Brock University Award for Distinguished Teaching Guidelines

Brock University Award for Distinguished Teaching Guidelines


These criteria and guidelines are based on those established for the 3M National Teaching Fellowship Award.

The two criteria for this award are:

  • excellence in teaching over a number of years at the undergraduate and/or graduate level at Brock University; and,
  • educational leadership as demonstrated by a commitment to the improvement of teaching with an emphasis on contributions beyond the nominee's discipline or profession.

Selection Committee

The Selection Committee consists of the Director of CPI to act as chair of the panel, a Dean or an Associate Dean, three members of the academic community, and one undergraduate and one graduate student, such that normally all Faculties are represented.

The Chair of the Selection Committee will report its recommendations to the Senate Committee, which will in turn recommend to the Vice-President, Academic.

The award need not be made each year if, in the opinion of the Committee and the Vice-President, Academic, there are no suitable candidates. However, a submission may be held over for up to two years.


The award will consist of University recognition of outstanding achievement in teaching, acknowledged at a Fall convocation by the presentation of a certificate and monetary award. The monetary award will be made available to the recipient of the Award for Distinguished Teaching in the form of a tax-sheltered professional allowance. The funds will not be attached to any specific activity or proposal, but must be spent according to the University policy for professional allowances.

I. Nominations

Nominations for the award can be made by Deans, Directors, Chairs, or faculty members to the Chair of the Senate Teaching and Learning Policy Committee by April 30th of each year. Written permission of the nominee is required.

II. Eligibility

All faculty are eligible; however, current members of the Senate Teaching and Learning Policy Committee who are nominated will be excused from any deliberations related to the Award. A nominator of a candidate for this Award is not eligible to serve on the Adjudication Panel for that year.

A faculty member is only eligible for one award every ten (10) years.

III. General Guidance on Preparing a Nomination

The nomination dossier should not exceed 50 pages, not including a brief CV. Nominations that are well-organized, and especially nominations that help the reviewer quickly find key pieces of evidence, are especially appreciated. This means the nomination must follow the format and structure outlined in the Call for Nominations. It also means that a dossier prepared for some other purpose (tenure, another teaching award, etc.) should be revised to fit the criteria and documentation required for the Brock University Distinguished Teaching Award.  The same can be said of supporting letters. They should be recent and address the criteria for this award.

IV. Dossier: How Much is Too Much?

In general, keep the dossier succinct.  Nominators need to bear in mind that the Selection Committee may not be familiar with all disciplinary or institutional norms of teaching. This means that you may need to provide the context and a clear explanation of the significance of the achievements of the nominee, instead of simply listing them.
The nomination should contain pertinent evidence of achievement for each of the two criteria for this award.

The entire nomination package must not exceed 50 pages. A brief CV may be added as an appendix in addition to the 50 pages. Each page should be clearly numbered.  Digital dossiers will be accepted.

V. Critical Considerations

The Selection Committee looks for the following:
●    Evidence that is aligned and integrated with the claims made in the nomination letter.
●    Nominees in leadership positions demonstrating how their work and accomplishments exceed duties normally expected of them.
●    Demonstrating the impact of the nominee’s activities and achievements, particularly in educational leadership.
●    As the 3M criteria state, “[a] real personality to emerge from the dossier, a teacher in three dimensions, more than a human doing—a human being.”

Candidates are cautioned against using the following:
●    Exclusively self-authored and self-promoting nominations.
●    Self-congratulatory statements of assumed excellence.
●    Discrepancies within the nominations and claims unsupported by evidence.
●    References and allusions that force readers to dig for evidence scattered, even hidden, throughout the dossier.
●    Structurally disjointed dossiers, lacking unifying coherence or containing evidence that contradicts or disqualifies other evidence.

Candidates should include normative data in student evaluations; student comments should be comprehensive and not exclusive of negative or critical statements.

For further insights on the selection process or a nomination dossier, candidates are encouraged to consult the staff at the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation.

VI. Evidence

Evidence should be provided within the framework of a Teaching Dossier. The dossier must include the following elements.

  1. Nomination Letter

Good nominations often begin with a comprehensive nomination letter (not more than five pages).  The letter summarizes the accomplishments of the nominee in teaching and in educational leadership.  The letter is not so much evidence, but rather states the qualifications of the nominee and points to other parts of the file that contain more complete evidence.  The letter tells the reviewer what to look for.  Sometimes nominators write a narrative describing the work of the nominee.

  1. Statement of Teaching Philosophy

A statement of teaching philosophy describes what drives you as a teacher in your discipline.  It articulates what teaching beliefs and overall strategies underpin your classroom practices.  

An effective Statement of Teaching Philosophy will link various items in the file to your statement.  For example, teaching philosophies whose claims are substantiated by evidence in the remainder of the file will be rated more favourably than those whose claims cannot be verified.  

  1.  Statement of Effective Teaching Strategies

This category of evidence is often the clearest when presented in narrative form. The instructor tells the story of what was done, provides the thinking behind the strategy, describes how students learn under the strategy, and offers evidence for its effectiveness.

