Recognizing and developing Purdue’s best teachers
The Teaching Academy at Purdue strives to bring together the best teaching faculty and graduate students across campus to create a collective voice for teaching excellence. Members are nominated and selected by their peers.
In partnership with the Office of the Provost and the Center for Instructional Excellence, the Teaching Academy sponsors a variety of programs and activities fostering educational creativity, innovation, and effectiveness both in- and outside the classroom. Additionally, the Teaching Academy supports and encourages teaching faculty and graduate students to apply for teaching awards honoring and recognizing excellence in teaching.
Membership in the Teaching Academy recognizes outstanding and scholarly teaching in the graduate, undergraduate, or engagement programs of Purdue University.
Become a Teaching Academy Member!
Learn more about our Teaching Leadership Awards
In 1726, the English poet Nicholas Amhurst quipped, there is nothing “more uncommon in the world than common sense.” True then, true now.
One example: A recent Inside Higher Ed / College Pulse survey found that over half (55 percent) of all the students reported that bad teaching was a barrier to their academic success.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, most college professors have no formal training in teaching, aren’t generally hired or evaluated on the basis of their teaching skills, and aren’t incentivized to teach in innovative ways. Nor is there much frank and rigorous evaluation of teaching by skilled observers or objective efforts to assess student learning.
We do what we value. When my university delegates many of its “service” courses to graduate students, we know what the campus truly prizes. It ain’t undergraduate teaching.
As Jonathan Zimmerman, a leading authority on the history of education, has noted, most colleges and universities make few efforts to determine how well faculty are teaching or how much students are learning. And yet, better teaching could bring many students to success, especially in the most challenging, high demand fields of study.
The simplest, most straightforward way to address campuses’ financial problems and advance social justice and equity is to Strengthen retention and graduation rates at the broad-access institutions that educate the most students.
We know what that would take: Better advising. Providing every entering student with a degree plan, a designated adviser, and ready access to required courses. Placing students in a learning community. Requiring fewer courses that students consider irrelevant or boring. Reaching out proactively when students go off-track. Encouraging students to take advantage of supplemental instruction, learning centers and tutoring.
Above all, better teaching. Teaching that’s engaging, inspiring, thought-provoking and genuinely helpful.
In a hot-off-the-press opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer entitled “The best DEI program: better college teaching,” Professor Zimmerman writes:
“With the end of affirmative action, which never made a difference to most Black and brown students anyway, let’s renew our focus on what does: classroom instruction.”
In his pointed words:
“Weak instruction remains endemic in American higher education. Poorly designed classes, with no clear objectives. Dull assignments and tests, which measure memorization rather than understanding. And yes, disengaged professors, who have received little or no formal preparation for teaching.”
I couldn’t agree more strongly.
Of course, we mustn’t minimize the structural and systemic barriers to student success. Funding inequities mean that the institutions that serve the undergraduates with the greatest needs have the fewest resources. Those students, in turn, are the most likely to experience financial or other life disruptions and to suffer from bias and the soft bigotry of low expectations. They’re also the students most likely to juggle work and caregiving responsibilities with academics and to worry about higher ed’s opportunity costs.
Campus climate, too, can impede learning. Commuter campuses find it hard to provide the sense of belonging and connection that contributes to student persistence and engagement.
At broad-access campuses, student learning needs, on average, are greater. Many arrive on campus with less background knowledge in subjects such as history and literature and are less well prepared in math, science and writing.
The challenges don’t stop there. Too many are diverted into remedial classes that don’t count toward a degree. The classes they take are too large to provide much individual attention.
Still, well-taught classes can make a big difference.
These are classes with:
Clear, explicit learning objectives. In every class session, students need to understand the essential knowledge and skills they are expected to acquire.
Effective organization. A logical sequence of subjects and content to be covered, a roadmap or signposts to help students understand the class’s organization, and the use of visual aids to reinforce understanding of complex concepts.
The division of content, activities and pedagogies into chunks. Breaking class sessions into manageable subsections, each with different pedagogical approaches, prevents cognitive overload and helps sustain student engagement.
