Carnegie Mellon University

Teaching Excellence & Innovation

Teaching Innovation Award – Purpose & Criteria

Carnegie Mellon's Teaching Innovation Awards honor specific teaching innovations implemented by 1-3 full-time faculty or staff instructors of record annually. It recognizes teaching practices designed to improve student learning in online, blended or face-to-face courses. Innovations may be any teaching strategy used in a course, class meeting, assignment, or other learning activity.

Award criteria:

This award recognizes innovative teaching practices at the level of individual Carnegie Mellon University courses, class sessions, or assessments based on the:

  1. originality of the teaching strategy or how it was implemented,
  2. impact on student learning and/or engagement, and/or
  3. potential to adopt the teaching strategy (or key elements thereof) within or across disciplines.

Innovative topical course content (e.g., the first course on ice hockey analytics) is NOT a criterion or sufficient for this award.

Any CMU faculty, staff, or student may submit a nomination. Self-nominations are welcome.

Students seeking to nominate someone are strongly encouraged to collaborate with faculty and/or administrators in the nominee’s academic department to optimize nominations.

Innovative teaching strategies developed and implemented within CMU undergraduate and graduate courses may be nominated. Any CMU faculty or staff member who was an instructor of record for the course AND contributed significantly to the development and/or implementation of the innovation is eligible to be recognized for that innovation. Innovations from all disciplines and CMU teaching contexts are welcomed. Previous winners are not eligible for nomination.

Nominations consist of two phases

Phase 1: Nominators submit a single, 2 page nomination letter, due November 1
Phase 2: After award committees select finalists, nominators then compile and submit a full nomination case, due February 1.

Please submit nominations as a single PDF using these online forms:

Phase 1 nominations – due November 1
Phase 2 nominations – due February 1

Questions should be directed to the Vice Provost for Education.

When is the nomination deadline? November 1

The Phase 1 nomination letter must be submitted on or before November 1 via the nomination form to be considered for that academic year.

What is submitted? 

In Phase 1, nominators must submit one letter (maximum two single-spaced pages) that explains why the innovation is worthy of the award. Because the decision to advance the nomination to the second phase is based on this letter alone, it should be descriptive, convincing, and specifically focused on addressing the award criteria listed above. The letter should address the following:

  1. Who is the nominee (faculty member or team)?
  2. What was the name and number of the CMU course(s) in which the innovation was implemented?
  3. What was the teaching practice, specifically? Why is it innovative? 
  4. How did it positively impact student learning and/or engagement?

The Phase 1 nomination letter should be submitted as a PDF via the nomination form on or before November 1.

When are finalists selected for Phase 2?

The award committee will select up to ten innovations to be considered for phase two of the nomination process. Nominators will be notified of outcomes in December.

When is the nomination due? February 1

The Phase 2 nomination letter must be submitted on or before February 1 via the nomination form to be considered for that academic year.

Who prepares the nomination materials for finalists? 

The nominators of each innovation selected for phase 2, together with the nominee(s) are responsible for preparing the full case for that nomination. 

What is submitted?

  • description of the innovation completed by the nominee(s) (maximum 1,000 words or two single-spaced pages), addressing:
    • what motivated this teaching innovation (i.e., what problem it was designed to address or what opportunity it was designed to leverage),
    • how the innovation was implemented, and 
    • how it impacted student learning and/or engagement (e.g., direct evidence of changes in students' performance on tests/assignments, attendance, participation, attitudes, use of instructional materials, etc.)
  • up to three distinct supporting materials associated with the innovation assembled by the nominee(s), potentially including, but not limited to:
    • relevant assignment prompts/descriptions/rubrics, 
    • links to online instructional resources, 
    • examples of student work, annotated to provide context, and 
    • quantitative and/or qualitative data demonstrating the impacts of the teaching intervention on students (maximum 10 pages),
  • two to four letters of support written by current students and/or faculty members.

Advice for nominators and letter writers

Letters should:

  • be limited to two single spaced pages each,
  • specifically and directly describe how the nominee’s teaching innovation demonstrates the award criteria listed above, especially regarding impacts on student learning and/or engagement. 
  • (ideally) represent both student and faculty letter writers. 
  • Represent colleagues’ knowledge of the nominee's teaching innovation via:
    • experiences co-teaching, direct observation, conversations with the nominee, etc. 
    • interactions with the nominee’s students, and
  • include testimonials from current and/or former students* regarding how the nominee’s teaching innovation impacted them. 

*Students may need more guidance in terms of expectations of what a good letter of recommendation should look like, please share the criteria and advice above with them. 

Please note that selected quotes from the winners’ nomination packets may be used for publicity purposes.

SUBMISSION: The Phase 2 nomination packet should be submitted as a single PDF via the nomination form on or before February 1.

When is the award winner announced? 

The award committee will select one to three individuals or teams annually to recommend to the provost for the award. Nominators of all finalists will be notified of outcomes in March. The winner(s), along with their nominators, colleagues, and friends and family, will be invited to attend the Celebration of Education event in April to receive their award.

The provost is responsible for the administration of the nomination and selection process, including calling for proposals and convening the award selection committee.

The award selection committee consists of:

  • recipients of the Teaching Innovation Award from the previous three years, 
  • up to three additional faculty members appointed by the provost, 
  • at least two undergraduate and two graduate students selected through a process developed by the dean of Student Affairs, and
  • the committee chair (a representative of the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation, a non-voting member).

The selection committee adopts its own rules of procedure.

The award committee will choose one to three individuals or teams to be recommended to the provost as the year's recipients of the award. Upon the provost's approval, the recipients will be notified and the awards will be presented at the Celebration of Education event in the spring.