Teaching Excellence Initiative

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  launched 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:

  1. Support and recognize teaching approaches that have been shown to be effective in improving student learning.
  2. Help instructors collect formative assessments of student learning around critical concepts and use student feedback to inform their pedagogy.
  3. 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.

Engaging Teaching Practices Course

Take advantage of our great online resource on Engaging Teaching Practices, which offers an introduction to research on how students learn, clear guidelines for making your courses accessible to all students, and practical strategies for engaging students throughout the semester. The course was created by Morgen Alwell, from our Teaching and Learning Program, and Marlene Zentz, Jo Costello, and Robert Squires from UMOnline. While the course was designed for new faculty and graduate instructors, it offers ideas and resources to anyone engaged in the work of teaching and learning. It also provides critical information on making your courses accessible to all learners. You can self-enroll in Engaging Teaching Practices and have the option to earn a Certificate of Completion for the course or simply use it as a reference.

Mobile Summer Institute on Scientific Teaching (MOSI)

Each summer, this Institute brings national teaching experts to UM for an in-depth study of evidence-based active learning strategies that have been shown to improve student understanding and success. Participants will develop an original course module as part of the workshop and be named Scientific Teaching Fellows.

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 Josh Herring, Learning Assistant Program Coordinator.

Faculty Inquiry Projects

The Office of Organizational Learning and Development is pleased to offer semester-long communities as ways to collaborate with colleagues on in-depth professional development projects. 

Faculty Inquiry Project: Creative Collaboration in the Classroom

This inquiry project invites faculty interested in exploring creative innovation through collaboration with other schools, departments, and community members in the classroom. We will look at different ways to engage students by providing structural and experiential learning opportunities using different cross-disciplinary techniques. Participants will be encouraged to experiment with various collaborative endeavors in their classrooms and share their successes and challenges throughout the semester. MUS Teaching Scholar Michael Cassens from the School of Visual and Media Arts will facilitate this group and offer support to provide meaningful opportunities and pathways for our students. Applications must be submitted by Friday, January 28 at 5 p.m.

This FIP will meet on five Fridays from 11-12:30 p.m.-- February 4, February 18, March 4, March 18, April 1

Faculty Inquiry Project: Taking the Next Steps to Successful Active Learning 

This inquiry project invites faculty who are already implementing student-centered active learning to come together to elevate their active learning practices. In a supportive setting, participants will be encouraged to share any issues with implementation, ask for feedback on lesson plans or class structure design, explore new strategies and techniques, and learn from one another as we take the next steps of making active learning an integral and efficient part of our courses.  

Bonnie Spence from the Department of Teaching and Learning will facilitate this group and offer support as we work together to improve the success of our students through active learning. Applications must be submitted by Friday, January 28 at 5 p.m.

This FIP will meet on five Wednesday afternoons from 2-3:30 p.m.-- February 9, February 23, March 9, March 30, April 13

Virtual Reality Inquiry Project: Integrating this Exciting Technology into Current Curriculum 

Participants will be asked to identify learning outcomes that may positively benefit from an immersive visual experience. Think of traveling inside a cell, walking through a famous museum , being totally immersed in another culture and having to understanding their language... the sky is the limit. During the semester we will identify the proper software to address your classroom outcome and design effective assessments. We will be working with the Oculus 2 headsets and currently have 18 of them to serve an entire class synchronously. MUS Teaching Scholar Katie Holick from the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and the Neuroscience program will be leading this group.  Applications must be submitted by: Friday, January 28 at 5 p.m. 

This FIP will meet five times (in LA 140) on Fridays from 12-1:30: February 18, February 25, March 11, April 8, April 15 

Nurture New STEM Scholars: Mentor Your Graduate Students for Success and Wellbeing 

Three-part Series: Fridays, February 25, March 11, and April 8, 2:30-4 p.m. Apply by January 3, 2022 

How do you define success in your mentoring practice, both for your students and for yourself? Does sustained success in academia depend on wellbeing? Participants in this 3-part workshop series will acquire skills that will allow them to support their students (and themselves!) through the rigors of an academic STEM program. Workshops will include research presentations, case studies, and dynamic discussion oriented toward engaging faculty with practical, applied skills in active listening, effective communication, and de-stigmatizing mental health discussions. 

Individual Session Titles:

  1. Making Connections, Building Context: Insights into Graduate Student Mental Health and Wellbeing
  2. “I Don’t Have Time for this Workshop!” Making Space for Faculty and Student Wellbeing;
  3. Be the Mentor Your Students Need and Want: Skills and Strategies for Successful Communication with Your Graduate Students 


Faculty Inquiry Project: Integrating Active Learning Practices into General Education Courses

Join a group of your faculty peers to explore ways to engage students in general education courses through active learning techniques. Participants in this faculty inquiry group will survey research findings on teaching and learning and apply those findings to their general education classes. Through discussions of methodology, course design, and learning goals, you will exchange ideas and resources with peers from across the university community. An opportunity for introducing new techniques, receiving supportive feedback, and crafting creative teaching approaches. Tobin Miller Shearer, History Professor and MUS Teaching Scholar, will facilitate the group and offer support as you build and develop your classroom instruction. This FIP will meet five times on Wednesday or Friday mornings. 

Faculty Inquiry Project: “It seemed like a good idea at the time” – When active learning meets the reality of the classroom

Join a group of faculty peers who are already implementing student-centered active learning techniques as they work through the missteps, unexpected student responses, and other less-than-perfect classroom outcomes from research-based classroom practice. Learn from others what has worked well and how they have adjusted to unexpected outcomes. Rick Darnell, Instructor, Mathematical Sciences, and Mentor from the Mobile Summer Institute on Scientific Teaching (MoSI), will facilitate this group focused on trying research-based teaching and transforming past stumbles into future successes. This FIP will be meeting 6 times on Tuesdays from 3:30-5.

Global Learning Community

Connect with globally-minded faculty and staff from all across campus as part of a small learning community this spring. MUS Teaching Scholar Sara Schroeder, an instructor at the English Language Institute, will facilitate meetings in which staff and faculty share ideas on creating more intercultural exchange at University of Montana. Meetings will likely be on Wednesday afternoons.

Faculty Inquiry Project: Further developing UM's math co-requisite courses and curriculum

This inquiry project invites faculty from UM's Mathematical Sciences Department and Missoula College to come together to further develop our math co-requisite courses and curriculum as we scale them in accordance with current UM priorities. We will discuss continuing to develop the course curriculum using high impact practices based on three underlying themes: sstudent capability, purpose of materials, and student belonging. This inquiry project will be facilitated by Lauren Fern, Lecturer, Mathematical Sciences, and Student Success Coordinator. Lauren is also a MUS Teaching Scholar and Mentor for the Mobile Summer Institute on Scientific Teaching (MoSI).

Additional Teaching Support

In addition to the TEI efforts, this existing initiative also supports student engagement:

Pedagogy Project

Founded in 2009, the Pedagogy Project is a faculty-led and initiated effort originating out of the College of Humanities and Sciences to encourage conversation and reflections about teaching at UM. With support from the Office of Organizational Learning and Development, Pedagogy Project participants partner across UM colleges and departments to provide midterm feedback for each other through Small Group Analyses and Classroom Observations. This feedback enriches the teaching and learning experiences for faculty and students due to its timing in the midst of a course and the anonymity of the process. In addition, the Pedagogy Project provides a forum for faculty to reflect on their experiences, building a repertoire of resources to enhance pedagogy at UM. For further information, visit the Pedagogy Project website or email Leora Bar-el or Kim Reiser.