Carnegie Mellon University

Teaching Excellence & Innovation

Graduate Student Teaching Award – Purpose & Criteria

Carnegie Mellon's Graduate Student Teaching Award is given annually to a graduate student who has demonstrated teaching excellence at the undergraduate and/or graduate level at the university. The award is intended to foster a culture of teaching excellence among graduate teaching assistants and instructors.

Award criteria:

This award recognizes excellence in teaching by graduate student instructors at Carnegie Mellon University based on outstanding and effective: 

  1. teaching in the classroom, laboratory or studio, review sessions, and/or office hours,
  2. creation or use of new and innovative teaching methods and course materials,
  3. design and/or delivery of impactful and innovative courses, and/or
  4. use of inclusive teaching practices that support all students.

Nomination packages may be submitted by any member of the Carnegie Mellon University community. Self nominations are permissible.

Students seeking to nominate someone are strongly encouraged to collaborate with faculty and/or administrators in the nominee’s academic department to optimize nominations. 

Questions should be directed to the Vice Provost for Education.

All current graduate students at the university who have demonstrated substantial effectiveness in teaching are eligible to be nominated for the award. Students who have been nominated or received honorable mention in the past may be nominated again. However, previous winners of the award are ineligible for nomination.

Nominations consist of one phase

Nominators compile a full nomination case and submit it as a single PDF file via the nomination form by February 1

When is the nomination deadline? February 1

The nomination packet must be submitted on or before February 1 as a single PDF via the nomination form to be considered for that academic year.

Who prepares the nomination materials for the nominees?

The nominators of each nominee are responsible for preparing the nomination packet. Nominators may choose to work with the nominee. Self-nominees are encouraged to work with their advisors or department head to gather all necessary information.

What is submitted? 

The final nomination packet should include the following:

  • a nomination letter addressed to the selection committee (maximum two single-spaced pages) describing how the nominee demonstrates excellence in teaching based on the award criteria listed above.
  • no more than 30 letters of recommendation (maximum two single-spaced pages each) from appropriate parties, such as Carnegie Mellon University faculty or administrators, present and former students, and colleagues who have substantive and direct knowledge of the nominee's teaching activities at CMU, 
  • a statement of teaching philosophy from the nominee (maximum two single-spaced pages)
  • the nominees’ brief C.V. (two to four pages),
  • a summary of the courses for which the nominee has served as a teaching assistant or instructor at Carnegie Mellon University, including short descriptions of responsibilities in each course (maximum 2 pages)
  • additional supporting materials that represent the quality of a nominee's teaching accomplishments and provide evidence of the nominee's teaching excellence (maximum 30 pages, videos should not be submitted), that may include: 
    • when available, the Faculty Course Evaluation scores or other systematic student evaluations of teaching for all courses that the nominee has taught at CMU. The evaluation scores should be supplemented with information on the number of students enrolled in each course, whether the students were majors or non-majors, and whether the nominee served as instructor or teaching assistant for the course. If qualitative comments are also included, please provide an explanation of how they were selected (e.g., all available comments, representative comments),
    • examples of outstanding teaching materials created by the nominee, such as assignment guidelines, solution sets for homework, handouts, syllabi, or samples of the nominee's feedback on student work
    • descriptions of the nominee's contributions to the teaching development of peers, such as contributions to course-level TA meetings, department-level TA training or other types of helpful feedback on teaching to peers, and/or
    • descriptions of the nominee's contributions to his or her department's educational programs, such as serving on teaching-related committees, supervising or mentoring undergraduate students, presenting papers or writing articles about teaching or organizing educational or professional development opportunities for other students.

Advice for nominators and letter writers

Letters should:

  • be limited to two single spaced pages each,
  • specifically and directly describe how the nominee demonstrates the award criteria listed above, 
  • be solicited illustrate a sizable sample of the nominee’s teaching, preferably representing different courses and/or diverse pedagogical methods (e.g., discussions, lectures, group projects),   
  • represent faculty/staff colleagues’ knowledge of the nominee's teaching via:
    • experiences co-teaching, direct observation, conversations with the nominee, etc. 
    • interactions with the nominee’s students, and
  • include testimonials from students* and alumni describing how and why nominees impacted them via teaching (e.g., their learning, the student experience, or academic/career pathway), both while at CMU and longer- term.

* Students and alumni may need more guidance in terms of expectations of what a good letter of recommendation should look like. For example, ask students/alumni to comment, among other things, on:

  • How accessible and supportive was the nominee?
  • What types of learning activities and teaching strategies did the nominee use that were particularly effective?
  • How well organized were the individual class sessions of the nominee?
  • How did the nominee create a learning atmosphere in which all students feel respected, welcomed, and supported?
  • What kind of feedback, review sessions, or one-on-one instruction did the nominee provide and how impactful was it? 

When is the award winner announced? 

The award committee will select one winner annually. All nominators will be notified of outcomes in March. The winner, along with their nominators, colleagues, and friends and family, will be invited to attend the Celebration of Education event in April to receive their award. 

The award selection committee consists of:

  • three faculty members,
  • three graduate students (including the most recent recipient of the Graduate Student Teaching Award, if available),
  • two undergraduate students, and
  • the chairperson of the committee (a representative for the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation, a non-voting member)

The selection committee adopts its own rules of procedure.

One recipient will be chosen annually. The Graduate Student Teaching Award will be recognized at the Celebration of Education event in the spring. The recipients will receive a monetary award and have their names displayed on a plaque in the Cohon University Center.