This page contains Frequently Asked Questions that people who teach at UTEP often have. We hope this page is helpful to you and invite you to submit suggestions of other questions you have that may be of broad interest to the UTEP teaching community. Click on the question below to see its answer.

CLICK HERE for link to "Reasons to raise focus on teaching even in an environment emphasizing research" by Dr. Larry Lesser.

What other conference is so affordable and yet provides an opportunity to experience such high-quality presentations (from people in and out of your discipline) and contribute a peer-reviewed paper of your own to help document your efforts in teaching (as well as get valuable feedback from attendees)?

See http://cetalweb.utep.edu/sun/ for more information about the conference!

The CETaL website offers archived material from recent FFRs (see FALL FACULTY RETREAT drop-down menu under “PROGRAMS”), many workshops (see “WORKSHOP MATERIALS” under “RESOURCES” in the right sidebar menu), and many Sun Conference presentations (see http://cetal.utep.edu/sun/index.php/past-conferences/sun-conference-2014).

A growing collection of such podcast videos are available on CETaL's TEACHING TOOLKIT or the AT website. It may also be helpful to identify a faculty member who uses the technique of interest and ask to sit in on a class meeting. This may be facilitated by contacting CETaL or posting an appropriate request or offer on the CETaL virtual bulletin board.

And, beyond videos on individual techniques, here is an honest, compelling longer video of a UTEP faculty member's overcoming his resistance to change and undertaking an overall process of transformation from replicating traditional methods he had experienced to developing a more effective, student-centered approach: Transforming Teaching.

UTEP’s P&T guidelines recognize as legitimate the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (as well as the other three types of scholarship in Ernest Boyer’s model) and, as of January 2014, when you enter a publication into Digital Measures, you have the opportunity to classify its scholarship type so that UTEP can readily track this important work.  For information and resources on SoTL, please see http://cetalweb.utep.edu/index.php/scholarship-of-teaching

A conventional research lecture is not necessarily evidence that a candidate will be successful in engaging students, especially students who may be taking an introductory course or a course for nonmajors.  Consider building into the itinerary an hour where the candidate teaches the regular topic of someone's class, or even just does a 20-minute mini-teaching on a favorite topic of her/his choice to a group of students (not necessarily an intact class, but perhaps to a club or group of students assembled around a seminar or lunch table).  Consider having required application materials include a Teaching Statement, a letter of recommendation addressing teaching ability/potential, and evidence of effectiveness from any prior teaching.

There are many activities related to teaching and learning that can be included in your research grant and which have the potential for broader impacts. Below is a list of things you could propose to do. The list (courtesy of Dr. Lourdes Echegoyen, director of the Campus Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives) is not exhaustive, but will probably get your creative juices going.

  • Develop research-based educational materials/activities. These are materials and activities derived from your research work that fit into the learning objectives of a particular course and hence bring “hot off the press” discoveries into the classroom. Students learn the same concepts they would have learned with the “old” materials with a touch of novelty and a sense of ownership and pride - it was discovered at UTEP!
  • Integrate research activities into your coursework so that students in the classroom are the discoverers. If unsure about how to do this, consult and partner with education researchers in your field. They typically know what works best.
  • Offer recruitment, research training/participation and professional development to K-12 teachers and community college instructors. 6-10 week summer projects work best for them. This is particularly effective when each teacher/instructor teams-up with one or two of their own HS or community college students.
  • Include students as participants in the proposed research activities as appropriate. They could be K-12, undergraduates (if majors and non-majors even better), and /or graduate students.
  • Offer training to graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in how to effectively teach topics in your specific research area using field-specific, evidence-based practices. The training is more impactful if it involves active learning strategies and communicating difficult topics to K-12 students and the general public.
  • Offer to disseminate your newly developed teaching/learning approaches that have worked well (based on rigorous assessments), not just by giving a presentation or posting on a website, but by offering a hands-on workshop at a national conference and publish the results in a peer-reviewed educational journal.
  • Offer to disseminate results of your research to lay-audiences using means available to the general public, such as local newspapers, radio, television, theatres and museums.
  • Indicate how many members of underrepresented groups in your field are being impacted by your research and educational activities - this is particularly important in the sciences and engineering. Be realistic about what you propose to do. It should be specific, measurable (assessment), attainable, relevant, and timely. If it can also be transformative, you have a winner.
Additional information about broader impact is at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2007/nsf07046/nsf07046.jsp.


Much increased focus on online education in both the Legislature and the UT System has directed this educational delivery mode as a way to introduce efficiencies in higher education. At UTEP, a survey of students taking online courses (with 1012 respondents) indicated that most of our students take online courses for the flexibility in time and space that is afforded by this modality of learning in well designed courses. In addition our graduation data indicate that approximately 30% of our graduating class has taken at least one online course as part of their curriculum. Given UTEP’s mission of access and excellence, a targeted and planned increase in the number of quality online courses, certificates and programs can dovetail with and enhance our mission.
The process begins by submitting a proposal through the Office of the Provost. The proposal form is accessed at OnlineCourseDevelopmentProposal. Upon approval, faculty have the option of working with Academic Technologies to collaborate on instructional design, course development, best practices, and developing a community of practice.

