Workshops & Working Groups

Throughout the school year, the Center organizes workshops and working groups on a variety of teaching topics and issues for Vanderbilt faculty, graduate and professional students, post-doctoral fellows, staff, and others.

To see Fall 2010 Working Groups, click here.

See also our list of related programs--relevant workshops, conferences and other events being offered by other organizations around campus. For information on past workshops, please see our workshop archive.

Interested in creating a workshop/working group or having a consultation?

Fall 2010 Workshops

***All workshops to be held at the Center for Teaching (1114 19th Avenue South, 3rd Floor) unless otherwise noted.

Click on a workshop title below to register.

Just-in-Time Course Design: A Syllabus Clinic
Time & Date: 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., Tuesday, August 17th
Facilitator: Joe Bandy, CFT Assistant Director
Format: Teaching Workshop
Audience: New and Returning Faculty

With classes starting next week, you probably have a draft syllabus for each of your fall courses.  Now is a good time to finalize the learning goals you have for your students, align the learning activities in which your students will engage with those goals, and communicate your expectations to your students in a final syllabus.  This workshop will feature a 30-minute introduction to course design (including some tips on good syllabus design), followed by time for participants to work in small groups on syllabi for upcoming courses.  Participants will be encouraged to provide feedback on each other’s ideas, and CFT assistant director Joe Bandy will be available for additional consultation.

Assessment of Student Learning: Grading Effectively and EfficientlyTime & Date: 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., Thursday, August 19th
Facilitator: Derek Bruff, CFT Assistant Director
Format: Teaching Workshop
Audience: New and Returning Faculty

Whether the assignment is a semester-long project or a one-paragraph essay, student work should be assessed appropriately.  That means aligning your assignments with your learning goals, using grading schemes that motivate students, and making good use of your time when grading.  This workshop will include a 30-minute introduction to assessing student learning, followed by time for participants to work in small groups on grading schemes and rubrics for upcoming courses.  Participants will be encouraged to provide feedback on each other’s ideas, and CFT assistant director Derek Bruff will be available for additional consultation.

PowerPoint Makeover Clinic
Time & Date: 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., Friday, August 20th
Facilitator: Rhett McDaniel, Educational Technologist
Format: Teaching Workshop
Audience: New and Returning Faculty
We have all experienced the pain of a bad PowerPoint presentation. And even though we promise ourselves never to make the same mistakes, we can still fall prey to similar PowerPoint traps.  The good news is that your PowerPoint presentation doesn’t have to be boring. By keeping in mind a few guidelines, your classroom presentations can stand above the crowd! In this session, you will learn how to identify some of the common pitfalls and how to correct them. You’ll also discover tips and tricks for keeping your PowerPoint presentation visually appealing and interesting.

Wireless in the Classroom: Is a Ban on Student Laptop Use During Class a Good Idea?
Time & Date: 4:10 – 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, September 14
Facilitator:Derek Bruff, Assistant Director, CFT
Format: Conversation on Teaching
Audience: Faculty, Graduate and Professional Students, Post-docs, and Staff

Jim Lovensheimer, Music History and Literature;
Pearl Sims, Leadership, Policy, & Organizations

Recent stories from the Washington Post and NPR describe choices by university instructors to ban the use of laptops by students during class.  Many instructors note that students often use laptops not for taking notes, but to distract themselves and their peers by checking Facebook, shopping for shoes, or even watching videos with the sound turned up.  You may have seen the YouTube video of a University of Oklahoma professor who froze a laptop in liquid nitrogen, then smashed it to pieces in order to make this point to his students.  On the other hand, other instructors ask their students to bring their laptops and other mobile devices to class so that they can use them productively during class.  For instance, Abilene Christian University is in the third year of its ACU Connected iPhone initiative in which all undergraduates are provided iPhones and faculty are leveraging the devices during class.

