College Outstanding Teacher Award (COTA)

The College Outstanding Teaching Award (COTA) recognizes excellence in teaching and honors individual faculty members at each of the university’s colleges for their instructional accomplishments. The COTA was instituted as a complement to the campus-wide Distinguished Teaching Award.

The COTA program is administered by the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and the individual colleges.

Nature of Award

COTAs are presented annually each spring semester. Each award consists of $1,000 prize and a commemorative plaque. Each college is encouraged to establish their own award ceremony and to maintain a permanent plaque bearing the name of each recipient and the year of the award.

The Provost provides $500 for each COTA awarded to an individual faculty member; colleges are expected to match the $500 for their COTA recipients. Funds are allocated on a prorated basis. Colleges having more than 100 faculty receive two awards and colleges having more than 200 faculty receive three awards.

Any full-time faculty member who has been a member of the college for three or more years, who has taught at least two semesters and who has not received the Distinguished Teaching Award or the College Outstanding Teaching Award within the past five years is eligible for the COTA. In the event that a college selection committee does not designate a winner in a given year, the award may be omitted for that year (prize money cannot be carried forward).

Committee Selection

Each college may establish their own criteria and process. Colleges may establish their committees by any reasonable method however COTA review committees should include at least one undergraduate and one graduate student. For example, one college enlists former recipients of the Distinguished Teaching Award, College Outstanding Teaching Award, and Lilly Teaching Fellowship to serve as committee members.
Please ensure that all involved in the selection process understand the need to maintain the confidentiality of nominee files.

Criteria for Evaluating Candidates

Although there are a variety of elements of excellence in teaching, and outstanding teachers may approach the craft of teaching from different perspectives, there is consensus in the research literature on the general characteristics of effective teaching. Recipients of the COTA should exhibit some combination of these four characteristics:

Teaching Effectiveness and Creativity: Evidence that the instructor has developed effective skills in managing the art and craft of teaching, is enthusiastic, well prepared for class, presents material in an interesting and clear manner, is fair and reasonable in the evaluation of students, and has the ability to encourage and motivate student learning. In addition, the instructor evidences openness to new techniques and approaches that stimulate intellectual growth and generate active student participation.

Impact on Students: Evidence that the faculty member has an interest in students and advisees and demonstrates concern for their educational and personal welfare. The instructor is approachable and available to students in and outside the classroom, and is involved with student activities. The faculty member is respectful of different viewpoints and maintains a positive classroom climate.

Subject Mastery and Scholarship: Evidence of expertise in the subject matter taught, in scholarship, and in public service. The instructor has the ability to organize, emphasize and clarify ideas, and to communicate knowledge beyond simply exchanging or presenting information. The faculty member blends new ideas, research, and developments into instruction both within and outside the classroom.

Contributions to Teaching Mission: Evidence that the faculty member assumes responsibilities related to the department curriculum or teaching excellence committees, involvement in the supervision of graduate students, seeks feedback about teaching quality, and is engaged in activities to improve teaching. The latter may include attending seminars, developing special teaching materials or publications, exploring alternative methods, and trying new teaching ideas and practices.


Each college is asked to email the name of its awardee(s) by noon on March 12, 2021 to Sue Laford,, so that the awardees can by recognized at the Faculty Honors Event Program, and included in the Commencement Program.

If you have any questions please contact Sue Laford .

COTA Packet