In this issue




Upcoming Events


Faculty Teaching Visit with Keivan Stassun, Professor Physics and Astronomy
Tuesday, October 7

What is SoTL?: Stepping into the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
Workshop for graduate students and post-docs
Wednesday, November 5








Check out these recent posts to our blog.

A Reflection on Facilitating Conversations on Difference and Power

College Teaching: A Panel for Future STEM Faculty – October 14th

First Person Singular

Teaching, Difference, and Power—with Our Language

Teaching Ferguson








Follow Us!

facebook logotwitter logo
Follow the CFT on Facebook
and Twitter!

Get the latest information about events, resources, and news from the CFT on Facebook and Twitter. You can “like" our Facebook page, which means that the latest CFT news will appear in your Facebook news feed. You can also “follow” the CFT on Twitter to read the latest news. (If you’re not using Twitter, here’s a three-minute video that explains why you might want to.)








Not a member of the CFT News and Events LISTSERV? Subscribe now to receive future newsletters.
















October 2014

Teaching Visit Opportunity in October

The Teaching Visits program is an important way by which the CFT promotes collaborative inquiry and reflection, providing case-based opportunities for Vanderbilt teachers to consider choices they have when constructing their classes. A small group of visitors observes a host’s class on a selected day and then engages in an hour of conversation with the instructor about the strategies used in class.

This fall, each of our Teaching Visits will touch on the theme of “Teaching, Difference, and Power” that the CFT is exploring this year, either through direct teaching about issues of difference and power, thoughtful incorporation of mechanisms to create inclusive classrooms, or discussions of how to translate lessons from efforts to broaden participation into classroom practice.

Description: Stassun, Professor Physics and Astronomy
ASTR 205: Principles of Astrophysics

Keivan Stassun is a professor of astronomy and the co-director of the Fisk-Vanderbilt MA-to-PhD Bridge program. In ASTR 205, Keivan Stassun guides upper level undergraduates toward a greater understanding of the origin and evolution of matter as well as the tools and methods of astrophysics. Keivan describes his approach in this class as fairly traditional, using mostly a “chalk talk” approach. In the post-class discussion, we will consider the teaching choices Keivan makes in this course as well as approaches he uses to make his classroom more inclusive. In addition, we will discuss lessons from the Bridge program that can be translated to the undergraduate experience.

October 7th
Stevenson Center 6616
Faculty of Any Rank REGISTER NOW

Back to top

New MOOC on Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching

An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching is a free online course that begins Monday, October 6th. The course is a production of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), a network of 22 research universities, including Vanderbilt, collaborating in the preparation of STEM graduate students and post-docs as future faculty members. Vanderbilt Center for Teaching staff and graduate students are taking lead roles in the course, and Vanderbilt faculty are featured prominently in several modules.

The course will provide graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) who are planning college and university faculty careers with an introduction to evidence-based teaching practices. Participants will learn about effective teaching strategies and the research that supports them, and they will apply what they learn to the design of lessons and assignments they can use in future teaching opportunities. Those who complete the course will be more informed and confident teachers, equipped for greater success in the undergraduate classroom.

The seven-week course will be highly interactive, with many opportunities for peer-to-peer learning. Learning communities are at the heart of CIRTL’s activities, and this open, online course is intended to foster a large, healthy learning community of those interested in undergraduate STEM teaching--including current STEM faculty.

The course will draw on the expertise of experienced STEM faculty, educational researchers, and staff from university teaching centers, many of them affiliated with CIRTL. Course design has been led by Vanderbilt, Michigan State University, Boston University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Colorado-Boulder. Production support for the course has been provided by the Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning, and the course is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1347605.

You can register for this free open online course here.

Back to top

Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow Spotlight: Haerin Shin

Each month, the CFT Newsletter highlights the work of our Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows. This month, Haerin Shin, Assistant Professor in English, talks about her teaching philosophy and interests:

"Pleasure is often dismissed as being secondary to the process of learning, but I have found it to be the cornerstone of my pedagogy from personal experience."

My research and teaching portfolio stands at the dynamic interaction of Asian American literature, contemporary fiction, digital media and other forms of telecommunication/presence technologies. My central pedagogical aim is to bring contentious issues of race, ethnicity, culture into the plane of lived experience through literary representations and various crossmedia iterations, and foster sustainable conversations on and engagements with these matters.

Mediation has become the dominant mode of interaction and communication in our society, which opens up an infinite range of possibilities for us teachers especially in terms of enhanced access to resources and diversified means of knowledge acquisition, but it also leaves us with new-found challenges.

How may we help the students understand that the subjects we discuss in the intellectual safe haven of a college classroom are pulsating realities that shape our lives, and in turn, are shaped by our own selves, especially when the content of learning becomes further distanced from their sources via multiple steps of mediation such as textual, visual, and spatial representation? This question has been the grounds for my firm belief that the classroom should be a place where the students realize how literature (or any kind of text regardless of subject matter or form) not only represents, but also reflects on, and inspires our reality. I hope that, at the end of the class, students would walk out with the notion that they have made and will continue to make tangible impacts on the world we live in with the stories and ideas they discussed. 

I have found discussions on current events, small group activities, and collaborative presentations most helpful in making the students rethink literature as a continuous enterprise that requires the exertion of their own agency rather than idle indulgence or esoteric musings. Students have shown exceptional degrees of creativity and enhanced capacities to contextualize when they were given the option of producing alternative forms of final projects such as photo essays, video interviews, blogs, short stories, and hypertext websites alongside traditional research papers, actively performing the crossmedia activities they engage with on a daily basis. I hope these approaches help our students understand that they are active players in a dialectic process of change rising out of our classroom settings, and acquire a sense of ownership and enjoyment that also assist them in extending their learnings to personal areas of interest and different fields of expertise in their future career. Pleasure is often dismissed as being secondary to the process of learning, but I have found it to be the cornerstone of my pedagogy from personal experience. 

