SPCS Innovations in Teaching

In 2013, the Adjunct Faculty Advisory Committee (AFAC) developed standards for excellence and innovation in teaching and introduced 14 dimensions for innovation to the School’s faculty. In documenting these standards, committee members communicated the working definitions and assumptions noted below.

In 2015, AFAC invited faculty and staff to nominate inaugural recipients of the SPCS Innovations in Teaching award. The annual award recognizes a member of the adjunct faculty for innovations in teaching along the dimensions presented in the standards documentation. Awards are announced at the annual faculty awards ceremony, held during spring faculty meetings.

Past Winners

Submit Your Nomination

Nominations should be submitted by December 5 to Dr. Tom Shields, Associate Dean, Academic & Student Affairs, SPCS. Completed nomination forms should be submitted as email attachments to tshields@richmond.edu.

Criteria for Nomination

  • Adjunct faculty member in SPCS
  • Exhibits high level of innovation in the classroom
  • Generates impact on student learning
  • Role model for other faculty
  • Exhibits creativity in the classroom


Two or more people may collaborate on the nomination. Nominations may be made by:

  • SPCS adjunct faculty members (self-nominations are welcome)
  • SPCS program chairs
  • SPCS students
  • Other SPCS faculty members

Defining Innovation

”Innovation is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society. Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a new idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself.” — Wikipedia, October 2012

Expand All
  • Some Characteristics of Educational Innovation

    Adapted from Reform and Innovation in Higher Education: A Literature Review

    • Shift from lecturer to facilitator
    • Shift from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side”
    • Helping students learn about and respect other cultures
    • Helping students value diversity
    • Helping students address the transitional challenges they face which are not typically part of a formal curriculum
    • Linking and coordinating the curriculum with out-of-classroom experiences
    • Facilitating group projects and active learning, using problem-oriented assignments
    • Emphasis on interdisciplinary teaching and curriculum helps students understand connections between various ways of looking at the world through different disciplinary lenses
    • Emphasis on examples and processes rather than memorizing facts
    • Service learning builds empathy
    • Faculty member as community builder
    • Undergraduates involved in faculty research in similar way to graduate research assistants
  • Directions for the Future of Learning

    Adapted from: 2020 Forecast: Creating the Future of Learning, The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age, Future of Learning 2030 & 10 Principles for the Future of Learning

    • Learner-directed learning
    • Decreasing role of “expert”
    • Networked workplace
    • Decreasing half-life of knowledge
    • Growing complexity and expectations
    • Rising life expectancy
    • Following curiosity and creating meaning
    • Continuous learning and adaptability
    • Need for growing interdisciplinarity
    • Increasing collaboration across borders and boundaries
  • Role of Higher Education in This Future

    Adapted from: The Future of Higher Education (Pew), The Future of Higher Education (Columbia), Student Engagement through Choice, Curiosity, and Interest: The Implicit Connections of Learning (Georgia), New Dynamics of Higher Education and Research for Societal Change and Development (UNESCO) & World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century: Vision and Action (UNESCO)

    • Build an innovative and diverse knowledge society
    • Use a new vision and paradigm of higher education, which should be student-oriented, catering to ever more diversified categories of people
    • Respond to the social responsibility to advance our understanding of multifaceted issues
    • Go beyond cognitive mastery of disciplines
    • Develop divergent thinking which is necessary for creativity — the ability to see multiple answers and multiple ways of interpreting questions
    • Provide solid skills for success in the present, and in the world of the future
    • Promote critical thinking and active citizenship
    • Aid students in learning from and with each other with the support of a faculty member “coach”
    • Help students learn how to learn — Focus on ways to look at problems and solutions, rather than on facts
    • Advance research, innovation and creativity
    • Lead society in generating global knowledge to address global challenges
    • Contribute to the education of ethical citizens
    • Address different types of learners
    • Meet students where they are, provide choice, an opportunity to follow curiosity and the ability to discover their passion
    • Provide an active, technology-rich learning environment that appeals to the technology-connected learner who knows how to find information easily
    • Maintain student connection and interaction, and individualized attention, even when students are not in the same room, using available technology and innovative teaching methods
    • Use more visual learning tools like video to keep students engaged
    • Adapt learning approaches quickly to changes in technology and in the world
    • Place certain forms of content online, reserving more class time for discussion, inquiry and participatory activities
    • Respond to and anticipate social needs
    • Provide equitable access to technologies that are improving the ways in which knowledge can be produced, managed, disseminated, accessed and controlled
    • Use new methods of testing that will promote not only powers of memory but also powers of comprehension, skills for practical work and creativity
    • Invest in the training of faculty and staff in evolving teaching and learning systems
    • Provide open access to scientific literature
    • Provide access to both broad general education and targeted, career-specific education, often interdisciplinary, that equips individuals to live and work in a variety of changing settings
    • Reinforce the University’s role of service to society, mainly through an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approach in the analysis of problems and issues
    • Help society, which is currently undergoing a profound crisis of values, transcend economic considerations and incorporate deeper dimensions of morality and spirituality
    • Promote humanistic values and intercultural dialogue and cooperation
    • Reflect international, regional and national dimensions in both teaching and research
    • Aim at the creation of a new society — non-violent and non-exploitative
    • Provide the opportunity for students to fully develop their own abilities with a sense of social responsibility, educating them to become full participants in democratic society and promoters of changes that will foster equity and justice
    • Create new learning environments, ranging from distance education facilities to complete virtual higher education institutions and systems, capable of bridging distances and developing high-quality systems of education
    • Create mutually beneficial partnerships with communities and civil societies to facilitate sharing of knowledge

