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.

Disciplinary Excellence

At the core of the teaching enterprise is a commitment to discipline: to the questions that animate scholars and connect disciplines to the world. Instructors retain disciplinary excellence through engagement in their fields of study, through research and reading, and through attending professional activities with other instructors to develop discipline-specific pedagogical strategies and course materials.

At Montclair, 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 both undergraduate and graduate students. Faculty seek to design and deliver courses that encourage students to connect to disciplinary material with a sense of expansiveness and rigor. 

The challenge for instructors is to find the right pitch for students, advancing students’ thinking and knowledge as much as 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 among themselves, their disciplines, and the systems that impact the world around them. Such courses prepare students for rich lives and strong careers, cultivating in them the ability to think innovatively about the future.

Disciplinary excellence also includes the responsibility to critically reflect on a discipline’s origins, historical development, 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.

Visit OFE’s Digital Commons page for examples of Disciplinary Excellence.

An invitation to contribute

This resource is in its infancy, and we look to the Montclair faculty to help us develop materials. Consider sharing your ideas, with these questions as prompts:

  • What strategies do you use to renew and refresh the relevance of your course?  
  • How do you make connections between students’ lived experiences and pressing concerns and your discipline? 
  • How do you have your students apply the knowledge they gain in your course to real world problems and challenges? 

Interested in contributing?  Contact OFE at faculty@montclair.edu.


Resources and References


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. 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. http://ezproxy.montclair.edu:2048/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ761123&site=eds-live&scope=site 

Miller, Y. J., & Boman, J. (2017). Uncovering ways of thinking, practicing, and being through decoding across disciplines. New Directions for Teaching & Learning, 150, 19–35. https://doi-org.ezproxy.montclair.edu/10.1002/tl.20235 

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. Jossey-Bass.

Parker, J. (2002). A new disciplinarity: Communities of knowledge, learning and practice.” Teaching in Higher Education 7(4), 373-386.

Riordan, T., & Roth, J. L. (2005). Disciplines as frameworks for student learning: Teaching the practice of the disciplines. Stylus Pub.


Last Modified: Wednesday, May 17, 2023 2:36 pm


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