Student Spotlight: Zachary Domach, PhD Candidate in Religion

by | Oct 19, 2018

Zachary Domach is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Religion with a certificate in Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Columbia University. His dissertation focuses on the role played by wisdom literature in the transmission and reception of the classical tradition among late antique Christians. Currently a Senior Fellow with the Center for Teaching and Learning, he previously piloted the Teaching Development Program and held the Teaching Observation Fellowship.

In this Spotlight story, Domach shares his experience as a Pilot Participant in the Teaching Development Program. He discusses how the TDP has encouraged him to reflect on his teaching practices, and how his participation has prepared him to represent his teaching in the job market.

“It was effortless to join the program because of the flexibility built into it–there are numerous routes to complete most deliverables and, best of all, my previous CTL work was accounted for in one way or another!”

Roles at the CTL: 

  • Senior Fellow, 2018-19
  • Pilot Participant in the Teaching Development Program, Spring 2018
  • Teaching Consultant, 2017-18
  • Teaching Observation Fellow, 2016-17
Zachary Domach

PhD Candidate in Religion, Columbia University

What motivated you to take part in the CTL’s pilot of the Teaching Development Program?

The TDP pilot felt like a natural outgrowth of my previous involvement with the CTL. It was effortless to join the program because of the flexibility built into it—there are numerous routes to complete most deliverables and, best of all, my previous CTL work was accounted for in one way or another! Many of the remaining deliverables concerned the job market and were things I knew I would do anyway (e.g. write a teaching statement). The online module format also made it easy to cross-reference my previous CTL work and import it to the TDP page.

Though my previous participation in CTL programs enhanced my teaching skills, I didn’t have a clear sense how to shape those experiences into a teaching philosophy of my own. The TDP has encouraged me to document my teaching, identify key skills I want my students to acquire and refine, and produce an overarching narrative for my pedagogical development.

How has participating in the Teaching Development Program encouraged you to reflect on your teaching?

Reflection is intrinsic to the TDP. Many deliverables involve two parts: physically going to an event and writing a brief reflection on it. This process is helping me to both document my evolving approach to pedagogy and create a space for critical reflection, pushing me to evaluate my own teaching for what works and what does not. I now find myself interrogating my own policies and methods, questioning their efficacy and why I have implemented them.

How do you think that participating in and finishing the Teaching Development Program will have prepared you to enter successfully into the academic job market and represent your teaching to others?

The seminars and deliverables encompassed in the TDP have challenged me to become a more reflective teacher. My teaching philosophy and the ways I realize it—course structure, learning goals, evaluation methods, syllabus design, inclusivity polices, etc.—are by no means fully formed, but they are intentional and considered in ways they were not before enrolling in components of the TDP. The program also provided a structure within which I could frame my past and current pedagogical development: I am now equipped to articulate my teaching approaches and my reasoning behind them on the academic job market. All of the CTL programs work toward this end, either directly or indirectly, by conveying the vocabulary to intelligently describe my teaching while also introducing me to the current higher ed research with which my teaching should be conversant.

I am also crafting a digital teaching portfolio as part of my capstone TDP project. Not only will an online portfolio conveniently showcase my teaching to prospective employers, but also it will offer a curated selection of teaching artifacts that illustrate the deliberate and effective practice behind my teaching process.

TDP Tips and Advice

You will have more time to draft materials and plan what semesters you will attend workshops if you start early. The pilot was not launched until my fourth year and I wish I had had more of a strategic vision for how to use the CTL in my first three years. That said, the program is designed to channel your past CTL experience into an account you can use on the job market so it is very possible to jump on board later in your time at Columbia.

If you are unsure whether or not you will have time for the TDP or whether the TDP is something you would like to do, just go for it. Every deliverable you finish will give you new teaching tools, skills, and the language to talk about them. The program, moreover, has two tracks: foundational and advanced. The former requires significantly less of a time commitment and, as you do not have to choose which track to complete when you join the program, you can always stop once you have finished its deliverables.