In this Conversation on Teaching, we’ll explore the pros and cons of wireless Internet access in our classrooms.  Should the responsibility for paying attention during class be placed on students?  Under what conditions is it appropriate to ban the use of laptops by students during class?  What responsibility does an instructor have in engaging students during class so that their laptops aren’t tempting distractions?  Given that half of our students have Internet-enabled smart phones, should instructors be leveraging this resource in the classroom?  Our panelists will share their diverse perspectives this topic in opening remarks, then we’ll continue exploring these questions through roundtable discussion.

Discussion Leading
Time & Date:4:10—5:30 p.m., Wednesday, September 15
Facilitator: Graduate Teaching Fellow, CFT
Format: Teaching Workshop
Audience: Graduate and Professional Students and Post-docs

Effective discussions can provoke profound learning, yet they can be challenging to create and  sustain. In this interactive session, we will explore strategies for initiating discussions and keeping them lively. Questions considered will include: What are effective methods for starting discussion?  What to do if a discussion starts to fall flat? How to manage students who dominate discussion?  How to encourage students who do not join in the discussion?  How to foster a discussion environment in which students feel free to share diverse viewpoints with candor and respect for others’ opinions?

Grading with Rigor
Time & Date: 4:00 – 5:30 p.m., Monday, September 20
Facilitator: Kat Baker, Assistant Director, CFT
Format: Conversation on Teaching
Audience: Faculty, Graduate and Professional Students, and Post-docs

Bonnie Dow, Communication Studies;
Ken Schriver, Physics & Astronomy; and
Michelle Sulikowski, Chemistry

In this session, we will consider how to design and grade assessments that foster student learning and engagement while demanding academic excellence.  How to balance generous support of students’ learning needs with requirements that impel their further achievement?  It is a challenge to create and grade assignments with academic rigor, especially given concerns about a potential relationship between grades earned and students’ satisfaction with a course. Yet, faculty who teach most effectively combine high expectations, well-crafted assignments and rigorous grading to motivate their students’ best efforts and enthusiastic engagement.  Join us to learn how they strive for this balance of support and challenge for students.  Panelists will share their ideas and strategies individually, and then welcome your questions for group discussion. 

Getting Ready for Review: Reflecting On and Documenting Your Teaching
Time & Date: 4:10 – 5:30 p.m., Thursday, September 23
Facilitator: Allison Pingree, Director, CFT
Format: Teaching Workshop
Audience: Faculty only

As a new semester begins, now is a great time to make plans for reflecting on and documenting your teaching throughout the year.  In this interactive, hands-on session, we’ll explore what, when, how, for whom, and why you should write about your teaching.  More specifically, we’ll explore questions such as:  What aspects of your teaching are worth documenting, and why?  What does an effective teaching statement look like?  Beyond syllabi, what other course-related materials should you be collecting?  What and how should you write about your student evaluations? What are resources you can use throughout the year to improve and innovate in your teaching?  While all faculty are welcome, this session will be especially focused on teaching reflections and documents related to preparing for promotion and tenure reviews. 

Tools for Grading: Rubrics and Spreadsheets
Time & Date: 12:15 - 1:00 p.m., Wednesday, September 29
Location: Online
Facilitators: Derek Bruff and Kat Baker, Assistant Directors, CFT
Format: Virtual Brownbag
Audience: Faculty, Graduate and Professional Students, Post-docs, and Staff

Interested in learning some tips and tricks for grading more effectively and efficiently?  In this Virtual Brownbag, CFT assistant directors Derek Bruff and Kat Baker will share some examples of grading rubrics, as well as some strategies for using rubrics to align the grades you give your students with the learning goals you have for them.  Also, Derek will share a few tips for using Excel spreadsheets as gradebooks.  A good spreadsheet can save a lot of time in calculating grades, particularly if you know a few techniques for having Excel calculate grades the way you want them calculated.

Time & Date: 4:10—5:30 p.m., Thursday, September 30
Facilitator: Graduate Teaching Fellow, CFT
Format: Teaching Workshop
Audience: Graduate and Professional Students and Post-docs

In this session, we’ll explore both the “why” and the “how” of lecturing.  What kind of material is best presented in lecture?  What should you keep in mind when preparing and delivering a lecture?  What are strategies for presenting material with confidence and clarity?  We welcome instructors who are new to lecturing or those who want to reinvigorate their practice.

