Teaching FAQsBy Michael Murphy, UCAT Graduate Consultant and PhD Candidate in Comparative Studies

As a new graduate consultant (GC), working with the Graduate Associate Teaching Award (GATA) nominees was one of the most memorable and enjoyable parts of my first year at here. Please join me and the rest of UCAT in congratulating this year’s GATA winners. This is a very prestigious and competitive award; of the more than 3000 GTAs at Ohio State, 120 were nominated for the GATA, and 10 of these outstanding teachers were selected as winners: Katherine DeLuca, English; Sarah Lang, Human Development and Family Science; Amanda Matousek, Spanish and Portuguese; Suhaan Mehta, English; Jennifer Michaels, English; Marissa Nesbit, Art Education; Chelsea Phillips, Theatre; Justin Schupp, Sociology; Katherine Thompson, Statistics; Christopher Worth, Linguistics.

The GATA is administered and awarded by the Graduate School (Click here to see the Graduate School’s GATA eligibility and application guidelines), and both GCs and UCAT staff consult with nominees who are interested in getting assistance with completing their teaching portfolios. For a busy four weeks in January and February, we consult with GTAs about these portfolios, and help them collect, refine, and present the evidence for their outstanding teaching. We get to see such a tremendous variety of innovative and successful approaches to teaching. Simply talking to a curious and passionate teacher makes me enthusiastic about the material. I walk out of most of these consultations wishing I could take this GTA’s course, even if I had never had a prior interest in the subject matter. It’s also quite fun to read peer assessments and student feedback and see just what an impact these GTAs are making in the education and even in the lives of their students. It’s truly gratifying to be able to help these GATA nominees – or any instructor – capture the evidence and rationale for their excellent performance and results in the classroom in the teaching portfolio.

The teaching portfolio is a critical element of professionalization, but it is much more than that, and for many nominees, this is the first time that they have reflected upon their teaching in the particular ways that a teaching portfolio demands. All of us who teach have what we might call an implicit philosophy of teaching – a set of hopes or goals for our students, and methods for how to get them there. One crucial aim of putting together a teaching portfolio is to capture these elements in explicit and coherent ways. The creating of this living document serves as a catalyst for further reflection upon and refinement of their teaching. Most nominees say that the process of gathering together lesson plans and assignments, student feedback, faculty and peer evaluations, and seeing themes emerge across all this data is at least as valuable to them as the “product.” They become more aware of their own values, goals, personal style, and unique gifts, as they capture these elements of their teaching principles and practices into a coherent “story” – the teaching philosophy statement. This is one of the most challenging and fruitful parts of the process.

We encourage nominees – and all instructors – to see the recognition of their teaching excellence and the process of creating a portfolio as just one phase in their lifelong development as a teacher. UCAT is here all year long, and always ready to assist in this growth process through individual consultations. We also do classroom observations or will engage your students in structured dialog to provide further data streams for reflection. See here for more detail about these consultation services. Also, take a look at the Course Design Institute, an intensive workshop based on backwards course design. Many instructors report that the CDI is one of the most valuable and generative experiences they have regarding their teaching. There are many workshops, reading groups, learning communities, and other programs and kinds of consulting available to you. Don’t wait until you’re nominated for an award to come and see how we can help with your teaching.