FAQs about the CTL Teaching Certificate

1. General Questions

Who do I contact about starting the certificate?
You do not need to contact anyone; just start attending workshops. You will need to contact CTL to request an observation.

Can I get the teaching certificate if I am not in SAS?
Yes. The certificate is offered to all graduate students at any Penn school.

Can I get the teaching certificate if I am not a student at Penn?
No.

Does the CTL Teaching Certificate cost anything?
No. The workshops and observations are free for any Penn graduate student.

How long do I have to complete the teaching certificate?
You may take as long as you need. You do need to finish before you graduate from Penn.

Do I have to complete the requirements in order?
You can complete your teaching, workshops, and observation in any order. You will not be invited to the teaching philosophy discussion until you have finished all the other requirements.

Will a course on teaching in my department help me get the certificate?
It depends. Because the certificate is intended to indicate an interest in teaching beyond what is required of Penn graduate students, such a course cannot count toward the certificate if:

  • It is required for your degree or
  • It contributes to your degree or
  • It is otherwise required by your school or department.

As long as you are not using the course or program to meet any of the three criteria above, you may ask CTL to review the course. After review, they may waive as many as three workshops.

Does the CTL teaching certificate prepare me for teaching in elementary, middle or high school?
No. For information on state board certification for K-12 see Penn’s Graduate School of Education.

Can I get the teaching certificate if I am a post-doc?
No but you may still participate in workshops and request observation. The program will still benefit your teaching and help you talk about teaching on the job market.

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2. Questions about Pedagogical Discussion & Training

Which workshops count toward the certificate?
Any workshop sponsored by CTL and listed on our page of Graduate Student Workshops.

Will my workshops “expire” if I don’t finish the certificate in a certain amount of time?
No.

What is the difference between university wide workshops and departmentally based workshops?
University wide workshops are designed for a wide audience of graduate students from different departments. Departmentally based workshops (those workshops that have a designated “convener”) are organized around departmental teaching concerns. While students from any department are welcome, these workshops are often most relevant to students in those departments or in related fields.

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3. Questions about Teaching Experience

Can I count my TAing experience at another school toward the teaching certificate?
No. You must complete your two-semester requirement at Penn.

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4. Questions about Observation & Review

How do I request an observation?
Contact CTL and we will connect you with a CTL Graduate Fellow who will work with you on the observation.

I would like to be observed so I can get the certificate but I am not TAing or teaching right now. Is this possible?
Maybe. The ideal time to get the observation done is while you are in charge of your own class or section. If you are not, you can give a guest lecture for another class. There may be other teaching situations that would allow you to complete the observation requirement but we are looking for situations in which you are teaching undergraduates (not just answering their questions in a review session), the class meets regularly, and one of the fellows can attend the class.

Does my class have to be video recorded?
Yes. Many TAs and teachers are anxious about being recorded. However, those who have completed the observation often report that watching themselves on tape, while uncomfortable, was the most valuable part of the observation. Also remember, the recording is kept confidential; you will be the only person who sees the recording and it will remain with you.

Do I need to get permission from my students when the class is recorded?
No. You will be the only person who ever sees this recording and the recording will not be used for publicity or research. In addition, we do not record the students; the focus is on you.

Can I use a videorecording of a class I have already taught or a conference presentation that I have given and review that with you for my observation?
No. To count toward your observation the event that is observed needs to be a regularly occuring class of undergraduates and we need to observe it live.

If I do not plan to get the certificate, can I still be observed?
Yes. You do not have to get the certificate to take advantage of observation.

Is it possible to choose the fellow who observes me?
CTL will try to honor any requests but we also need to accommodate our own scheduling demands and the fellows’ time commitments.

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5. Questions about Teaching Philosophy

Do I need to draft my teaching philosophy before I come to the discussion?
Yes. You will be sent an invitation by email and in that email you will be asked to turn in a teaching philosophy a few days before discussion. Then, in groups, you will read each others’ philosophies to prepare for a structured discussion.

When do the teaching philosophy discussions take place?
In general, CTL holds three teaching philosophy discussions three times a year. There will be one in the middle of the Fall semester, the start of the Spring semester and the end of the Spring semester.

How should I start drafting my teaching philosophy? Do you have sample philosophies?
Many books on the job market, such as Julie Miller Vick and Jennifer Furlong’s, The Academic Job Search Handbook, provide advice about teaching philosophies and samples. CTL also suggests that graduate students read Writing a Statement of Teaching Philosophy for the Academic Job Search from the University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching.

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