CTE Celebrates 20th Anniversary of the Creative Teaching Awards

In 1992, shortly after developing the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE), Dr. Dorothy Frayer, then-associate provost and CTE director, established the Creative Teaching Awards to recognize creative teaching efforts at the University. This year’s Celebration of Teaching Excellence will mark its 20th anniversary at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 12, in the Power Center Ballroom. The campus community is welcome to attend.

Dr. Dorothy Frayer

“I thought about the fact that Duquesne had only one teaching award at the time and that it did not specifically focus on active learning,” Frayer explained. “Therefore, it probably did not provide an incentive for faculty—especially those who were not yet tenured, to attempt active forms of learning. My idea was to initiate awards specifically designated for creative teaching.”

Frayer shared her idea with then-Provost Mike Weber, who approved the funding for up to four awards per year in the amount of $500 each. “From there, things blossomed,” said Frayer, who retired from the CTE in 2005.

According to Frayer, the awards began to serve as a teaching vehicle for educators. If a promising submission is received but is not chosen for an award due to inadequate evidence for learning, that faculty member is encouraged to re-submit the following year. The CTE offers assistance to help further develop a sound plan for learning assessment. Many faculty often re-submit and receive the award. “I think that this was a subtle but important outcome of the awards,” Frayer said. “It actually led to faculty developing projects with sound evaluation that were publishable.”

Laurel Willingham-McLain, director of the CTE, has overseen the Creative Teaching Awards since 2005. “Dorothy had incredible foresight in the way she established the award,” said Willingham-McLain. “The only thing that has changed is that the quality of faculty submissions gets higher and higher each year.”

Past winners from across the University form the evaluation committee, which selects the winners. To date, 84 faculty have received the award, often in collaborations of two to three faculty members. These collaborative initiatives are usually within a school, but may cross school boundaries.

“I believe the awards helped develop a cadre of faculty who, by then, were already attuned to the idea of learning assessment,” said Frayer. “Another outcome is that the awards have sometimes motivated faculty to try new approaches to teaching and share them with others.”