Bok Seminars

bok seminars Bok Seminars, short courses on a full range of topics in teaching, learning, and scholarly communication, are designed for GSAS PhD students at every stage of teaching. Our seminars are organized into broad categories based on target audience and topic: Foundations, Methods & Classroom Practice, Equity & Inclusion, Communication & Language, and Professional Development (for experienced TFs). 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
Tools and Techniques for Leading Classroom Discussions  METHODS
CORE*
Tue, 10:30am-12:30pm ET, Sept. 13-Oct. 18 125 Mt. Auburn St. Room 307 Closed
Pre-Texts: The Arts Teach (Everything) METHODS Wed, 1:30-4:30pm ET, Sept. 28, Oct. 5 and 19, and Nov. 2 125 Mt. Auburn St. Open Space Cancelled
Inclusive, Antiracist, or Decolonial: Exploring Power and Privilege in the Classroom EQUITY Thu, 10:30am-12:30pm ET, Sept. 8-Oct. 13 125 Mt. Auburn St. Room 307 Closed
All the Modes: Multimodal Communication for Teachers and Scholars COMMUNICATION Tue, 3:00-5:00pm ET, Sept. 13-Oct. 18 50 Church St., Learning Lab Studio Closed
Enhancing Fluency: Speaking and Listening for International TFs COMMUNICATION Tue and Fri, 9:00-10:45am ET, Sept. 13-Nov. 29 125 Mt. Auburn St. Room 307 Closed
Intercultural Communication Skills for International PhD Students COMMUNICATION Fri, 1:30-3:30pm ET, Sept. 2-Oct. 21 125 Mt. Auburn St. Room 307 Register
If You Build It: Program Planning for Teachers and Scholars PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Mon, 1:30-3:00pm ET, Sept. 19-Oct. 31 (no class Oct. 10) Remote/Hybrid Closed
Teaching and the Job Market: Getting from "TF" to "Colleague" PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Wed, 10:30am-12:00pm ET, Sept. 7-Oct. 12 Remote Closed

*CORE: Seminars tagged as "CORE" count for the core principles seminar requirement for the Bok Teaching Certificate.

Seminar Category Schedule Location Register
Preparing to Teach: A Seminar for New TFs

FOUNDATIONS
CORE*

TBD TBD Closed
How Students Learn FOUNDATIONS
CORE*
TBD TBD Closed
Designing Alternative Assignments METHODS TBD TBD Closed
Mindful Approaches to Race in the Classroom EQUITY TBD TBD Closed
Speak Up! Pronunciation for International TFs COMMUNICATION TBD TBD Closed
Teaching and the Job Market: Getting from "TF" to "Colleague" PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT TBD TBD Closed

*CORE: Seminars tagged as "CORE" count for the core principles seminar requirement for the Bok Teaching Certificate.

Seminar Category Schedule Location Register
Foundations of Teaching in the Humanities and Social Sciences FOUNDATIONS
CORE*
TBD TBD Closed
Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher

METHODS
CORE*

TBD TBD Closed
Grading and Feedback Across Disciplines METHODS
CORE*
TBD TBD Closed
Intercultural Communication Skills for International PhD Students

COMMUNICATION

TBD TBD Closed
Classroom Communication Skills for International TFs COMMUNICATION
CORE*
TBD TBD Closed
Designing a Syllabus PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT TBD TBD Closed
Mentoring: How to Advise (and be Advised) PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT TBD TBD Closed
*CORE: Seminars tagged as "CORE" count for the core principles seminar requirement for the Bok Teaching Certificate.

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)
CORE*

Led by Bok Staff

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 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 discussing how to incorporate evidence-based teaching methods to create 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)
CORE*

Led by Rebecca Miller Brown

Instructors in the humanities and social sciences are not simply teaching the content or methodologies of their fields; they are charged with teaching students to become critical thinkers and readers, thoughtful discussion participants, and strong academic writers. As a scholar in your discipline, these skills may seem intuitively related, but how do you design your sections so that students understand the connections? How can you articulate your priorities and make sure students know what is expected of them and why? This seminar is designed to encourage new and early-career TFs to 1) think about your goals for teaching in your field, 2) explore approaches for creating intentional lesson plans and assignments, and 3) practice strategies to support students as they learn how to read, discuss, and write in your discipline.

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How Students Learn (Summer)
CORE*

Led by Tamara Brenner

How does memory work? What strategies—inside and outside of the classroom—help students retain information and apply their knowledge to new situations? In this seminar, we will explore how students learn, drawing on neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and educational research. We’ll examine topics including motivation, metacognition, growth mindset, and retrieval practice, and discuss how to apply this knowledge to our own teaching. During the last two sessions of the seminar, each student will present a concept drawn from The ABC’s of How We Learn: 26 Scientifically Proven Approaches, How They Work, and When to Use Them by Schwartz, Tsang, and Blair. This seminar is designed for PhD students from all disciplines, with any level of teaching experience. Whether you are interested in small actions you might take in your section, or considering a course you’d like to design in the future, you will emerge with practical strategies to help improve student learning.

