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New center to support and advance teaching excellence at UW–Madison

September 2, 2021 By Doug Erickson

A new center at UW–Madison focused on the craft of teaching will support university faculty and staff as they create innovative, engaging and inclusive learning experiences for all students.

The Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring, established July 1, will serve instructors at all career stages by offering campus-level professional development, course design, and instructional consulting programs and services.

“Teaching is a complex, challenging and dynamic craft,” says Provost Karl Scholz. “Our instructors are among the best in the world and deliver a top-tier education to our students. We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to support their professional growth.”

Adds Scholz, “I’ve been struck by the fact that we offer many valuable programs and services for instructors, but it can be difficult to find information if you didn’t know exactly what you were looking for. The new center helps ensure that everyone can turn to one website ( to access the full array of services and resources this great university has to offer.”

The center brings together more than 50 professional staff members from the Collaborative for Advancing Learning & Teaching, the Division of Continuing Studies, and Academic Technology, a department within the Division of Information Technology.

“This group of talented, experienced professionals will draw on a long history of campus expertise in this field and work collaboratively with partners across our schools and colleges,” says John Zumbrunnen, vice provost for teaching and learning. “Having a single home for campus-level instructional support will strengthen existing partnerships, open new pathways for innovation in teaching and learning, and make it easier for instructors to find what they need.”

The unprecedented effort to support faculty and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated development of the center, Zumbrunnen says. That effort, called Instructional Continuity, brought together many of the professionals who will now staff the center.

The center will offer a range of professional development programs, from the basics of teaching at UW–Madison to deep-focus explorations of important topics like student engagement and belonging, accessibility and inclusive practices, assessment, and academic integrity. Options will include interactive workshops, weekly forums, individual consultations and drop-in office hours.

In all its work, the center will be guided by a thorough commitment to serve all UW–Madison students and all UW­–Madison instructors, Zumbrunnen says.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion are not just items on a list of center goals,” he says. “They are foundational to everything we do. Center staff members are committed to engaging in the self-work necessary for effective pursuit of equity and inclusion, and we will hold ourselves accountable for infusing the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of our work.”

The center’s priorities for the 2021-22 academic year:

  • Support new UW–Madison instructors: The center intends to connect with all new instructors during their first year on campus. Some of the new instructors will participate in professional development programs; others will work with an instructional consultant on a particular pedagogical challenge or partner with an instructional designer to build a new course.
  • Focus on facilitation: The pandemic underscored the crucial role of meaningful engagement in effective learning. The center aims to support all instructors in facilitating engaging and interactive learning experiences and in building classroom climates that foster a sense of belonging for all UW–Madison students.
  • Promote mentoring: The center’s focus on mentoring — a central component of teaching — distinguishes it from the teaching and learning centers at many peer institutions. Drawing on the expertise of UW–Madison’s many internationally recognized mentoring experts, the center will assist UW–Madison instructors in being effective mentors in all learning environments.

The center will be part of the Division for Teaching & Learning, under the Office of the Provost. Megan Schmid, formerly administrative officer of the Collaborative for Advancing Learning & Teaching, will serve as managing director, working with a team of associate directors drawn from across the three divisions represented in the center.

“I’m very grateful for Megan’s leadership and for the dedication of the entire team,” says Zumbrunnen. “Working with our partners in the schools and colleges and with instructors across campus, we can make the Wisconsin Experience even better for all our students.”

Faculty and staff are encouraged to check out current center offerings or fill out a brief request form to initiate contact with a center staff member. Upcoming workshops include “Fostering community and student interaction” on Sept. 15. The next three weekly forums will cover how to teach to the Google generation (Sept. 8), how to maintain a learning community in a course (Sept. 15) and how to help students explore problem spaces (Sept. 22).