Bok Seminars

bok seminars Bok Seminars cover a full range of topics in teaching, learning, and scholarly communication and are designed for GSAS PhD 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).  Bok Seminars meet from 9-12 hours based on seminar goals and content. Please take careful note of the schedule.

Please note: Bok Seminars are limited to GSAS PhD students and others at similar career stages engaged in the teaching of Harvard College undergraduates.

Seminar Category Schedule Location Register
Preparing to Teach: A Seminar for New TFs FOUNDATIONS Mon/Wed/Fri, 10:00am-12:00pm ET, June 14-25
(no class June 18)
Remote Register
Problems and P-Sets: Creating and Teaching Questions in STEM METHODS Tue/Thu, 10:00am-12:00pm ET, June 8-24 Remote Register
Teaching with Museum Collections Across Disciplines METHODS Tue/Thu, 3:00-4:30pm ET, June 15-29 AND Wed June 30 Remote Register
Teaching with Purpose: A Critical Pedagogies Reading Group EQUITY Mon/Wed, 1:00-2:30pm ET, June 2-28 Remote Join Waitlist
Teaching and the Job Market: Getting from "TF" to "Colleague" PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Wed, 9:00-10:30am ET, June 9-July 14 Remote Register
Seminar Category Schedule Location Register
Making the Most of Remote Section METHODS TBD TBD Closed
Let’s Play! What Games Can Teach Us about Motivation and Engagement METHODS TBD TBD Closed
Teaching Remotely with Museum Collections Across Disciplines METHODS TBD TBD Closed
Teaching to Transgress: A Critical Pedagogy Reading Group EQUITY TBD TBD Closed
Engaging Audiences in our Professional Stories COMMUNICATION TBD TBD Closed
Speak Up: Pronunciation for International TFs COMMUNICATION TBD TBD Closed
Classroom Communication Skills for International TFs COMMUNICATION TBD TBD Closed
Mentoring: How to Advise (and be Advised) PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT TBD TBD Closed

Bok Seminar Catalogue


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 Tamara Brenner and Olivia Miller

This seminar is designed to help cultivate the knowledge and skills necessary for effectively teaching collegiate science and engineering, with a special emphasis on how to adjust for remote instruction. 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 you to practice applying this research to your 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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Preparing to Teach: 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 help new TFs explore best practices for traditional section teaching. 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, and giving and receiving feedback. This seminar is ideal for TFs 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 practice with and guidance on the fundamentals of pedagogy. We will explore these topics with a focus on the translation between remote and in-person teaching.

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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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How Am I Doing?  Using Feedback to Improve Your Teaching (Fall)
Led by Pamela Pollock and Rebecca Brown

We may wonder or worry about how we’re doing as teachers-- but how do we know? Our own interpretations may not be accurate, and end-of-semester Q-evaluations come too late to make any changes in the current semester. But it doesn’t have to be this way! In this seminar, we will begin by exploring the nature of feedback and the role of feedback in developing as teachers. We will review, discuss, and model effective mechanisms for collecting feedback, making sense of it, and using it to improve our practice-- in the pursuit of better learning, classroom experiences, and final course evaluations. By the end of the seminar, you will create your own plan for collecting feedback, which may include some combination of early feedback, classroom assessment techniques (CATs), critical reflective practice, and peer observations within and/or across disciplines. You will also start thinking about how to document the process of collecting and responding to feedback for the purpose of developing your teaching portfolio.

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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

Games! In this time of remote teaching, it’s not surprising that games have much to offer us as teachers working to motivate and challenge students online. After all, game designers have been thinking about a version of this design challenge for a long time. Most of us, however, haven’t taken the time to analyze the tools game designers use to motivate players-- mechanics such as adaptive challenge level; continuous, often low-stakes, feedback; timers and races; opportunities for strategizing and risk-taking, to name a few. Through these mechanics, games offer teachers a toolkit for designing (virtual) classroom experiences. While we won’t explicitly design games in this seminar, over the course of six weeks we’ll build our own toolkit of game mechanics and principles for incorporating into our assignment and course design. We’ll focus primarily on how we might deploy game mechanics during in-class activities. In particular, we’ll compare and contrast how we might implement them in online versus on-campus courses, so you leave with new activities to try both now and in future classes. This seminar is designed for new and experienced TFs from all disciplines. No prior background in gaming is necessary. 

