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History of Teaching & Learning at UT Knoxville

While Teaching & Learning Innovation is a relatively new department on campus, the philosophy of teaching and learning has had a presence on campus since the mid-1960s. While the home for teaching and learning has changed over the years, the basic concepts and tenets of this discipline have remained an important part of our academic history. Learn more about how teaching & learning has been featured over the years on campus, and where it stands today.

The first teaching and learning center at the University of Tennessee was initiated in the mid-1960s under the leadership of Ohmer Milton (PhD) and focused on research. The Center conducted some of the leading studies in education employing an existential phenomenological approach (led by Professors Ohmer Milton, Lee Humphrey, Howard Pollio, and others). This research focus was consistent with interest in action research, preceding the SoTL movement in faculty development. In 1995, however, the original Center was disbanded. 


The university’s Retention Taskforce, commissioned by then Provost Robert Holub, included as one of its recommendations that the institution needed a teaching and learning center to aid in improving teaching and instructor relationships with students.  


David Schumann (PhD), professor emeritus, then William J. Taylor Professorship of Business in the Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management was selected as the inaugural director of the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center (TennTLC). As part of the university’s retention efforts, the center’s goal was to support the development of and co-create with UT faculty, strategies and practices that enhanced the teaching and learning experience.  Additionally, the center was to provide opportunities for faculty to learn about and adopt evidence-based teaching strategies.

Under the directorship of Schumann, the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center physically opened its doors in March of 2009, in the former Aconda Court. During this period, key programming and process were developed to support the work of improving retention through “enhance(d) professional teaching skills and knowledge (as well as) support(ing) the application of effective learning strategies in student-oriented environments.” (TennTLC, 2011, p.2).  

In addition to the dozens of campus-wide and department specific workshops that took placed on wide ranging topics such as Mentoring and Advising Graduate Students, Engaging Students in STEM, Time Management for Assistant Professors, Diversity and Engagement in the Classroom, and others, below are some programming worth highlighting included:  

  • Annual CASNR (now Herbert College of Agriculture) Workshops 
  • Faculty Inquiry Groups (Reflective Practice, Acting Principles applied to Teaching, Experiential and Service Learning, and Gaming) 
  • Learning Community for New Faculty (For faculty new to teaching at the University Level) 
  • Institute for Reflective Practice (Supported faculty in learning about and developing a reflective practice to be used to improve the teaching and learning experience) 
  • Teaching and Learning Consortium (A group of campus leaders [across colleges, units, offices, and divisions] who were interested in advancing issues on campus around teaching and learning  
  • New Faculty Teaching Institute (Annual event to support instructors new to UT) 
  • Summer Teaching Institute on Course Design (Face to Face, Online, and Blended Courses) 
  • Creative Teaching Grants 
  • Student Forum on Learning (Undergraduate body of students to inform our practice) 


Taimi Olsen (PhD) became the director of TennTLC in 2014.  Under her leadership, the Center continued to develop programming to meet the needs of the campus. During this period, many of the previously mention programs continued such as the New Faculty Teaching Institute, the Summer Teaching Institute, and the Creative Teaching Grants. The TennTLC increased its efforts to support programmatic assessment on campus in support of the accreditation process by hiring staff consultants and work with faculty on understanding the programmatic assessment process and how to develop an effective plan. The Center also continued with its foundational work of one on one consulting. Highlighted programming includes: 

  • Workshop Series (Diversity and Inclusion, Critical Thinking, Experiential Learning) 
  • Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL) research retreat 
  • Workshops on Threshold Concepts 
  • Faculty Inquiry Groups (Humanities, Engineering) 
  • Monthly Development and Dissemination of Online Resources and Teaching Tips 
  • Innovation Day (in collaboration with UT Libraries) 
  • Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week 
  • Teaching Certificate for Graduate Students 
  • Design Thinking Conference 


Matthew Theriot (PhD), Professor of Social Work, was named Associate Provost for Teaching and Learning Innovation. Initially, in this role, Theriot’s primary responsibilities were overseeing the implementation of Experience Learning, the university’s Quality Enhancement Plan at that time, and the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center.   


In 2016, two (2) other offices joined the Teaching and Learning Innovation, the Office of Service-Learning and the Office of Online Programs.  These offices began to work together as a sort of teaching and learning hub for campus

This collaboration also helped to create unique opportunities, such as supporting the university’s QEP initiativeExperience Learning, through contributing the Experiential Learning Summer Institute.  Additionally, under Associate Provost Theriot’s leadership, the campus became a member of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL). This is a consortium of universities that work together to develop and share resources to support the creation of the next generation of faculty.

Under the leadership of Associate Provost Theriot several changes occurred within TLI. After about a year of the Offices of Service-Learning, Online Programs, the Teaching & Learning Center, and the Experience Learning QEP operating as individual entities within TLI, the offices were joined together to form a singular unit, Teaching and Learning Innovation. This was accompanied with a full rebranding of the website and other materials. 

Under the new organization, while still maintaining significant set of workshop offerings and consultations to the campus, developing online resources, and conducting annual events such as New Faculty Teaching Institute and Faculty Appreciation Week, several noteworthy events took place during the period: 

  • Teaching and Learning Innovation Summer Institute (including Experiential Learning, Service Learning, and Traditional Face to Face Teaching) 
  • Teaching Support Awards (given to 96 instructors and graduate teaching assistants and associates) 
  • Online and Hybrid Teaching Support Awards 
  • Service-Learning S-Designation Course Design Guide and Workshops 
  • Creation of Diversi-Tea workshop series 
  • Risk Management Guides and Other Resources 
  • Advisory Groups (For Experiential Learning, Inclusive Teaching, and CIRTL) 
  • National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity Member 
  • Game-Based Learning Certificate 
  • Development and Implementation of Faculty Fellows Program 
  • Innovative Teaching and Learning Conference 
  • Virtual Vol Bootcamp 
  • First Year Course Academy 
  • Faculty Leadership and Mentoring Programs 
  • Resources to Assist Faculty in Teaching during COVID-19 



Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center (2011). Evaluation report on activities of the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center. Internal University of Tennessee, Knoxville report: unpublished. 

UT Boosts Student Retention Rate. (2007, November 30). The University of Tennessee, Knoxville Campus News.  

Office of the Provost University of Tennessee, Knoxville. (2015, August 11). Matthew Theriot named Associate Provost for Teaching and Learning Innovation. Retrieved from