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Preparing to Teach: A Seminar for New TFs (Summer)
CORE*

Led by Pamela Pollock and Rebecca Miller 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! New TFs will explore best practices for section teaching. 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.

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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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Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher (Spring)
CORE*

Led by Pamela Pollock

We may wonder or worry about how we’re doing as teachers – but how do we know? As scholars, we are always developing our research, but how do we think about learning and growing as a teacher? In this seminar, we will use Stephen Brookfield’s lenses for reflective teaching – 1) self, 2) students, 3) colleagues, and 4) scholarship – as a framework to consider these questions and build our own toolkit for becoming critically reflective teacher-scholars. 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 student learning and classroom experiences. Participants will conduct both a peer observation and complete a video consultation over the course of the seminar, which is designed for current instructors at all stages who are interested in becoming both more reflective and more intentional about their own teaching practice and development. Participants must be teaching in the spring term.

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Designing Alternative Assignments (Summer)
Led by Marlon Kuzmick, Christine D'Auria, and Jordan Koffman

In the average course, students will spend a large chunk of their time listening, a large chunk of their time reading, and some of their time making things. This seminar is devoted to the making chunk, and, within this chunk, to modes of making that are either newly emergent or overlooked.

Over the course of five sessions in the Bok Center’s Learning Lab, we will experiment with a number of different media and tools, from podcasting to performance to 3D-modeling to photography. No previous experience of any sort is required, as we are not aiming to become experts. Instead, our procedure will involve 1) experimenting with the new medium or tool, 2) reflecting on how a student might use it to develop skills and express ideas, and, 3) designing and testing assignments and activities related to our disciplines (we will be getting feedback from the Learning Lab Undergraduate Fellows, who test the various materials we produce in the Learning Lab).

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Grading and Feedback Across Disciplines (Spring)
CORE*

Led by Jonah Johnson and Yasemin Kalender

How students get feedback from TFs and how they assess their own learning tend to reflect disciplinary norms, and what these norms look like—at least on the surface—can seem very different in STEM and the Humanities. Beneath the surface, though, the best practices for designing assignments and providing feedback are fundamentally the same, whether the feedback is on a p-set or an essay. In this interactive seminar, led by the Bok Center’s Assistant Director for Writing and Assistant Director for Science Pedagogy, we will explore a range of common approaches to feedback and grading from across STEM, the Social Sciences, and the Humanities, identifying the pros and cons of different approaches and what different disciplines can learn from one another. We will discuss how different kinds of feedback are suited to different types of assignments (e.g., problem sets versus lab reports in STEM, or essays versus podcast assignments in the Humanities). Over the course of the seminar, participants will design an assignment prompt and grading plan for a new assignment, including in-class activities and a grading rubric. This seminar is designed for new and experienced TFs across disciplines who want to explore grading practices and feedback, and learn across disciplines. 

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Pre-Texts: The Arts Teach (Everything) (Fall)
Led by Doris Sommer, Ira and Jewell Williams Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, and African and African American Studies 

Do you want to explore creative ways to teach difficult texts? In this seminar, learn about Pre-Texts, a simple protocol that uses difficult texts in any field as raw material for making art. We start by asking the text questions. Texts are the objects of scrutiny, not students. Students are the artists who use elements from the text and go off on tangents to develop connections with other materials. Pre-Texts engages students to use texts creatively in order to interpret and master them, and trains educators to facilitate art-making practices from texts that students may find difficult or even boring. Turning difficulty into artistic challenges improves learning. This seminar is designed for TFs and instructors in any stage, in any discipline, who want to learn about this creative protocol to work less and achieve more with students.

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Problems and P-Sets: Creating and Teaching Questions in STEM (Summer)
CORE*

Led by Bok Staff

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 Miller 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)
CORE*

Led by Rebecca Miller Brown and Emily Epperson

How can you lead an exciting discussion and keep participants engaged from beginning to end? Which strategies can you use to help you and your students achieve your discussion goals?  This seminar offers a hands-on approach to leading discussions and encouraging student participation from all corners of your class. To that end, we will 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; explore tools for conducting discussion asynchronously/outside of class to help you and your students prepare for discussions in the classroom; and take turns leading short simulated 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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Inclusive, Antiracist, or Decolonial: Exploring Power and Privilege in the Classroom (Fall)
Led by Ashlie Sandoval

Inclusive, anti-racist, and decolonial pedagogies are not necessarily mutually exclusive frameworks, but their pedagogical approaches and theories can express different understandings of and approaches to addressing power and privilege, creating class community, acknowledging students’ social identities, and fostering student learning. In this seminar, through weekly readings and course discussions on case studies, syllabi statements, and class activities, we’ll explore key theories within and across these pedagogical frameworks, considering how they might support or challenge one another. This seminar is designed for students at all levels who want to explore how to define their own values around and approaches to advancing inclusion, equity, belonging, and justice in the classroom.

