Bok Seminars

bok seminars Bok Seminars cover a full range of topics in teaching, learning, and scholarly communication and are designed for GSAS students at every stage of teaching. We offer core seminars consistently each year, as well as new and rotating seminars each term. Though all Bok Seminars emphasize shared principles and practices, our offerings are organized into broad categories based on target audience and topic: FoundationsMethods & Classroom PracticeEquity & InclusionCommunication & Language, and Professional Development (for experienced TFs).

Seminars meet for 6 sessions unless otherwise noted. Registration for and attendance at each seminar session is mandatory. Students who miss more than one session will not receive credit for the seminar for the Bok Teaching Certificate.

Seminar Category Schedule Location Register

Foundations of Teaching in the Humanities and Social Sciences

FOUNDATIONS

Tue, 1:30–3:30 pm, February 26–April 9 (no class March 19)

125 Mt. Auburn St 307

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Course Design: From Transparency to Transfer METHODS Thu, 3–5pm, February 28–April 18 (no class March 21) 50 Church St 375 Register Now
Let’s Play! What Games Can Teach Us about Motivation and Engagement METHODS Wed, 1:30–3:30 pm, February 6–March 13 50 Church St 308 Register Now
Crafting Your Teaching Persona: Power, Presence, and Performance EQUITY Wed, 5-7 pm, March 6- April 10  Science Center 300H Register Now
Linguistic Diversity in the Classroom EQUITY Thu, 1:30-3:30pm, January 31–March 7 125 Mt. Auburn St 307 Register Now
Classroom Communication Skills for International TFs  COMMUNICATION Mon/Wed, 1:30-2:45pm OR Tue/Thu, 10:30-11:45am, February 4-May 1 (no class week of March 18) 125 Mt. Auburn St 307 Apply Now
Communicating with Clarity and Coherence for International TFs COMMUNICATION Fri, 9-11am, February 1-March 8 125 Mt. Auburn St 307 Register Now
Communicating Science COMMUNICATION Tue, 3–5pm, February 19–April 2 (no class March 19) 50 Church St 375 Register Now
How to Talk to Your Students: Communication in Context COMMUNICATION Wed, 4-6pm, February 20–April 3 (no class March 20)  125 Mt. Auburn St 3rd Floor Open Space Register Now
Mentoring: How to Advise (and be Advised) PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Fri, 12–2pm, February 22–April 12 (no class March 22 & April 5) 50 Church St 375 Register Now
Seminar Category Schedule Location Register
Foundations of Teaching in STEM FOUNDATIONS TBD  TBD closed

Tools and Techniques for Leading Classroom Discussions

METHODS TBD TBD closed
Classroom Communication Skills for International TFs COMMUNICATION TBD TBD closed
Power and Ethics in the Classroom EQUITY TBD TBD closed
Public Speaking for International Teachers and Scholars COMMUNICATION TBD TBD closed
Public Speaking for Teachers and Scholars COMMUNICATION TBD TBD closed
Public Speaking for Teachers and Scholars, Part II COMMUNICATION TBD TBD closed
Teaching and the Job Market: Getting from "TF" to "Colleague" PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT TBD TBD closed
Seminar Category Schedule Location Register
Hit the Ground Running: A Seminar for New TFs FOUNDATIONS TBD TBD closed
Problems and P-Sets: Creating and Teaching Questions in STEM METHODS TBD TBD closed
Teaching with Purpose: Critical Pedagogy in Practice  EQUITY TBD TBD closed
Public Speaking for Teachers and Scholars COMMUNICATION TBD TBD closed
Teaching and the Job Market: Getting from "TF" to "Colleague" PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT TBD TBD closed

Bok Seminar Catalogue

Foundations

Foundations seminars cover the basics of teaching, with a disciplinary focus during the year and general preparation for new TFs in the summer.

Foundations of Teaching in STEM (Fall)
Led by Marty Samuels

This seminar is designed to help cultivate the knowledge and skills necessary for effectively teaching collegiate science and engineering. We aim to help you make your classes as inspiring and empowering as the research you conduct at your lab, studio, or office by importing the enthusiasm of discovery into your classroom. In so doing, this seminar will rely heavily on the evidenced-based practices on teaching and learning in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), and provide ample opportunity for students to practice applying this research to their own teaching. We will focus on identifying and writing student-centered learning goals, developing a variety of active learning exercises that facilitate student learning, and writing effective problem set and exam questions to inspire and measure learning, while fostering an inclusive classroom environment. These skills will be discussed as both applicable to leading a section in a class as a new TF or to developing a class of your own as a more experienced teacher.