Entre les Murs (The Class): Connection and Conflict in the Classroom (Part of Vanderbilt’s International Lens Film Series)
Time & Date: 7:00 p.m., Tuesday, October 5
Location: Sarratt Cinema
Facilitator: Derek Bruff, Assistant Director, CFT
Audience: Faculty; Undergraduate, Graduate and Professional Students; Post-docs; and Staff

The 2008 French film Entre les Murs (The Class) presents a year in the life of a French language and literature class in an inner city middle school in Paris.  The film, winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, is based on the 2006 semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by François Bégaudeau.  It stars Bégaudeau along with a cast of non-actors using improvisational acting and documentary-style filmmaking.  The entire film takes place at the school—in its classrooms, teachers lounge, library, and schoolyard—giving the view a fly-on-the-wall view into the social and interpersonal dynamics among students and teachers.  Bégaudeau, as the teacher François Marin, attempts to understand and engage his culturally and cognitively diverse students, and his students respond in a variety of inspiring, provocative, and antagonistic ways.

Following the screening, CFT assistant director Derek Bruff will lead a discussion of the film, focusing on questions raised by the teacher’s instructional choices and his students’ responses to those choices.  For example, how can you motivate students in a required course on a subject (grammar in this case) the students see as irrelevant to their lives?  How can you navigate the challenges and opportunities that come with teaching a class of culturally diverse students?  How can you respond to moments of conflict and confrontation in the classroom?  And how can attempts to connect with students as people, not just pupils, become problematic?

Faculty, students, and staff interested in teaching and classroom dynamics (in secondary or post-secondary settings) are encouraged to attend and join the discussion. There is no registration for this event.

Digital Storytelling: An Ancient Art Finds a New Age
Time & Date: 1:00 – 2:30 p.m., Thursday, October 7
Facilitator: Rhett McDaniel, Educational Technologist, CFT
Format: Conversation on Teaching
Audience: Faculty, Graduate and Professional Students, Post-docs, and Staff

Jay Clayton, English;
Matt Hall, Information Technology Services; and
Jonathan Rattner, Film Studies

Digital Storytelling in higher education emerged in the late nineties when UC Berkeley, collaborating with a number of other universities, created the Center for Digital Storytelling. Since then, the use of digital storytelling has become more popular at colleges and universities nationwide. During this Conversation on Teaching, participants will have an opportunity to hear first-hand accounts of how instructors here at Vanderbilt have incorporated this technique in their students’ activities, show examples of digital writing assignments, and discuss how they assess student projects.


Writing a Teaching Statement
Time & Date: 4:10—5:30 p.m., Monday, October 11
Facilitator: Graduate Teaching Fellow, CFT
Format: Teaching Workshop
Audience: Graduate and Professional Students and Post-docs

When entering the job market, you need to be prepared to articulate your teaching values and methods for search committees, especially those that will not be able to observe you teaching.  The goal of a teaching statement is to provide a picture of you in the classroom by articulating why you teach and how you teach, including your goals for student learning and your methods for achieving those goals.   This session will explore the purposes of the teaching statement, and help you draft your own by providing prompts for reflection and other guidelines for creating a discipline-specific description of your teaching philosophy and prowess.

Tools for Creating a Back Channel in Your Classroom
Time & Date: 12:15 – 12:45 p.m., Wednesday, October 13
Facilitator: Rhett McDaniel, Educational Technologist, CFT
Format: Virtual Brownbag
Audience: Faculty, Graduate and Professional Students, Post-docs, and Staff

“What did he just say?” “Where in the reading was that?” “This seems related to what she mentioned last week.” backchannels has always existed but, up until recently, it was solely a one-to-one whispered communication with a neighbor. Today, it’s possible to have an exchange many-to-many, among the entire class.

Twitter and other social media applications are changing the way students interact with each other, the course content, and instructors. During this half hour session, you will see an overview of some tools you might use to leverage, follow, and organize incoming feedback from students as you consider ways you might exploit this emerging method of class interaction.

