Earlier this semester, I went out on a limb and decided to apply for the Graduate Associate Teaching Award at my university. Basically, that means I’m hoping to be recognized for my teaching up to this point. At the moment, I don’t know if I won, but I figured I’d share the process.
Table of Contents
The Application Process
If you want to get a Graduate Associate Teaching Award (GATA) at The Ohio State University (OSU), you have to go through a pretty lengthy process. In total, they mention that you’ll probably spend about 20 hours putting together the entire application, but I think it takes a bit longer than that.
At any rate, in the subsections below, we’ll look at the actual application process. Then, I’ll sort of give you my take on the whole thing.
Before you can even apply for the award, you have to get nominated. Luckily, nominations can happen at any time during the year. To get one, all it takes is someone filling out the nomination form which includes a simple question like “why do you think this person deserves to be nominated?”
As I hinted at above, anyone can fill out the nomination form. In fact, I could have self-nominated, and I still would have been able to advance to the application process. To be honest, I’m not so sure why the bar is so low. In fact, I am not sure why there is a bar at all. My guess is that it restricts the number of applicants to a group of people that are actually planning to apply.
At any rate, I didn’t know that at the time. In fact, I didn’t even know the nomination process was blind. In other words, I don’t believe it even matters what you put in the box because the panel that reviews the applications will never actually see the nominations.
Honestly, I was a bit bummed by this news because I went out of my way to reach out to old students for support. In the end, I probably picked up 5 or so nominations through cold emails. Part of me feels like I sort of wasted their time. After all, if I could have just self-nominated, I wouldn’t have had to bug them to fill it out.
That said, it worked out! I was able to reach out to some old students and check in on them which was a nice feeling. A lot of them said some really nice things to me unprompted, so that was nice as well. Ultimately, I ended up leveraging one of those interactions for a little more support in the application process outlined below.
Attending Application Orientation
Once you’re nominated, you sort of have to wait until the application window actually opens. This year they revamped the application process, so the portal didn’t open until later December. Then, applications were due late February.
When I found out that I had cleared the first hurdle (i.e. got nominated), they opened up the portal for me which allowed me to begin my application. In addition, they held two meetings to teach applicants about the process. Naturally, I decided to defer any work on the application until I attended one of their meetings.
Eventually, I went to the orientation which was in a large lecture hall, filled with maybe 20 fellow applicants. Suddenly, I was a little underwhelmed. In my mind, I was thinking “are these really the only people applying for the award?” After all, they had planned to have 10 winners, so I was sitting at a comfortable 50% success rate.
Of course, later they mentioned that there was another orientation that featured roughly the same number of people, so my success rate was cut in half. That said, I was feeling pretty good about my odds at that point. This was definitely an award that I could win—ignoring all the wonderfully talented teachers around me.
At any rate, they then spent the next hour outlining exactly what their expectations were for the application: we were to put together a teaching portfolio with the following elements (official list can be found here):
- Teaching Statement
- Teaching Responsibilities (OSU only)
- Instructional Artifact
- Evaluative Feedback and Summary
- Overall Student Evaluation of Instruction (SEI) Scores
- One Course SEI or a Personal or Departmental Evaluation
- Letters of Recommendation
In the next few sections, we’ll talk about how I actually put this together.
Putting Together a Teaching Portfolio
As you might know by my portfolio site, I was fortunate enough to do a bit of professional development in the past. In other words, I already created a piece of this portfolio: the teaching statement. As a result, I just needed to scope it for this context.
Beyond that, I put everything else together from scratch. For instance, I put together a list of teaching responsibilities which included three different roles: two teaching and one grading.
In addition, I wrote up a summary of my feedback over the years which included an overall review of all my SEIs as well as other feedback sources. Oddly enough, that document is actually what prompted my teaching feedback article.
Since I mentioned SEIs already, I should say that I also collected them for this portfolio. If you’re interested, here they are:
Finally, I put together an instructional artifact which in my case was a peer instruction question. As a part of the requirements, I had to explain the purpose of that artifact. I’ll save you the explanation, and instead I’ll point you to an article on peer instruction.
Requesting Letters of Recommendation
Now, unfortunately, the application doesn’t end after putting together all these resources. On top of the list of documents I collected above, I also had to retrieve a couple letters of recommendation: one from a faculty member and another from a student (optional).