Dimensions in Teaching and Faculty Expectations

For each dimension of innovation in teaching (in the left column), there is a list of actions to the right that range from expected actions for faculty members (at the top) to advanced activities that are suggested (at the bottom).

Dimension Faculty Actions
Demonstrate the highest level of ethics and integrity
  • Demonstrate integrity in thoughts, words and deeds
  • Model skills and behaviors expected of students
  • Be honest and fair
  • Make ethical decisions and use ethical behavior
  • Be consistent and treat everyone with respect
  • Keep promises
  • Demonstrate an understanding of ethical issues in today’s society
  • Integrate ethical principles into every class taught
  • Understand and teach ethical use of information
Honor principles for the future of learning
  • Set high expectations
  • Provide high support
  • Honor diversity
  • Treat others with respect
  • Use socially networked learning
Know what’s going on in the community and the world
  • Keep up with trends in your area(s) of teaching
  • Keep up with trends in learning, education, classroom leadership, enhancing student learning, collaborating, using social media, etc.
Research to maintain current knowledge in your field(s)
  • Keep up with innovative practices in the field and the skills to use them
  • Ensure that current knowledge doesn’t supersede baseline knowledge, but builds on it
  • Help students learn to do individual and joint research
  • Support students doing research and encourage them to publish their work
  • Blog regularly about your field
  • Publish articles in trade journals or newsletters
  • Publish articles in peer-reviewed journals
Understand student needs
  • Find out what students are concerned about
  • “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” (Stephen Covey)
  • Listen twice as much as you talk
  • Keep up with issues affecting today’s students
  • Integrate the technology today’s students use into your teaching
  • Demonstrate that you care about student challenges and support success in those areas
Teach real world applications
  • Help students understand how they can take what they learn and use it in their work and in their lives
  • Teach students how to think in ways that will make them good citizens and respected employees
Use effective facilitation skills
  • Keep lecture time minimal
  • Engage the group using group facilitation skills
Actively engage students
  • Get students excited about learning
  • Get the context out there quickly and move to group work, problem-solving, interaction, talking with each other
  • Use multiple frames of reference to retain interest
Take accountability for student success
  • Communicate class plans and your expectations clearly
  • Apply standards equitably, while realizing that each learner is different
  • Accept that if the students don’t do well, we may not have supported them well enough
  • Stay connected
  • Assist in ongoing career development
Demonstrate flexibility/adaptability
  • Update your courses every time you teach them to incorporate new knowledge and teaching methods
  • Change your course structure, materials, examples, activities, exams, and assignments to reflect changes in the world (for example, social media as a major communication channel)
  • Adapt the class agenda based on expressed student interests and needs
  • Be actively learning how to communicate, collaborate and interact in a socially networked world and a socially networked classroom
Use technology to enhance engagement
  • Link technology use to course objectives and assignments
  • Post links and handouts on Blackboard
  • Avoid using technology as a crutch in teaching. Talk about what’s between the lines,
Organize your teaching
  • Plan well
  • Communicate clearly up front
  • Stay on schedule
  • Respond quickly with grades after assignments are turned in
Participate in professional development regularly
  • Participate in regular professional development in your area(s) of teaching
  • Participate in regular professional development in use of technology in teaching