Paul R. MacPherson Teaching Fellowship

The Paul R. MacPherson Teaching Fellowship was established in 2011 as a result of a generous donation from Paul R. MacPherson. The Fellowship seeks to identify, through a competitive application process, faculty members who have demonstrated exemplary teaching practices and who show promise of becoming outstanding educators and of inspiring others.

It allows Fellows to work for a portion of their time (typically over a one-year period) in the Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching, where they will have opportunities to enhance their own teaching by exploring innovative approaches, to collaborate with a network of colleagues on scholarly teaching and learning, and to provide educational leadership across campus. During this time, Fellows are expected to develop and to work through a project leading to a tangible outcome that will enhance teaching and learning on campus and/or beyond.

The 2017/2018 recipient of the MacPherson Teaching Fellowship is:
The Paul R. MacPherson Teaching Fellowship

Karen Balcom

Associate Professor
Department of History
McMaster University

Learn more about Karen Balcom’s award winning research.

Program Requirements

  • Completion of a teaching and learning project, which leads to a tangible outcome (see project eligibility below).
  • Demonstrable contributions to the enhancement of teaching and learning in the home department/school/unit during the initial Fellowship year and beyond.
  • Contribution to at least one campus wide event on teaching and learning during the initial Fellowship year, and ongoing commitment to enhancing teaching and learning at McMaster beyond this initial period.
  • Completion of a final project report (see Reports and Dissemination below).
  • Ongoing participation as member of the McMaster University Teaching Fellows Council.

Award Details

  • Lifetime appointment as a McMaster University Teaching Fellow.
  • Up to $40,000 to work on a teaching and learning project, up to 50% of which may be allocated to the home department/school/unit to allow the faculty member to take on the duties of the Fellowship.
  • Release from a portion of the Fellow’s typical faculty responsibilities to allow him/her to spend time working on the project (usually the equivalent of 1 day/week for the duration of a year).
  • Office space in the MacPherson Institute as required/desired.
  • Access to the MacPherson Institute resources.

Applicant Eligibility

All McMaster faculty members who have achieved tenure or permanence, or who are on the tenure- or permanence-track are eligible to apply. An individual may receive this award only once.

Project Eligibility

Fellows may propose and complete any project leading to a tangible outcome that will enhance teaching and learning. Some potential examples include: the development of case studies or other teaching tools, authorship of a book on teaching and learning, completion of a teaching and learning research project. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.

Fellowships will not be awarded for projects involving normal instructional tasks that might be expected to fall within teaching responsibilities of a course, department/school/unit or Faculty (e.g., updating course content, preparing reading lists, etc.).

Submission Requirements

It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure the application is complete and all conditions are met (e.g., requisite comments and signatures are included). Incomplete applications will not be considered.  Applications must include all of the following:

 A Completed Application Form

Please include all necessary signatures (candidate, chair/director, Dean).

2017 MacPherson Application Form (PDF)

A Thorough Plan for the Proposed Teaching and Learning Project

Organize your application according to the following sections (5 to 7 pages):

Background and Rationale

  • Why is this project necessary or important?
  • What teaching and learning issue/problem will it help to address?
  • What does the existing literature indicate about this issue?
  • What are your specific project objectives?

Project Description

  • What do you intend to do to meet your project objectives, and why?
  • What concrete deliverable(s) will result from the project?
  • When and how do you plan to accomplish your objectives? Provide a detailed, realistic timeline.

Project Budget (see also Budget notes below)

  • How do you anticipate the Fellowship funding will be spent? Provide a detailed description of how you intend to use the Fellowship for the purposes of your proposed project. The Chair’s letter should describe how any remaining funds (up to $20,000) will be used by your home department/school/unit to enable you to meet the duties of the Fellowship. All budget items must be explicitly justified.

Expected Impact on Student Learning

  • How will your project work to enhance student learning?
  • How might its outcomes be applied in other departments/Faculties/ Institutions?
  • How will you evaluate its impact?