Frequent formative assessments. Frequent quizzing or other assessments modes helps the instructor monitor student engagement and learning and the students to measure their mastery of the course material.
Lots of active learning activities that requires students to process and apply information actively rather than absorb information passively. Examples include:;
Metacognitive activities that promote self-awareness among learners. Metacognitive activities—like asking students to describe their problem-solving process or summarize points made in class or explain concepts to classmates or reflect on their learning—can help students transfer knowledge and skills into long-term memory, strengthen their problem-solving abilities, adjust their learning strategies, and enhance their ability to learn independently and apply knowledge and skills in new contexts.
You might ask: isn’t teaching “too ineffable, too idiosyncratic, too ‘personal’” to evaluate systematically? And doesn’t my laundry list of pedagogical skills omit precisely those things that set the most memorable classroom teachers apart: their charisma, for example? We can’t all be gifted lecturers, engrossing story tellers, or entertaining, witty, or urbane discussion leaders with incredible improvisational skills. But all of us can be more effective in the classroom and bring more students to success.
I was struck by the title of a recent article: “Teaching Evaluations Are Racist, Sexist, and Often Useless.” Of course, I agree: “It’s time to put these flawed measures in their place.” But it doesn’t follow that we shouldn’t strive to evaluate teaching more seriously and to take steps to Strengthen its quality.
A big problem with student teaching evaluations is that we ask the wrong questions. There is certainly information that students can provide that is otherwise unobtainable. Whether, for instance, the instructor arrives in class on time. Or responds to questions in a helpful and encouraging manner. Or tests what is taught. Or grades assignments promptly. Or provides detailed, actionable feedback. Or makes effective use of new technologies.
The fact is that students can tell us a great deal about a class’s structure and organization, classroom climate, style of delivery, use of instructional tools, emphasis on active learning, and the level of student engagement and participation.
Then, there is quantitative information that we possess but fail to analyze. Does an instructor have an unusually large number of students who drop the class? Or who receive a grade of D or F? Or who do or do not take another course in the discipline? Such information must, of course, be used with great care, but it can be revealing.
It won’t be easy to recenter the university around high-quality, impactful teaching. It will require a multipronged approach:
It’s high time to recognize that undergraduate teaching needs to be our top priority. We need to position teaching and skills building at the very center of our focus.
A biology professor filed a religious discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Monday against a Texas community college after administrators allegedly fired him for teaching students sex was determined by X and Y chromosomes.
St. Philip's College in San Antonio, Texas allegedly fired biology professor Dr. Johnson Varkey in January for teaching his students that sex was determined by X and Y chromosomes and that reproduction must occur between a male and a female to continue the human species. Despite the fact that Varkey taught from school-approved and science-based curriculum, St. Philip's College claims his teaching was religious.
"I also explained that when a sperm (which has 23 chromosomes) joins with an egg (which also has 23 chromosomes), a zygote (which has 46 chromosomes) is formed, and it begins to divide, and after 38 weeks a baby is born," Varkey wrote in the charge to the EEOC. "Because no information is added or deleted in those 38 weeks, life starts when the zygote begins to divide, not when the baby is born."
The college failed to respond to a demand letter sent by the professor's lawyers asking he be reinstated for what they believe to be wrongful termination, according to a copy of the charge obtained by Fox News Digital.
UCF PROFESSOR FIRED FOR REJECTING NOTION OF SYSTEMIC RACISM SPEAKS OUT: ‘DIVERSITY IS PRETTY MUCH ANTI-WHITE’
In his notice of termination letter, St. Philip’s College said the complaint against him contained several reports of "religious preaching, discriminatory comments about homosexuals and transgender individuals, anti-abortion rhetoric, and misogynistic banter." The college claim he violated "the highest standards of academic honesty and integrity," but provided no explanation or reasoning for its accusation.
First Liberty Institute (FLI), a law firm that defends the religious liberty of Americans, sent a letter to the community college on behalf Dr. Varkey in June, asking that he be reinstated in his role and that St. Philip's College admit his termination "was not for cause but in fact violated federal and state law."
FLI said the college is participating in unlawful religious discrimination in employment under the First Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, arguing Varkey "believes that he is obligated as a Christian and as a professor to teach accurate, true concepts that comport with his many years of research and study in the field of human biology."
