GSAS Teaching Scholars Program

The Teaching Scholars Program is an academic and professional development opportunity that gives advanced doctoral students in the Arts and Sciences a chance to design and teach a course in their area of expertise. The Teaching Scholar designation is awarded through departmental competition and nomination to GSAS; it is intended to be an opportunity for our best graduate student teachers in humanities and social science departments to plan and lead seminars in their specialization for the benefit of Columbia’s undergraduates.

The Teaching Scholars Program has been fantastic for the doctoral students in our department, giving them a leg up on the job market and the rare chance to teach a specialized course. The undergraduate students have also greatly appreciated the lively topics and strong teaching of those selected for the program.

Ellie M. Hisama, Professor of Music (Music Theory and Historical Musicology)
  • Doctoral students must be in an Arts & Sciences program, be in good standing, and have fulfilled all MPhil degree requirements and passed their prospectus defense by the time they would begin their appointment as Teaching Scholars.
  • Students may not apply to be a Teaching Scholar for the year in which they are first eligible to receive their Dissertation Fellowship. That is, students may not postpone a Dissertation Fellowship to be a Teaching Scholar.
  • Students must be within the seven-year limit for GSAS funding during their term of service.
  • Courses taught by Teaching Scholars will have an enrollment limit of fifteen students, with the minimum enrollment prescribed by each department for course viability.
  • As instructors of record, Teaching Scholars are expected to make their course a pedagogical priority, and should not take on other responsibilities for additional compensation during the term in which they teach their course. The expected time commitment for these duties can average about fifteen hours per week, but per university policy may not exceed twenty hours per week.
  • Students may be Teaching Scholars only once in their graduate careers.
  • The Teaching Scholars Program allows graduate students the opportunity to design and teach as sole instructor a course on their dissertation topic; therefore, courses may not be team-taught.
  • The supervising faculty sponsor or DGS will commit to visiting the class at least once during the semester and will meet with the student afterwards to offer guidance and feedback on pedagogical performance.
  • Teaching Scholar appointments may not be deferred to a later year.


  • GSAS will provide to each department an allocation based on a proportion of their post-MPhil population currently in years 4-6.
 Directors of Graduate Studies and their faculty selection committee will advance to GSAS that number of proposals.
  • Departments make the final selections of the Teaching Scholar proposal/s they wish to present for consideration. Proposals are first evaluated and ranked within the department.
  • GSAS subsequently submits all of the endorsed proposals to the undergraduate COI for final review. The expectation of GSAS and the COI is that once any additional COI feedback is incorporated, all courses will be approved to be offered in the coming year.
  • For the year in which they teach, students will receive an appointment as a Teaching Scholar in one semester and as a Teaching Fellow in the other; this appointment for the academic year will include the standard Teaching Fellow appointment package. 

Students are encouraged to work with the Center for Teaching and Learning to craft the proposal and syllabus before submitting.

For the year in which they teach, students will receive an appointment as a Teaching Scholar in one semester and as a Teaching Fellow in the other; this appointment for the academic year will include the standard Teaching Fellow appointment package. If received during a student’s guaranteed funding years, this yearlong fellowship may not be banked. Neither the funding for this year-long fellowship nor the opportunity to serve as a teaching scholar may be banked (e.g., if you are awarded a teaching scholarship in your 5th year, you can not postpone it to your 6th year, nor can you bank your 5th year fellowship).

For students in humanities and social science departments: For the year in which they teach, students will receive an appointment as a Teaching Scholar in one semester and as a Teaching Fellow in the other; this appointment for the academic year will include the standard Teaching Fellow appointment package. 

For students in non-bench science departments, and only with PI approval: For the semester in which they teach, students will receive an appointment as a Teaching Scholar for the one semester; this appointment will include tuition, salary compensation at the standard one-semester Teaching Fellow rate, as well as facilities and health fees.

Thursday, February 1, 2024 – Deadline to submit your proposal for a 2024-25 academic year course to your DGS.

Thursday, February 8, 2024 – Deadline for DGSs and DAAFs to submit departmental selections to GSAS.

A complete application includes the following:

  1. A completed application form, which must be reviewed and signed by the advisor and the director of graduate studies, in that order. Science students: you must have the approval of your PI.
    • A. Proposed course summary, which includes the following:
      • ​​​​​​​Course title
      • A one-paragraph course description, suitable for the course bulletin, including any prerequisites
      • Rationale for proposed course and its role in the departmental curriculum, with emphasis on innovative aspects of the course
    • B. Proposed course details, including the following:
      • ​​​​​​​Full course description, including designation of main topics, themes, sections of the course
      • Top course learning objectives, specifying skills and expertise that students will gain
      • Identification of any unique resources (at Columbia or elsewhere) engaged by the course
    • C. Applicant teaching profile, which includes the following:
      • ​​​​​​​List of teaching experience, both formal and informal, to date
      • Description of teaching development activities at Columbia and elsewhere
      • Description of your teaching strengths, strategies, style – anchored by example(s) or representative anecdote(s)
      • Brief indication of the relation of proposed course to your research
  2. Syllabus
    • Please see the dropdown below for full details on the Syllabus requirements.
  3. Representative sample of recent evaluations of your teaching, if available 

  4. course approval form, completed by the course instructor with assistance from the department, if necessary. Note: Signatures on this form are not required. The purpose of this form is to assist with the departmental submission process (described below).

