In this issue




Upcoming Events

Mellon Summer 2016 Accelerated Workshop

Faculty Teaching Visit with Douglas Clark: SCED 3890/7500 – Scientific Modeling


Check out these recent posts to our blog.

The CFT is Hiring- Administrative Assistant II

BOLD Fellow Presents at 2015 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Conference

Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow Spotlight: Anita Disney

Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow Spotlights: LaTonya Trotter and Courtney Cook






Follow The CFT Online

facebook logotwitter logoreflectreflect






Share the CFT on social media!





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



























January 2016

From the Director

by Derek Bruff, CFT Director

Happy New Year! We’re looking forward to another busy semester at the Center for Teaching. A few highlights…

  • We are organizing several faculty teaching visits this spring. Doug Clark, Associate Professor of Teaching and Learning, is hosting our first visit on February 1st. Details below.
  • The CFT is hosting a number of learning communities and working groups focused on topics including teaching, gender, and sexuality; community engagement pedagogies; lab pedagogies; and educational technology.
  • Our Blackboard support team expands its offerings this spring with a series of drop-in support hours exploring Blackboard’s grade center. Details below.
  • The CFT’s graduate student programs continue this spring. We have a few seats left in our Certificate in College Teaching program.

CFT staff members continue serving on university-level committees as part of our work fostering institutional structures and resources that support effective teaching.

  • Joe Bandy, CFT Assistant Director, serves as executive chair of the Chancellor’s Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Community;
  • Cynthia Brame, CFT Assistant Director, serves on the Immersion Vanderbilt Committee; and
  • I serve on the Immersion Vanderbilt Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) Committee.

sapLooking ahead, this May the CFT will launch a new course design institute for Vanderbilt faculty on the theme of “Students as Producers.” During the three-day institute (May 9-11), CFT staff will help participants design (or redesign) courses that engage students not only as consumers of information, but producers of knowledge. Look for more information about the institute soon!

Finally, we want to say good-bye to Melissa Penix, CFT Administrative Assistant, who retired in December after 27 years at Vanderbilt—and 22 years at the CFT. Melissa helped keep the CFT on budget year after year, but it’s her friendly presence that we’ll miss most. Melissa looks forward to spending more time with her family and traveling with her husband Steve, and we wish her the best.

Back to top

Upcoming Teaching Visit Opportunity

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.

Douglas ClarkDouglas Clark
Associate Professor of Teaching & Learning

SCED 3890/7500: Scientific Modeling

His Special Topics Course in Science Education, Scientific Modeling, focuses on investigating and understanding various aspects of  “scientific literacies” through active construction of scientific models, investigates and increases understanding of the process of “thinking scientifically”, and asks participants to design prototypes of learning environments focused on investigating aspects of “scientific literacies."

Date:              Monday, February 1st
Time:             3:00-5:00pm (Class, 3:00-4:00pm; Discussion, 4:00-5:00 pm)
Room:            Wyatt 132

Faculty of Any Rank Register Here

Back to top

Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow Spotlight: Gabriel Briggs

Each month, the CFT Newsletter highlights the work of our Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows. This month, Gabriel Briggs, English, talks about his teaching philosophy and interests.

Gabriel Briggs

The courses I teach reflect my broad interest in the intersection of race, gender, class, nation, and ethnicity in nineteenth-century American and African-American literature and culture. I want students to use literature as a lens through which to view the transformation of America and American identity between the early national period and 1900, and to engage moments of crisis that are unparalleled in the nation’s past. I ask students to wrestle with difficult questions and ideas and to develop the critical sensibility required of academic study. Literary texts play an important role in shaping those historical conversations, and it is my responsibility to help students understand how writers use their work to preserve, disseminate, and analyze the social, cultural, and political issues of their day.

