USC Definition of Excellence in Teaching

The University of Southern California is committed to providing leadership in the 21st Century through its people, its values, and its impact. Integral to this commitment is USC’s dedication to teaching excellence through the use of contemporary and inclusive curricula and pedagogies that foster the knowledge, skills, literacies, relationships, and values necessary for students to succeed in today’s world. USC’s learning community embraces an inclusive spirit that values the enrichment diversity and inclusion bring to its curricula and student experience. It fosters a convergent spirit, teaching students to see problems and solutions from multiple viewpoints, to move fluidly across disciplines, and to work comfortably in disparate teams. And it cultivates an entrepreneurial spirit, leading students toward innovation and creative approaches to solving complex problems. USC prepares students to navigate ambiguity, to utilize their intellectual curiosity to identify and seize opportunities, and to evolve into visionary leaders who seek impactful and ethical solutions for the local, national, and global challenges of our time. At USC, excellence in teaching is grounded in this context and is defined by the teaching criteria outlined below.

  1. Respectful and Professional
    1. Conveys commitment to learning through demonstrated effort in and enthusiasm for the teaching process
    2. Models and expects respectful and appropriate behavior in all professional communications and interactions
    3. Develops professionalism in students through high expectations for mindful, ethical, responsible behavior
    4. Recognizes the power differential between professor and student and acts with integrity toward students
    5. Fosters professional identity development through student use of discipline-specific customs and language
  2. Challenging and Supportive
    1. Creates learning experiences and outcomes that are challenging but attainable
    2. Models and fosters critical, analytical, and creative thinking
    3. Encourages student curiosity, exploration, and self-directed learning
    4. Cultivates belief that mistakes and failed experiments further knowledge and understanding
    5. Fosters a mindset where growth is always possible, and ability is not fixed
    6. Provides encouragement, positive reinforcement, and support
    7. Guides students to university support services according to university policy
  3. Inclusive and Diverse
    1. Creates an open environment conducive to intellectual risk-taking
    2. Includes students’ strengths, experiences, and identities as part of the learning process
    3. Provides materials, cases, or applications that examine diverse experiences, perspectives, or populations
    4. Applies multiple methods, approaches, and models to reach all students in a culturally-responsive way
    5. Follows guidelines of Universal Design for Teaching and Learning and accessibility best practices
  4. Relevant and Engaging
    1. Uses content that is current, rigorous, and informed by theory, research, evidence, and context
    2. Uses active learning strategies to promote development of mastery
    3. Fosters transfer of learning to problem-solving skills required to address real-world challenges
    4. Models and requires multiple media and technologies aligned with learning experience and outcomes
    5. Includes students in discourse and fosters peer-to-peer collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and feedback
    6. Facilitates student engagement in inquiry and research
  5. Prepared and Purposeful
    1. Uses instructional plan aligned with learning objectives that includes assessment of student prior knowledge, instruction followed by application, and shared reflection of what was learned
    2. Fosters self-regulation to help students to assess their own learning and adjust their strategies
    3. Manages learning effectively: plans activities, uses routines, and manages time, behavior, and participation
    4. Utilizes education technologies (e. g., LMS) to provide students access to course materials, grades, and other means of feedback
  6. Fair and Equitable
    1. Establishes clear expectations and learning objectives aligned with course goals and assessment criteria
    2. Uses formative assessments to evaluate student progress, and summative assessments to evaluate mastery
    3. Provides transparent assessment criteria tied to learning objectives
    4. Provides specific and regular feedback tied to a standard of performance in a timely manner
    5. Maintains reasonable course policies and applies course policies uniformly and fairly
  7. Evidence-Based
    1. Evaluates teaching practices through formative and summative teaching evaluation processes
    2. Demonstrates effectiveness of instruction through measures of student mastery of learning objectives
    3. Pursues continuous improvement of teaching and course design through research-based best practices