Create a Learner-Centered Syllabus

An effective, learner-centered syllabus:

  • Offers tangible evidence that you have thought seriously about the course’s objectives, content, and organization.
  • Reduces the organizational work you need to do during the semester by providing a clear overview of the course structure.
  • Is a contract with your students that articulates the class’s conceptual framework, its content and scope, and your course policies, requirements, and assessment techniques.

Structuring Your Teaching Scholars Syllabus

Students are occasionally asked to revise and resubmit the syllabus for their Teaching Scholars course because it is missing components required by the undergraduate Committee on Instruction (COI). Below are the components the COI expects to find on a syllabus for an undergraduate course.

  1. Introductory information about the course and instructor:
    • Course title, term taught, class days/times, classroom location, course format (e.g., lecture, seminar, language, laboratory, etc.), and number of points for the course.
    • Instructor name, email address, office location, days/times of weekly office hours.
  2. A description of the course that conveys to students the intellectual goals of the course. This description could function as the course description for the Bulletin, or it could expand on that summary in even more detail.
  3. A list or description of the student learning outcomes for the course — i.e., the specific skills, knowledge, or attributes that students should be able to demonstrate after successfully completing the course.
  4. A list of required and recommended texts for the course — texts being defined not only as books and articles, but also other media such as films, music, or works of visual art.
  5. The requirements for the course through which student performance will be evaluated and the percentage of the final grade that will be based on each requirement.

    Please note that it is a COI expectation that all courses open to undergraduates ensure that some written and/or graded feedback will be given to students prior to, or around, the midterm-point of the semester, regardless of the type of course, so that students may understand better how they are being evaluated and may have the opportunity to improve. In no case should 100% of the grade be based on end-of-term work.

    Depending on the type of course, course requirements may include the following:
    • Attendance: It is a basic expectation that students will attend class; therefore, attendance in class should not be a substantive basis for grading. It is advisable, however, to articulate on the syllabus a clear policy on absences.
    • Participation: If you choose to assign a participation grade to students, please provide students with clear guidelines regarding your expectations, as well as evaluative feedback throughout the semester.
    • Weekly Readings/Homework: The amount of reading and/or other homework for the course should be designed with an aim to ensure that the course carries the expected workload for the course credit. For example, for a three-point course, students are expected to conduct an average of six hours of work outside of the classroom; for a four-point course, eight hours. (To learn more, please review the Guidance on Course Points.) The type of work will determine the approximate length of time that students may need. For example, in certain classes in the humanities or social sciences, students may be expected to complete 150 pages of reading in approximately three hours; however, in other classes in the humanities or social sciences, students may need more time to move through texts that may be particularly dense or in another language.
    • Presentations: If a percentage of the grade is allocated to an in-class presentation, please provide students with clear guidelines regarding your expectations and with graded feedback on the presentation.
    • Examinations: Lecture courses often require one or more midterm examinations and a final examination, while seminar courses typically require several written assignments. It is possible, of course, to require a combination of exams and written assignments, depending on the goals of the course. Please note that while midterm exams may be scheduled during class times at the discretion of the instructor, final examinations must be administered during the exam period according to the schedule assigned by the Office of the University Registrar. (Find more information on final examinations.
    • Written Work: If the course is a seminar or colloquium, it is an expectation of the COI that students will be required to submit a final paper that is substantial in length and scope.

6.    A detailed schedule of the semester, noting the date of each class meeting, the topic of each class meeting, and the assignment(s) due by each class meeting.

7.    Course Policies: All syllabi should include a policy regarding academic integrity. Instructors are encouraged to include the Faculty Statement on Academic Integrity and to refer to the Columbia University Undergraduate Guide to Academic Integrity.

All syllabi should also include a policy regarding students with disabilities. Instructors are encouraged to include the Faculty Statement on Disability Accommodations.

Please also specify if you have specific policies about what is and is not allowed in class and in exams (e.g., if laptops are or are not allowed in class for taking notes; if books and notes are or are not allowed in exams; if cell phones must be turned off in class).

Recording Grades

Canvas is Columbia’s learning management system; each course at Columbia has a Canvas page created specifically for it, which includes a grade book to record grades. Students can view their own grades at any point in the semester, and they welcome this transparency and access. I encourage faculty to use the Canvas grade book to record the grades they assign to their students throughout the semester.


  • The course must be at the 3000 level.
  • Films should be viewed outside of regular class time.
  • The Center for Teaching and Learning provides individual consultation on course design and syllabus construction.
  • Additional resources geared toward instructors of undergraduate students can be found here.

Departmental selections must be forwarded by DAAFs to [email protected] in a single PDF.

Once the course is reviewed and approved by the CC-GS COI, the department enters the course information into Course Management in order for the course to appear in the Directory of Classes.

Proposals for the academic year are evaluated by the respective departments, using the following criteria:

  • Fit of the course with department's curriculum and programmatic needs
  • Quality of the student's previous teaching performance
  • Overall intellectual quality of proposal
  • Quality of course content, student learning activities, and assessment of student learning
  • Proposer's ability (based on his or her academic track-record) to deliver the proposed course while continuing to make satisfactory academic progress toward the degree

Successful proposals are submitted by departments to GSAS in a single PDF. GSAS then forwards all of these proposals to the undergraduate COI for final review. Confirmation of Teaching Scholars will be completed by end of March of each year for the following academic year.

Once the course is reviewed and approved by the CC-GS COI, the department enters the course information into Course Management in order for the course to appear in the Directory of Classes.