If students need technology help for an online course they are taking, they should contact the HELP Desk: Calling from on-campus: x 4357 (HELP); Local phone number: (915) 747-5257 Or visit the Student Technology Center in the University Library, Room 300. Students can also visit an on-campus lab such as the ATLAS lab located within the Undergraduate Learning Center (room 202 UGLC building) for additional technical assistance. They can also contact the Blackboard Support Center at http://bbcrm.edusupportcenter.com/ics/support/default.asp?deptID=8318

If faculty want to learn more about best practices, tools, and functionality of using the learning management system (i.e. Blackboard), they can visit Blackboard Central in Academic Technologies:
Phone: 915.747.7947
Web: http://at.utep.edu/bbc
E-mail: blackboardcentral@utep.edu
Scheduled appointments: UGLC 320

This will vary by discipline. With mathematics, UTEP students can be helped to fill in those gaps and come up to speed by the tutors at MaRCS (http://math.utep.edu/marcs/) or find topic-specific help at websites such as http://www.khanacademy.org/ or http://www.sosmath.com/. With writing, UTEP students can be helped (online or in person) by the Writing Center (http://academics.utep.edu/writingcenter) and UTEP faculty may find it helpful to visit http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/solveproblem/strat-cantwrite/index.html.
With reading, it may be helpful to see the workshops by Shaffer/Storey-Gore/Varela:

If you suspect that some of your students are struggling to understand your lectures because their first language is not English, here are some strategies (courtesy of Dr. Rey Reyes) for helping them get the most out of your class:

*If you are using PowerPoint slides, make sure there are visuals that accompany the most complex concepts you are teaching.

*Make sure your class is not 100% lecture-based. Have your students interact with each other through activities, projects, and discussions. The struggling student may have a friend or colleague they can interact with in their first language, who may be able to help them to clarify the most difficult concepts. Or they simply may learn better from a student who is a native English-speaker who can “interpret” the concepts you are teaching in a more student-friendly manner.

*Create an online discussion board. If you find that your English learner is not speaking up much in class, Blackboard may be an opportunity for them to “speak up” in a forum that may be less stressful than having the pressure of speaking up in class. This opportunity to think, write, and dialogue with others at their own pace may help them to learn the material better.

CLICK HERE for link to Culturally Sensitive Teaching Strategies for Hispanic Students presentation by Irasema Coronado, Mark Lusk, Stella Quinones and Griselda Villalobos.

CLICK HERE for link to On the Impact of Our Feedback: Students Choosing, and Using, to Learn by Reynaldo Reyes III, Ph.D., Department of Teacher Education at The university of Texas at El Paso College Teaching Journal. 24 Sep 2013.

You are wise to be seeking feedback early enough in a course (e.g., by mid-February or mid-September) to be able to make timely adjustments. You can solicit feedback from your students on your own at any time such as through the use of "minute papers,” in which you ask just one or two questions for students to write down anonymous feedback for you during the last minute of a class period. CETaL has a formative evaluation process that can be administered anonymously online (CLICK HERE for link to Tara Gray’s Approach to Mid-Term Course Evaluation). Another effective technique is having a third-party person conduct a focus group interview of the students (with you out of the room) about their experiences of learning in your class, with the responses relayed to you later in anonymous form.  Consider asking a peer, mentor, CETaL Fellow, teaching award winner, or a supervisor to sit in a representative class meeting and observe you, using a structured tool such as those on this page: http://cetalweb.utep.edu/index.php/peer-observation.

First, resist any initial reaction to discount student feedback. We faculty are the content experts, but we all have room to improve how students learn that content. Any theme that gets expressed by a large number of your students means there is something that is worthwhile to work on, even if it turns out to be more of a matter of perception – you may notice a big difference in the future by changing how you set up and package your instruction, how you word your syllabus, how you communicate with students from different cultural backgrounds, etc. Now that UTEP has moved to collecting student ratings online, you have the opportunity to find out this feedback earlier than was previously possible, and can make even more timely improvements in your teaching.

Student narrative comments are often the most helpful part of the data you receive from them – look for patterns and trends and make some simple tabulations and category groupings of this data. The quantitative ratings can be better interpreted by taking into account context. Such context could come from general educational literature which indicates, for example, that student ratings tend to be slightly higher in higher-level courses, in smaller classes, and in less quantitative disciplines. More specific local context could be obtained by asking your chair or college for how your ratings in those classes compare to departmental and college averages. College norms by term are available at http://admin.utep.edu/Default.aspx?tabid=58051.

Finally, be aware that the literature on faculty evaluation generally recommends multiple sources of data rather than relying on only one source. Such additional sources of data might include your own reflections, curriculum development, innovative pedagogies used, documentation of student learning, CETaL workshops attended that calendar year (Karla G. Ramirez kgramirez@utep.edu can send you a written confirmation of this), example artifacts/lessons/projects, and observations/ratings (ideally, using a systematic approach or protocol) by colleagues or a chair. For resources on peer observations, please see http://cetalweb.utep.edu/index.php/peer-observation.

