In this issue





Upcoming Events






Check out these recent posts to our blog.

Medical Education Grand Rounds, Tuesday, October 1st, Featuring CFT Associate Director Cynthia Brame

Wrapping a MOOC: CFT Study Published in the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT)

The Mindful PhD: Being Fully Present in the Classroom

Looking to the Future: Reflections on Andrew Delbanco’s “College”

Last Week’s “T.W.L.” Conversation on Teaching Writing: “Grading Is Teaching”

SoTL Spotlight: Special Issue of Teaching & Learning Inquiry

The Mindful PhD: Reducing Stress








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October 2013

CFT Offers Teaching Visit Opportunities in October

The Teaching Visits program The CFT’s Teaching Visit program continues in October with three opportunities for Vanderbilt faculty to sit in on the class of a colleague and participate in a small-group conversation about the choices we make as teachers. To learn more about upcoming visits and to register, visit the CFT's Teaching Visit webpage.

Jay Clayton
William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English, Director of The Curb Center
ENGL 259: Digital Media Course Details

Tuesday, October 15th
9:35-10:50am, followed by 1 hr discussion
Faculty of Any Rank REGISTER NOW

Doug Fisher
Associate Professor of Computer Science and Computer Engineering and
Director, Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning

CS 260: Artificial Intelligence Course Details

Thursday, October 17th
3:00 – 4:15pm, followed by 1 hr discussion
Faculty of Any Rank REGISTER NOW

Luke Froeb
Associate Professor of Management
Managerial Economics Course Details

Monday, October 28th
11:20 – 12:50, followed by 1 hr discussion
Faculty of Any Rank REGISTER NOW

The CFT also thanks the following faculty members, all alumni of our Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows program, for hosting teaching visits this fall by graduate student and post-doc participants in the CFT’s Certificate in College Teaching program.

Christin Essin
Associate Professor of Theatre
THTR 100: Fundamentals of Theatre

Humberto Garcia
Associate Professor of English
ENG 288: Transnational Encounters with Islam

Sean Polyn
Associate Professor of Psychology
PSY 253:
Human Memory

Emily Nacol
Associate Professor of Political Science
HONS 183:
Risky Ventures: Political Economy

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Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow Spotlight: Bryan Lowe

Each month, the CFT Newsletter highlights the work of our Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows. This month, Bryan D. Lowe, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, talks about his teaching philosophy and interests:

My research and teaching address issues related to the religious traditions of Japan and theoretical and methodological problems in the study of religion more broadly. I will be teaching three classes this year: Religions of Japan (RLST 136), Zen Buddhism (RLST 249), and a senior seminar in religious studies (RLST 280W). In Religions of Japan, students look at practices and teachings that do not easily map onto monotheistic traditions to learn to question commonly held assumptions about religion. Students in my Zen Buddhism class explore tensions between religious rhetoric and reality to examine differences in how monks present Zen through texts and mythologies and the way that the tradition has emerged historically, as a lived religion practiced on the ground. In my senior seminar, which serves as a capstone course to religious studies at Vanderbilt, students reflect on the academic study of religion by considering ritual practices, religious experiences, and the position of the scholar relative to his or her object of study. All of these classes share a teaching philosophy centered on exposing students to materials and methods that enable them to conceive of religion in new ways.

"I would like to more effectively incorporate online activities to create chances for collaborative learning. I also want to reflect on techniques for more effectively utilizing assignments such as readings and film screenings. "

 During my time as a Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow, I hope to develop skills and tools for improving student learning outside of the classroom. For one, I would like to more effectively incorporate online
activities to create chances for collaborative learning. I also want to reflect on techniques for more effectively utilizing assignments such as readings and film screenings. I also plan to develop a new course that explores the myths and gods that came to comprise Shintō, a tradition often glossed as Japan's indigenous religion. The course will challenge this characterization by considering how Shintō emerged through contact with Buddhism, Chinese learning, and western science. By the end of the course, students will be able to critique reified binaries such as "indigenous" and "foreign"; they will recognize the multiplicity of voices within an ostensibly singular tradition; and they will understand how religious traditions more generally emerge through historical and often politicized processes. I look forward to improving my teaching practices through dialogue with the other fellows, the faculty at the Center for Teaching, and the wider Vanderbilt community. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to serve as a Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow.

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Monthly Lunchtime Conversations about Teaching Writing

“Teaching. Writing. Learning.” is a series of monthly lunchtime conversations for anyone who teaches writing at Vanderbilt to gather and discuss specific issues, hear an invited colleague briefly introduce a relevant best practice, hear a bit about other research-based practices, share one’s own best strategies, and ask questions of all present. Sponsored by the Center for Teaching, the Writing Studio, Heard Library, and the English Language Center.

