In this issue




Upcoming Events







Check out these recent posts to our blog.

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

I’ve Flipped My Classroom. Now What?

The Mindful PhD: Daydream Believer

Students as Producers of Disciplinary Habits

The Power of Design: What design projects can teach our students—and us

How to (Re)frame Your Teaching for Non-academic Jobs




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March 2014

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

By Derek Bruff, CFT Director

Original research by first- and second-year undergraduates conducted within a biology lab course.  Original short stories written for a Spanish course.  MRI machines built by engineering students in a design course.  Video documentaries created by future teachers to explore social and philosophical aspects of education.  Handcrafted creations in which theatre students show how history has influenced fashion design.

These are just some of the products of student learning that will be exhibited at the CFT’s Celebration of Learning on April 21st, the final event in our “Students as Producers” theme year.  Our students need not be merely consumers of knowledge, but also producers of meaningful, generative work alongside the university’s faculty.  By hosting an exhibition of student projects, posters, presentations, and performances, the Celebration of Learning will provide the Vanderbilt community with a picture of deep, engaged student learning across the colleges and schools.

It is significant that most of the student work that will be featured at the Celebration of Learning has been or will be produced within courses here at Vanderbilt.  Our students are frequently involved in knowledge production outside of the classroom, through undergraduate research, internships, student organizations, and entrepreneurial activities.  These are significant learning experiences for students, but we can also think of students as producers inside the classroom, taking on the roles of scholars, creators, researchers, performers, and designers.  Not only does this kind of work foster deeper learning while students are on campus, but it also helps prepare them to solve tough problems, create new knowledge, and build technologies and organizations that make a difference after they graduate.

We hope that you’ll attend the Celebration of Learning and be inspired by the impressive student work on display to rethink the kinds of assignments you give your students and how you help your students to produce more authentic, creative work. For something of a preview of the exhibition, see our collection of blog posts from the past year exploring the “Students as Producers” theme.

The Celebration of Learning also features a talk by Randy Bass, Vice Provost for Education and English professor at Georgetown University, and a reception honoring the graduates of the CFT’s various graduate student and faculty programs.  The event will be held on Monday, April 21st (the last day of undergraduate classes), from 3:00 to 6:30 p.m. in Alumni Hall.  More information, including a schedule, can be found here.


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Teaching Visit Opportunities in March

The CFT’s Teaching Visit program continues in March with two 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.

William Collins
Terence E. Adderley Jr. Professor of Economics & Professor of History (by courtesy) and Chair
ECON 266: Topics in the Economic History of the US

Thursday, March 20th
Buttrick Hall, Rm 102
Facilitator: Cynthia Brame

Faculty of Any Rank REGISTER NOW

Professor Collins is an economic historian whose research concentrates on twentieth-century labor market and urban history. His recent work has studied changes in racial disparities in earnings and educational attainment, inter-regional migration, the economic impact of urban riots, the history of urban renewal programs, and the origins of the baby boom. In his course Topics in the Economic History of the US, Dr. Collins offers an Analysis of major issues and debates in American economic history.


Kevin D. Murphy
Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Humanities and
Professor and Chair of History of Art
HART 229: 19th Century Architecture: Theory & Practice

Thursday, March 20th
Cohen 203
Facilitator: Nancy Chick

Faculty of Any Rank REGISTER NOW

Professor Murphy opens up his 19th-century European Architecture course to a small group of visitors who’ll observe a lecture and discussion of some principal monuments of the time. His students will apply what they’ve learned in a final project in which they analyze an historical neighborhood in Nashville. How does he prepare them for this application, and what will those projects look like?  Welcome Kevin to Vanderbilt by visiting his course with the CFT.

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Setting Expectations and Resolving Conflict in Graduate Education

Professors Rique Campa and Judith Stoddart, Michigan State University, will lead an interactive session for faculty, teaching an interest-based approach to setting expectations and resolving conflicts among graduate students and faculty. The discussion will focus on ways to identify common interests that can help construct mutually satisfying options. This will be a "train the trainer" session so that participants will be equipped to conduct similar workshops for faculty and graduate students in their departments. Co-sponsored by GradLEAF, VU Grad Career Services, and the CFT.

Faculty Workshop
Thursday, March 20th
9:00am - 11:00am
Center for Teaching
Register here

A second session, also facilitated by Campa and Stoddart, will be held later the same day and is designed for Ph.D. students and post-docs. This workshop teaches an interest-based approach to setting expectations and resolving conflicts in graduate education. The interest-based approach recognizes the legitimate interests of each person, how others may be affected, and leads to a more useful discussion in which common interests may inform and permit exploration of options with a greater array of satisfying choices for both individuals. In addition to faculty, is session is useful for postdocs and graduate students. Dinner will be provided.