First everyone’s teaching is (or at least should be) in a state of ongoing growth. Unless otherwise explicitly agreed to by all interested parties, CETaL feedback is considered formative and confidential, in compliance with the “Ethical Guidelines for Educational Developers” published by the Core Committee of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education. CETaL will not disclose to a third party the results of any formative assessment or consultation (or even the topic of such a consultation) that you request, subject to the usual legal exceptions (e.g., potential suicide, murder, gross misconduct). You, of course, are free to choose to share the feedback with others as you wish.

CETaL does not do summative evaluations of teaching.  That role is the jurisdiction of your department chair and/or departmental evaluation committee.

Each faculty member or unit must decide which of the many options out there best fits their intended purposes.  For many, the challenge is finding a sweet spot that goes beyond a fairly non-informative yes/no checklist but is not unduly lengthy or complex. See http://cetal.utep.edu/index.php/peer-observation for resources CETaL has compiled. Note that best practices for peer observation go beyond the actual day of the observation: it is valuable to have a pre-observation conversation to contextualize the upcoming class observation and it is important to have a post-observation conversation to discuss the feedback.

As the CETaL website shows, UTEP has many dozens of faculty who have received rigorous teaching awards and/or served as a CETaL Fellow and most of these faculty have indicated willingness to be contacted for such purposes.  There are valuable perspectives for mentees in handbooks such as http://www.albany.edu/academics/mentoring.best.practices.chapter4.shtml also, see http://cetalweb.utep.edu/index.php/faculty-mentoring1. While there are particular workshops by CETaL and other units with particular connection to mentoring, most mentoring at UTEP now takes place in a more tailored, informal manner within colleges and departments. Also, keep in mind there are many other key people on campus that can be quite helpful to you such as Associate Dean of Students Ryan Holmes, Reference Instruction Librarian Angela Lucero, Graduate Professional Development Director Isela Ocegueda, and Academic Technologies Associate Director Steve Varela.  CLICK HERE for link to How to Develop a TSC (Trusted Senior Colleague) by Larry Cebula from chronicle.com

“Decoding the Disciplines” (contact Ivonne Santiago), “Liberating Structures” (contact Arvind Singhal or Lucía Durá), and “Teaching Large Classes” (Brad J. Cartwright). Interested in starting a new one or finding out who else at UTEP is interested in exploring a particular topic? Post a note on the CETaL “bulletin board” or CETaL Facebook page 

Several UTEP faculty such as Dr. Arvind Singhal (e.g., his chapter in the 2012 Sage book Public Communication Campaigns) have experience using edutainment for social change, outreach, or education. CLICK HERE for an article by Dr. Bill Robertson (a.k.a. Dr. Skateboard) and Dr. Larry Lesser (a.k.a. The Mathemusician) on teaching STEM content using the popular vehicles of skateboarding and music, respectively.

The CETaL Council of Fellows is a prestigious advisory and participatory group that works with the CETaL director on conceptualizing and executing various events related to teaching and learning for UTEP faculty and graduate student instructors, especially the Sun Conference. Fellows are individuals who are enthusiastic about and dedicated to teaching and learning and who:

  • Have at least 4 years of experience teaching in higher education and 3 years at UTEP
  • If on tenure track, have completed their tenure application.
  • Are engaged in scholarly teaching and possibly SoTL
  • Would like to share her/his experiences with other faculty and promote effective teaching strategies.
  • Comfortable advising, coaching and mentoring colleagues to enhance their teaching · like to work in cooperative settings.


  • Meet monthly with the Council of Fellows to discuss various issues and events.
  • If asked by faculty in your college, conduct confidential formative consultations on teaching and learning or review their teaching portfolio. These may include analysis of class preparations, teaching skills, classroom behavior, etc. Training can be provided if needed. To date, there have been very few requests of CETaL. Most departments take care of this themselves.
  • Bring teaching and learning initiatives/activities that may be of interest to the university community to the attention of the Council and the director and have them placed on the CETaL events’ calendar.
  • Take a role in the organization of the Sun Conference by contributing ideas to the planning process and the organization of the conference on issues such as evaluation and selection of presentation proposals, moderate presentation sessions.

Other possible contributions a Fellow could choose to make include:

  • Identify and share effective online teaching-related websites or modules that help faculty strengthen their teaching.
  • Help identify strategic directions and new initiatives for the CETaL
  • Identify faculty colleagues who are innovators in teaching and should share their innovations with other faculty in workshops.
  • Lead a University-wide workshop in an area of teaching expertise or innovation.
  • Conduct student focus groups, possibly in collaboration with the Student Government Association on the quality of teaching and learning at UTEP
  • Collaborate with others in SoTL research projects.
  • Lead “reading-circles” or discussion groups on teaching and learning for faculty.

The topic may be addressed on another teaching center’s website (e.g., http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/solveproblem/step1-problem/index.html), or you can submit your suggested FAQ item to us at http://cetalweb.utep.edu/index.php/contact.