This is where those cold emails came in handy! I was able to get a nice a letter from one of my previous students by reaching out to them to again. In fact, they were quite enthusiastic to burdened by the process, so I’m seriously thankful for that.
Meanwhile, I was a bit at a loss when it came to reaching out to a faculty member. My home department didn’t do a great job of fostering teachers (or students, frankly), so I didn’t feel super comfortable asking for support. Luckily, I had taken several engineering education classes, so I decided to learn on one of those professors. And, boy did I luck out!
Submitting the Application
Once I had all my materials, all I had to do was put them together in a PDF and submit it—sort of…
In reality, the form asked me to list all sorts of information that I didn’t even know. For example, I had to list off contact information for various department officials, both of my references, and my advisor.
On top of that, I had to list off publications (which I didn’t have) for whatever reason. Likewise, they made me write up a blurb for a general audience about my research interests. If you know me, I make everything overly complicated, so I had a hard time narrowing down exactly what my research interests were.
Then, I submitted the application. At which point, I received an email with a copy of my responses. In addition, I was notified that I wouldn’t receive any indication of the results until at least March 15th, 2020 and no later than April 15th, 2020.
Of course, if you live in the present (March 24th, 2020), you know the effects COVID-19 has had on just about everything. As a result, I wouldn’t be surprised if the results are delayed for the foreseeable future. In the next section, we’ll talk about how I felt about this process.
After talking about the entire application, I thought it would be interesting to reflect on process. In other words, how long did it take, who did I have to work with, and why I actually did it?
First, let’s talk about the actual timeline. Honestly, I don’t have exact numbers. That said, considering that there are seven elements of the portfolio, I would only get about 3 hours per item according to their guidelines.
While some of those items are out of my hands like recommendation letters, I felt like I spent quite a bit more time on the application than advertised. For example, putting together a teaching statement is no easy matter. It requires thinking about alignment because it ties the whole application together. For example, if I decide to talk about active learning in my instructional artifact, my teaching statement should align with that.
In the end, I spent quite a bit of time just combing over all the files looking for errors. Likewise, I spent a lot of time just cutting down content. As it turns out, it’s really hard to restrict your thoughts to just one page of content. Of course, I am a blogger. Overall, I probably spent closer to 40 hours on the application.
In terms of who I had to work with, that was basically limited to two people: my student and faculty references. The rest of the application was completed by yours truly. Of course, I did interface with a few of the folks overseeing the application process, but I didn’t work with anyone beyond that.
Finally, there’s the question of why I did it. Oddly enough, this was a question that my faculty reference asked me, and I didn’t have a great answer at the time.
At a surface level, I like the idea of being forced to work on professional development. This process would allow me to basically test out application materials before I enter the job market.
However, if you know me, I don’t really care about professional development. If I did, I wouldn’t have trashed one of my previous employers on a public forum. See, the deeper reason why I applied for this award was because I wanted to be recognize for my hard work. As a teacher, I think my students know how hard I work for them, but that doesn’t always translate into departmental or campus-wide recognition.
Finally, the biggest driving force was proving to myself that I’m in the right field. If I could go through this process without quitting, I could reaffirm my belief that teaching is the right profession for me. As a nice byproduct, winning the award would combat my Imposter Syndrome.
Overall, I’d say I am quite happy with myself for actually completing the application. Hell, I only wrote this article, so I could sort of capture this feeling before discovering the outcome.
If you read up to this point, you know that I still have no idea if I won or not. In fact, I don’t expect to be notified for awhile amidst this pandemic. As a result, I figured I’d share a little bit of good news: I won my department’s version of this award!
When I found out, I was actually kind of shocked. The process for deciding who wins is so opaque that I don’t even know how I got nominated, who decides who wins, or even what the criteria are for the award. That said, I’m pretty stoked. I am supposed to receive the award at a banquet in late April, but who knows if that will happen.
I suppose I’ll have an update by May. When that comes, I’ll follow up with another post. How’s that sound?
In the meantime, help me grow this site by heading over to this post. Otherwise, here are a few great teaching resources from Amazon (ad):
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Otherwise, thanks for stopping by! I appreciate the support.
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