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Foundations of Teaching in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Spring)
Led by Rebecca Brown

Teaching in the humanities and social sciences presents challenges, due in large part to the ambiguity and interpretive richness inherent in these disciplines. In addition to introducing your students to the complex subject matter of your course, you are also tasked with helping them improve as critical and thoughtful readers, writers, and discussion participants. How can you prepare to teach outside your area of expertise, and how do you balance the course content with teaching these critical skills? In this seminar, we will explore and practice strategies and techniques for teaching your students to read, write, and discuss like a humanist or social scientist, and at the same time help you reside more comfortably in your own authority and use it to achieve your goals with your students. Our focus on these foundational activities should prove especially useful to new and early-career teachers, but more experienced teachers are also welcome to share their wisdom and revisit their approaches.

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Hit the Ground Running: A Seminar for New TFs (Summer)
Led by Pamela Pollock and Rebecca Brown

What can new TFs do to get ready for the first day of class and beyond? In this seminar, you will practically prepare to teach for the first time, learn about resources available to you as you begin your teaching career, and build confidence in the process! We will follow the arc of the semester; each session will be devoted to a teaching topic, including the first day of class, inclusive teaching, lesson planning and delivery, giving and receiving feedback, and using Canvas effectively. Participants should have a syllabus to use throughout the seminar (their own or one for a class they might teach) and they will have access to a sandbox Canvas site to use for practice. This seminar is ideal for students teaching for the first time in the Fall term, but is open to anyone at the early stage of their teaching career who would like more guidance on basic pedagogy as well as on how to use Canvas. 

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Methods & Classroom Practice

Methods & Classroom Practice seminars go into more detail on specific techniques to use in the classroom and offer new and experienced TFs opportunities to practice teaching strategies.

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Problems and P-Sets: Creating and Teaching Questions in STEM (Summer)
Led by Marty Samuels

When you first begin teaching, you may be confronted with the task of writing problem set questions. What considerations should you keep in mind when doing so? This seminar will focus on developing problems and questions for science and math courses. We will focus on crafting meaningful problems that motivate student learning and that are based on the concepts and skills taught in class. By writing problems for our own disciplines, we will consider the rhetorical questions students should ask themselves as they solve the problems, and how these rhetorical questions mirror the prompting questions you can use to lead problem solving sessions during a weekly section or office hours.  Additionally, we will get practice and feedback on teaching the problems that we create.

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Tools and Techniques for Leading Classroom Discussions (Fall)
Led by Thomas Wisniewski

How can you lead an exciting discussion and keep participants engaged from beginning to end? Which pedagogical techniques and strategies might be the most useful for working with Harvard undergraduates? This Bok seminar will offer both a theoretical and hands-on approach. Because discussion techniques can be used in discussion sections, seminars, and classes of all sizes, the material we practice in seminar should prove useful to your current and future teaching. To that end, we will discuss short articles on discussion pedagogy, awkward versus meaningful silences, and active and embodied learning. We will read case studies and evaluate taped discussion sessions. In examining the pros and cons of various methods of how to start, structure, save, and conclude a discussion, we will also strategize how to deal with “hot moments” in the classroom and take turns teaching short simulations of discussions followed by collaborative peer feedback. This seminar will be useful for building your confidence as a new TF as well as interrogating your methods and refining your skills as an experienced teacher.

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Let’s Play! What Games Can Teach Us about Motivation and Engagement (Spring)
Led by Lauren Davidson and the Learning Lab Team

We all know games, at least in some sense. In particular, we know how good they are at motivating and engaging us—games are addictive! But most of us haven’t given any real thought to the mechanics that make games so engaging: challenge level that adapts to our skill; continuous feedback via rewards and penalties; timers; stories and surprises; structured interactions with other people, to name a few. Through these mechanics, games have much to teach us about designing classroom experiences. While we won’t necessarily design games in this seminar, over the course of six weeks in the Learning Lab we’ll build a toolkit of game mechanics and principles that we can incorporate into our assignment and course design. As we build this toolkit, we’ll also deploy it. Each week we’ll (1) explore a new mechanic or principle, (2) reflect on how this mechanic might be used in the classroom to generate excitement, add challenge, or structure activities, and (3) design assignments and activities that incorporate the mechanic for our courses. Along the way, we’ll be getting feedback from the Learning Lab Undergraduate Fellows who test the materials we produce in the Learning Lab.