Dissemination Plan

  • How will others find out about the results of your project?
  • How will you share the results with your home department/school/unit and/or Faculty?
  • What kind of campus-wide event connected to your project do you propose?

A Candidate’s Statement
Include the following elements (3 to 5 pages):

Interest and Qualifications

  • Why would you like to be a Paul MacPherson Teaching Fellow?
  • What makes you an especially apt candidate?

Evidence of Ability

  • What evidence is there to suggest that you will be able to bring your proposed project to successful completion?

Proposed Contributions During the Initial Fellowship Year and Beyond

  • How do you plan to contribute to enhancing teaching and learning in your home department/school/unit and across the university both during and following completion of your project year(s)?

A letter of Recommendation from the Candidate’s Chair or Director

Include the following elements (1 to 2 pages):

Support of the Individual’s Nomination

  • What makes this individual a strong candidate?
  • How confident are you of his/her ability to bring this project to successful completion and to contribute to the enhancement of teaching & learning more generally?

Support of the Proposed Project

  • How does the candidate’s proposal meet the needs of your discipline and/or of your department/school/unit in particular?

Allocation of Fellow Release Funds

  • If the applicant is successful, how, if at all, will a portion of the Fellowship (up to $20,000) be used to release the applicant to take on the duties of the Fellowship?

Submission Deadline

The award is now closed. The next call for applications will be in April 2018.

Applications must be submitted in digital form, as a single pdf, emailed to Alyson Brown with the subject ‘Teaching Fellow Application – SURNAME’, where SURNAME is the last name of the Fellowship applicant.


One McMaster University faculty member will be selected as a Paul R. MacPherson Teaching Fellow each year. Applications will be adjudicated by a peer-review committee facilitated by staff from the Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching. The committee will normally consist of two McMaster student representatives, the Associate Vice-President (Teaching & Learning) or his/her representative, and three faculty members external to McMaster. Applicants will be selected according to a consensus model of decision-making. See the list of evaluation criteria below.

Selection Criteria

  • Quality and eligibility of proposed project (including potential impact on student learning).
  • Evidence of candidate’s ability to complete project successfully.
  • Evidence of candidate’s active engagement in teaching and learning and of his/her potential to serve as an educational leader.
  • Quality of proposed contributions to teaching & learning at McMaster beyond the duration of the initial project.

Project Time Period

Normally, projects undertaken by successful Teaching Fellows will be carried out and completed in the equivalent of one day per week over a twelve-month period.  For 2017-2018, this period will begin on July 1, 2017 and extend until June 30, 2018.  If your project will not be completed in this time frame you must provide an explanation in your application.  If your project plan changes after funds are made available and you will not complete your activities within the twelve-month period, you must seek an extension from the Institute.

Once selected, a Paul MacPherson Teaching Fellow will retain this title for the duration of his/her employment at McMaster. S/he will also be expected to sit on the McMaster University Teaching Fellows Council throughout this time, and to contribute periodically to teaching and learning events and initiatives.

If you plan to use digital media services provided by MacPherson Institute as part of your project, please contact Zafar Syed, Associate Director, Educational Technology, in advance of your application submission to ensure your resource expectations and timelines can be accommodated should your Fellowship application be successful.

Reports and Dissemination

Successful grant applicants are expected to complete a short report, suitable for posting on the internet, upon completion of their project (details of this report will be distributed to successful applicants).  The final report is due twelve months after an award has been granted.  It should include a summary of the project outcomes, an updated statement showing how budgeted funds were spent, and plans for dissemination of the work.  If the dissemination has already occurred, the findings and dissemination plan may consist of a copy of any disseminated materials (e.g., a short video, PowerPoint slides, etc).

