Academy of Distinguished Teachers Undergraduate Teaching Opportunities Program (UTOP) UMD 2008-2009

About the Undergraduate Teaching Opportunity Program (UTOP)

What is UTOP?

UTOP is a program that was piloted on the UMD campus for the first time during the fall 2008 semester and was offered across all University of Minnesota campuses for spring semester 2009. It was developed as an opportunity for undergraduate students who may be interested in teaching at the college level at some future date to learn more about what is involved in college teaching. Additionally, the experience is designed to help faculty involved in the program to further develop their teaching skills. The five student and faculty pairs who have participated to date all reported having a positive experience with their UTOP activities.

Students selected for the program will work in partnership with a faculty member who is a member of the University of Minnesota Academy of Distinguished Teachers. (To find out which faculty are eligible, you can download 2009 list of ADT members as a pdf).

Program objectives:

  1. Increase student and faculty understanding of the teaching and learning process
  2. Assist undergraduate students in understanding college teaching as a career, and
  3. Improve student and faculty teaching knowledge and skills.

Implicit in these intended impacts or goals is that faculty members will learn more about the characteristics of the students they teach and will receive in-depth feedback on how different aspects of the way that they teach impact students, thereby improving their skills as an instructor. Students will be exposed to the "behind the scenes" aspects of the college teaching process, will learn and practice specific teaching skills, will consider college teaching as a career, and will learn how to obtain effective feedback on teaching by obtaining information from students in their faculty mentor's class.

Overview of UTOP design

The sponsoring faculty member will work closely as a teaching mentor with the student, guiding the students in becoming familiar with and developing some of the foundational skills in teaching at the college level. The nature and extent of the students' involvement in this process will be determined by each faculty/student team.

Important: Although UTOP students may certainly help the faculty members in carrying out some teaching responsibilities, they are not to be seen as teaching assistants. Rather, they are apprentice teachers seeking to develop an understanding of and beginning skills in college level teaching. Throughout the semester UTOP faculty members should model teaching processes, provide students with feedback on their teaching experiences, and discuss college teaching with the students.

UTOP components

Faculty should guide UTOP students in understanding the processes involved in developing and teaching a course. Each faculty and student pair should identify one course that will be taught by that faculty member during the spring 2010 semester. They should then work cooperatively in the planning, development, and where appropriate, teaching of this course. Elements of this process include:

  1. Instructional design process:
    • strategies for getting to know students and understand learner characteristics
    • specifying learning objectives
    • identifying student entry level behaviors
    • selection of reading materials and other teaching and learning resources
    • generating alternative teaching and learning activities and then selecting and planning the best combination of activities
    • evaluating student learning.
  2. Teaching a portion of the course
  3. Evaluation of the student's and the instructor's teaching.

Elements of UTOP for Spring 2010

  1. Provide financial support to students who are interested in working with a faculty member to learn about teaching and assisting the faculty member in becoming a better teacher. Stipend for spring semester: $800 for student, $200 for student-faculty team for professional development or teaching resources.
  2. Facilitating a process to assist the faculty and students in achieving intended project outcomes.
  3. Fall 2008 and Spring 2009: five student/faculty pairs were selected from four University of Minnesota campuses.
  4. Spring 2010 goal: At least one student-faculty team from each University of Minnesota campus will be selected for spring semester, 2010. We anticipate five student/faculty pairs will be selected.

Eligibility for Spring 2010

  • Any full-time University of Minnesota undergraduate student in good academic standing.
  • Student applicants must work with a faculty sponsor. Faculty members must be a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers at the University of Minnesota.

Application for Spring 2010

  • Students should work with the proposed faculty mentor to develop the application.
  • Applications are due by December 1st, 2009 by 4:00 p.m.: download UTOP application
  • Applications must be emailed to Helen Mongan-Rallis as an attachment.
  • Successful applicants will be notified by December 4th, 2009.

Questions? If you have questions about UTOP, contact either Denny Falk (218) 726-8862 or Helen Mongan-Rallis (218) 726-6272