I believe in inquiry-based assignments that require substantive rhetorical considerations. The classroom environment should be thoughtful and lively. Research should not be blind or bland, students should describe, define, evaluate, analyze, propose, and discuss. For instance, I supplement novels with a variety of primary texts. These texts help steep students in the period and allow them to recognize the critical conversations generated around a particular historical moment. I often require students to workshop on assignments as a way to promote camaraderie, and to provide a less formal or intimidating venue for generating ideas that lead to contemplation, discussion, and written communication. I use journal assignments as a way for students to establish a dialogue with the ideas present in the words of historical people and documents. I think it is important that students not only summarize these materials, but that they analyze particular strategies within each document, and provide personal reactions to each piece as a way to deepen their understanding of textual analysis. Once they become familiar with the terms and concepts within literature, students are better prepared to engage new texts, and to situate their own arguments within a larger critical debate, which, in turn, helps to foster class discussion and to generate enthusiasm about each text we discover.

Back to top

BOLD Fellows Program Helps Develop Online Instruction

Vanderbilt’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, which is support by NSF grant DUE-1231286 to the CIRTL Network.

Spring 2016 BOLD Fellow Teams

L to R:Jena McDaniel and Laurel Teller, Hearing & Speech Sciences, working with Melanie C. Schuele, Associate Professor of Hearing & Speech Sciences

L to R: Kristin Droege, Chemistry, working with Cynthia Brame, Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences; Brandt Eichman, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences; Lauren Jackson, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences; and Charles Singleton, Professor of Biological Sciences

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. The teams investigate the use of these modules, collecting data about the effectiveness of the module for promoting student learning. You can view a gallery of past BOLD projects on the BOLD website.

Back to top

Blackboard Drop-in Sessions to Feature Grade Center

Drop-in Support Hours for Spring Semester
Blackboard Support at the CFT will be offering drop-in training and support for the spring semester for faculty, graduate students, and staff using Blackboard. Come get technical and pedagogical support from a team of Blackboard specialists during our drop-in support hours. We will begin each drop-in session with quick, 10-minute training on a topic related to the grade center, but feel free to bring any questions or issues you want to resolve. 

Drop-in sessions are Mondays from 1-3pmBb

January 11 - Grade Center: Column Organization
January 25 - Grade Center: Inline Grading
February 1 - Grade Center: Weighted Column
February 8 - Grade Center: Edit Column Information
February 15 - Grade Center: Rubrics
February 22 - Grade Center: Needs Grading
February 29 - Grade Center: Create/Total/Average Column
March 14 -Grade Center: View/Clear Attempts
March 21 -   Grade Center: View Grade Details
March 28 - Grade Center: Points and Percentages
April 4 - Grade Center: Show/Hide Columns
April 11 - Grade Center: Reports
April 18 -  Grade Center: Smart Views
April 25 - Grade Center: Grading Periods

Taking our Blackboard Workshops on the Road!
Many of you have visited us for Blackboard trainings and drop-in hours here at the CFT. What you may not know is that we have also taken that support model on the road to various centers and departments across campus. If you work with a group that you think might benefit from a tailored training/support experience, we would love to visit them wherever they may be housed on campus.

We have three 30 minute training sessions to choose from (Creating and Grading Assignments on Blackboard, Using Media on Blackboard, and Academic Integrity Tools for Blackboard) that we are excited to share. After our presentation, the Blackboard support team can remain on site for 30-60 minutes to work one-on-one with faculty, TAs, staff, or whomever, helping to solve problems and work on specific courses.

Please contact us at for more information.

Back to top

From the Stacks...


Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology
by Michelle D. Miller

This book offers faculty a concise, nontechnical guide for those who seek to advance learning in this swiftly changing technological landscape. Drawing on the latest findings in neuroscience and cognitive psychology, the author explores how attention, memory and higher thought processes can be enhanced through technology-aided approaches. The text presents innovative ideas on how to use multimedia effectively, promote retention of course material, take advantage of learners’ existing knowledge and motivate students to do their best work.

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.