Sustainability in the Classroom: Ecological Footprints
Time & Date: 4:10 - 5:30 p.m. , Wednesday, October 20
Facilitator: Joe Bandy, Assistant Director, CFT
Format: Conversation on Teaching
Audience: Faculty

Beth Conklin, Anthropology;
Andrea George, Sustainability and Environmental Management Office; and
Michael Vanderbergh, Law

Across the landscape of higher education there is growing interest in addressing issues of environmental sustainability in the classroom.  To develop and complicate students’ environmental consciousness, and to encourage what David Orr has termed “ecological literacy,” many educators engage students with the calculation of “ecological footprints.”  Ecological footprints are broad measures of natural resource use that assess the environmental impacts of individuals, campus communities, cities, or entire nations.  They can be the basis for wide ranging discussions of ecological processes, environmental history, and the complexities of theory and method across the disciplines.  This session will explore these and other possible teaching moments afforded by ecological footprints, and will feature, among other panelists, Andrea George, Director of Vanderbilt’s Sustainability & Environmental Management Office, who will discuss Vanderbilt’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Survey.

Tell Your Story Now...Digitally!
Time & Date: 12:00 – 1:30 p.m., Thursday, October 21
Facilitator: Rhett McDaniel, Educational Technologist, CFT
Format: Teaching Workshop
Audience: Faculty, Graduate and Professional Students, Post-docs, and Staff

Digital Storytelling is the modern expression of the ancient art of storytelling. Digital stories derive their power by weaving images, music, narrative and voice together, thereby giving deep dimension and vivid color to characters, situations, experiences, and insights.
Tell your story now…digitally.
~Leslie Rule, Center for Digital Storytelling

This hands-on workshop takes the digital storytelling conversation on teaching to the next level, providing you with an opportunity to develop your working knowledge of the tools required to assemble a digital story. In order to better understand the production process, you’ll create your own short digital story incorporating sound, video, images, and text. This session is designed to build confidence with these tools in a supportive environment that will allow you to get the experience necessary to incorporate digital storytelling exercises into your class.

Participants should have basic computer knowledge, including Internet use, ability to navigate the computer’s directory system, and ability to design simple electronic documents.


Crafting a Professional Digital Identity: Faculty and Social Media
Time & Date: 4:10 – 5:30 p.m., Monday, October 25
Facilitator: Derek Bruff, Assistant Director, CFT
Format: Conversation on Teaching
Audience: Faculty, Graduate and Professional Students, Post-docs, and Staff

Melanie Moran, Director, Web Communications, and Associate Director, News Service; and
Lacy Tite, Web Developer / Designer, Web Communication

Social media—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, and so on—give us plenty of opportunities to share our thoughts online.  However, these platforms can sometimes make it hard to know just how public our comments are, as a Dartmouth religion professor found out recently when some comments she made on Facebook about her students and her colleagues turned out to be very public and very embarrassing.  What we share on social media sites can turn up in unexpected places, like the family photo shared on a personal blog that showed up in a storefront window display in Prague.  And given our students’ greater use of and familiarity with social media, instructors can often find navigating this world—one that mixes the public and private—somewhat daunting.

In this session, staff from University Web Communications will share strategies for using social media in ways that will enhance and not damage your professional identity, drawing from Vanderbilt’s Social Media Handbook.  How can you know if your students can see your status updates on Facebook?  Should you “friend” your students on Facebook? Should you “connect” with them on LinkedIn?  How can you use blogs and Twitter to share your teaching experiences online in ways that reflect well on you professionally?  This session will help you learn to shape what your students and colleagues find out about when they Google you.

Motivating Students
Time & Date: 4:10—5:30 p.m., Tuesday, October 26
Facilitator: Graduate Teaching Fellow, CFT
Format: Teaching Workshop
Audience: Graduate and Professional Students and Post-docs

Motivating students to engage in learning requires a “learner-centered” experience, in which the instructor facilitates learners’ interactive engagement with course content and activities.  To foster this learning environment, we must understand both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, and how these apply to students’ varied learning styles.  How do we show our students the relevance and appeal of our course content?  In this workshop, we will consider models of motivation and how they inform strategies for motivating students, including learner-centered teaching techniques, performance goals, formative assessment, and self-directed activities. 