Workshop for Ph.D. students and post-docs
Thursday, March 20th
4:00pm – 7:00 pm
Martha Ingram Commons Center, 235-237
Register here

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CFT Thanks JFTF Alumni for Hosting Teaching Visits in February

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.

Phillip L. Ackerman-Lieberman
Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies & Law

Kimberly Bess
Assistant Professor of Human & Organizational Development









Read a summary of Phillip Ackerman's teaching visit by Nancy Chick, CFT Assistant Director.

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TAing to Thousands: A Graduate Student MOOC Panel

What is it like to serve as a teaching assistant in a course with thousands of students? 

On February 24, 2014, the Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning, Center for Teaching, Graduate School, and Jean & Alexander Heard Library co-sponsored a panel of graduate students (and one undergraduate student) who have served as Teaching Assistants for Vanderbilt's MOOCs (massive open online courses). Panelists included Ruth Herrin (Student Thinking at the Core), Daniel Jimenez (Nutrition, Health, and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights), Zach McCormick (Pattern-Oriented Software Architectures: Programming Mobile Services for Android Handheld System), Don Rodriguez and Blaine Smith (Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative), and Ben Shapiro (Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations).

Below is a summary of the key insights that arose across panelists sharing their experiences as TAs, as well as the discussion that took place during the session.

Teaching online involves collaboration. All of the panelists agreed that teaching a MOOC is a collaborative endeavor, with team members distributing tasks across technical and content fields. Don Rodriguez explained how the collaborative process for facilitating Online Games involved working closely with the course Professor (Jay Clayton) and co-TA to design the curriculum and assessments, videographers, the Coursera team, and mentoring undergraduates with specific technical expertise. Others described how the time intensity of TAing a MOOC requires flexibility, strategic time management, and clear communication amongst group members. As Ben Shapiro stated, “You can’t have enough TAs for these courses!”

Responsiveness on discussion boards is key. With thousands of MOOC students—representing diversity in ages, languages, content understanding, and technical abilities—it is crucial to establish an online presence in the course discussion boards. Zach McCormick emphasized that for the course he TAed, frequently monitoring and responding to student discussion posts helped him to dispel common misconceptions, build good will, and provide just-in-time feedback. Daniel Jimenez shared that a majority of his time as a TA involved addressing students’ needs right away on the discussion boards to avoid problems from “spreading like wildfire.”

Assessments can be more than online quizzes and tests. The panelists agreed that there are many constraints when it comes to assessing the learning of thousands of students in a MOOC. Ruth Herin emphasized the difficulty of integrating student-driven pedagogy within a system that often encourages teacher-centered instruction. However, a couple of the panelists shared how they worked with their instructor to move past the standard online quizzes and tests to develop collaborative, multimodal and learner-centered MOOC assessments. Ben Shapiro explained how students worked on course-long team projects—some collaborating in person and some online. Blaine Smith described how she worked with Jay Clayton and Don Rodriquez to develop three digital, in-game, and multimodal assessments that supported students in demonstrating their knowledge of central concepts. All panelists who assigned peer-reviewed assessments emphasized the importance of providing students detailed grading rubrics and resources to accommodate all technical abilities. 

Professionalization opportunities. Not only did the panelists believe TAing for a MOOC provided valuable online teaching experience, but it also opened up a variety of professional opportunities, including conference presentations and publications. A couple of panelists shared that their MOOC experience was of particularly interest to employers while on the job market.

For more information about MOOCs at Vanderbilt, visit the Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning and Center for Teaching's guide on MOOCs. A video of the session will be available on the VIDL website.


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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. March sessions include the following:

March 10

Coffee Hour
Series: Career Development for Post-docs

Mentoring and Being Mentored

March 13

Coffee Hour
Series:Work-Life Balance

Work-Life Balance That Works

March 18

Inclusive Design for Learning

Introduction to Inclusive Design for Learning

March 26

Series Large Undergraduate STEM Classroom

The Twitter Revolution: Engaging Students in 100+ Classes

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From the Stacks...


Using reflection and metacognition to improve student learning : across the disciplines, across the academy
by Matthew Kaplan, editor of compilation

Research has identified the importance of helping students develop the ability to monitor their own comprehension and to make their thinking processes explicit, and indeed demonstrates that metacognitive teaching strategies greatly improve student engagement with course material.

This book -- by presenting principles that teachers in higher education can put into practice in their own classrooms -- explains how to lay the ground for this engagement, and help students become self-regulated learners actively employing metacognitive and reflective strategies in their education.

Offering seven practitioner examples from the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, the social sciences and the humanities, along with sample syllabi, course materials, and student examples, this volume offers a range of strategies for incorporating these pedagogical approaches in college classrooms, as well as theoretical rationales for the strategies presented.

Available in the Center for Teaching library.

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