Celebrating Bok Teaching Certificate Recipients

May 7, 2020
individual teaching in front of students in lecture hall

The Bok Center is excited to recognize and celebrate this year’s Bok Teaching Certificate Recipients!

The Bok Teaching Certificate gives GSAS PhD students a tangible marker of their ongoing commitment to developing as teachers in higher education. Guided by three principles—Learn, Practice, Reflect—those who pursue the Certificate explore different topics in teaching and learning through departmental pedagogy courses and Bok Seminars, reflect on their own teaching practice, and compile a portfolio of written materials documenting their experience.

We offer a tailored approach for students; no two students follow the same path through the certificate, and they can make choices based on their own background, discipline, and interests. The Learn component of the Certificate asks PhD students to take Bok Seminars that complement the teacher training they may be doing in their departments. Students may take Bok Seminars, which are organized into broad categories based on target audience and topic, including Foundations, Methods & Classroom Practice, Equity & Inclusion, Communication & Language, and Professional Development. Seminars provide a forum for students to explore an area of teaching and learning, grow in their professional development as teachers and scholars, and connect with fellow graduate students in a community of practice.

“As I worked my way through the Bok Center seminars I was really pleased to find a great sense of community here and developed a keen interest in pedagogy,” remarks Julia Smachylo, a PhD candidate at the Graduate School of Design and a recipient of the Bok Teaching Certificate. “I got a lot out of the community that came about through these different seminars. It was nice to be able to interact with people outside of my department and get a fresh look at material, and come in contact with new approaches that wouldn’t have been on my radar before.”

The Practice element of the Bok Teaching Certificate is a video consultation, where a Teaching Fellow records one of their own sections and watches the video with a member of Bok’s senior staff or a Pedagogy Fellow. Video is a powerful way to put yourself in your students’ shoes, and to notice patterns or dynamics in your classroom that may be hard to see in the moment. Observing another teacher, or inviting a peer or consultant to observe your teaching, are among the best ways to gain confidence in the classroom, to expand your repertoire of teaching techniques, and to become more reflective about how students might experience your classroom. As Clara Carus, a Fellow in Philosophy and a Bok Teaching Certificate recipient this year, reflects on her experience: “When looking at the video it occurred to me that my speaking is better when it is spontaneous…and that I should have more confidence in what I am saying. This new more objective judgement of my teaching on the basis of the video heightened my confidence in my teaching. It was great to be given the chance to discuss my teaching in a one-to-one consultation.”

Finally, students are asked to Reflect on their own teaching practice. We ask that they consider their trajectory through the Certificate, the connections between the seminars they took, how their teaching practice has developed, and particularly noteworthy takeaways they will use in their future teaching or scholarship. This opportunity to consolidate the knowledge and skills they have gained over the course of their teaching career at Harvard helps PhD students create materials for their teaching portfolio and encourages them to engage deeply in the process of feedback and reflection, which are critical to continued growth and confidence. As Jonathan Larson, one of this year’s Teaching Certificate recipients and a PhD candidate in Biostatistics reflects, “One of the best parts of this process has been getting feedback…In so many other areas of my education, I’ve felt like it’s hard to elicit coaching; this process has provided me with lots of opportunities.”  

As we look back over a year that presented unprecedented obstacles and challenges to teachers at every stage of their careers, we are so impressed by our Bok Teaching Certificate recipients’ commitment to excellence in the classroom. We are grateful that graduate student teachers and scholars of all stages see us as a place where they can learn, practice, reflect, and connect with a supportive community.

We wish all Teaching Certificate Recipients the best of luck in their future endeavors; we will be cheering for you!

Learn more and view this year’s recipients on our Bok Teaching Certificate page.

graphic with names of 2019-2020 teaching certificate recipients