USC Definition of Excellence in Teaching

The University of Southern California is committed to excellence in teaching through the use of evidence-based, inclusive pedagogies that foster the knowledge, skills, relationships, and values necessary for students to succeed in a rapidly changing world. USC embraces an inclusive spirit that values the enrichment diversity brings to students’ understanding, leading to greater opportunities to improve the lives of all people. 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, empowering students to innovate and find creative approaches to solving complex problems. USC prepares students to navigate ambiguity, to utilize their intellectual curiosity to identify and realize opportunities, and to evolve into visionary leaders who seek impactful and ethical solutions for the local, national, and global challenges of our time.

  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 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
  1. Challenging and Supportive
      1. Creates learning objectives and experiences 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 a 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
  1. Inclusive and Diverse
      1. Creates an open environment conducive to intellectual risk-taking
      2. Includes students’ strengths, experiences, and identities in the learning process
      3. Provides materials, cases, or applications that examine diverse experiences, perspectives, or populations
      4. Applies multiple techniques and strategies to reach all students in a culturally-responsive way
      5. Follows guidelines of Universal Design for Learning and accessibility best practices
  1. 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 and problem-solving skills to address real-world challenges
      4. Models and requires use of multiple media and technologies aligned with learning objectives and experiences
      5. Fosters student participation in academic discussions and fosters peer-to-peer collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and feedback
      6. Facilitates student engagement in inquiry and research
  1. 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 educational technologies (e. g., LMS) to provide students access to course materials, grades, and other feedback
  1. Fair and Equitable
      1. Establishes clear expectations and learning objectives
      2. Uses formative assessments to evaluate student progress, and summative assessments to evaluate mastery
      3. Uses transparent assessment processes with clear criteria tied to learning objectives
      4. Provides specific, regular, and timely feedback tied to performance criteria
      5. Maintains reasonable course policies that are applied uniformly and fairly
  1. Evidence-Based
      1. Uses results from formative and summative peer and student teaching evaluations to inform teaching practice
      2. Demonstrates effectiveness of instruction through measures of student mastery of learning objectives
      3. Pursues continuous improvement of teaching and course design by applying research-based best practices
CET is here to support your teaching and course design.
Schedule a consultation or ask us a question!

Contact Us


CET institutes engage faculty in advancing their knowledge of scholarly approaches to teaching excellence.

Learn More


CET promotes a vibrant culture of teaching and learning with consults, Faculty Learning Communities, and the Mentored Teaching Fellows program.

Learn More


Explore resources related to course design, evaluation, and instruction.

Learn More