Review often-asked questions below for more information on the Teaching Certificate Program
- What kind of time commitment is required?
- When is the best time for me to do the program as a graduate student? As a postdoc?
- If I do not get a chance to teach in my department, can the program help me find another teaching context?
- If graduate students and postdocs in my department do not get a chance to teach their own courses, will this program still be useful for my professional development?
- If I do not plan to stay in the academy after graduation or the completion of my fellowship, is it useful to participate in this program?
- Will I travel through the program in a cohort? Is there opportunity for interdisciplinary discussion?
- How do I choose a faculty mentor? Can my graduate or postdoctoral advisor also be my mentor? Will the Searle Center find a mentor for me if I have trouble securing one?
The program takes a full year to complete. Each quarter participants attend two seminars, one discipline-specific group meeting, and one meeting with a faculty mentor. In addition, participants attend three workshops and provide feedback on teaching portfolios in the summer.
The program requires serious commitment on the part of its participants. It helps to think of the program as a graduate course that spans a full year, and to plan your time accordingly. See Expectations for more information.
We strongly recommend entering the program after advancing to candidacy, as it can be difficult to meet the program requirements while completing coursework or studying for qualifying exams. However, it is also best to complete the program prior to entering the job market.
The program is designed to provide professional development that prepares you to teach. We realize that everyone has a number of commitments as a graduate student or a postdoc, and as a result, not everyone is able to complete the program at the same time. Before deciding, make an honest assessment of your other commitments.
Unfortunately, we cannot help everyone in the program find a teaching context. However, we can offer advice about where and how to seek teaching opportunities. Past participants have taught courses at Northwestern through the School of Continuing Studies or at other colleges or universities in the Chicago area (provided they secure approval from their advisors and the Graduate School).
Participants who are unable to design and teach their own courses often find valuable alternative teaching contexts: team-teaching a course with another student or professor, delivering a series of guest lectures for another course, or other extensive teaching opportunities on campus or within the Evanston community. We are open to your ideas and will do our best to assist you in your search for a meaningful teaching context.
Yes. One of the major requirements of the Teaching Certificate Program is to complete a course design project for which you create a syllabus, assessments, and lesson plans. If you are unable to teach a course, these materials will still become an integral part of your teaching portfolio and will demonstrate to future employers that you have experience designing a course and creating lesson plans.
This program is ideal for graduate students and postdocs who intend to apply for academic jobs. However, the skills you will develop in this program - including communicating core disciplinary concepts, understanding how people learn, and discussing interdisciplinary challenges - apply to a broad range of professional contexts.
The program allows for discussions within and between disciplines over the course of the year. The seminars and workshops provide excellent opportunities for cross-discipline discussions, whereas the small-group discussions led by a Graduate Teaching Mentor (a past program participant) provide disciplinary small-group interactions.
Your faculty mentor should be someone you know – in either your department or a related field – who is open to discussions about teaching and is considered a good teacher. For the program, you will be required to meet at least once a quarter to discuss your course design project and teaching issues. Ideally, you will observe each other in the classroom. You will want to choose someone who will be available for these quarterly meetings and who is open to talking with you about teaching. See Mentoring for more information.