How lecturers are nominated and selected for the Distinguished Teacher Award

09 November 2009

The letter

The awards committee circulates a letter, asking students and academic colleagues to nominate lecturers for the award.

The candidate

Once they have accepted the nomination, candidates put together a portfolio that describes their teaching and its impact.


The course co-ordinators and heads of departments will be asked to submit student surveys of all the courses the candidates teach, a must for all nominations.

The deans and HoDs must also give their own comments on the candidate's teaching, comparing them, wherever possible, with other lecturers in the department.

The DTA selection committee

The committee is made up of chairperson, DVC Professor Thandabantu Nhlapo; five members of academic staff appointed by Senate; plus five students - three from faculty students' councils - appointed by the Students' Representative Council.

What the committee is looking for

Working in small sub-groups, the committee rates the candidates as As, Bs or Cs, as is done in selection committees for staff appointments. In any given year, the awardees come from the As.

Candidates are judged against the same set of criteria, although the usually large variation in types and disciplines in teaching is taken into consideration.

Outstanding student evaluations and strong faculty or departmental endorsement go a long way.

Diversity in teaching also stands the candidate in good stead, but cognisance is taken of those cases where lecturers are appointed to teach a very particular course.

Creative and innovative teaching methods are also scored.

The impact of the teachers on students' career development is also considered.

"We are looking for that something that sets the candidate apart from the rest," says chairperson Nhlapo. "And as a committee we try to ensure that, every year, we let excellence in teaching shine through."

Other awards

The committee is reviewing its policy on its Vice-Chancellor's Medal that, while available, has not yet been awarded. This is for those very high archievers, either selected from the year's batch of winners or previous winners.

In 2009, the committee will not award its Certificate of Teaching Merit. This is usually presented to A-rated candidates who did not win but are, in the view of the committee, deserving of recognition.

The decision

As per policy, the committee will name no more than four winners each year. They may, however, choose to name fewer or, even, none. That cap of four may go up for review soon, however.

Candidates not successful on their first nomination will automatically stay on the nominees list for another two years, which allows them to build up their résumés.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Please view the republishing articles page for more information.