The winners of this year’s Excellence in Course Design Award are:

  • Ebenezer Concepción, PhD Candidate, Department of Romance Languages & Literatures,
    "Embodiment and Identity in the Literatures of the Hispanic Caribbean (20thand 21st centuries)"
  • Heather Mangelsdorf, PhD 2018, Department of Psychology,
    "Body and Mind: How our bodies reveal and change emotion and thought"

Honorable mention:

  • Gabriel Velez, PhD Candidate, Department of Comparative Human Development,
    "Memory, Reconciliation, and Healing: Transnational Justice as Human Rights"
  • Alicia Riley, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology,
    "Health in a Changing America"


Excellence in Course Design Award 

The annual Excellence in Course Design Award acknowledges the achievements of graduate students in the area of course design. It offers graduate students formal recognition of their accomplishments in learning about teaching and applying this learning in the classroom during the period of their doctoral studies. All graduate students who have taught a course of their own design, at University of Chicago or elsewhere, are eligible to apply. Awardees are recognized on our website and invited to participate in panels and poster sessions on course design for their peers. 

The Excellence in Course Design Award aims to heighten awareness of some of the key components of successful college teaching:   

  • Course Preparation and Organization:  Constructive alignment and clear articulation of a) what students are expected to learn in the course or learning objectives, b) in-class and outside-of-class assignments that allow students to practice the mastery of these objectives, and c) grading criteria for major assignments. 
  • Assessment of Student Learning:  demonstrated ability to critically analyze the degree to which students have achieved the course’s learning objectives, and reflection on the successes and failures of course assignments and activities.  

Nomination Procedures and Application Deadline 

Candidates for the Award nominate themselves by submitting a dossier of course documents (described in detail below) via an online portal. The online application is available each year on the first day of Spring Quarter and has a deadline of 5 pm on the last day of Spring Quarter - June 9th 2018

Requirements for Nominees 

  • You are a graduate student at the University of Chicago 
  • You have been the instructor of record for a course of your own design, at UChicago or at another college or university. If the course is one in which there is a common syllabus (e.g. UChicago Core), 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 (see below).

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 themselves and other institutional observers. Accordingly, we require graduate student candidates for the Excellence in Course Design Award to submit a dossier of course documents demonstrating their teaching practices.  Please submit these documents in the following order, preceded by a Title Page and Table of Contents, and as one single PDF.

Dossier Documents: 

  1. A Comprehensive Course Syllabus
    A comprehensive course syllabus should include 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.
  2. Sample of Student Work
    Please select a sample that best shows your ability to provide feedback to students through comments that facilitate student learning. For example, one sample of a paper, test, report or other type of student production, which includes your feedback in the form of comments and grades. The purpose of this document is to demonstrate how you provide feedback, so a paper or assignment that has an issue would be most helpful or appropriate. Please make sure to obscure or remove the student’s name from the document and your name from the bubble comments (if applicable) before submitting.
  3. Student Evaluations
    Student evaluations should be compiled into a single document 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.  
  4. Short Essay
    A 500-1,000 word essay reflecting on the extent to which the course achieved the student learning objectives articulated in the syllabus. It should be an argument-driven essay that explicitly connects 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?

    The purpose of the essay is to demonstrate a) 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, and b) your ability to assess your own growth as a teacher by evaluating how effective course assignments were in supporting student learning. 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. Here are some additional questions you might consider:  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?  
  5. External Feedback (suggested but not required)
    Please include any feedback you may have on the class from an outside observer. This can be a letter, report, or other document from a peer, teaching mentor, or CCT teaching consultant or staff member (e.g. MCR or ITC report). You may also submit any document that represents feedback you have solicited from your students (e.g. your own mid-course review, responses from a minute-paper). In this case, please note in your essay the changes you made as a result of that feedback. 

Before Submitting, make sure: 

  • The documents are presented in a single PDF in the order provided above.
  • They are preceded by a title page and table of contents that includes page numbers.
  • Your name is removed from ALL PAGES (this includes comment bubbles, student evaluation comments, and any other instances). This anonymity helps to ensure an unbiased review of each application. 

Review Process and Feedback 

The review committee is comprised of CCT Staff and graduate students serving in the Teaching Consultants and CCT Fellows programs. All submitted dossiers will receive constructive feedback. The Winner and Honorable Mention Recipient(s) will be announced by August 1. 

Questions about the award and application procedure may be directed to Julie Hanlon (