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Making the Most of Remote Section: Active Learning, Feedback and Student Engagement (Fall, Spring)
Led by Olivia Miller and Suzanne Paszkowski

As we teach remotely this year, how do we know how we are doing? How do we keep students engaged, and make sure we are achieving our goals for section? In this seminar, TFs teaching this spring will be able to explore a different topic related to student learning, feedback and engagement each week. We will focus on active learning and inclusive teaching activities, and consider ways to build and maintain community, keep students engaged, and keep you (as the instructor) in touch with how they are doing and what they are learning. The seminar will also serve as a space for you to plan for your own sections, get ideas for activities you can use and strategies you can try, and to debrief and workshop challenges that may be coming up in your class. This seminar fulfills a core principles requirement for the Bok Teaching Certificate.

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

As a TF for a STEM course, you may be confronted with the task of writing problem sets and exam questions. How should you approach this task? In this seminar we will focus on developing problems and questions for STEM courses. We will also explore best practices, focus on crafting meaningful problems that motivate student learning and are based on the concepts and skills taught in your class, and will practice and get feedback on teaching the problems that we create.

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Teaching with Museum Collections Across Disciplines (Summer)
Led by Rebecca Brown and Jen Thum, Assistant Director of Academic Engagement and Assistant Research Curator, Harvard Art Museums

Images and objects are valuable tools for instructors of any subject: they illustrate arguments, give tangible expression to ideas, and provide a means to engage with concepts in new and novel ways. But how can they be integrated most effectively in class? How can we teach students to “read” them carefully and critically? In this seminar we will explore and practice strategies for encouraging analytical reasoning, critical thinking, and observational skills through engagement with the Harvard Art Museums’ collections. By the end of this seminar, you will have created a catalog of objects related to your discipline to use in your teaching, and an assignment focused on enhancing students' observational and analytical skills. This seminar is designed for new and experienced TFs from all disciplines and requires no prior experience of teaching with museum collections.

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Tools and Techniques for Leading Classroom Discussions (Fall)
Led by Suzanne Paszkowski and Rebecca Brown

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 undergraduates? How can you mobilize Zoom and other virtual platforms to lead discussions remotely? This seminar offers both a theoretical and hands-on approach to leading discussions and encouraging student participation in classes of all sizes. To that end, we will explore tools for conducting discussion asynchronously/outside of class to help you and your students prepare for discussions in the classroom; examine the pros and cons of various methods of how to start, structure, and conclude a discussion; strategize how to deal with moments of tension 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 at leading discussions as a new TF as well as interrogating your methods and refining your skills as an experienced teacher.

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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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Classroom Culture: Fostering Equity and Inclusion in Community (Fall)
Led by Noelle Lopez

As teachers and learners at universities around the world currently face socio-political unrest and an ongoing pandemic, how can you, in your role as a TF, engage with these challenges in the (online) classroom? Specifically, how can you work with students to cultivate a classroom culture in which issues of equity and inclusion are explicitly addressed? Fostering equitable and inclusive learning communities requires collaboration, skill, and practice. Through short readings, activities and dialogue with peer teachers, and a conversation with the Bok Center’s Undergraduate Pedagogy Fellows, this seminar will give you an opportunity to reflect on the forms of equity and inclusion you hope to promote through your teaching. Together we will consider various obstacles to equity and inclusion in academic classroom culture, and we will try out different techniques and approaches for fostering equity and inclusion in community.