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Course Design: From Transparency to Transfer (Spring)
Led by Marty Samuels and Jonah Johnson

If you were offered the opportunity to design a course from scratch, what principles would you use to guide your course design? In this seminar, led jointly by a scientist and a humanist, we will read and discuss contemporary research on teaching and learning to identify what goals we should consider “central” to our course and how students are most likely to achieve them. We will also work together to identify principles of  instructional design that allow our own teaching goals, e.g., creating empathetic environments that put students at the center, to become affective learning goals for our students along with the course’s content-based goals. Over the course of the seminar, you will develop a novel syllabus, course proposal, or other design-related project. The seminar culminates in a showcase, at which we reflect on our process and share our creations. Participants must be experienced TFs (at least one semester of teaching) and have a course design project in mind. 

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Equity & Inclusion

Equity & Inclusion seminars cover issues like critical pedagogies, equity, and power and privilege in the classroom.

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Power and Ethics in the Classroom (Fall)
Led by Eleanor Craig and Noelle Lopez

How can ethical challenges be named and explored fruitfully, even amidst pressures to teach pre-specified content? What can you, as an instructor, do to acknowledge and counteract classroom dynamics that replicate social injustices? When is it productive to be transparent about your ethical and political commitments in the classroom? This Bok seminar is geared toward anyone with a teaching role at Harvard who is motivated to explore these questions. Throughout the seminar we'll use short readings, discussion, journaling, and other in-class activities to refine our awareness of how structural inequalities impact the classroom and develop techniques for fostering equity in our pedagogy.

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Teaching with Purpose: Critical Pedagogy in Practice (Spring)
Led by Eleanor Craig and Noelle Lopez

What makes learning meaningful and empowering for students? How can we as teachers develop classroom practices that reflect our social values and commitments? How do we support students in bridging life experience and rigorous study? This seminar will engage these questions through the lens of critical pedagogy. We'll consider the emergence of critical pedagogy in particular contexts of social justice struggles, and we'll explore ways to bring critical power analysis to teaching in a variety of disciplines. Participants will reflect individually and collectively on how critical pedagogical theories might transform teaching practice in Harvard classrooms and beyond.  Participants should plan to do light reading—a maximum of 2 hours—between meetings. Readings will include works by authors such as Paulo Freire, Henry Giroux, and bell hooks. Participants must be able to attend all six sessions. All levels of teaching experience welcome!

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Crafting Your Teaching Persona: Power, Presence, and Performance (Spring)
Led by Anneke Reich and Jacob Watson

What are the roles that a teacher plays, and how does the teacher’s presence in the classroom affect students’ willingness to engage in learning?  How might the introduction of essential performance skills like awareness and risk- taking impact the learning environment? And what strategies can be used to promote equity, encourage participation, and reconsider power dynamics between students and instructor alike? In this Bok Seminar, led by theater professionals based at the Bok Center’s Learning Lab, we’ll use short readings, role plays, discussion, games, and other experiential activities to identify the complexity of the teacher’s persona. Through playful exploration, we’ll discover how to balance a critical awareness of our role as educators with the familiar advice to “just be yourself” in the classroom. Together, we’ll model techniques for encouraging diverse perspectives on difficult topics, building trust among learners, and harnessing conflict as a resource for learning. 

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Linguistic Diversity in the Classroom (Spring)
Led by Pamela Pollock

How do differences in language background play out in the classroom? What are different ways to consider students’ proficiency and facility with the English language (or the language of instruction), either as native or non-native English speakers, and how can that help you consider how you design your classes, give feedback, and foster an inclusive classroom? In this seminar we will study the American Council for Teaching Foreign Languages (ACTFL) oral proficiency guidelines, a common scale used by foreign language teachers internationally, and explore how they help us think about communication skills and what students need. We will also look at readings from the language ideology literature, and attitudes around language backgrounds, accent and speaking skills and how these may play out in the classroom. This seminar is designed for language teachers, but is appropriate for any TF interested in learning more about language proficiency and linguistic diversity in the classroom. 