We encourage you to publicly disseminate your work.  Two potential venues at which you might disseminate your work across the university are the annual Research on Teaching & Learning conference (held in December) and the annual Learning Technologies Symposium (held in April). Other opportunities include conferences and meetings in your discipline and the yearly conferences of the Society for Teaching & Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) and the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (ISSOTL).

A Note on Project Budgets

  1. Each project application must be accompanied by an itemized budget.  Ensure you provide sufficient justification of your budget items such that the reviewers can understand the need.
  2. When using project funds to hire personnel, McMaster University will be the employer; therefore Project Supervisors must pay appropriate wages and benefits at established rates.  Please see the suggested pay guidelines. When hiring students as research assistants, consider securing supplementary funding through, for example, the McMaster Work Programs (Ontario Work Study Program, McWork, or International Student Work).
  3. As part of the dissemination process, we encourage grant winners to consider presenting their findings at local, national, or international conferences or symposia.  Conference registration fees may be included in the budget, to a maximum of 10% of the overall budget.  Travel, accommodation and food expenses for conferences are not eligible expenses for Teaching Fellowships.
  4. Incentives (financial or rewards, such as gift cards) are often used to encourage participation in a study.  MacPherson Institute will normally support financial rewards up to a maximum of 5% of the budget.  Each application will be assessed on an individual basis. MacPherson Institute has created a guide for typical levels of funding for particular costs.  Please click here to see this guide.
  5. In-kind support from departments or Faculties for budget items such as photocopies, administrative support, technical support, etc. is strongly encouraged and appreciated.
  6. In most cases, applications where the majority of the budget is allocated to equipment purchase will not be funded.  Some modest equipment purchases may be included in the budget, provided they are necessary for the project. Any equipment purchased with Fellowship funds will become the property of MacPherson Institute, so that it can be made available for use by Future Teaching Fellows. In addition, MacPherson Institute currently owns some equipment that may be borrowed to reduce expenses (e.g., voice recorders, video cameras).

Other ineligible expenses include:

  • reimbursement to faculty members
  • journal subscriptions
  • professional memberships;
  • off-campus commercial services*
  • purchase of alcohol for focus groups or similar meetings
  • monies to support normal instructional tasks, such as updating course content or preparing bibliographies.

*NOTE—On campus services should be used if available.  These include, but are not limited to, MacPherson Institute Digital Media Services, Blackboard Collaborate for web conferencing, MacMicro, McMaster Printing Services, Paradise Catering, Preferred Catering, Campus Store.

Useful Resources

MacPherson Institute is available for general assistance in the preparation of your application. Contact Alyson Brown to book an appointment.

Candidates who are interested in conducting teaching and learning research as part of their proposed Fellowship may find the Research on Teaching & Learning Guidebook published by the MacPherson Institute helpful in preparing their applications.  Electronic copies of the guidebook are available on the MacPherson Institute website. Alternatively, hard copies of this guidebook are available for purchase from MacPherson Institute at a cost of $10 each.  Contact ext. 24540 for more information.

MacPherson Institute offers high quality digital media services (e.g., Flash animation, website creation, online demonstrations and online tutorials, etc) for the purpose of improving instruction at McMaster University.  We encourage you to use these services for projects involving the creation of digital media products.  Please contact Zafar Syed, Associate Director, Educational Technology, prior to the submission of your Teaching Fellowship application if you plan to employ the digital media services.

A list of McMaster’s MacPherson Teaching Fellows, along with descriptions of their Fellowship projects, will be added to this website as they become available.

For More Information

Alyson Brown

MacPherson Institute

Mills Library, Room 504

(905) 525-9140, ext. 20856

Past Recipients

Past Recipients of the MacPherson Teaching Fellowship

  • 2017/2018—Karen Balcom, Associate Professor, Department of History, McMaster University
  • 2015/2016—Kim Dej, Assistant Professor, School of Interdisciplinary Science, McMaster University
  • 2013/2014—Michael Egan, Associate Professor, Department of History, McMaster University
  • 2011/2012—Lynn Martin, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, McMaster University