It is important for the Selection Committee to know the full story behind examples of exceptional teaching. The story might describe a novel assignment, a series of lab experiments, exceptional field work, innovative lecturing and so on. Two or three such stories provide a window into the teaching of the nominee and help the Selection Committee better to understand the achievements of the nominee.

 3.1.  Documenting Effective Teaching Strategies:

The Selection Committee appreciates evidence demonstrating that the teaching and learning materials of the nominee have received favourable peer review. This may include, but is not limited to,  such things as:
●    peer observation of nominee’s teaching;
●    requests from colleagues for copies of the nominee’s teaching materials;
●    adoption by colleagues of the nominee’s teaching materials;
●    requests from colleagues to demonstrate a teaching strategy;
●    adoption by other institutions of the teaching resources or strategies of the nominee;
●    favourable published reviews of the teaching materials of the nominee.

4.  List of Courses:

Provide course titles, including the level of instruction (for example, undergraduate/graduate, first year/second year, etc.); semester/date; class size; and other pertinent information.  Please provide this in tabular format covering courses taught within the past five year.

5.  List of Teaching Awards Received:

List and date teaching awards that the nominee has received in the past.

 6. Data from Student Ratings:

The Selection Committee looks for student rating data.
To assist the Selection Committee in interpreting student ratings of the nominee:

●    Briefly explain how student ratings are conducted.
●    Do not include raw data.
●    Include a one page table listing all courses taught by the nominee in the last five years, the enrollment in each course, and the mean rating received for the global questions  for the instructor and the course.
●    Include a statement of the normal number of courses taught by faculty in your department.
●    Ratings from a single year and/or course are insufficient; the Selection Committee will be unable to draw any conclusions from such limited data.
●    Ratings from courses with low enrollment (fewer than five students) are unreliable.
●    Most impressive is a trend of consistently high ratings in several courses over a period of years.
●    Explain any irregularities in the data (low ratings that result from significant changes to a course, gaps in ratings due to a leave of absence or special assignment or reduced teaching responsibilities, change in the rating form, etc.).
●    State who summarized the data and how the summary was prepared.

7.  Student Comments from Two or More Classes:

This form of evidence is less helpful when it consists largely of a list of superlatives without further elaboration. Single comments taken out of context are not a reliable form of evidence. Complete sets of unedited comments from at least two classes should be included and the nominator should indicate how the comments were prepared. The nominator should indicate what the comments indicate about the nominee’s teaching.

8.  Course Development Efforts:

A simple way to proceed here is to list the courses developed. Where the success of a course is due to innovation in design, you will need to explain what is unique and effective about the design and include whatever evidence you have for its effectiveness. Are students learning something different because of the design, and, if so, how did you come to this conclusion? Your reasoning and evidence will be very helpful to the Selection Committee. Again, if you are emphasizing achievement that results from course design, you might want to describe at some length the process used to develop and refine the course.

9. Signed Letters from Colleagues and Students:

We encourage you to include a maximum of two signed letters from colleagues and two signed letters from students. The best letters are those that are specific and authentic. They provide details about the way in which the nominee has been effective in bringing about learning, either in students, or in colleagues who are developing as teachers. Multiple letters that merely describe the nominee as a wonderful teacher are unhelpful.  Letters from current students should not be included; such students are vulnerable by definition, even when they express an unprompted and strong desire to play an active and supporting role in the nomination.

10. An Example of Course Materials:

Identify what is unique and exceptional about course materials and help the Selection Committee locate noteworthy elements. You might include highlights of course materials, or better, include excerpts with an explanation. For example, a textbook in chemistry that encourages students to be more self-directed might include a sample from the text and explain in what way students would learn more effectively using this text.

11. Other Evidence:

The items above represent a range of the kinds of evidence that are indicative of excellence in teaching.  Few, if any, nominators have collected and submitted all of the possible evidence listed and many have demonstrated teaching excellence in other ways. The list is provided by way of example; your nominee is unique and the task is to describe and explain his or her achievements.

12. Educational Leadership Statement:

The Educational Leadership Statement is a personal statement of the nominee’s approach to educational leadership, written by the nominee. In the statement, the nominee explains the meaning that educational leadership has in his or her personal context (discipline, institution, or broader community). The Educational Leadership Statement provides the nominee with an opportunity to articulate a rationale for why he or she goes beyond personal teaching practice to influence the enhancement of teaching and learning amongst colleagues, institutions and broader communities.

13. Evidence for Educational Leadership:

To assist the Committee in putting the evidence of educational leadership in context, the nominator should begin with a paragraph that describes the opportunities available to the nominee for engaging in educational leadership in his or her discipline, institution, and broader community.

The nominator should then describe the nominee’s actual contributions to educational leadership.

Appropriate examples may include, but are not limited to, the following:

●    regular workshops on teaching and learning
●    assistance with the creation of teaching dossiers
●    services to an educational development centre
●    support of a teaching committee
●    grants for teaching and learning projects
●    research or publications on teaching and learning (i.e., the scholarship of teaching and learning)
●    evidence of impact on teaching beyond the institution



Revised: December 2014

(Previously amended: April 2008, February 2006, April 2005, March 2005, January 2003, March 2000, February 1999, September 1998, March 2013)

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