Teaching Excellence

The literature on teaching excellence is vast and includes multiple descriptions of attitudes, skills, and behaviors. Some are presented in the form of rubrics for evaluating teaching and others are presented as lists of characteristics.

Although there is a great deal of variability in the field, according to Penn State’s Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, “teaching excellence is

  • an academic process by which students are motivated to learn in ways that make a sustained, substantial, and positive influence on how they think, act, and feel;
  • a process that elevates students to a level where they learn deeply and remarkably because of teacher attributes …”

These are the most commonly proposed elements of excellent teaching:

  • Up to date knowledge
    • Include evidence-based knowledge
    • Provide examples that clarify concepts
    • Connect new concepts to students’ knowledge and experience
    • Point out applied relevance of concepts and findings
  • Enthusiasm
    • Show excitement about topic
    • Show excitement about teaching
  • Organization and planning
    • Create course goals and provide them to students
    • Develop and communicate student learning objectives
    • Relate class activities and assessments to student learning objectives
    • Develop lesson plans
  • Transparent policies and clear expectations
    • Provide specific and detailed information about assignments and deadlines
    • Explain grading policies
    • Provide statements on academic integrity, including on use of AI
    • Balance structure and flexibility, so students know what to expect
  • Inclusive teaching strategies
    • Include diverse content
    • Include diverse sources
    • Be sensitive to bias and microaggressions (i.e., avoid and confront)
    • Apply universal design for learning
  • Openness to diverse viewpoints
    • Acknowledge multiple perspectives
    • Encourage independent and critical thinking
    • Facilitate open exchange of ideas
  • Effective pedagogical practices
    • Give well prepared short lectures
    • Lead discussions effectively
    • Use active learning techniques
  • Regular assessment and feedback
    • Develop and share rubrics
    • Give both low stakes and high stakes tests
    • Scaffold assignments so students submit work before the final deadline
    • Provide timely and useful feedback that students can use for improvement
  • Positive class climate
    • Build community and develop sense of belonging among students
    • Develop ground rules and guidelines for participation and class conduct
    • Act respectfully and politely toward students
    • Treat all students fairly and do not play favorites
    • Be on time to class
  • Student engagement and growth mindset
    • Set high expectations and express confidence that students can meet them
    • Explain that challenges are part of learning and can be overcome
    • Show that change is possible, and practice and effort lead to improvement
    • Teach students to learn by introducing metacognitive strategies
  • Rapport and availability to students
    • Create warm syllabus that is student-centered
    • Scheduled regular and flexible office hours
    • Get to know students as individuals
    • Tell some pertinent information about self
    • Provide supportive mentoring about success in higher education
    • Respond to students’ communication in a timely manner
  • Reflective teaching
    • Cultivate self-awareness regarding strengths and weaknesses as a teacher
    • Regularly collect student and peer feedback and use it
    • Seek consultations about teaching
    • Be open to change based on innovations in the field


Mount Holyoke College Teaching and Learning Initiative
Teaching Excellence

USC Faculty Portal
Definition of Excellence in Teaching

Penn State University Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence
Attributes of an Excellence Teacher

University of Illinois Office of the Provost
Teaching Excellence Defined

University of Utah Martha Bradley Evans Center for Teaching Excellence
Definition of Teaching Excellence

Kenyon College Office of Human Resources Office
Faculty Handbook

University of Oregon Office of the Provost
What is Teaching Excellence?

Clemson University Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation
Evidence Based Teaching Strategies