DTA Frequently Asked Questions
I am a current student. Can I nominate an instructor I had in a previous semester?
Of course! You can nominate any current or previous instructor you have had at UMass Amherst, including graduate teaching assistants.
I am a graduate of UMass Amherst. Can I nominate an instructor I had in a previous semester?
Unfortunately, only current UMass Amherst students (undergraduate or graduate) can nominate an instructor for the DTA.
I am a faculty member. Can I nominate another faculty member for the DTA?
No—faculty can only nominate graduate teaching assistants for the DTA.
I am an administrator (e.g., department chair/head, associate dean, etc.). Can I still be nominated for the DTA?
Yes—if the student nominator had you as an instructor, they can nominate you for the DTA.
DTA Finalist Materials
What are the materials that finalists need to submit in order to be considered for the DTA?
Every DTA Finalist Package must contain the following eight (8) items for consideration of the award:
- 1-page, 1-sided teaching statement
- One (1) syllabus for a recently completed course
- Department head/chair letter
- Four (4) letters of support from current or previous students only (*this is a change effective for the 2022-23 award)
What should I include in my teaching statement?
Please see the CTL’s recommendations for writing a compelling teaching statement for the DTA.
Does my department chair/head letter count as one of my four (4) required letters of support?
No—your department chair/head letter is separate from the four (4) required letters of support.
What happens if you receive more than four (4) letters of support?
If we receive more than four letters, the first four letters received will be those that the DTA Review Committee reads. We are trying to adhere to a limit to maintain equity across all finalists (i.e., all finalists have the same number of materials reviewed).
Can two or more students write one letter?
Yes—students can jointly write one letter of support. However, please note that the letter will count as one (1) of your four (4) required letters of support, even if multiple students sign it.
According to the DTA Review Committee, is it better to have current or former students write your letters of support?
It’s hard to provide definitive answers to these questions because the make-up of the DTA Review Committees changes each year, as does the weight they may apply to particular aspects of the letters. What we’ve observed in the past is that it’s the quality of the letter (e.g., student provides specific examples of what the DTA nominee does to support teaching and learning) that carries the most weight with the committees.
What should students know about writing a letter of support?
There is no minimum or maximum word requirement for the letters. A general trend has been 1-2 pages, single-spaced. Students can address their letters to the DTA Review Committee. In their letter, they should speak to the criteria that the DTA Review Committee uses to score finalists, when appropriate. For student letter writers, the criteria most applicable would be the finalist's ability to make connections with students, their ability to teach all learners, and evidence as to what make the finalist a "distinguished teacher." Finally, students should include their names in their letter of support.
The Review Process
Who serves on the DTA Review Committee?
There are three separate DTA Review Committees: one that reviews tenure-track finalists, one that reviews non-tenure-track finalists, and one that reviews graduate student finalists. Each committee is comprised of one tenure-track DTA winner, one non-tenure-track DTA winner, and one graduate student DTA winner.
What criteria does the DTA Review Committee consider when they look at finalist materials?
Each committee member is asked to evaluate the finalists’ materials across five criteria: 1) Reflection and Professional Growth; 2) Making Connections with Students; 3) Ability to Teach All Learners; 4) Sustained Recognition of Teaching; and 5) What Makes This Finalist "Distinguished". First, committee members rate each finalist individually. Then, their scores are aggregated across the committee and members meet to discuss their ratings and select the DTA winner(s).
When do the committees select the DTA Winner(s)?
Each committee usually convenes during the last week of March to discuss their ratings and select the winner(s), who are then notified of their award in early April.
I was not selected for a DTA this year. Can I get feedback on my materials?
Unfortunately, the CTL does not receive any targeted feedback from the DTA Review Committee on how applicants can improve their DTA materials. However, as a general trend, the student letters often hold the most weight with the committees. The committee composition changes each year and different committee members emphasize different aspects of a finalist’s materials in order to select the winner(s).