Distinguished Teaching Award

The Brock University Award for Distinguished Teaching is presented annually to a faculty member who, in the opinion of his or her peers, has made an outstanding contribution to the teaching and learning environment at Brock University.

Application Guidelines

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

The two criteria for this award are:

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

All faculty members of Brock University are eligible to apply, 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 faculty member is only eligible for one award every ten (10) years.

Each candidate must submit an application package in the form of a dossier to the Center for Pedagogical Innovation (TH136 or eddev@brocku.ca) to be considered for an award.

The dossier, which may be submitted either digitally or in hard-copy, should not exceed 50 pages (excluding a brief CV which may be included as an appendices). The entire application 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.

In general, keep the dossier succinct. Dossiers that are well-organized, and especially those that help the Selection Committee quickly find key pieces of evidence, are especially appreciated. This means the dossier 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 Distinguished Teaching Award. The same can be said of supporting letters – these should be recent and address the criteria for this award. Additionally, nominators and candidates need to bear in mind that the Selection Committee may not be familiar with all disciplinary or institutional norms of teaching. This means that context and a clear explanation of the significance of the achievements of the candidate should be provided, rather than simply listing the achievements.
The nomination should contain pertinent evidence of achievement for each of the two criteria for this award.

Candidates should include the following items in their dossier:

  1. Nomination Letter. Nominations for the award can be made by Deans, Directors, Chairs, or faculty members. Nomination letters can be addressed to the Chair of the Senate Teaching and Learning Policy Committee and should not exceed 5 pages. Strong dossiers often begin with a comprehensive nomination letter that 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 dossier 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.
  2. Statement of Teaching Philosophy. A statement of teaching philosophy is authored by the candidate and describes what drives them as a teacher in their discipline. It articulates what teaching beliefs and overall strategies underpin their classroom practices. An effective Statement of Teaching Philosophy will link various items in the dossier to the statement.  For example, teaching philosophies whose claims are substantiated by evidence in the remainder of the dossier will be rated more favourably than those whose claims cannot be verified.
  3. Statement of Effective Teaching Strategies. This component of the dossier is often the clearest when presented in narrative form and authored by the candidate. The candidate 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, etc. Two or three such stories provide a window into the teaching of the nominee and help the Selection Committee better to understand their achievements.
    • Documenting Effective Teaching Strategies. The Selection Committee appreciates evidence demonstrating that the teaching and learning materials of the candidate 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 candidate’s teaching materials;
      • adoption by colleagues of the candidate’s teaching materials;
      • requests from colleagues to demonstrate a teaching strategy;
      • adoption by other institutions of the teaching resources or strategies of the candidate;
      • favourable published reviews of the teaching materials of the candidate.
  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. This list should be provided in a tabular format covering courses taught within the past 5 year.
  5. List of Teaching Awards Received. List any teaching awards that the candidate has received in the past including the date of conferral.
  6. Student Ratings Data. The Selection Committee looks for student rating data of the candidate. To assist the Selection Committee in interpreting student ratings, the candidate should consider the following suggestions:
    • 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 5 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 instructors/faculty in the 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; while these should still be included effort should be made to highlight low enrollment for the Selection Committee.
    • 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.).
    • Include normative data in student evaluations; student comments should be comprehensive and not exclusive of negative or critical statements.
    • 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 candidate should indicate how the comments were prepared. A narrative should be provided summarizing what the comments indicate about the candidate’s teaching.
  8. Course Development Efforts. A succinct way to proceed is to list the courses developed. Where the success of a course is due to innovation in design, the candidate will need to explain what is unique and effective about the design and include whatever evidence is available for its effectiveness. Are students learning something different because of the design, and, if so, how did the candidate come to this conclusion?  Outlining the reasoning for the innovation and providing evidence of impact is very helpful to the Selection Committee. Again, if emphasizing achievement that results from course design, it is valuable to describe at some length the process used to develop and refine the course.
  9. Signed Letters from Colleagues and Students. Candidates are encouraged to include a maximum of 2 signed letters from colleagues and 2 signed letters from students. The best letters are those that are specific and authentic. They provide details about the way in which the candidate has been effective in bringing about learning, either in students, or in colleagues who are developing as teachers. Multiple letters that merely describe the candidate 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, highlighting noteworthy elements for the Selection Committee. Candidates may  include highlights/excerpts of course materials with an accompanying explanation. For example, a textbook 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, candidates 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; each candidate is unique and the task is to describe and explain their achievements. Additional evidence is welcome, provided that it is focused on the criteria for the award.
  12. Educational Leadership Statement. The Educational Leadership Statement is a personal statement of the candidate’s approach to educational leadership, written by the candidate. In the statement, the candidate explains the meaning that educational leadership has in their personal context (discipline, institution, or broader community). The Educational Leadership Statement provides the candidate with an opportunity to articulate a rationale for why they go beyond personal teaching practice to influence the enhancement of teaching and learning among colleagues, institutions, and broader communities.
  13. Evidence for Educational Leadership. To assist the Selection Committee in putting the evidence of educational leadership in context, the dossier should begin with a paragraph that describes the opportunities available to the candidate for engaging in educational leadership in their discipline, institution, and broader community. This should be followed by a description of the candidate’s actual contributions to educational leadership. Appropriate examples may include, but are not limited to:
    • regular workshops on teaching and learning;
    • providing assistance or guidance to colleagues (including teaching assistants) with the creation of teaching dossiers;
    • services to an educational development centre;
    • support provided to 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.

Suggestions for preparing your dossier

The Selection Committee looks for the following when reviewing candidate dossiers:

  • Evidence that is aligned and integrated with the claims made in the nomination letter;
  • Candidates in leadership positions demonstrating how their work and accomplishments exceed duties normally expected of them;
  • Demonstration of 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 dossier 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

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.

Written permission of the nominee is required.

The deadline to submit an application package/dossier to be considered for the award has been extended to May 30.

The Selection Committee is chaired by the Associate Vice-Provost, Teaching & Learning or the Director of CPI (or their designate) who serves in a non-voting role. The remaining voting members of the Committee include:

  • a Dean or an Associate Dean,
  • three members of the academic community,
  • one undergraduate student
  • one graduate student

CPI makes all possible efforts to ensure that the Committee consists of representation from all Faculties. A nominator of a candidate for this Award is not eligible to serve on the Selection Committee for that year.

The Chair of the Selection Committee will report its recommendations to the Senate Committee, which will in turn recommend the candidate 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.

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 Distinguished Teaching Award 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.

Recipients of the award may also be recognized at the annual Tribute to Teaching event hosted by CPI at the end of the Fall term.