Program Description and Participant Expectations
The SEAL certificate originated as a student organized initiative to provide DMS graduate students opportunities to develop curriculum, teach, and receive constructive feedback on their teaching. SEAL has been managed by the CFP since 2015, during which the program expanded to include direct mentorship and career counseling and was made available to students across the HMS Programs in Graduate Education. As graduate students follow ever more diverse career paths, the SEAL certificate provides a valuable resource for these future professors, curriculum developers and higher education administrators to apply their graduate training to teaching careers.
SEAL participants learn to teach using evidence-based best practices and become part of a science teaching community that continually explores and adopts the most effective teaching approaches. In addition to coursework, workshops and a regular journal club, SEAL participants are paired with Boston-area university faculty to develop lessons and teach a minimum of four course meetings. This work is performed under the guidance and mentorship of Curriculum Fellows and faculty mentors from the partner institutions, and includes teaching observations and evaluation.
SEAL supplements the graduate training of students looking to apply their biological science Ph.D. to a career in teaching. Participation allows students to obtain teaching experience as a course lecturer, to reflect on and improve their teaching skills, to experiment with different pedagogical approaches and to build components of their teaching portfolio. Achieving this certification prepares students with the core skills and experiences required for education-related positions. This classroom-based nature of the training additionally distinguishes SEAL students in a competitive job market. Students granted the certificate will have demonstrated competence in the following objectives:
Tracing the success of specific teaching techniques to their foundations in the scientific studies of teaching and learning.
Honing essential teaching skills, including design and alignment of lessons and assessments, design of student-centered classroom activities, instructional skills and classroom management.
Assessing student learning.
Developing and delivering course content within a defined curriculum.
Constructively giving and receiving feedback on their teaching and that of their peers.
Identifying sources of instructional innovation and seeking practical opportunities for their implementation.
The SEAL Program is separated into two parts. Participants in Part A gain basic knowledge of effective teaching practices through individualized mentorship, coursework and academic programming. This then becomes the foundation for part B, during which participants create and deliver guest lectures at local colleges. Both Part A and Part B have associated applications which must be completed by the students and approved by the leadership of the Curriculum Fellows Program. All currently matriculated Harvard Ph.D. candidates are eligible to apply for Part A. Before students can begin Part B they must satisfactorily complete the requirements of Part A, complete the Part B application and provide written consent from their dissertation advisor.
Part A – Foundational Training
The Part A application requests basic demographic information and requires a short essay that asks the applicant to describe their motivation for pursuing the certificate and their previous teaching experiences. Once this application has been submitted, students are matched with a Curriculum Fellow who will serve as their mentor for the duration of the program. Part A of the SEAL certificate is designed to provide the core skills, understanding and experience students will draw upon for the classroom-based training that follows. To fulfill the Part A requirements, students must complete the following:
1) CB306qc - Teaching 100: The Theory and Science of Teaching. This is a small, discussion-based class that focuses on the connections between the science of learning and pedagogical best practices. Students apply this material to the development of a syllabus that integrates concepts including interleaving, spaced retrieval, feedback and assessment. The course is developed and taught by the Co-Director of the Curriculum Fellows Program and meets for a total of 16 contact hours.
2A) Gen302qc – Teaching 101: Bringing Effective Teaching Practices to Your Classroom. This course focuses specifically on the practical application of pedagogical best practices to the development and deployment of effective lessons. Topics include backwards design, active learning, assessment, feedback and classroom presence. Students apply these concepts to the development and presentation of one lesson designed for a large class and another tailored to a smaller class. The course is typically team-taught by two current curriculum fellows and meets for a total of 18 contact hours.
2B) BBS301 – Teaching Practicum. This course is restricted to teaching assistants who are currently teaching on one of the BBS core courses. The course focuses on the development of the skills required to lead discussion sections, develop educational content, create and grade assessments and consider the broader design of a course as a whole. Students directly apply these skills in their roles as TAs and are also asked to reflect on their own teaching in written assignments. The course is created and run by Curriculum Fellows.
3) SEAL students must be regular and active participants in the extracurricular programming provided by the CFP. This includes a monthly journal club that discusses new findings from the teaching and learning literature, a series of skills workshops delivered by the curriculum fellows and the Graduate Science Education Seminar series that convenes once each semester. Students are expected to attend these events regularly throughout their participation in the program with a specific requirement to attend at least one skills workshop each semester and present at least one paper at a journal club meeting.
4) Students are not accepted for part B unless they have had previous hands-on teaching experience, most commonly by fulfilling their programmatic TA requirements. A major consideration for acceptance of students into Part B is that they accumulate sufficient experience during Part A to take on the responsibilities of teaching lessons in Part B. Students who have not had sufficient classroom experience will be advised by their CF mentors to seek out basic opportunities to build their teaching experience and confidence (i.e. tutoring, being a TA, etc.).
Part B – Classroom-based Teaching Experience
Students who satisfactorily complete the requirements of Part A can apply for acceptance into Part B. The application for Part B is considered a formative part of the training. It requires the creation of a lesson plan informed by the student’s Part A experiences. Students applying for Part B must have also completed their PQE and programmatic TA requirements and must have written permission from their dissertation advisor. The directors of the CFP and the student’s CF mentor will review the application to determine whether a student is eligible to begin Part B.
Lesson Development and In-Class Teaching
The core feature of Part B is hands-on teaching of full lessons in a real classroom. This requires significant preparation from the SEAL student, the support of a course instructor willing to host the student in their class and ongoing support from the CF mentor. The CFP oversees the placement of students in appropriate courses, though students are encouraged to seek out opportunities on their own. To complete the Part B teaching requirements, students must complete 2 of the following experiences:
1. Develop and teach two lessons in a single course. This requires close collaboration with an instructor to develop content that fits into the syllabus and the creation of a written lesson plan and teaching materials.
2. Collaborate with an instructor to create and teach a nanocourse. The student’s role in this process must include significant contribution to the development of course content and the design of the course sessions. The student must also physically teach at least 1 hour of content on each day of the nanocourse.
Students can complete the full requirement by either working in two distinct courses for a total of 4 lessons (i.e. completing #1 from above in two different classes), or by combing 2 lessons from one course with a nanocourse. In rare cases, students may get the opportunity to develop and teach their own short course. Typically this would be a nanocourse or a J-term course. This is distinguished from the above example by the level of student involvement. If the student is instructor of record or a member of a teaching team that develops and teaches an entire course, this experience alone can fulfill the Part B requirement at the discretion of the CFP directors.
Observation and Feedback
SEAL students are required to observe each other during their classroom teaching experiences and provide written and oral feedback. Each student must do this at least once during his or her training. Likewise, each student is expected to meet with both their host faculty and CF mentors to receive feedback on their teaching, which they are expected to apply to their upcoming lessons. Finally, the CFP will provide equipment and logistical support so students can record videos of their lessons. Students will use these to prepare written self-assessments, which they will discuss with their CF mentor.
Final Application for SEAL Certificate
Students who have completed the requirements of Part A and Part B may then complete the application for the SEAL certificate. This application includes an accounting of all of their SEAL-related activities, including courses taken, articles presented, lessons taught and observations made. Students must also include a revised CV that reflects this work. Finally, students generate a statement of teaching philosophy to be edited and revised in collaboration with their CF mentor. When each of these requirements has been satisfactorily met, the directors of the CFP will approve the student’s application for the SEAL certificate.
SEAL Program Requirements (in brief)