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Learning Communities

The CFT hosts a number of learning communities, intended for members of Vanderbilt’s teaching community interested in meeting over time to develop deeper understandings and richer practices around particular teaching and learning topics. See below for information on the CFT’s 2016-17 learning communities.

Teaching and Social Class

Teaching, Difference, and PowerThe CFT continues its attention to issues of teaching, difference, and power by organizing a learning community on the many dimensions of social class.  The hope for the group is to have a dynamic discussion of, both the many issues that arise when teaching a student body of varied class identities, and how the many dimensions of class may be taught effectively.  This learning community will involve informal discussions of pedagogical readings, teaching challenges, and practical strategies for improving our teaching and learning.

The topics covered will include but are not limited to…

  • Social class and inequality in higher education
  • Class and access to higher education
  • Challenges for lower income students
  • Creating class-conscious dialogue
  • Engaging students of diverse class identities
  • Managing authority in the classroom
  • Teaching class effectively

The learning community will be open to both faculty and graduate students and will meet five times throughout the academic year (dates and times to be announced).  It will be helpful if participants can attend regularly to form a supportive intellectual community, and to work collaboratively to develop courses, lesson plans, or teaching portfolios.

There will be two meetings during the spring semester, one on February 3rd focused on inclusive teaching strategies around class, and one February 24th on fostering an inclusive and class conscious campus life, both meeting from 10:00am to 12:00pm. Register Here

Direct questions about this learning community to CFT Assistant Director Joe Bandy .

Teaching Maymester Courses

screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-2-57-59-pmAs part of the Center for Teaching’s program for Senior Faculty Fellows, Robert Barsky (French & Italian) is leading a learning community around Maymesters with the intent of better understanding the many teaching challenges and successes of intensive and immersive study abroad. This Spring we will have a series of pedagogical colloquia on Maymester courses, each centered around one faculty and a Maymester course they have taught, with attention to its goals, its teaching challenges, its innovations, and any lessons learned.  This will be followed by a discussion of our teaching practices and the curriculum. The list of colloquia is below. All are welcome to attend.

January 13, 1-2pm
Robert Driskill (Economics) Register

January 20, 1-2pm
Robert Barsky (French & Italian) Register

January 27, 1-2pm
Jessica Greenfield (French & Italian) Register

February 3, 1-2pm
Christoph Zeller (German) Register

February 10, 1-2pm
Guil Gualda (Earth and Environmental Sci.) Register

February 17, 1-2pm
Maria Paz Pintane (Spanish & Portuguese) Register

February 24, 1-2pm
Lynn Ramey (French & Italian) Register

March 17, 1-2pm
Xianmin Liu (Asian Studies) Register

March 24, 1-2pm
Alexandra Sargent (Theatre) Register

March 31, 11am-12pm (note special time)
Nathalie Dieu-Porter (French & Italian) Register

April 14, 1pm-2pm
  Heraldo Falconi (Spanish/Portuguese)

April 21, 11am-12pm (note special time)
Amanda Benson (Biological Sciences)

Lab Pedagogies

MicroscopeLab courses provide a rich opportunity for experiential learning, giving students time, space, and support to develop into practicing scientists and engineers. Lab courses also, however, carry their own challenges. How do we best foster the ways of thinking that characterize our disciplines? How do we also help students develop the practical skills—from keeping records to performing assays—that they will need as they advance? How do we help students develop the communication skills that are particularly associated with investigation in our discipline? And how do we help our TAs develop the teaching skills they need to foster these abilities?

The CFT facilitates a learning community for faculty members interested in grappling with these issues. Our topics change from session to session in response to the group’s needs; previous topics have included TA development, electronic record-keeping, assessment/assignment types, and approaches to enhance inquiry in labs. The group has a particular focus on workshopping syllabi or individual labs to enhance desired features, and almost always centers its work around examples from the participants’ own teaching.

The group meets the first Thursday of each month, 11-12:30, in Medical Research Building III/Biological Sciences Building U5202. Please contact CFT Assistant Director Cynthia Brame if you are interested in attending.

Language Coordinators

worldLower level language courses juggle multiple objectives related to language proficiency, intercultural competence, and broader academic skills. Additionally, most language courses are coordinated by a faculty member while the individual sections are taught by TAs and other instructors. Because of this unique situation, the CFT facilitates a learning community for faculty members who coordinate lower-level language courses. This group meets several times during the semester to discuss common challenges and to share successful approaches.

Our goal for this working group of language course coordinators is to develop community, resources, materials, and technologies that will support language learning on campus.  Our topics change from session to session in response to the group’s needs; previous topics have included mentoring TAs, using Blackboard to manage multiple sections of a course, and writing letters of reference. Of particular interest to our members is hybrid language teaching, including an approach known as the flipped classroom.

Please contact CFT Assistant Director Stacey Johnson if you are interested in participating.


PodcastingPodcasts have been around since the early 2000s, but the medium has experienced remarkable growth in recent years, thanks to increasing smart phone adoption and to very popular podcasts like Serial and Radiolab. Educational uses of podcasts are growing, as well. For some time, college and university instructors have produced podcasts for use in their courses. With the ready availability of podcast creation tools, however, instructors are now asking their students to produce podcasts, connecting students with authentic audiences for their academic work. See “Can New Media Save the Book?” by Vanderbilt’s Laura Stark (Medicine, Health, & Society) for one example.

Although technology use should always be driven by pedagogical priorities, sometimes instructors learn about particular technologies and want to explore ways those technologies might fit their teaching needs. This year the CFT is hosting a learning community for faculty, staff, and graduate students interested in teaching with podcasts, particularly those who see potential in student-produced podcasts. The learning community will meet several times during the year to explore examples, tools, and teaching practices. Please contact CFT Director Derek Bruff if you are interested in participating.

(Not coincidentally, the CFT launched a new podcast in August 2016. Leading Lines is a podcast on educational technology in higher education, produced in collaboration with the Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning, the Office of Scholarly Communications at the Vanderbilt University Library, and the Office of the Associate Provost for Digital Learning. CFT staff will share their experiences producing Leading Lines with the podcasting learning community.)