April 2021 Newsletter

Teaching Academy: Promoting, Recognizing and Supporting Excellence in Teaching & Learning

Welcome to our April newsletter Before the warm weather finally takes hold and beckons you outside, we hope you find time to read and enjoy this month’s newsletter, which includes updates, and multiple ways of staying connected with the Teaching Academy.

This monthWe look ahead to summer professional development opportunities. We share members’ responses to questions in the Academy Forum, including widely divided opinions on virtual backgrounds.  We welcome new members to the Academy. And as always, we offer many opportunities to take an active role in the Teaching Academy.

Questions or comments about the newsletterContact Dan Pell, Editor  dan.pell@wisc.edu

Trouble viewing this email? Open in Google Docs: Teaching Academy April Newsletter

Upcoming Events | What’s happening in the Academy?

Teaching Academy Members Only Roundtable  Friday May 14, 12:00 noon via Zoom.  “Silver Linings of Teaching during the Pandemic”   Organized by: Morton Ann Gernsbacher, Claire Barrett, Sarah Jedd, Pam McGranahan. Watch your inbox for registration and further details.

Banner header for Active Teaching Lab

Active Teaching Labs are participant-driven explorations on a different theme each week with an Activity Sheet of resources to meet a variety of your needs. Lab Chats are personalized deeper dives into the week’s themes that aim to contextualize Lab themes to particular teaching environments — also great for folx who can’t attend Wednesday Labs!


Schedule: Held virtually in Microsoft Teams on Wednesdays (Labs) and Thursdays (Chats) from 1-2pm during the semester.

MTLE (Madison Teaching and Learning Excellence)

Madison Teaching and Learning Excellence (MTLE) is a two-semester professional development program in teaching designed to help early-career faculty apply evidence-based practices proven to enhance student learning. Throughout the program, Fellows gather evidence about teaching advancements and successes to use in their tenure dossiers. Program alumni report they are not only more effective teachers, but they are also more efficient, freeing up time for research, services, and outreach.


Do you have an idea for improving one of your courses or labs, but just haven’t had the time? Or is there a student learning challenge you’d like to get better insight into? Do you use engaging, active teaching approaches that might help future faculty learn how to teach? Consider collaborating as a faculty or staff partner with a graduate student or postdoc who is completing a teaching-as-research project through the Delta Internship Program. The Delta Program provides professional development in teaching, mentoring and outreach.

To learn more about shaping an internship opportunity and becoming a faculty/staff partner, please complete this form or contact Devin at internship@delta.wisc.edu to set up a time to chat about your ideas (ideally by May 15).

Share events, workshops, news, or other notices for Teaching Academy members at teachingacademy.wisc.edu/teaching-academy-internal 

Recognizing our new members

These individuals have been recently recognized for their outstanding commitment to excellence in teaching and learning. Welcome to the Teaching Academy!

Future Faculty Partners: Anne Marie McClain, Communication Science

Fellows: Ahmad Saatchi, Materials Science & Engineering, Martina Rau Educational Psychology

Affiliates: Wren Singer, Advising & Career Services, Val Donovan, UHS Mental Health Services, Sarah Nolan, UHS, Prevention & Campus Health Initiatives

Member Highlight | FFPs win Campus-wide Teaching Assistant award 

The Academy extends its congratulations to two of our Future Faculty Partners, who were selected for 2020 Campus-wide Teaching Assistant Achievement awards — and to all the outstanding winners of this award for their efforts to promote excellence in teaching and learning on our campus. 

Capstone PhD Award: Franklin Hobbs, Materials Science and Engineering

Franklin joined the Teaching Academy in 2020. He is a PhD student in Materials Science and Engineering whose research is the crossover between materials science and geoscience.  The Capstone PhD Teaching Award recognizes TAs who have performed as outstanding teachers throughout their UW–Madison tenure.

L&S Continuity of Instruction Award: Jun Wang, Asian Languages and Cultures

Jun joined the Teaching Academy in 2019. She is a PhD student in Chinese focusing on Chinese linguistics. The L&S Continuity of Instruction Award recognizes L&S graduate students who provided exceptional continuity of instruction support to their department or delivered exceptional student experience in a remote instructional setting during the recent pandemic.

Read more about this year’s award winners. 

Done something extra-great? Know an Academy member who has? Email dan.pell@wisc.edu so that we can recognize it in the Member Highlights.

Learning Community | Clinical Teachers’ Corner

Clinical Teacher Learning Community: Network, Explore, Build. "Furthering Clinical Education"

Article: Top 10 best practices for interprofessional precepting. (Login required)

Explore the current best practices in interprofessional precepting in this article from the Journal of Interprofessional Education & Practice.

Become a Fellow of Faculty Partner:

If you are interested in becoming a Fellow or Future Faculty Partner, click here to review requirements and learn how to get started.


Moving Education Online:


Questions? Topics you would like to see? Announcements for the next issue? 