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Communication & Language

Communication & Language seminars offer students guidance and practice in finding their voices as teachers, as well as English language seminars though our Professional Communication Program for International Teachers and Scholars.

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Classroom Communication Skills for International TFs (Fall, Spring)
Led by Sarah Emory

This seminar is designed to help international graduate students develop the oral communication skills necessary to be successful in their graduate programs, with a particular emphasis on skills necessary for teaching in the Harvard classroom. Students will work on improving their oral English comprehensibility and accuracy, learn and practice general pedagogical strategies for teaching interactively, improve their impromptu speaking skills, and build their ability to interact effectively with undergraduates. This seminar is designed for students who have not met the GSAS language requirement, or who want to focus on the nuts and bolts of fluency, vocabulary, and the pronunciation and grammar of the spoken English in the Harvard classroom context. View the course flyer here.

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How to Talk to Your Students: Communication in Context (Spring)
Led by Thomas Wisniewski

As teachers, you are called on to communicate in a variety of contexts and linguistic registers. Learning to talk to your students is also about learning how to communicate according to the context and physical location in which the conversation is occurring: lecture hall, classroom, office, coffee shop, etc. To that end, our focus in this seminar will be on paying an intense attention to our styles and modes of communication: that is, how we talk and how we listen. Because how we perceive ourselves may differ wildly from how our students perceive us, it will be our shared aim to explore how to adapt our scholarly voice and persona according to the contexts in which we have taught and will teach. We will practice engaging our audience--primarily, though not exclusively, our students--as we look to find ways to activate a community of listeners by turning passive learning into active and embodied learning in lecture, section, and individual meetings. Each week we will focus on one genre of teaching: lectures, discussion sections, email, office hours, advising meetings, and individual and small-group tutorials. We will use readings and case studies for discussion and analysis and practice with activities including role-playing, giving and watching recorded mini-lectures; leading discussions; acting; and micro-teaching. This seminar welcomes first-time or first-year TFs as well as more experienced teachers wishing to work on the way they communicate in and outside the classroom.

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Communicating Science (Spring)
Led by Mara Laslo and Mariel Young

What audiences are you likely to encounter over the course of your career and how will you vary your communication to meet the challenges presented by each? Are you able, within a few minutes, to convey the importance of your research to a faculty member in another STEM discipline or to a relative who has no background in science?  As a scientist, it is imperative to clearly and concisely explain your research in a way that motivates, engages and/or persuades different audiences.  In this seminar, we will develop and practice skills to meaningfully and clearly convey science research to different audiences, including your peers, grant proposal readers, students and the public.  We will  consider narrative techniques to motivate audiences, how to best use verbal and visual explanations, the appropriate use of purpose of jargon, and strategies to surface and address common misconceptions.  Each week we will focus on a different audience/mode to practice communicating our own research.

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Communicating With Clarity and Coherence for International TFs (Spring)
Led by Sarah Emory

As an International TF, you communicate with your students and colleagues both orally and in writing. You may feel more comfortable with your written English as you can take time to plan and review your message before sharing it. What challenges occur in your oral English that do not occur in your written English? How can you use your writing skills to build awareness of how to improve your oral communication? This seminar uses writing to reinforce speaking skills, and is designed to help international graduate students develop ways to improve English grammar, fluency, and coherence. Through written activities like summaries, process documents, and narratives, and oral activities like discussions and short presentations, students will assess their own language for gaps and practice strategies to improve their English accuracy and comprehensibility. This course is designed for students with TOEFL iBT speaking scores of 19-24.

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Public Speaking for International Teachers and Scholars (Fall)
Led by Pamela Pollock

This seminar is designed to help non-native speakers of English become aware of their habits of communication, both good and bad. Public speaking is stressful for everyone, and the norms associated with it can be quite culturally based. In this seminar we will address these issues with a specific lenses for international teachers and scholars. You will learn concrete strategies to improve your pronunciation and public speaking skills in a variety of contexts, including classrooms, conferences, interviews, and a range of personal and professional interactions. Each week we will focus on a different speaking task and focus. This seminar is suitable for non-native English speakers of all levels, backgrounds and abilities. 

