Defining Teaching Excellence
In defining teaching excellence, the definition should be shaped and customized by
disciplinary context, modality, student characteristics, and many other factors. With
this acknowledgement, the definition and key pillars provided below serve as a starting
point for conversations about what teaching excellence looks like in various academic
areas. A revised definition might be created by a department and used as a transparent
guide for expectations of the department's teaching culture.
The pillars below often complement each other, and areas of overlap do exist. The definition focuses on classroom teaching, whether that be face-to-face, online, or hybrid, rather than other forms of teaching such as mentoring, undergraduate research, or study abroad.
Texas Tech University is committed to evidence-based, inclusive, innovative, engaging, and empowering teaching and learning.
With an appreciation for research and evidence, effective teachers recognize the usefulness of proven foundational pedagogical approaches to facilitate and encourage learning. Excellent teachers are purposeful in using approaches or strategies informed by contemporary theory and practice relevant to their discipline, if available. If not available, they seek evidence to establish and track the effectiveness of new and emerging methods they or others have created.
Exemplary teachers design personalized learning opportunities that are inclusive, collaborative and equitable, thereby creating learning environments that support student success and wellness and that anticipate a variety of life experiences, identities, and perspectives students may have. These teachers value and ensure opportunities for students to talk about what and how they are learning.
Effective teachers are in tune with their audiences and adapt to their students' needs. They use a variety of instructional techniques, and they understand that excellent teaching is reflective and evolving. Thus, they are open-minded about ways to improve their teaching and explore opportunities to create and incorporate new knowledge, strategies or technologies to enhance learning.
Excellent teachers help learners develop as independent, critical thinkers by actively engaging students in the learning process. These teachers are intentional about identifying the relevancy of course content to students by sharing their sincere interest in the topic and when relevant, their own research in a way that extends beyond the classroom.
Learning happens best when teachers express genuine care and concern for the whole student – mind, body and spirit. This care is often demonstrated through frequent student-faculty interactions and by teachers who communicate high expectations. Using a student-centered approach to teaching encourages a growth mindset and creates a supportive environment that can facilitate transformative learning opportunities.