In this issue




Check out these recent posts to our blog.

The Mindful PhD: Revisiting Boice

TAing to Thousands: A Graduate Student MOOC Panel

Setting Expectations and Resolving Conflict in Graduate Education

The Mindful PhD: About Time

Students as Producers: Initiatives at Other Universities

The Mindful PhD: Busy-Shaming

Student Notetaking for Recall and Understanding: A Lit Review Review

The Mindful PhD: Opening Our Eyes







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April 2014

From the Director:
A Look at Student Learning Across the Campus

By Derek Bruff, CFT Director

As part of its “Students as Producers” theme year, the Center for Teaching will hold a Celebration of Learning on April 21, 2014, in Alumni Hall from 3 to 6 p.m. This event is co-sponsored by the Graduate School.

The event will feature students and the products of their learning experiences in courses at Vanderbilt this year.  Imagine an exhibition of posters, presentations, and performances by students from all over campus, sharing what they have discovered, created, designed, authored, and solved.  The event will provide the Vanderbilt community with a picture of deep, engaged student learning across the colleges and schools.

There will also be a keynote presentation on the theme of “Students as Producers” by Randy Bass, Vice Provost for Education and Professor of English at Georgetown University. Randy is known for his efforts in his own classes and with other faculty to make student learning visible, having worked at the intersections of new media technologies and the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) for twenty years.  He’s also an incredibly engaging speaker. Randy’s keynote is co-sponsored by the American Studies program.

Students in two of the CFT’s graduate student programs will share the projects they completed for those programs.  The Blended and Online Learning Design (BOLD) Fellows will present the online learning modules they designed and assessed this year, and our SoTL Scholars will share their work in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL).  These students, along with graduates of our Certificate in College Teaching, will be recognized at the event for their accomplishments.

A reception will follow, during which we will honor the students participating in the event, their instructors, as well as students and faculty who have completed CFT programs this year.

We hope that you’ll attend the Celebration of Learning and be inspired by the impressive student work on display, as well as by the keynote from Randy Bass. RSVP here.

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The Continual Unfolding of Our Work

by Nancy Chick

Description: I took this picture near my office yesterday. Spring!
This week was an especially stressful time of the semester. Some of you are looking forward to spring break, but Vanderbilt’s was at the very beginning of March.  The week after break–or, as we often call it, “break”–is hard for instructors and students alike. We see the home stretch in front of us, but it’s a track full of due dates, major assignments, projects, meetings, events, and more. Combine full schedules with the explosion of spring outside our office windows, and even the most dedicated fantasize about playing hooky.

During one such fantasy, I came across Amy Johnson’s “Falling in Love with Any Work You Do,” in which she recalls truly loving her college summer jobs in a way that stopped when she began working “‘real’” jobs:

“I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about what I was doing and how I was doing it — was I working to my potential? How did my job stack up to others? Was I getting enough opportunities, challenge, pay, accolades Should I settle in or continue to look for something better? Was I doing well? What did my colleagues think of me? Did three business trips this month mean I’d have to travel a lot in the future, or was this month a fluke? What did it all mean? It’s clear to me now that all of that thinking is what changed it for me.”

The onset of worrying and ruminating–what she generically calls “thinking”–increased her stress, blocked her connections with colleagues, and distracted her from the work itself.  Before the stakes were high and she started fretting about her job, she “was in the moment, living in the continual unfolding of life.”  This kind of inductive living, if you will, is mindful living: “We get to experience life as it unfolds in front of us rather than simply experiencing our thinking about life. We get to discover life rather than confirm our theories about it.”  Johnson concludes that she “can be happy anywhere. Like seriously, deeply content in any circumstance.”

I realize this assertion walks (and perhaps even crosses) the fine line between “be happy with what’s in front of you” and “stop complaining and accept injustice”–a line that also leads to confusion about the Buddhist tenet that “life is suffering.” I continually work to wrap my mind around these easily-conflated ideas because while I believe in contentedness, acceptance, and mindfulness, I also feel to my core that each of us has an obligation to act for social justice.

For me, it’s about the stories we tell–as I wrote in “Stories of the Slow Professor.” I was (and continue to be) inspired by the work of Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber in “The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy,” which implicitly negotiates this distinction in its discussion of faculty work-stress.  Berg and Seeber argue that we should change our perspective about our work to reflect both the “‘Politics and Pleasure’” of the Slow Food Movement (6).  Rather than simply slowing down and withdrawing from the “corporatisation” of the university that exacerbates the stress and speed, they identify “individual practice as a site of resistance” (4-5).*  So starting today, I’m going to resist by reconnecting with my “otter narrative,” or framing my thinking with a sense of play, allowing myself to soak up the sun while floating on my back, and working as necessary.  I love my job–more than any previous one–but it still and always will require a “continual unfolding of the work” of circling back around to these lessons of mindfulness.

Click here for an 11:14 meditation on gratitude.

Deeper than any stress and despite any complaints, I am grateful for my job, my colleagues, my students, my home, my friends, and my (relative) health.  I like this meditation on gratitude because it begins with the sun, which for many of us was starting to feel like an old friend who’s been away for too long.

I’m also going to listen–really listen–to one of my favorites, the late Richie Havens, welcoming the sun.  For an extra boost, here’s George Harrison’s original.

* How? Read their article (it’s only six pages), or my final paragraph in “Stories of the Slow Professor.”

Nancy Chick is an assistant director at the CFT. You can read more at her blog, The Mindful Ph.D.

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CFT Thanks JFTF Alumni for Hosting Teaching Visits in March

The CFT thanks the following faculty members, who are 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.

Robert Joel Barnett
Assistant Prof. of the Practice of Mechanical Engineering

Claudia Rei
Assistant Prof. of Economics and History










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CIRTL Network Development Opportunities

Description: Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) is an NSF Center for Learning and Teaching in higher education. CIRTL uses graduate education as the leverage point to develop a national STEM faculty committed to implementing and advancing effective teaching practices for diverse student audiences as part of successful professional careers. CIRTL has opened registration for upcoming course opportunities. These interactive, synchronous, online learning experiences allow you to connect with other graduate students and post-docs from the CIRTL Network universities across the nation. April sessions include the following:

April 3

Series: Teaching Scientific Literacy to Undergraduate Students

Effects of Inquiry-based Learning on Students' Science Literacy Skills and Confidence

April 14

Coffee Hour
Series: Career Development for Post-docs


April 16

Coffee Hour
Teaching and Learning in the American System: A Forum for International Graduate Students and Post-docs


April 17

Series: Teaching Scientific Literacy to Undergraduate Students

Using Primary Literature and Writing Intensive Format to Increase Student Engagement and Learning

April 23

Series: Large Undergraduate STEM Classroom

Formative Assessment in Larger Enrollment Classes

April 24

Coffee Hour
Series: Leveraging Diversity

Diverse Students' Views on Leveraging Diversity in STEM


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From the Stacks...


Promoting Integrated and Transformative Assessment: A Deeper Focus on Student Learning
by Catherine M. Wehlburg

Assessment plays a key role in institutions of higher education. However, many colleges and universities simply add their assessment plans onto other teaching, learning, service, and research activities in order to prepare for an impending accreditation visit. In this important resource, Catherine M. Wehlburg outlines an integrated and ongoing system for assessment that both prepares for an accreditation visit and truly enhances student learning. This innovative approach can be adapted for use in a wide variety of situations to transform a department or an entire institution.

Available in the Center for Teaching library.

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