Participating in the “Teaching. Writing. Learning.” series is easy!
Follow these three simple steps:

1. Bring your lunch, or buy it at Food for Thought across the hall from the Community Room.
2. Bring your relevant good practices to share.
3. Bring your questions and challenges.

This month’s conversation:

Writing and the Masses: Writing in Large Lecture Courses
Tuesday, October 22, 12:30-1:30
Community Room, Central Library
Invited Guest Speaker:
James Fraser (Human & Organizational Development/HOD)

To learn more about the series or to see future topics, visit the TWL web page.

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Upcoming CFT events focus on Students as Producers

Students, particularly undergraduates, are often seen as “consumers” of knowledge, memorizing information delivered to them by professors during class and then simply repeating it back on exams and essays. But we know that they can be “producers” of knowledge, as well, capable of generating meaningful, creative work, even within the confines of a semester-long course. This year, as part of our “Students as Producers” theme, many of the CFT’s events and workshops will explore “production” activities that can be embedded in a variety of courses. Learn more by reading Derek Bruff's blog entry about what makes a course a "Student as Producer" course.


Beyond the Five-Page Paper: Representing Student Learning Visually

Wednesday, October 16th
3:10 – 4:30
Facilitators: Derek Bruff and Nancy Chick
Audience: Faculty, Students (Undergraduate and Graduate), and Staff

In this workshop, we’ll consider several examples of visual assignments used in courses across the disciplines, including concept maps, posters, presentations, and infographics; discuss learning principles that support the use of such assignments; share strategies for grading visual assignments; and help participants brainstorm visual assignments that not only work well within their specific teaching contexts but also authentically reflect disciplinary ways of demonstrating understanding.


Producing, Performing, & Creating Learning across the Humanities: Models of Generative Learning Assignments

Thursday, October 24th
4:10 – 5:30
Facilitator: Nancy Chick
Audience: Faculty, Students (Undergraduate and Graduate), and Staff

How does this participatory model of learning occur in the humanities?  How can we humanists encourage our students to move from merely reproducing knowledge to producing their own?  How would it be different for the various disciplines of the humanities? What might these performances, products, and creations look like, and for what audiences? This panel and discussion will feature Nathalie Dieu-Porter, (Department of French and Italian), Alice Randall, (African-American Diaspora Studies), and Rory Dicker, (Women’s & Gender Studies Program) who will share their experiences in engaging their “Students as Producers” at Vanderbilt.


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Directing your Students as Producers

imageInterested in having your students become better producers? One simple way to accomplish this is to incorporate blogging into your class. Using a blog can help students:

    • Develop their own voice and point of view
    • Make connections between their own lives and course content
    • Demonstrate their knowledge about a topic
    • Write for an authentic world audience

Students may already feel comfortable as consumers of online content, but producing original work for the Web may be new to them. Giving students an opportunity to write for a larger audience and having their work subject to review of their peers can help them develop critical thinking and communication skills when both receiving and providing comments and feedback on what they produce. And having students write 10 blog posts, rather than one or two large writing assignments, can provide them with more opportunities for feedback, reflection, and revision.

Blogs have a low technology threshold and are easy to configure. They can also be low-risk for students, who can be given the choice to create their posts using a pseudonym. If you'd like to get some ideas for how you might use a blog, Course Blogs at Vanderbilt is a mash-up of live feeds representing a wide variety of courses that use blogging to help students reflect on, comment about, and introduce new ideas to course material. Visit the site and see what students are learning via course blogs. And if you’re using a blog in your course, let us know.

Learn more about starting a course blog by visiting the CFT guide on blogs.


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CFT Offers New Guide: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)





The scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL, pronounced “sō-tul” in the US) is a synthesis of teaching, learning, and research in higher education that aims to bring a scholarly lens—the curiosity, the inquiry, the rigor, the disciplinary variety—to what happens in the classroom (brick-and-mortar, virtual, co-curricular, et al.).   SoTL involves

  • asking meaningful questions about student learning and about the teaching activities designed to facilitate student learning,
  • answering those questions by first making relevant student learning visible as evidence of thinking and learning (or mis-learning), and then systematically analyzing this evidence, and
  • sharing the results of that analysis publicly to invite review and to contribute to the body of knowledge on student learning in a variety of contexts, and
  • aiming to improve student learning by strengthening the practice of teaching (one’s own and others’).

This new guide, from CFT Assistant Director Nancy Chick, offers two layers:

  • On easily navigable web pages, you’ll find a brief introduction first to an understanding of SoTL and then to the process of doing SoTL, and
  • in PDFs linked throughout the “Doing SoTL” web pages, you’ll find a tutorial of the basics of designing a SoTL project.

Visit the SoTL Guide.

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