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Following Rise in Teaching Awards, Some Question Criteria

By Theo C. Lebryk and Jill E. Steinman, Crimson Staff Writers

A rise in the number of Bok Center teaching certificates awarded to teaching fellows, teaching assistants, and course assistants has prompted administrators to discuss changing its criteria or creating a more comprehensive one, according to Robert A. Lue, faculty director of the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning.

In the last 15 years, recipients for the Certificate of Distinction for TFs, TAs, and CAs has increased dramatically, from 350 in the spring of 1999 to 513 in the spring of 2015.

Robert A. Lue.
Robert A. Lue. By Zorigoo Tugsbayar

Currently, the Bok Center awards certificates to all who receive at least an overall rating of a 4.5 out of 5.0 on the Q scale with five or more responses. Lue said evaluating Q scores along with the input of the instructor and adviser may provide better criteria for recognition.

“I think it would be worthwhile to have more awards that are more holistic and that are multiperspective on the quality of teaching on that specific individual,” Lue said.

Lue added that the increase in awards may arise from the improved resources available to teaching fellows.

“So many departments have teaching practica where graduate students are taught how to teach, so of course they will be better teachers and of course they will do better,” Lue said.

Christopher M. B. Allison, who most recently received the award last spring, said the Bok Center has provided a series of teaching seminars over the course of the semester that have been integral to his instruction.

“[The seminars] that the Bok Center gives is a very valuable thing,” Allison said. “I think it has been really helpful. I have gotten a lot of skills out of it.”

Jason B. Silverstein, another recipient of the award, also noted the more hands-on approach to teaching that the Bok Center provided to him and improved his evaluations.

“Getting yourself videotaped teaching, being to be able to watch yourself, and being able to get critiqued with someone else has been an indispensable part of the process,” Silverstein said.

Still, not all award recipients agree that the increase is just a result of an increase in teaching resources.

“I think there is a babying culture around here, how everyone gets As and such. I think the same applies to us,” said Tarek Abu Hussein, another recipient of the award.

Lue maintained that an increase in the number of awards might not dilute the value of an individual one.

“It’s not just award inflation or some Q guide inflation. I would hate to see us create some arbitrary cut off just to arbitrarily reduce the numbers,” Lue said. “There is enormously important information in the Q. But they are incredibly valuable as one component of a variety of other measures or channels of understanding what happened.”

—Staff writer Jill E. Steinman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @jillsteinman.

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