Prof. Animesh Aditya

Classroom innovation helps with both tenure and student success

When Animesh Aditya makes changes to his introductory organic chemistry class, the first priority isn’t whether the teaching method is innovative or cutting edge; rather it’s will the change help his students succeed.

“It should never be innovation for innovation’s sake,” says Aditya, who was awarded the College of Pharmacy’s Innovation in Teaching and Learning Award in 2015. “It’s about whether the innovation – like implementing active learning or low-stakes quizzes – can help the student succeed.”  

That rationale – doing more to help students succeed – is the basis for the language in Purdue’s criteria for tenure and promotion, which includes a section emphasizing the importance of innovation in the classroom to those career advancement decisions. The document cites such things as:

  • Evidence that students have learned under the candidate’s instruction.
  • Teaching awards and other formal recognitions.
  • Substantial curricular or pedagogical innovation.
  • Pedagogical publications and presentations of research.
  • Participation in teaching workshops or lectures.

“Innovation is fueled by the desire to improve the quality of instruction,” says Frank Dooley, Purdue’s vice provost for teaching and learning. “Ultimately, what we’re talking about is having a high quality of instruction.”

Although terms like “high quality” or even the tenure document’s language - “evidence that students have learned under the candidate’s instruction” – can be hard to quantify, Dooley notes that innovation in teaching and learning can take different forms, especially at Purdue.

“Sometimes I think the challenge our faculty face is knowing where to go,” says Dooley. “There are a lot of different resources available, but it’s difficult to find the time to investigate them fully.”

One unit on campus that is available to help faculty with teaching and innovation is ITaP’s Teaching and Learning Technologies, says Steve Beaudoin, a professor of chemical engineering and winner of the College of Engineering’s A. A. Potter Best Teacher Award for 2017.

“The TLT team is great because they’re about much more than just implementing a new technology,” says Beaudoin, who also serves as the academic director of ITaP’s Teaching and Learning Technologies group. “They have staff who can help with that, but they also have instructional designers to help with course design, they provide faculty professional development courses, they’re developing new education apps that create additional research opportunities for faculty interested in pedagogy. They are here to serve the faculty.”

That dedication to teaching, learning and innovation is at the heart of what ITaP does, says Gerry McCartney, Purdue’s vice president of information technology and system chief information officer, and is central to the mission of the University.

“The pace at which technology is changing, and the way that affects how students learn, is a continuous and some might say accelerating process,” McCartney says. “Our goal is to provide our faculty with a skilled resource to assist them in their choices. That’s why we invest so heavily not just in technology, but in looking at the methodology with which it is used. One of our primary goals is to help faculty facilitate learning in ways that are both pedagogically sound and forward-thinking.”

Another option for faculty includes participating in IMPACT (Instruction Matters: Purdue Academic Course Transformation), the University-wide initiative which brings instructors together to redesign foundational courses to make them more student-centered, with help from Purdue’s Libraries, Center for Instructional Excellence and ITaP.

Since 2014, more than 250 faculty have participated in the semester-long program that provides the resources and training to redesign a courses.

“We’re now at the point where we have entire colleges or departments looking at the success of IMPACT and working on plans to put all of their faculty through the program,” Dooley says.

But regardless of how faculty choose to pursue innovation in their courses, the underlying philosophy remains focused on student success, both in the classroom and after graduation.

“When I think about my students, who are usually freshman or sophomores, of course I want them to know the material, because it’s the foundation for what they’ll need to know in other courses,” says Aditya. “But when it comes to teaching, whether or not they’ll remember all the material 10 years down the line is really irrelevant. To me, the bigger goal is that they remember the problem solving skills – so that way if they don’t know the answer, they’ll know how to find it.”

For more information about Teaching and Learning Technologies, or to request a one-on-one consultation, contact

Writer: Dave Stephens, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue, 765-496-7998,

Last updated: April 4, 2017 

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