OTAA Guidelines and Process

Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award

*download the 2020-21 guidelines *

Purpose of the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award

Graduate student teaching assistants (TAs) play a vital role in enhancing the teaching mission of the University. The Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award (OTAA) is designed to encourage and reward excellence in teaching and to recognize the contributions that graduate students make to the teaching and learning mission of Florida State University.

Selection will be based on the quality of teaching documented in a portfolio as well as on a letter of recommendation. OTAA recipients will receive a $750 cash award and recognition at the annual University-wide Celebration of Graduate Student Excellence, details TBD. See The Graduate School website or pie.fsu.edu for updates. 


  • Graduate student TAs from all FSU academic units may be nominated
  • All FSU faculty/administrators, FSU staff who work closely with TAs, and FSU undergraduate students who are enrolled in classes that have TAs can submit a nomination (self-nominations or peer nominations are not allowed)


  • Must be a current FSU (OR FAMU-FSU College of Engineeringdegree-seeking graduate student hired as a teaching assistant (face-to-face or online) and in good academic standing
  • Must have been a TA at FSU for two (completed) semesters, at least one of which must have been during Spring 2020, Summer 2020, or Fall 2020
  • Previous OTAA recipients and current PIE Teaching Associates are not eligible for an award (but may still be nominated)

Award Criteria

  • Facilitates and inspires student learning
  • Shows evidence of continued improvement of teaching practice
  • Engages in professional growth and leadership
  • Provides evidence that they have unique qualities that set them apart as a TA

Stage 1: Nominations

Nominations must be submitted via this online nomination form by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, January 20, 2021.

All nominees will be notified of their nomination and the process for the OTAA by email by approximately Wednesday, January 27, 2021.

Stage 2: Nominee Documentation

Once a graduate student TA has been notified of their nomination, in order to be considered for the award, they must verify their eligibility to apply for the award, and then submit the electronic documentation packet (portfolio) described below by 11:59p.m. on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. The supporting documentation should be submitted electronically, in a single PDF file, on or before the deadline, through through the 2020-2021 OTAA Canvas site. The submission instructions are provided below in Stage 3.

The committee expects that a real personality will emerge from the portfolio materials. All of the elements should demonstrate how the nominee practices what they do with clear examples which demonstrate that learning occurred. The nominee must make the important links between philosophy, process, and practice, and illustrate continual growth as an educator. The nominee must submit:

  • One letter of recommendation, submitted directly to pie-info@fsu.edu from a department faculty member OR staff member (not peers). If possible, the letter should be written by someone who has observed the nominee’s work as an instructor and can speak to what sets they apart as a TA. The recommender must save the letter as a PDF under this convention "nominees’ last name_recommender's last name" and send the letter to pie-info@fsu.edu as an email attachment. The subject line of the email should read, “ATTN: FSU Outstanding Teaching Assistant Awards Committee”. 

              *Please note: The letter of recommendation is considered as part of the portfolio and MUST be submitted by the recommender via email to PIE before 11:59 PM on Tuesday, February 23, 2021.  

  • EIGHT items combined into an electronic portfolio document. Please arrange all documents in the order outlined below. (See How to Prepare Your OTAA Teaching Portfolio for detailed instructions) Also, please self-enroll in the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award Canvas site for assistance with assembling your award application materials. You will also be required to upload your final application here: https://canvas.fsu.edu/enroll/H3DBJ7

1) Cover page:

  • full name
  • college/department/degree working toward
  • anticipated graduation date
  • the number of students you taught in Spring 2020 through Fall 2020
  • teaching position (instructor of record, lab instructor, etc.)

*There are two categories to ensure that each nominee is compared with other TAs whose responsibilities are comparable:

A: The TA defines the specific course content and measures of student achievement while following general guidelines, such as course descriptions, broad reading lists, certain required assignments or types of assignments. Even though there is overall supervision by a course supervisor, the TA has very wide latitude and discretion in conducting the class.

B: The TA has more limited choices about content and assignments, and supervision is more direct. Teaching discussion sections associated with large lectures or teaching laboratories associated with either large or small enrollment courses are good examples of this category.

2) CV: Please include an up-to-date curriculum vitae that emphasizes items pertaining to teaching. Identify the professional development and leadership activities that have contributed to your success as a TA (i.e. presenting at conferences, attending workshops, receiving awards, serving on committees, participating in civic organizations, reading/self-directed learning).

3) Teaching Philosophy Statement: This statement must be no more than one page single spaced, 12-pt., 1-inch margins. It is an introduction to the nominee as an instructor and to their teaching portfolio. It provides an opportunity for the nominee to link all other parts of their portfolio. It serves as the conceptual framework for the nominee’s teaching and their portfolio.

