Logo for University of Montana Teaching Excellence Initiative: Improving Student Learning

To support UM’s focus on improving student success and learning, the Faculty Development Office (FDO), Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences, and the Office of the Provost are launching the Teaching Excellence Initiative (TEI). The TEI aims to provide new sources of support and recognition for outstanding teaching at UM. The project has three goals:

  • Support and recognize teaching approaches that have been shown to be effective in improving student learning.
  • Help instructors collect formative assessments of student learning around critical concepts and use student feedback to inform their pedagogy.
  • Create opportunities for faculty members to work together to experiment and innovate with their teaching and share findings about student learning with other instructors at UM and across the country.

Kickoff Event February 1, 2019

From 8:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. on Friday, February 1, we will kick off the Teaching Excellence Initiative with a morning of sessions on active learning, student engagement, and effective assessments. Provost Harbor will discuss his priorities related to teaching and there will be many opportunities to connect with other instructors. Please consult the full agenda for the TEI event and register in advance.

Faculty Inquiry Projects

This spring, we will be running two Faculty Inquiry Projects on improving students' understanding and skills via active learning opportunities. A collegial group of faculty members will review research findings on how people learn, and explore a range of teaching and assessment techniques shown to foster engagement and deeper learning. Discussions and resources will attend to a range of disciplines and learning contexts (e.g., online and face-to-face, graduate and undergraduate, various class sizes). Apply to participate by February 8. For more information, see the Spring 2019 FIP application.

Online Platform for Teaching and Assessments

This spring, we plan to develop a mechanism for sharing teaching strategies and approaches our faculty members and graduate instructors have found to be effective. Want to get involved in shaping this new resource? We welcome your input and insights! Contact Amy Kinch.

Scientific Teaching Institute

Sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning, and the Helmsley Charitable Trust, this Institute will bring national teaching experts to UM to share learning strategies that have been shown to improve student understanding and success in STEM courses. Participants will develop an original course module as part of the workshop and be named Scientific Teaching Fellows.

Online Course for Instructors

Coming summer 2019!  This online course will be open to any instructional faculty at UM and graduate instructors. Oriented toward those new to teaching, it will offer an introduction to ways to engage students and to gauge their level of understanding. The course will offer strategies for designing lessons with multiple ways to present course content, engage with material, and demonstrate learning. 

Open Educational Resources Call for Proposals

Open educational resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research resources licensed to permit their free use. These resources can include anything from course notes to an open textbook or entire course. OER can provide more equitable access to course content and promote student retention. UM's new OER@UMT initiative offers grants for faculty to review existing OERs or to adopt, adapt or create them for their courses.

In addition to the TEI efforts, these existing initiatives also support student engagement:

Pedagogy Project

Each year a group of faculty participate in the Small Group Analysis Program of the Pedagogy Project, an opportunity to give and receive feedback on classroom instruction. This small group analysis process allows instructors to receive feedback from their students while their course is in process. 

Learning Assistant Program

The Learning Assistant Program at UM pairs high-performing undergraduate students with faculty focused on transforming their courses into engaging, active learning based courses. To learn how to add a learning assistant to your course, contact David Erickson, Professor, Teaching and Learning or Josh Herring, Learning Assistant Program Coordinator.

Writing Assessment Workshop

This spring the ASCRC Writing Committee will host its annual writing assessment workshop to engage cross-disciplinary conversations about teaching writing at UM. Attendees will explore confidential writing samples from Intermediate Writing courses, learn to use the UPWA Holistic Rubric to assess various qualities in the samples, and discuss disciplinary differences in our expectations of student writing. This workshop will run from 9am-3pm on Friday, April 12 and requires registration.