Wireless in the Classroom: Strategies for Leveraging Student Laptops and Smart Phones
Time & Date: TBA
Facilitator: Derek Bruff, Assistant Director, CFT
Format: Conversation on Teaching
Audience: Faculty, Graduate and Professional Students, Post-docs, and Staff

Betsy Kennedy, Nursing;
Jamie Pope, Nutrition

Most Vanderbilt students own either a laptop or an Internet-enabled smart phone.  Instructors who wish to leverage these technological resources in the classroom have a growing set of tools for doing so.  Options include…

  • Recruiting students to serve as “Google jockeys” during class by searching for additional resources and perspectives to bring into class discussions;
  • Using student devices as part of classroom response systems, allowing students to respond to multiple-choice and free-response questions via a tool like ResponseWare;
  • Having students submit questions and comments to the instructor using a backchannel tool like Google Moderator; and
  • Inviting students to engage in peer-to-peer discussions about course content during class through Twitter or other services.

In this Conversation on Teaching, we’ll hear from a few faculty who have experimented with some of these tools and discuss strategies for making good use of laptops and smart phones during class while managing the potential for distraction these devices provide.  Please note that we’ll assume in this session that participants are interested in leveraging wireless Internet access in the classroom.  If you’d like to debate that idea, please attend our earlier session, “Wireless in the Classroom: Is a Ban on Student Laptop Use During Class a Good Idea?”

Types of Workshops

Conversations on Teaching

Conversations on Teaching focus on emergent teaching and learning issues in an informal, discussion-based format.  These sessions provide members of the Vanderbilt teaching community a chance to share their teaching experiences and learn from each other.  Conversations on Teaching typically being with opening remarks from panelists and then open up to larger group discussions.

Teaching Workshops

These workshops focus on practical, concrete strategies for common teaching tasks, challenges, and opportunities.  These sessions draw on research-based best practices from the literature on teaching and learning and help participants consider ways to apply those best practices in their teaching.  Teaching Workshops are typically a mix of presentation, large group discussion, small group activities, and times for individual reflection.

Virtual Brownbags

Have a little time over lunch for a CFT workshop, but can’t get away from the office or lab to visit the CFT?  If so, the CFT’s Virtual Brownbags are designed for you.  Each session is held online over the lunch hour using Centra, a Web conferencing platform.  Log on between 12:00 and 12:15, participate in the formal part of the workshop from 12:15 to 12:45, and (optionally) stick around afterwards for informal discussion.  You’ll be able to hear the CFT facilitators and see their slides, and you’ll be invited to participate during the session via a text-based chat room.

After registering for a Virtual Brownbag on the CFT Web site, you’ll be sent instructions for participating via Centra.

Interested in creating a workshop or working group?

The Center for Teaching designs tailored workshops or working group for individuals or departments on a variety of topics, including (but not limited to):

  • course design
  • classroom dynamics
  • diversity in the classroom
  • motivating students
  • teaching with technology
  • cooperative learning activities
  • assessing student learning
  • grading
  • interpreting student evaluations
  • the scholarship of teaching and learning
  • documentation of teaching effectiveness

In addition to workshops and working groups, the CFT offers the following services for individuals and groups:

  • consultations with departments or other administrative units
  • consultations with individual instructors, based on
    • observations of instructors in the classroom
    • video recordings of instructors teaching
    • feedback from students via focus groups

Contact the CFT at 322-7290 or via our web site

See also our list of related programs--relevant workshops, conferences and other events being offered by other organizations around campus.


Center for Teaching
1114 19th Avenue South
Peabody Box #183
Nashville, TN 37203
Phone 615-322-7290
Fax 615-343-8111


General Questions?
Contact Us

Web Site Questions?
Contact Webmaster

Copyright ©2009