Principle 1: Disciplinary Excellence

Principle 1: Disciplinary Excellence

Create and deliver a coherent course of study with activities and assessment strategies that are consonant with current best practices in the disciplines involved.

Summary and Rationale

Design and deliver courses that encourage students to connect to disciplinary material with a sense of expansiveness and rigor. At the core of the teaching enterprise is a commitment to discipline: to the questions that animate scholars and connect disciplines to the world. At Montclair State, faculty and departments retain a lifelong relationship to their disciplines, seeking ways to make relevant the disciplinary waves and shifts in emphasis and thinking to all students, from undergraduate to graduate level. The challenge for instructors is to find the right pitch for students, advancing student thinking and knowledge as much as is possible, right to the edge of capacity. With an emphasis on curiosity, critical thinking, and capacity building, instructors seek to have students recognize courses as rigorous and impactful.

Courses designed with disciplinary excellence in mind allow students to make connections between themselves, their disciplines, and the systems that impact the world around them. It prepares students for rich lives, strong careers, and the ability to be able to think innovatively about the future. Instructors retain disciplinary excellence through engagement in their fields of study, through research and reading, and also through attending professional activities with other instructors to develop discipline-specific pedagogical strategies and course materials.

Disciplinary excellence also includes the responsibility to critically reflect on a discipline’s origins, historical development and contemporary practices and impacts in the world.  It is important for both instructors and students to explore their discipline’s epistemological basis, its ethical and political dimensions, and how it supports and challenges other disciplines or work. This critical reflection provides students the opportunity to examine and question disciplinary knowledge, research methods, and applied practices, allowing for interdisciplinary connections.


  • Highlight new discoveries and research findings from the course’s disciplines.
  • Follow and integrate innovations from the disciplinary community’s pedagogical research and praxis in each course.
  • Make connections between course content and current disciplinary discoveries, happenings, debates, and questions.
  • Make the course compelling, linking course content and skills learned to important questions in the discipline and ideally the world.
  • Communicate high expectations and hold students close to the edge of their mastery to help all students reach their potential, creating a robust learning environment for all.
  • Model respect for intellectual property, hold high expectations for original content and guide students in honest academic practices.



  • Healey, M. (2000). “Developing the Scholarship of Teaching in Higher Education: A discipline-based approach.” Higher Education Research & Development 19(2): 169-189.
  • Kreber, C. (2009). The university and its disciplines: Teaching and learning within and beyond disciplinary boundaries. New York, Routledge.
  • Middendorf, J., & Pace, D. (2004). Decoding the Disciplines: A Model for Helping Students Learn Disciplinary Ways of Thinking. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 98, 1–12. 
  • Miller, Y. J., & Boman, J. (2017). Uncovering Ways of Thinking, Practicing, and Being through Decoding across Disciplines. New Directions for Teaching & Learning, 2017(150), 19–35. 
  • Neumann, R., Parry, S. and Becher, T. 2002. Teaching and learning in their disciplinary context: a conceptual analysis. Studies in Higher Education, 4: 405–417.
  • Pace, D., & Middendorf, J. (2004). Decoding the disciplines: Helping students learn disciplinary ways of thinking. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Parker, J. (2002). “A New Disciplinarity: Communities of knowledge, learning and practice.” Teaching in Higher Education 7(4): 373-386.