4) Diversity Statement: A one page (single spaced, 12 pt.,1 inch margins) statement explaining how the applicant has, and will, contribute to the development of a diverse and inclusive learning community through teaching, research, and/or service.

5) Course Narrative – Course I

6) Course Narrative – Course II

     Arrange these two course narratives as follows:

             Course 1:  Course Number/Title/#Students

                          Section one                Teaching Responsibilities

                          Section two                Approach to Teaching and Learning

                          Section three              Innovative Teaching Practices

                          Section four               Outcomes

                          Section five                Reflective Statement/Plan for Growth

             Course 2:  Course Number/Title/#Students

                          Section one                Teaching Responsibilities

                          Section two                Approach to Teaching and Learning

                          Section three              Innovative Teaching Practices

                          Section four               Outcomes

                          Section five                Reflective Statement/Plan for Growth

The course narratives can be for any two courses in which the nominee was or is a TA at FSU. The two courses can be either two different courses or the same course taught during two different semesters.

Each of the sections below (teaching responsibilities, approach to teaching and learning, etc.) should be 200-500 words. Narratives should demonstrate what makes the nominee’s teaching at FSU stand out.

  • Teaching Responsibilities: A brief description of the course and the nominee’s responsibilities for the course.
  • Approach to Teaching and Learning: Describes what methods the nominee used to facilitate student learning in the course. This should include specific, concrete examples and may include references to appendices if desired.
  • Innovative Teaching Practices: Artifacts, supplemental items, and/or narrative that the nominee wishes to include as part of their overall course narrative. Nominees should include a brief statement for each item of why you included the item and why this item is an accurate representation of you as a teacher. The nominee should include one or two items per course that best reflect the argument they wish to make about why their teaching at FSU stands out from that of other TAs.
  • Outcomes (Part I & II):

Part I. Provide evidence of faculty/peer/student feedback on your teaching

  • If you have SPOT/SPCI student evaluations then list the course and include a copy of the SPCI report and reflect on the meaning of this type of evaluation.
  • If you do not use the university standard SPOT/SPCI student evaluations, then include any kind of student/peer/faculty evaluation you have (mid-semester evaluations, peer evaluation, faculty evaluations) and reflect on the meaning of this type of evaluation.

Part II. Describe what your students are able to do as a result of your teaching, what strategies you used for assessment, and how you know your students are learning.

  • Reflective Statement/Plan for Growth: Describe the effectiveness of your teaching approach, what you learned about your teaching approach, what surprised you, and what you would do differently in the future.

7) Optional Appendices: Documents/items intended to support the assertions made in the course narratives. Nominees should include no more than five. The nominee can, if desired, include student written comments scanned from the evaluation instrument or other types of student comments. These comments should be chosen carefully. Quality comments describe WHAT the nominee DOES in the classroom that helps students learn, NOT simply that they are the best TA. Repetitive comments should be avoided.

  • The committee wants to know why the nominee stands out!

8) Eligibility Form (click to download): –print, sign, get someone in your department to verify that you have been a TA for two courses at FSU, and that at least one of those courses was within the following time period (Spring 2020, Summer 2020, or Fall 2020).

Stage 3: Submission of Documentation

All portfolios must be submitted electronically to the OTAA 2020-2021 Canvas site by 11:59p.m. on Sunday, February 23, 2021. *Late or incomplete teaching portfolios will not be accepted. This means that ALL supporting materials (including your one letter of recommendation from a faculty or staff member, which is NOT the same document as your nomination letter – see the “2020-2021 OTAA Guidelines” for complete details) MUST also be received by PIE by this deadline.

To submit your portfolio, please follow the steps below: 
  1. Self-enroll into the OTAA 2020-2021 Canvas site via this link: https://canvas.fsu.edu/enroll/H3DBJ7
  2. Read the “Start Here” page for important eligibility reminders and dates.
  3. Read all instructions and requirements for portfolio content. Please note that the recommendation letter is mandatory and separate from your original nomination letter. Read the instructions for requesting/submitting recommendation letters carefully.
  4. Consult additional resources in the site as necessary.
  5. When your portfolio is complete, submit it as a PDF via the assignment link titled “OTAA 2020-2021 Portfolio” by 11:59 PM, February 23, 2021.

Stage 4: Award Selection

Winners will be selected by an interdisciplinary selection committee comprised of faculty and senior graduate student teaching assistants. Awards are approved by the Dean of the Graduate School based upon the recommendations of this committee.

Awards will be announced on approximately April 1, 2021.    

Award nominees should plan to attend the Celebration of Graduate Student Excellence, details TBD. See The Graduate School website or pie.fsu.edu for updates. 

**See also How to Prepare Your OTAA Teaching Portfolio  and OTAA Nominees Clarifications


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