Faculty Cohorts On Teaching

The CTE’s Faculty Cohorts on Teaching program seeks to bring faculty together to explore innovative approaches to significant teaching and learning questions. Participating faculty spend a year investigating a new pedagogical or course design approach to be implemented in at least one of the courses they teach. A late spring kick-off meeting sets the stage for the conversation, and then monthly seminar meetings during the academic year are organized around relevant readings in the pedagogical literature and case studies developed by cohort participants.

All Boston College faculty are eligible to participate. To learn more about the benefits and expectations of the cohort program, please see the tab below.

Any questions about Faculty Cohorts in general—or about the specific cohorts being offered next year—can be directed to centerforteaching@bc.edu.

2023-24 Cohort Applications

Applications for our 2023-24 cohorts, “Community-Engaged Learning” and “More Equitable Grading,” will be accepted starting on December 15 with a final deadline of March 1. Interested faculty will be asked to submit a brief online application that includes a project proposal explaining what they hope to gain from their cohort participation. See further information about the Community-Engaged Learning and More Equitable Grading cohorts below.

Participating faculty receive a $2,500 stipend and the opportunity to interact with an engaged group of colleagues. Please note that individuals who have administrative roles and teach are eligible to participate in a cohort but ineligible to receive the stipend, as per Boston College policy. Faculty who choose to participate can expect to:

  • attend a kick-off meeting the spring before the cohort launches;
  • participate in monthly cohort meetings during the academic year;
  • develop a short teaching case to be shared with other members of the cohort;
  • experiment with at least one significant revision to their teaching during the cohort year; and
  • submit a brief final report within one month of concluding the cohort, as well as participate in other assessments the CTE conducts of the cohort program.

Community-Engaged Learning

Numerous BC faculty have experimented over the years with incorporating various kinds of community engagement into their courses. Whether that’s traditional service learning, which involves student volunteer work with a community partner, or a community-based research approach that engages students in projects emerging from local needs, community-engaged learning can help students explore the real-world relevance of our disciplines while also benefiting the community. That said, community-based approaches also have the potential to do more harm than good: poorly-designed approaches can inadvertently reinforce students’ preconceptions about community deficits and burden community partners rather than support them. This cohort seeks to bring together faculty from various departments to investigate what’s necessary to meaningfully incorporate community-engaged learning in their courses, in both small and substantial ways.

For this particular cohort, we will embrace a broad definition of “community-engaged learning,” welcoming faculty interested in a range of approaches to engaging communities — both within and outside BC — in the pursuit of a variety of pedagogical goals. We welcome participants looking to design courses or assignments that investigate contemporary social challenges, involve Participatory Action Research or other kinds of collaborative inquiry with community stakeholders, or provide students with structured ways to reflect on the connections between classroom learning and real-world experience. If you’re teaching a course in which student exploration of or engagement with community concerns serves to further course learning goals, then this cohort could be for you. Please note that courses based around formalized opportunities for students to practice the skills of their future professions (internships, practicums, clinicals) are probably less of a good fit for this cohort; reach out if you have questions about whether your project aligns with the cohort’s goals.

More Equitable Grading

Students depend on feedback in order to assess their progress and direct their future efforts in a course. In an ideal world, grades would help provide that feedback and serve as a meaningful measure of student learning. In reality, translating complex learning experiences into a single data point can undermine those goals. BC faculty have shared concerns that grades can encourage an adversarial relationship between students and instructors, breed competition between students, negatively affect student mental health, and extrinsically motivate student behavior to the detriment of curiosity and risk taking. In addition, research shows that traditional grading practices can particularly disadvantage minoritized students, in part because prior access to resources can influence grades and access to future opportunities. 

This cohort seeks to bring together faculty who are interested in better understanding how educational equity is at stake in grading practices, exploring how alternative approaches to grading can contribute to more equitable learning environments in their specific contexts, and identifying grading practices that are less draining to instructors. We welcome participants from varied disciplines and with varied questions: those who are new to the conversation and those who may have already experimented with alternative approaches to grading; those who are looking to revise their approach to a particular assignment or redesign their grading scheme for an entire course. 

Our first meetings will provide an opportunity to dig into the challenges of traditional grading practices and consider a few alternative grading models (e.g. contract grading, specifications grading, “ungrading”), while considering the relationship between course-level pedagogical decisions and broader institutional and cultural pressures. If you are looking to advance equity in student learning and achievement, worry that grading is getting in the way of learning, and/or are looking to alleviate the pain of grading, this cohort could be for you.