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Mindful Approaches to Race in the Classroom (Summer)
Led by Ashlie Sandoval

How do you skillfully address race in the classroom, accounting for the multiple identities that students hold? How can you facilitate classroom discussions that center race without perpetuating racial harm? In this practice-based seminar, we’ll read articles from scholars working on the intersections of mindfulness and race and practice different mindfulness techniques. Drawing on scholarship and our own experiences, we’ll learn to craft learning scenarios that process hard moments instead of circumventing challenging discussions. We’ll explore how to emotionally scaffold activities and discussions and how to make mindfulness pedagogy inclusive. Through readings, discussions, and mindfulness practice, you will develop your own pedagogical approach to teaching with race in mind.

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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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All the Modes: Multimodal Communication for Teachers and Scholars (Fall)
Led by Marlon Kuzmick and Christine D’Auria

21st century teachers and scholars communicate their ideas in a wide array of media for a diverse array of audiences. When we think about honing our communication skills, we may think about improving public speaking or learning how to design better slides. In this course we’ll do this -- but we’ll also go further, training you in a diverse set of communication media, but also focusing on a key set of patterns and techniques for teaching and storytelling that hold true across the wide array of communication scenarios you encounter (from the classroom to the academic conference to the job interview). Each week we’ll engage a new medium, including voice, text, visuals, and the creative use of physical space. The goal of this seminar is to prepare you in as many media and for as many audiences as possible. You will work on two projects: a short multimedia composition and a short live performance.

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Classroom Communication Skills for International TFs (Fall, Spring)
CORE*

Led by Sarah Emory
View flyer

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 (Fall)
Led by Pamela Pollock

What makes communication engaging? How do you tell your story as both a teacher and a scholar in your field? As a PhD student, you are called upon to present yourself and your ideas in various modes and media, for a variety of different audiences, and you have to be able to do it both remotely AND in person! In this seminar, you will practice the basics of crafting and delivering a talk, develop skills to make your communication compelling for different audiences, adapt your delivery to online and in-person situations, and practice handling questions and other impromptu speaking situations. You will gain experience telling your professional stories in-person and on Zoom, and we will analyze how our speech and the strategies we use change based on the medium. This seminar is designed for advanced PhD students who want to be more confident and engaging teachers, or prepare for 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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Intercultural Communication Skills for International PhD Students (Fall, Spring)
Led by Sarah Emory

How do our cultures inform how we communicate, how we learn, and how we teach? New international PhD students navigate communication at Harvard on multiple levels: as students, as scholars, and as future teachers. In this interactive seminar, we will explore how our cultural values influence our communication in a range of academic and classroom situations. You will have the opportunity to learn, practice, and get feedback on cross-cultural communication skills for Harvard classrooms and beyond, with sessions devoted to academic culture; small talk; participating in classes; email etiquette; the language of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging; and giving and receiving feedback. The two final sessions will target professional storytelling and communicating your research, with a focus on public speaking and delivery. This seminar is designed for new PhD students who did their undergraduate education outside of the US, but is open to any new PhD students interested in developing intercultural competence and practicing communication skills. The full seminar is eight sessions; students are welcome to register and attend any or all sessions

Session 1: Navigating Culture
Session 2: Small Talk and Networking
Session 3: Classroom Interactions
Session 4: The Language of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging
Session 5: Email Etiquette
Session 6: Sharing Feedback
Session 7: Public Speaking and Telling your Professional Story
Session 8: Communicating your Research

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

As a non-native English speaking teacher or scholar, what strategies can you apply to improve your intelligibility when speaking English? What features of English pronunciation can you 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. In 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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If You Build It: Program Planning for Teachers and Scholars (Fall)
Led by Pamela Pollock

Are you interested in applying your teaching experience to educational program planning? Are you organizing a workshop, conference, or other program in your role as a TF or PhD student? In this seminar, we will consider the nuts and bolts of program planning for adult learners, from the initial idea to the assessment stage, using readings and sample programs for discussion. We will learn and explore the different stages of the program planning process as we work step by step on drafting a proposal or plan for a program. This seminar is designed for advanced PhD students who want to learn the basics of program planning and work on developing a program over the course of six sessions.

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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 or writing a syllabus? 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 to keep developing in the right direction as a colleague. In this seminar you will get intensive, hands-on experience designing a teaching statement, a syllabus, and a portfolio. 

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*CORE: Seminars tagged as "CORE" count for the core principles seminar requirement for the Bok Teaching Certificate.

Hit the Ground Running!

hands typing on laptop

Don’t miss our Hit the Ground Running resource site,which features self-study modules for new TFs on the fundamentals of teaching, as well as modules on equitable and inclusive teaching, responding to student writing, and teaching as an international scholar.