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Public Speaking for Teachers and Scholars (Fall)
Led by Jen Doody

As graduate students and scholars, we are constantly being asked to verbally represent ourselves and our ideas—in classrooms, conferences, interviews, and a range of personal and professional relationships. The seminar is designed to help you become aware of your habits of communication—both good and bad—and to provide you with concrete strategies to improve your public speaking skills in a variety of contexts. In this seminar, you will develop a new talk each week; learn the basics of powerful speechwriting; understand, address, and overcome their individual, public-speaking anxieties; and develop the skills to make any presentation compelling and memorable. By presenting to the class each week, you will build exceptional hands-on experience in projection, gesturing, interacting with the audience, vocal and emotional variety, using volume to command attention, and the subtle but immense power of silence. Students must be able to attend all sessions, and additionally must be available for an additional two-hour small-group meeting time each week. 

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Public Speaking for Teachers and Scholars, Part II (Fall)
Led by Jen Doody

Building upon the public speaking skills mastered in Public Speaking for Teachers and Scholars, Part I, this seminar delves more deeply into the speechwriting, preparation, and on-stage follow-through for exceptional presentations and job talks. In learning the basics of powerful speechwriting, participants will fine-tune their presentation's text for maximum impact. In workshopping their presentations, participants will also learn how to respond to uncomfortable or unexpected conversations (including presentation interruptions), as well as how to diffuse negative interactions. At the end of the seminar, participants will finish by presenting a dry run of their new, fully-workshopped presentation, demonstrating skills learned in the seminar.

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Professional development

Professional development seminars target topics of interest to more experienced TFs, including course design and the job market.

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Mentoring: How to Advise (and be Advised) (Spring)
Led by Adam Beaver

As a graduate student, poised at a relatively early stage of your academic career, you are accustomed to being on the receiving end of mentoring. You’ve probably developed a sense of the kinds of advice, interactions, and power dynamics that are helpful (as well as those that aren’t). Soon, if not already, the tables may turn, and you will be called upon to mentor others—whether a senior thesis advisee at Harvard, a group of undergraduates or graduate students in your first academic job, or the staff of a lab at a university or in private industry. How can you step back from your own experiences as an advisee and think about not only what worked (and didn’t work), but why it worked (or didn’t)? As you develop your own approach as an advisor, how can you make sure to create opportunities not only to give advice, but to receive feedback from those whom you advise? What do you owe to the people who look up to you, and what can you expect from them in return? In this seminar we’ll read accounts of academic advising, work through scenarios, and discuss our own experiences as both mentors and mentees to develop personalized models of the kinds of advisors (and advisees) we’d like to be.

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Teaching and the Job Market: Getting From “TF” to “Colleague” (Summer, Fall)
Led by Adam Beaver

Are you on or near the job market? Enthused or concerned about the prospect of assembling a teaching portfolio, writing a syllabus, or giving a teaching demonstration? Wondering what, exactly, a “teaching philosophy” is, and how you get one? While Harvard hopefully has given you opportunities to practice and receive feedback on your teaching, it is often the case that your career as a TF is shaped by forces beyond your control: that is to say, that you’ve taught in courses, in modalities, and with assignments set by someone else, which may or may not reflect your own personality as an instructor. When you hit the job market, then, it’s natural to feel some anxiety about how to explain who you are as a teacher in a coherent and compelling way. Do you have enough experience? The right kind of experience? The answer, of course, is yes: yes, you do. The challenge is how to organize and communicate that experience in a way that will show a search committee not just what you have done, but also how much you’ve learned from it, and that you are likely you keep developing in the right direction as a colleague. In this seminar you will get intense, hands-on experience designing a teaching statement, a syllabus, a portfolio, and a teaching demo.

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Graduate Student News

Check out our TF Handbook!

Hit the Ground RunningThe Bok Center's Hit the Ground Running is a great place to start when you have questions about who your students are, their expectations of their Teaching Fellows, how to create an inclusive classroom, how to structure a lesson plan, and much more! Read it online, or stop by the Bok Center to pick up a hard copy. Copies are distributed at the Fall Teaching Conference and Winter Teaching Week.