NYU PROFESSOR FIRED AFTER STUDENTS SAID CLASS WAS TOO HARD URGES ‘TOUGH LOVE’ FROM COLLEGE, END TO ‘CODDLING’
Varkey's lawyers argue his teachings are supported by his education and experience in the field of biology, as well as his religious beliefs, but added that "throughout his employment, he never discussed with any student his personal views—religious or otherwise—on human gender or sexuality," but argued that his faith and his as integrity as an academic, forbid him from teaching or affirming statements that he believes to be false.
"The actions of St. Philip’s College also have a disparate impact on religious employees," Varkey wrote in his charge with the EEOC. "The pattern and practice of terminating professors because of in-class statements that reflect their beliefs has a discriminatory effect on religious professors like myself."
"It saddens me that we have come to the place where, in an institution of higher learning, the feelings and opinions of the students are allowed to usurp the facts of science," Dr. Varkey told Fox News Digital. "The law protects Americans like me from being punished by their employers for holding or expressing their religious beliefs. St. Philip’s College is sending a message that the facts of science don’t matter and that religious people are not welcome and need not apply."
PENN STATE PROFESSOR SAYS SCHOOL FORCED HIM TO TEACH ENGLISH LANGUAGE IS ‘WHITE SUPREMACY’: ‘RELIGIOUS CULT’
As an adjunct professor, Varkey taught the same principles he was fired for this year in his Human Anatomy and Physiology to more than 1,500 students during the two decades he taught at St. Philip’s College, according to First Liberty. On November 28, 2022, four of Varkey's students walked out of his class when he stated that sex was determined by X and Y chromosomes, just as he always had during his 19 years teaching at the college.
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"No college professor should be fired for teaching factual concepts that a handful of students don’t want to hear," Keisha Russel, Counsel for FLI and the lead attorney on Dr. Varkey’s case told Fox News Digital in a statement. "When public universities silence their own professors from teaching true concepts to students, education has been turned on its head."
Alamo Colleges District, which includes St. Philip’s College, told Fox News Digital it does not comment on personnel issues.
For more Culture, Media, Education, Opinion, and channel coverage, visit foxnews.com/media
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In this interview, Montclair State University president Jonathan Koppell talks about accessibility for minoritized groups, the power of creative communication and why he thinks universities need to own their part in the public’s diminishing trust in higher education.
Earning a degree is a huge accomplishment, but it also requires a commitment of time, effort and money. Before jumping into a program, assess your options and discuss your goals with an admissions counselor. Consider the following factors before committing to a program.
The first question to ask yourself is how much time you can commit to earning your degree. Online courses provide a pathway for working professionals who might not have enough scheduling flexibility for in-person courses. An asynchronous format is a great option for students who need to work their studies around their jobs and other responsibilities.
But even with excellent time management skills, it’s challenging to work and study full time. Enrolling as a part-time student may be more sustainable, but expect to spend more time completing your degree if you study part time. On the other hand, if you can focus solely on your education, you can accelerate your timeline and enter the workforce faster.
Degree-completion programs offer a shorter degree timeline, but they only serve transfer students. If you already hold an associate degree, consider earning your online teaching degree through a two-year degree-completion program.
When searching for a teaching degree, make sure your prospective college and program are accredited.
Institutional accreditation verifies that a school and its faculty maintain a minimum standard of education quality. Plus, federal student aid requires applicants to attend institutionally accredited schools.
In addition to institutional accreditation, programmatic accreditation is important for teachers, who typically must graduate from an approved program to earn licensure or certification. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation evaluates teaching departments and degree programs.
Will you need teaching credentials for your dream job? Though many teaching roles require licensure, some positions in early childhood education and adult education, for example, require a degree but not necessarily a license.
Each teaching program should clearly state whether it meets standards for state licensure. If you pursue an online teaching degree out of state, verify before enrolling that the degree meets your state’s requirements for teaching credentials, if applicable.
Programs that lead to licensure include a full-time, in-person student teaching experience; some online programs allow you to complete this requirement locally or even at your current place of work.
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