We are excited to announce this year's winner for the Excellence in Course Design Award. The 2017 winner is....


Nicole James, Chemistry, "General Chemistry I"

We'd also like to congratulate our honorable mention recipient, Mary Denise Robertson, Anthropology, "Race and the Politics of Advertising in South Africa and Beyond".

Finalists included:

  • Nicole James, Chemistry, "General Chemistry I"
  • Mary Denise Robertson, Anthropology, "Race and the Politics of Advertising in South Africa and Beyond"
  • Michael Dango, English, "American Cultures after 1945"

Congraulations to all of this year's applicants!


If you are interested in applying for the 2018 award, please see details below for submissions. We will announce during the spring term when submissions will be accepted.


With this annual award, the Chicago Center for Teaching and its Teaching Consultants program acknowledges the accomplishments of graduate students in the area of course design.  All graduate students who have taught a course of their own design in the College or at other colleges and universities are eligible.

Note: If the course in question is ‘staff taught’ where a common syllabus is used, any changes introduced by the candidate should be graphically noted and explained in footnotes. Furthermore, the case for how such revisions affected learning in the course should be addressed in the Short Essay portion of the application.

Awardees will be recognized in our newsletter and on our website.  They will be invited to participate in panels and poster sessions on course design for their peers.

The Excellence in Course Design Award will:

  • Offer graduate students formal recognition of accomplishments in learning about teaching and applying this learning in the classroom during the period of their doctoral studies.
  • Heighten the awareness of the following key components of successful college teaching: 
  1. COURSE PREPARATION and ORGANIZATION:  Clear and transparent organization of courses into three components: what students are expected to learn in the course or learning objectives, in-class and outside-of-class assignments that allow students to practice the mastery of these objectives, and a clear articulation of grading criteria for major assignments.
  2. ASSESSMENT OF STUDENT LEARNING: demonstrated ability to critically analyze the degree to which students have achieved the stated learning objectives. Such an analysis should include a reflection on the successes and failures of all course assignments. (see “A Short Essay” below)

Application Deadline

In order to accommodate all graduate student instructors teaching a class in the six quarters of the previous two academic years (i.e., Fall 2015-Spring 2017) applications for the Excellence in Course Design Award will be accepted until June 2018.  Repeat submissions welcomed. The winner will be announced in August 2018.

Nominating Procedures

1. Candidates for the Award nominate themselves. From educational research we know that good teaching produces tangible evidence that is measurable not only by students in the course but by the instructor him/herself and other institutional observers. Accordingly, we require Graduate Student Candidates for the Award to submit a dossier comprised of course documents described below.  Please submit these documents in the following order, with a Table of Contents including page numbers.


  • A Complete Course Syllabus, including a course description, description of student learning goals, all assignments, policies, reading lists and other course information.  Please submit the original syllabus given to students in the course.  If you made changes mid-way through the course, or intend to revise this syllabus to be taught again in the future, please note these changes in your essay.  You may also indicate changes made on the syllabus itself in a different color or by using track changes.
  • Student Work: (e.g., a single sample of a paper, test, report or other type of student production) which includes your feedback in the form of comments and grades.  Please select a sample that best shows your ability to provide feedback to students through comments that facilitate student learning.  For this reason, it would be most helpful to see how you responded to a paper or assignment  that has an issue.
  • Student Evaluations: compiled into a single sheet presenting the tallied results of all quantitative evaluations submitted by students in the course, plus all individual comments listed together. Please remove your name from all comments. 
  • A Short Essay: (500 words) reflecting on the extent to which the course achieved the student learning objectives articulated in the syllabus.  This argument should explicitly connect the work produced by students in the course to the learning goals articulated in the syllabus, using at least one graded assignment as a specific example. In other words, did the sequence of course assignments produce tangible evidence that students had mastered the intended learning outcomes? Be sure to mention both successes and challenges you encountered while teaching the course.  Are there things you would do differently?  We are primarily interested in your ability to assess your own teaching with the students’ learning as the measure of success.  The mark of an excellent teacher is not perfection, but an ability to cultivate insight into student learning, and to learn how to adapt a course to students’ needs.

Essay Guidelines:

Here are some questions you might consider in formulating such an argument: Which of the assignments were most successful in enabling students to make progress toward the stated goals? What, if anything, was altered during the course to support student learning?  What would you change the next time you taught the course? In other words, the goal of the essay is to give you the opportunity to demonstrate what you have learned about college teaching by explaining how the choices you made (readings, assignments, grading rubrics, etc.) helped or hindered student progress in the course.  In so doing, you are able to assess your own growth as a teacher by evaluating how effective course assignments were in supporting student learning.

  • Feedback (suggested but not required): by any outside observer to the classroom.  This can be a letter, report, or other document from a peer or teaching mentor from your home department, or  a staff member from the Center for Teaching (in the form of Individual Teaching Consultations and Mid-Course Reviews).  You may also submit any document that represents feedback you have solicited from your students.  In this case, please note in your essay the changes you made as a result of that feedback.

2. Award Candidates should submit these documents to Chandani Patel (patelc@uchicago.edu) electronically by 5pm on the due date. All electronic submissions should:

  • be submitted as a single word document or pdf file
  • have your name removed from ALL pages (this includes comment bubbles, evaluations, and any other instances)
  • include a Table of Contents

3. Feedback: All dossiers submitted will receive constructive feedback.  The review committee is comprised of CCT professional staff and advanced graduate students serving in the Teaching Consultants Program at the Chicago Center for Teaching.

See the links in the side bar for advice from past winners on effective course design!


Past Winners


Winner: James Marrone, Economics, "Time Series Econometrics"

Honorable Mention:

  • Andrea “Dréa” Jenkins, Anthropology,  “Urban Indians: Native Americans and the City”
  • Dawn Chow, Philosophy, “First Year Seminar II: Skepticism”


Winner: Adhira Mangalagiri, Comparative Literature, "Comparative Modernisms: China and India in the Modern Literary World" 

Honorable Mention: Jin Xu, Art History, "The Arts of China" 


Winner: Stephen Parkin, Comparative Literature, "Private Lives, Public Intellectuals: The Philosophical Essay" 

Honorable Mention: Sarah Weicksel, History, "Historical Methodology"


  • Andrew DeCort, Divinity School, "Authority, Action, Ethics: Ethiopia"
  • Dave Pacifico, Anthropology, "Self, Culture, and Society"
  • John Eric Humphries, Economics, "Computational Methods in Economics"
  • Aiala Levy, History, "The Business of Entertainment"


Winner: Nicholas Koziolek, Philosophy, "Knowledge and the Concept of Mind"


Winner: Brandon Cline, New Testament and Early Christian Literature, "Being Christian in the Roman Empire"

Honorable Mention:

  • Dan Kimmel, Sociology, "Social Science Inquiry"
  • Anthony Mahler, Germanic Studies, "The Imagery/Figurality of German Poetry"
  • James McCormick, Social Thought & Germanic Studies, "Classics of Social and Political Thought" 
  • Santiago Mejia, Philosophy, "Who Am I? Reflections on Identity, Agency, and Unconscious Activity"