Department to Honor Tutors
New Government Award to Recognize Teaching Fellows
In order to recognize excellence in teaching, the Government Department has created a Distinguished Teaching Award for graduate student section leaders and assistant head tutors within the department.
The prize, conceived of by Department Chairman Robert D. Putnam, will recognize long term acheivement by one to four teaching fellows each year, said Alexei J. Cowett '89, a member of the committee that will award the prizes. The winners will receive approximately $500 apiece from an anonymous gift.
Students nominate candidates for the prize, which will be awarded this spring. Then the nominees will be evaluated by the department's Undergraduate Affairs Commitee (UAC), a group comprised of one concentrator from each of the houses, Head Tutor Mark Peterson, assistant professor of government and several members from the department's Board of Tutors.
This award, the first of its kind to be offered within any particular department, will attempt to focus upon the importance of imagination and innovation in teaching, according to a fact sheet distributed to undergraduate concentrators. "We want to recognize people who are not only good communicators, but who can make material come alive," said Fernando J. LaGuarda '88, a member of the UAC.
According to Alan Levine, assistant head tutor of government, Putnam created the award when he "noticed that a lot of thing were rewarded in the department but not teaching." Peterson said dissertation prizes and research fellowships have been available for years but until now "teaching has had no form of formal recognition."
Both concentrators and non-concentrators will be encouraged to submit nomination essays recommending particular candidates for the prize. "We want very, very much to make sure that students who aren't concentrators have the opportunity to make nominations," Peterson said. "Because we have such a large number of other students in our courses, their input is obviously important as well."
About 60 graduate students are eligible for the prize, Cowett said. Peterson said he has already received five forms, even though the department will not begin publicizing the award until next week.
The department notified concentrators of the prize by including a notice and nomination form in their second semester registration packets. The nomination forms are due by March 1.
Once the committee has received all the nominations they will examine the candidates' files including their CUE guide evaluations and other course evaluation sheets.
Some organizers suggested the prize may lead some teaching fellows to work harder in search of a reward. "If there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, maybe some teaching fellows will put more emphasis on teaching, but I think most do already," Cowett said.
But some graduate students expressed concern that the award might create rivalry among the teaching fellows. "It's sort of a shame to single out one teaching fellow when there are so many that are good," said teaching fellow David Fott. "Ideally it might be a good idea to recognize all the fellows who perform up to a certain level" he added.
Award organizers said that they have tried to avoid competition by having the selection process depend on nominations rather that applications, said UAC member David K. Gillis '88. "When a person wins, it sort of comes out of the blue, and the others don't feel as if they tried and didn't get it," he said.
Peterson added, "There is a strong sense of shared community, interest and commitment among the teaching fellows, and we have no desire to implement something that would have a negative effect on that."
Levine said most teaching fellows liked the idea of an award "with the trepidation that it be done carefully." He added, "Some teaching fellows are less substantive and more popular, and I hope students can tell the difference."
Government Department professors said that the award is a good means of providing recognition where recognition is due. "I'm for anything that dignifies teaching," said Cowles Professor of Government Judith N. Shklar. "I don't think that we've been slouches, but there's always more that can be done to show appreciation."
Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield said he particularly approves of the selection process "because the prize won't be awarded based solely upon consumer appetite." He added, "The teacher who has the most to say doesn't always give the most pleasure."