Email Sara Scott: (sfscott@wisc.edu )

The Academy Forum  | Share ideas with other members

Member Responses

The answers were selected from contributions by Academy members to questions posed in the December newsletter. Click here to view a printer friendly version and read the full text of the April 2021 responsesThank you to all our readers and contributors!

What is the most interesting virtual backdrop you have seen somebody use?

The ‘Everything Is Fine’ gif.  We’ve all had these days since COVID. — Michael Childers, Fellow, DCS & WSB [Guest Ed. Note: This was a popular background.  I had a student position themself so they were sitting where the dog sits!]

I haven’t used them (because I’m on BBCU for class sessions), but I like the science-themed  backgrounds over on BioRender. — Angela, Fellow, Biomolecular Chemistry

To me, none. I feel that virtual backdrops add yet another layer of disconnect. I much prefer to see the person in the “natural” environment they choose to be in for the zoom meeting. Nevertheless I understand that under some circumstances they may be necessary. — Michel Wattiaux, Fellow, Animal and Dairy Sciences

I personally don’t like virtual backdrops. I find them distracting because they never quite work well. The uncanny is not something that I want reinforced in this current moment, where everything already feels uncanny. — Jerome Camal, Fellow, Anthropology

Student-to-Student and Student-to-Instructor interaction have emerged as significant concerns during remote instruction. What have you or your colleagues done to make either of these aspects of teaching more successful?

Many years ago, we moved away from powerpoint lecture presentations and toward a classroom designed as discussion-based teaching and learning. Student-to-student interactions have been fostered with breakout rooms (4-5 students per room) to discuss pre-class (graded) reading or viewing assignments. Additionally, having a substantive multi-step team project (that started at about halfway through the semester) is another way to create a series of learning communities regardless of class size. — Michel Wattiaux, Fellow, Animal and Dairy Sciences

I’ve been paying closer attention to online tools, like “Discussions.”  Whether built-in to the design of assignments – both low stakes and those weighted with more significance – are multiple opportunities for students in my classes to interact with each other and me.  And, when Discussions are assigned, I find that my judicious choice of regular responses from me can accelerate and add to students’ more authentic participation.

Another tool that can be helpful for me is to examine my calendar – at the outset of the semester – and plan for one-on-one or small-group ‘office hours’ that I initiate.  During the pandemic, students have been pleased with my efforts to reach out in this way. — Michael Maguire, Fellow, School of Human Ecology

An exciting change I’ve been part of this year was helping two instructors implement one of my favorite approaches in their courses. I used Academic Reading Circles (ARC) when I was a teacher in the ESL Program, and it led to really deep and positive student interactions. So when my friends and colleagues in another department shared the complex hybrid format of their courses, I was hopeful that this approach would meet the challenge. How did it go?  You can read about it in the Instructor Highlights.  The really impressive part of this for an instructor is that ARC can be wrapped up with self-reflective journaling — so you have a direct window into students’ experience of learning. I love to talk about ARC, so feel free to email me if you have questions!  — Dan P, Fellow, Academic Technology

What’s baby, what’s bathwater?  Tell us about something you’ve started doing in remote instruction that you think you’d like to keep whenever the crisis has passed and we move into the new “normal”.

Short, instructional videos that students watch ahead of time, coupled with a more hands-on in class activity (i.e. worksheets, problem sets, creating something). Google docs/slides that  multiple student groups contribute to and interact on. — Angela, Fellow, Biomolecular Chemistry

In Class Group Problem Solving, Group Discussions, in addition to the usual Group Projects.  I will play relaxing music before the start of the Class in f2f Classes. — Dr A Saatchi, Fellow, Materials Science and Engineering

I think there is more focus on the proactive design work of teaching, from purposeful lesson planning to layout and navigation in the online classroom space.  I believe there is more attention being paid to questions like, “how will my students respond/interact with this content?”;  “what are different paths students can take to demonstrate proficiency?”; “what are effective methods I can employ to help students meet the course objectives?” — Margene Anderson, Fellow, Academic Technology

How can you show your sense of care and the importance of well-being to your students or others you work with?

Beyond asking students how they’re doing and reminding them to prioritize their well-being, provide them flexibility with assignments and deadlines. As you anticipate and/or become aware of mental and emotional fatigue from students (whether due to personal life events, acts of racism and social injustice, or a combination), reach out to your students (especially those holding marginalized identities) and communicate flexibility. Extend deadlines, cancel assignments, cancel class – find ways to provide students with time so they may actually prioritize their well-being. — Natalia Aguirre Villalobos, Affiliate, Academic Technology

I think it starts with acknowledging that this has been a tough year for everyone, and more so for some more than for others. It continues with a general attitude of compassion, making students and colleagues’ well-being a priority that takes precedence over deadlines and rigid structures. But it also means providing a structure that is adapted to students’ learning, that can help them keep track of their responsibilities as students and learners. — Jerome Camal, Fellow, Anthropology

I think being straightforward about the resources available to people in a syllabus or orientation module is important.  It helps normalize very normal issues that people often need additional help with. — Margene Anderson, Fellow, Academic Technology

Thank you to our Academy Forum April guest editor: Meghan Cotter.

