In this issue




Upcoming Events


Faculty Teaching Visit with Ifeoma Nwankwo, Associate Professor of English
Thursday, September 25







Check out these recent posts to our blog.

An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching – Starts October 6th

Teaching, Difference, and Power

Grading Writing Assignments in Less than a Lifetime

Reflections from SoTL Scholar Abbey Mann

Coordination and Coherence: Behind the Scenes of a Multi-Institution MOOC












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September 2014

Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow Spotlight: M. Alexandra Da Fonte

Each month, the CFT Newsletter highlights the work of our Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows. This month, M. Alex Da Fonte, Assistant Professor of the Practice in the Department of Special Education, talks about her teaching philosophy and interests:

"My primary interests are in the areas of teacher training, bridging research to practice, collaboration with paraeducators (teacher assistants), and working with students with significant needs."

My graduate work focused on special education, with an emphasis in severe disabilities and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). In the past, I had the opportunity to work in various settings with students with intellectual and multiple disabilities as well as with students with complex communication needs (CCN). I have been able to apply these experiences to the classes I teach and trainings I provide to pre- and in-service special education teachers. My primary interests are in the areas of teacher training, bridging research to practice, collaboration with paraeducators (teacher assistants), and working with students with significant needs.

In my role as a faculty member, I teach and serve as an advisor to undergraduate and graduate students in the Severe Disabilities Program in the Department of Special Education. I teach as the following courses: Characteristics of Students with Severe and Multiple Disabilities (undergraduate and graduate level), Introduction to Communication and Language (undergraduate), Augmentative and Alternative Communication (undergraduate and graduate level), Field Work in Special Education: Severe Disabilities Program (graduate level), Student Teaching in Special Education: Severe Disabilities Program (undergraduate and graduate level), and serve as the field based coordinator for the Severe Disabilities Program in the Department of Special Education.

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Reflections from SoTL Scholar Dana Kan

“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 encouraged me to think deeply about instructional practices both in my own teaching as well as in the general field of higher education.  The opportunity to design, implement, and reflect on a SoTL project was certainly beneficial, but the shared experience with other SoTL participants added an important layer of meaningful learning to the program.  The SoTL Scholars program helped me analyze my teaching in a way that focused on improving the students' learning and overall course experience. "

—Dana Kan

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.


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BOLD Fellows Program Helps Develop Online Instruction

imageVanderbilt’s Center for Teaching and the CIRTL Network (Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning) share a mission to enhance excellence in undergraduate teaching. The CFT and CIRTL are partnering to offer the BOLD Fellows program.

2013-14 BOLD Fellow Teams

    Susan Stewart
    , Assistant Professor of Astronomy and Erika Grundstrom, Director of Astronomy Labs, working with David Caudel, Astronomy

    Kathy Friedman,
    Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and Mark Woelfle, Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences (not pictured), working with Mary Keithly, Chemistry

    Shane Hutson, Associate Professor of Physics, working with Tyler McCleery, Physics

    Michelle Sulikowski
    ,Senior Lecturer in Chemistry, working with Emilianne McCranie, Chemistry

    imageSteve Baskauf, Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences, working with Udo Obodo, Biological Sciences

    Paul Laibinis
    ,Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, working with Faizan Zubair, Chemical Engineering

The program is designed to help graduate student-faculty teams build expertise in developing online instructional modules grounded in good course design principles and our understanding of how people learn. STEM faculty members partner with graduate students or postdocs to design and develop online modules for integration into a course, either as a tool to promote flipping the classroom, a module for a blended course, or a unit within a MOOC. The teams investigate the use of these modules, collecting data about the effectiveness of the module for promoting student learning.


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Announcing the New Graduate Teaching Fellows for 2014-15

This year's Graduate Teaching Fellows are, left to right,
Christian Ehret (Teaching and Learning), Ben Galina (Spanish & Portuguese), Vivian Finch (Germanic & Slavic Languages), Brielle Harbin (Political Science), and Danielle Picard (History).

The Center for Teaching is excited to announce the Graduate Teaching Fellows for 2014-15. GTFs provide a variety of services for Vanderbilt’s graduate, post docs and professional students, including one-on-one consultations on teaching issues and professional development, syllabus and course design, interpreting and responding to student evaluations, writing teaching statements, and engaging techniques such as discussion leading, lecturing, and using technology in the classroom.

In addition to fostering initiatives such as the Certificate in College Teaching program, they also create and facilitate Teaching Assistant Orientation, Teaching Workshops, and the Teaching, Difference, & Power graduate student reading group.

To schedule an appointment with a GTF, please call 322-7290. 

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Teaching Ferguson

by Nancy Chick, CFT Assistant Director

Description: year at the CFT, through our theme of “Teaching, Difference, and Power,” we turn to the complexities of the roles of difference and power in both what many of us teach and how we all teach. In an earlier post, I explored the notion of “educationally purposeful” ways of talking about race on campus. I want to return to this notion with a pressing example, now that the semester is under way.

On August 9, the world’s attention turned to Ferguson, Missouri. It’s already enough to simply say “Ferguson,” like the metonymies for other moments of great trauma, such as Columbine, Katrina, the Boston Marathon, the grassy knoll, and 9/11. Given its certain historical significance, how do we talk about the events in and about Ferguson right now in our classes, while it’s still raw?  Below are some possibilities:

    • First, the CFT’s guide on Teaching in Times of Crisis reminds us that “‘It is best to do something’”–from very small gestures to curricular overhauls. Worth highlighting here are the sections on facilitating discussions about such events, assigning relevant activities or materials, and the various resources for both students and faculty.
    • An open letter initially drafted by 10 conferees at the American Sociological Association (ASA) conference–and now signed by over 1,400 sociologists–contextualizing Ferguson within what sociologists have long recognized as “deeply ingrained racial, political, social and economic inequities.”
    • The sociologists who wrote the above letter formed a group called Sociologists for Justice and, among other things, created The Ferguson Syllabus, the research articles explaining the arguments in their open letter.  (Here’s an annotated version.)
    • The online international community of the Women’s Studies listserv (WMST-L) had a rich discussion of strategies and resources, and Janell Hobson (University of Albany) compiled the resulting resources, a list which has since been shared widely. It includes readings, videos, online activism, other web & media resources, and discussion suggestions.

I’m sure there are other resources and recommendations compiled by other disciplines.  What are the literary texts that help us understand what’s going on?  What’s the psychology behind the events, including the militarization of the police? What are the economic implications of the initial events on this town—and now of the likelihood that it will become a travel destination for a variety of reasons? What are K-12 teachers doing with their students, both in the Ferguson area and beyond?

Please let us know if you have any thoughts or additional resources–especially collective responses from your discipline.

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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. September sessions include the following:

Sept 9

CIRTLCast Series: 
Promoting Diversity and Success in STEM Education

Cultivating African American Undergraduate and Graduate STEM Career Choice and Aspirations
Dr. LaVar J. Charleston, Assistant Director and Senior Research Associate, Wisconsin's Equity and Inclusion Laboratory (WEI Lab)

Sept 10

CIRTL Reads Journal Club

Promoting Student Metacognition
Facilitator: Lorine Giangola, University of Colorado at Boulder
Read the discussion article.

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