 percent of our faculty recently earned a score of 4.5 and higher on our 5.0 teaching evaluations. Beyond this, however, we know that many UConn faculty inspire our students to achieve excellence, encouraging students to become creators of knowledge, capable of making creative discoveries and disseminating transformative ideas in the future.

To continue to improve teaching, we will ensure that excellence in teaching is considered in the promotion, tenure, and reappointment process. We also suggest that all departments strongly consider awarding merit pay to those who excel in teaching. We recognize that faculty who decide to refocus their careers away from more active research will be expected to teach higher loads, and policy changes must enable those who teach more to benefit from merit for excellence in teaching. We also suggest that a faculty committee consider the adoption of a post-tenure review process to support ongoing professional development of senior faculty, something that has not been previously implemented at UConn.

To promote excellence in teaching, we will:

• Emphasize teaching performance in merit evaluation and promotion, tenure, and reappointment decisions;

• Establish innovation funds for curriculum development;

• Reward excellence in teaching and advising;

• Implement midterm, formative Student Evaluations of Teaching to provide feedback;

• Investigate, with appropriate senate committees, ways of sharing Student Evaluations of Teaching with our students;

• Strengthen opportunities at our Institute for Teaching and Learning (with faculty leaders) to train all new and underperforming faculty, develop a process for peer evaluation of teaching, and invest in advanced classrooms, collaboration spaces and technologies to reflect modern learning modalities.