Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Remarkable levels of learning can result through a combination of challenging and engaging curricular materials and instructional styles that are broadly inclusive and motivating. Faculty can mentor  through great teaching and can teach through great mentoring.

Excellence in undergraduate education is not necessarily correlated with the highest teaching evaluation scores or the largest growth in course enrollments although both of these metrics matter.

There are many venues for teaching excellence: the laboratory, the seminar, the large lecture, the design studio, the small section, the field study, etc. Likewise, there are many manifestations of teaching excellence. The following randomly ordered list communicates the importance of thinking broadly when  it comes to teaching excellence.  In other words, here  are some things that might apply to a faculty member’s record of undergraduate teaching.The list is NOT intended to be  a  sequence of do-or-die checkboxes.

  • develops challenging and well-organized presentations of course material.
  • teaches in a way that transcends cultural boundaries.
  • makes effective use of new active learning strategies.
  • improves learning outcomes through the use of new  technologies.
  • develops novel  course infrastructure  that can be used later on by colleagues.
  • teaches students how to think critically, act ethically, and write effectively.
  • mentors at-risk students, improving their retention and performance.
  • creates scholarly materials that are available to students outside of class, e.g., textbooks, online notes, videos.
  • plays a strong leadership role in the development of curricula and their implementation at the national level or at Cornell.
  • communicates research ideas at the undergraduate level.
  • engages students in their classes who come from “far away” disciplines.
  • inspires and empowers students to pursue additional study in a subject, integrating curricula so that students are exceptionally well prepared for subsequent coursework or an undergraduate major or graduate school.
  • helps undergraduates who are facing challenges outside the classroom so that they succeed academically.
  • mentors student organizations and groups that contribute positively to the academic environment and the overall undergraduate experience.
  • develops a passion in students for problem-solving, laboratory work, and/or field work, and for engaging in the great challenges facing their community and the world beyond.

The key is that students are inspired to learn and that learning outcomes are improved through the work and creativity of the nominee.

Questions or comments? Contact weissawards@cornell.edu.


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