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November 21, 2002

HOW TO TEACH: Innovative faculty members share their experiences and offer tips

Award-winning Pitt faculty got to show off their teaching innovation wares at last week's second annual "Teaching Excellence Fair," a half-day smorgasbord of instruction-related presentations.

Co-sponsored by the Provost's office, the Provost's Advisory Council on Instructional Excellence (ACIE) and the Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education (CIDDE), the fair primarily is a forum for winners of innovation in education grants to summarize their work for other Pitt faculty, according to Andy Blair, vice provost for faculty affairs.

The teaching innovation grants are awarded annually in April by the provost's ACIE, which Blair chairs.

"The innovation in teaching awards demonstrate the centrality of teaching at Pitt," Blair said. "We want to send to faculty the clear message that even in a large research university like Pitt, teaching is essential."

The teaching grants are analogous to the provost's small grants in research program that provides seed money for certain research projects, Blair said.

"No matter their discipline, faculty have something in common: They're serious about their teaching," Blair said. "Sometimes what seems like a unique approach still has relevance to other instructors. The projects we fund may be specialized, but the approach can further learning objectives of other faculty, which is why we have the annual fair." This year's teaching fair drew more than 115 browsers for the various demonstrations and discussions, according to staff at CIDDE.

Blair said the awards program, now in its third year, has seen a steady stream of applicants. "We had 62 the first year, 53 the second and 51 last year. It's remarkable that these awards are keeping up that level of interest," he said.

Last spring 15 projects were awarded varying amounts of funding. "That's also a good ratio for funded projects to applications," Blair pointed out. Those 15 grant recipients are expected to present at next fall's teaching fair, he said.

The awards vary depending on the project proposal and scope, but can go as high as $25,000, Blair said. More than $200,000 was awarded to the 14 winners in 2001, who were presenting at the Nov. 15 teaching fair.

The teaching fair also featured prominent Pitt faculty leading conversations about teaching methods and techniques and CIDDE staff exhibiting novel instructional support technology.

See stories on pages 7-10.

Blair said, "We're interested in funding innovation, which includes innovations in technology, but not exclusively that. We look for projects that are not one-time projects, but that can demonstrate sustainability. We're particularly interested in cross-disciplinary projects that can enrich the educational experience across our curriculum."

The criteria and deadlines for submitting proposals for the provost's innovation in education grant program are available on-line at:

–Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 35 Issue 7

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