New campus center helps faculty enhance teaching skills

Maria Varelas

Director Maria Varelas: “We need to constantly be learning about teaching.” Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin


A new center on campus provides a hub of resources so faculty members can collaborate and learn new skills to enhance their work in the classroom.

The Center for the Advancement of Teaching-Learning Communities, which opened Tuesday, serves all faculty members on campus, with a focus on faculty from undergraduate-serving colleges, said Renée Taylor, vice provost for faculty affairs and professor of occupational therapy.

Faculty can visit the center in 1-461 Daley Library. A list of online teaching resources will be online soon at

“It doesn’t matter how many years we’ve been teaching — we can always develop our practices in ways that we haven’t before,” said Maria Varelas, director of the center and professor of science education.

“The idea behind working together as faculty to improve teaching is that it will translate to improvement in student learning.”

The need for the center emerged from the faculty and was solidified through the Faculty Engagement Task Force of the Student Success Initiative.


“It doesn’t matter how many years we’ve been teaching — we can always develop our practices in ways that we haven’t before.”


“We are interested in teaching innovation across the spectrum, with an emphasis on first-year courses,” Taylor said. “Research shows that retention in the first year is a strong predictor of ultimate graduation.”

The center offers one-to-one and small group mentoring, informal teaching conversations, formal workshops and presentations, technology assistance and more. It provides grants for faculty members to obtain technology and other resources to enhance instructional methods.

“As faculty members, we need to constantly be learning about teaching,” Varelas said.

The center’s website will provide a database of teaching resources, said Katherine Franck, associate director. Faculty will learn about teaching innovations, such as how to use social media, collaborative chats or to flip their classrooms — where students watch online lectures and spend class time collaborating on activities. Faculty members will blog to share ideas they learn at the center.

“The online resources allow faculty to get help more independently,” Franck said. “We’re guiding them to resources that are already out there from other universities and we would like to develop our own as the center unfolds.”

Faculty members can apply to be master teaching scholars who mentor peers, or teaching scholars working to advance their teaching. Applications will be online at

“The center develops a sense of teaching community among UIC faculty to introduce cutting-edge pedagogies and technologies to offer the opportunity for self-evaluation as well as peer evaluation of teaching,” Taylor said.

The center will connect faculty members across campus, Varelas said.

“All of us are committed to teaching our students well, and in order to do that we need to support each other,” she said. “We can draw on those who have different types of expertise. We are often siloed between college, department or discipline and the center helps bring together faculty members who may not have had interactions otherwise.”


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