The adventures our group would embark upon would be invaluable assets for both my own teaching as well as research, and I am thankful for the resources and events the Center for Teaching has in store for the upcoming year.

Back to top

Reflections from SoTL Scholar Julian Ledford

“Scholarly teaching is what every one of us should be engaged in every day that we are in classroom, in our office with students, tutoring, lecturing, conducting discussions, all the roles we play pedagogically. Our work as teachers should meet the highest scholarly standards of groundedness, of openness, of clarity and complexity. But it is only when we step back and reflect systematically on the teaching we have done, in a form that can be publicly reviewed and built upon by our peers, that we have moved from scholarly teaching to the scholarship of teaching.”  -Lee Shulman, 2004

SoTL (the scholarship of teaching and learning) is an academic movement in which an instructor investigates student learning with a scholarly question in mind about “what works” or “what is" (what it looks like) in the classroom. The challenge, as posited by Shulman (above), is moving towards SoTL , not just scholarly teaching. SoTL investigates how we foster student learning through our teaching approaches by asking good questions and gathering evidence from students about their learning, our teaching practices, and often discipline-specific challenges.  Then, we share our findings with the greater academic community.  In this way, SoTL is a collection of evidence-based conversations about teaching and learning. Read reflections from Dana Kan (Human & Organizational Development) below:

"The SoTL Scholars Program provided me an extremely rare opportunity in my career as a graduate instructor: I was able to collaborate with dedicated teachers, guided by Nancy Chick and various resources within the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching, to persistently focus over the course of one academic year on one aspect of my teaching. I also greatly benefited from the multidimensional layering of the SoTL experience, which combines varying aspects of many academic disciplines: research (of many types), conference presentations, poster design workshops,and poster presentations. Finally, not being familiar with SoTL prior to enrolling in the program, I am now able to move on from Vanderbilt and join the global community of SoTL scholars, who constitute many SoTL programs across the world."

—Julian Ledford

The CFT is now accepting applications for the spring seminar of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Scholars Program. For more information and to apply, visit the SoTL Scholars Program web page.


Back to top

A New Guide to Course Management Tools

imageAs Vanderbilt faculty, staff, and students have learned this fall, Vanderbilt’s course management system, OAK (powered by Blackboard), is experiencing significant delays. While the OAK team at VUIT continues working to fix these problems, instructors who find OAK’s slow performance to be disruptive to their teaching might want to consider other tools that support some of the common instructional functions ordinarily supported by OAK.

To that end, the CFT has put together a new guide to OAK alternatives. The new guide describes a few suggested technologies that can help with course communications, document sharing, discussion forums, and calendaring. These four functions are perhaps the most common uses of OAK on campus, aside from OAK’s grade center, which cannot be replicated outside of OAK due to student privacy concerns. In suggesting alternative technologies, we have focused on ones that are either Vanderbilt supported (like WordPress and Box) or have been used successfully by Vanderbilt faculty (such as Piazza and Google).

Please note that switching technologies in the middle of the semester is not recommended practice, but given OAK’s response times, some instructors might want to consider doing so. The new guide is meant to be a starting point for such instructors, pointing them to technologies that might be useful. Making a change will, however, require a fair amount of time and effort and likely involve troubleshooting beyond the scope of the guide.

If you have questions about how these or other tools might support your teaching objectives, feel free to schedule a meeting with one of the Center for Teaching’s teaching consultants by calling 322-7290 or emailing

View the new guide to OAK alternatives.

Back to top

Vanderbilt hosts EDUCAUSE Virtual Conference





Wish you could go to EDUCAUSE? Now you can!

Vanderbilt will be hosting the 2014 EDUCAUSE Annual Conference’s Virtual Conference at several locations across campus and the medical center, September 30-October 2. Choose from both exclusive online sessions and live streamed concurrent conference sessions.

For planning purposes, registration is appreciated for EDUCAUSE sessions. However, if you cannot RSVP, please feel free to attend any of the sessions on the registration form linked below. The registration pages include detailed information on the sessions Vanderbilt is streaming, as well as the time, date, and location where those sessions will be streamed.

View and register for sessions here.

The EDUCAUSE 2014 Virtual Conference is being jointly hosted by Vanderbilt University Information Technology, 
Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning, and
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Back to top

From the Stacks...


Engaging in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
by Cathy Bishop-Clark and Beth Dietz-Uhler

This is a book for anyone who has ever considered engaging in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) and needs a better understanding of what it is, and how to engage in it.

The authors describe how to create a SoTL project, its implications for promotion and tenure, and how it fosters increased satisfaction and fulfillment in teaching, improved student learning, collaboration with colleagues across disciplines, and contributing to a growing and important body of literature. This guide provides prospective SoTL scholars with the necessary background information, foundational theory, tools, resources, and methodology to develop their own SoTL projects, taking the reader through the stages of the process. Each stage is illustrated by examples of actual SoTL studies, and is accompanied by worksheets to help the reader refine ideas and map out his or her next steps.

Available in the Center for Teaching library.

Back to top


Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching
1114 19th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37212 | 615-322-7290

Click here to unsubscribe from the CFT News and Events LISTSERV
Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.