The Academy Forum is a space waiting for YOU to fill it!

This is a place to share ideas and inspiration with Fellows, FFPs, Affiliates & partners across campus! Why not take 5 minutes to share a few thoughts right now?

Contribute to the NEXT Academy Forum: go.wisc.edu/theacademyforum

  • Practicing Anti-Racism: What do you do in your current role to combat white supremacist culture?
  • How can we recognize and account for the effort that is going into operationalizing the positive teaching and learning practices many instructors have adopted during our COVID impacted semesters?   Are there systematic ways to capture this effort, when it goes beyond the typical credit hour teaching load?
  • What is optimal for online course student enrollment size caps/maximums? What changes do you make when adapting to larger or smaller online groups?
  • What is your take on virtual conferences and events?  Share any positive (or negative, or funny) experiences.

Submission Deadline: Please submit your answers by Monday, June 14, 2021

Responses included in the newsletter will typically be less than one paragraph, but in some cases we may include a longer response. Responses may be edited for brevity and to fit the format of the newsletter

FYI | Teaching professional development opportunities available

Registration is open for spring and summer professional development opportunities and resources to help strengthen teaching and learning for online and partially online courses.

  • TeachOnline@UW: This comprehensive faculty learning community is intended for new and experienced online instructors who want to explore and apply in-depth best practices—designing (or re-designing) and teaching fully online, credit courses. The program offers two free courses (applications being accepted for summer 2021):

o    Plan & Design (May 17-June 25)

o    Facilitation & Management (July 26-August 25)

  • Preparing to Teach Online (spring session: May 18-24): This week-long, intensive course is built for instructors teaching remotely or online. This course is built around five modules that will help you prepare your course for remote learning.
  • Classroom Assessment Strategies Workshop (May 10, 1:30-3pm and May 12, 9-10:30am): During this interactive virtual workshop, you will learn how to create an online activity for your course to assess students’ learning progress using a Classroom Assessment Technique (CAT) of your choice.
  • Course Success Self-Review: Use this anonymous, self-directed survey tool to identify ways to strengthen the design and delivery of remote/blended/online courses, leading to better learning and student satisfaction. The Self-Review identifies six success factors and offers supporting recommendations, with relevant and actionable resources. Browse additional resources on the Course Success website.

Professional development opportunities are also available on the Instructional Continuity website. Additionally, you can utilize resources available to you through your school/college.

Join us! Honor a colleague! | The Teaching Academy is seeking new applications and nominations

The Teaching Academy welcomes nominees who work in traditional classrooms, clinical practice, field instruction, or instructional support with learners at any level.  Our mission is to promote, recognize and support excellence in teaching and learning among faculty, staff and students across campus and beyond.

There are three types of membership: Future Faculty Partner (FFP), Fellow, and Affiliate.  Read about how to Become a Member. Honor a colleague or nominate yourself!

Are you an FFP who has moved on to another position in the University?  Contact Sarah Hagedon sarah.hagedon@wisc.edu to discuss changing your status from FFP to Fellow.

Get involved! | Ways to contribute to the Academy’s ongoing activities

Active Teaching Labs      john.martin@wisc.edu   Improve campus teaching by helping to plan, organize, and facilitate instructor-to-instructor sharing of experiences using technology to teach better.
Newsletter & Academy Forum 


Join the planning committee, contribute to the forum, act as guest editor for the Academy newsletter
Fall Retrea​t | Winter Retreat


Join the committee to plan, organize & facilitate campus-wide teaching development events 


Explore teaching and learning from the student perspective by attending our U-CLaSS sessions
Analytics Committee 


Help ensure that we are capturing the right information to determine who our programs are reaching, whether participants find them valuable and, most importantly, if there was something they learned through participation.
Affiliate/Clinical Affiliate 


Teaching experiential courses, from clinic to fieldwork? Become involved in growing the clinical affiliate or affiliate program 
Nomination Committee 


We are seeking Fellows (Faculty & Academic Staff) and FFPs to help review nominations.  Honor great campus educators & promote excellence by helping to review nominations to the Teaching Academy.   
Executive Committee seeks FFP Members 


The Executive Committee spearheads all major Teaching Academy events and activities throughout the course of the year, providing invaluable insight and experience to the larger Teaching & Learning community. 
Feedback on Teaching (FOT) Committee 


This joint effort between the Teaching Academy and the Collaborative for Advancing Learning & Teaching offers an opportunity for a graduate student to participate in scaling up and implementing a new peer observation program across campus. Email for more information.
Members-Only Roundtables (MOR) 


We are seeking Teaching Academy Fellows who are interested in organizing roundtable discussions among Teaching Academy members on issues surrounding teaching & learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. These discussions take place once per semester.