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Teaching to Transgress: A Critical Pedagogy Reading Group (Spring)
Led by Suzanne Paszkowski

Take a deep dive into a seminal work of critical pedagogy in this facilitated reading group led by Bok Pedagogy Fellow Suzanne Paszkowski. Over six sessions occurring bi-weekly, we will read bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom [link], which probes issues of power, knowledge, and freedom in pedagogy. bell hooks is a Black American author, professor, feminist, and social activist, and her work over the past 50 years has been critical in understanding the intersection of race, class, gender, and power. We will use a close reading of the text as a springboard for discussing various pedagogical issues, sharing experiences, and brainstorming practical strategies. The reading group is designed for GSAS PhD students who are interested in exploring issues of power in the classroom, considering ways to create an inclusive classroom, or engaging deeply with a single text in a community of peers.

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Teaching with Purpose: A Critical Pedagogies Reading Group (Summer)
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 during a time of pandemic and in a context of ongoing racial violence. We will reflect individually and collectively on how critical pedagogies might transform teaching practice in Harvard (virtual) classrooms and beyond. Reading is expected between seminar meetings, and will include selections from authors like Paulo Freire, Sara Ahmed, and bell hooks. All levels of teaching experience welcome!

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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
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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. The course is designed for students who have not yet met the GSAS Oral English Language Requirement as well as PhD students and instructors who want to work on their English speaking skills for teaching and academic communication. If you are interested in enrolling, please schedule a consultation with the instructor.

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Clarity and Coherence for International TFs (Fall, 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 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.

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Engaging Audiences in our Professional Stories: Compelling Communication, Remotely (Spring)
Led by Pamela Pollock and Bok Staff

What makes communication engaging? How do you tell your story as both a teacher and a scholar in your field? As graduate students and scholars, we need to be able to represent ourselves and our ideas in various modes and media, for a variety of audiences, and now we have to do it all remotely! This seminar is designed to help you practice the basics of crafting and delivering a talk, develop skills to make your communication compelling for different audiences, both orally, visually and online, and practice handling questions and other impromptu speaking situations. Each week we’ll consider different audiences and engage different media as we practice telling our professional stories. This seminar is designed for advanced PhD students who want to be more engaging teachers or prepare for remote conference presentations, job interviews and job talks.

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Enhancing Fluency: Speaking and Listening for International TFs (Fall, Spring)
Led by Sarah Emory

Are you an international graduate student who is interested in developing oral communication skills to be more successful in your program? Do you need to strengthen your fluency to meet the GSAS Oral Proficiency Requirement?  Designed as a prerequisite for our popular Classroom Communication Skills for International TFs seminar, this interactive seminar will help you work on expanding your vocabulary in English as well as honing listening strategies and impromptu speaking skills. Through practice both in and out of class, you will set goals, have ample opportunities to converse on various topics, and gain experience presenting in English. This seminar is a resource for you if  you have not yet met the GSAS language requirement or if you are interested in building your English listening, fluency, vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation skills. Interview required for course registration.

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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 (Summer, Fall)
Led by Pamela Pollock

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, especially when teaching or communicating your research. You will consider both what to say and how to say it; practice the basics of crafting a talk; understand, address, and overcome their individual public-speaking anxieties,  and develop the skills to make any presentation compelling. By presenting to the class each session, 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 power of silence.

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Speak Up!  Pronunciation for International TFs (Spring, Summer)
Led by Sarah Emory

As a non-native English speaking teacher or scholar, what are strategies you can apply to improve your intelligibility when speaking English? What are features of English pronunciation you can use to make it easy for others to follow you? This hands-on, interactive seminar is designed to help you assess your own pronunciation and provide focused practice on common issues that affect intelligibility. Each class, we will complete exercises and activities that highlight different pronunciation features such as intonation, word and sentence stress, pausing, rhythm, linking, and emphasis. Through focused practice, you will develop awareness and confidence when communicating with others, whether in class, in conversations, or at conferences. This seminar is suitable for non-native English speakers of all levels, backgrounds, and abilities.

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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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Designing a Syllabus (Spring)
Led by Eleanor Finnegan

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, 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 to become effective learning goals for our students. 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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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 and Eleanor Finnegan

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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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.