Skip to main content

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 2018-19 learning communities.

Active Learning  |  Teaching, Difference, and Power: International Students
Teaching Digital Literacies | Teaching Design Thinking | Community Engagement

Active Learning

Active learning approaches improve students’ learning and have been shown to reduce disparities between different student subgroups. This leaning community will explore the principles behind effective active learning and will work together to develop individualized approaches for participants’ courses.

Contact CFT Associate Director Cynthia Brame if you’re interested in participating.



Teaching, Difference, and Power: International Students

Teaching, Difference, and Power

Teaching, Difference, and Power: Empowering International Students and Faculty
This year, the CFT continues its attention to issues of teaching, difference, and power by organizing a learning community dedicated to understanding and supporting the needs of international students and faculty. The hope for the group is to have a dynamic discussion of the many issues that arise for international students and faculty in the U.S. classroom, and the teaching approaches that may help both to thrive. The learning community meetings 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…

  • Creating inclusive spaces for learning
  • Understanding biases towards international students and faculty
  • Engaging students of diverse national backgrounds
  • Supporting students for whom English is a second language
  • Student expectations in the U.S. as compared to other nations
  • Managing faculty authority in the classroom
  • Or, other topics decided by the group

The learning community will be open to both faculty and graduate students and will meet several times throughout the academic year.

Contact CFT Assistant Director Joe Bandy if you’re interested in receiving notices about the meetings.


Teaching Digital Literacies

How can we prepare students for a world where they both consume and produce media in a variety of digital forms? In this learning community, we will explore ways to teach digital literacies, the skills and competencies students need to thoughtfully learn, participate in, and contribute to our digital and multimedia culture.


How can we…

  • Help students become more critical consumers of information on social media?
  • Design authentic, multimodal assignments that prepare students to communicate effectively online?
  • Encourage students to engage in civil and productive dialogue in digital environments?
  • Prepare students to use digital tools not only as consumers of information, but also as producers of knowledge?
  • Collaborate with others to teach students skills we ourselves are still learning?

We’ll consider these and other questions through a series of conversations this year at the Center for Teaching. Contact CFT Director Derek Bruff if you have questions about the Teaching Digital Literacies Learning Community.

For highlights from our fall 2018 conversations, see the following CFT blog posts:

February 2019: A Conversation on Teaching Collaborations

Helping our students develop digital literacies often involves moving outside our own areas of expertise–and comfort zones. How can we collaborate with others to teach students skills that we ourselves are still learning?

Join us for a conversation on collaborations for teaching digital literacies at the Center for Teaching on Tuesday, February 19th, from 2:00 to 3:30pm.

Our panelists will be:

  • Sophie Bjork-James, assistant professor of the practice of anthropology, and Kellie Cavagnaro, doctoral student in anthropology, who collaborated as instructor and teaching assistant to support student multimedia projects (including podcasts)
  • Alexis Wells-Oghoghomeh, assistant professor of religious studies, and Bobby Smiley, associate director of the Divinity Library, who collaborated as instructor and librarian to support a student-produced digital archive

Please let us know you’re coming!

March 2019: A Conversation on Disability and Digital Literacies

As we teach various digital literacies, including critical consumption and multimodal production, how can we be inclusive of students with different abilities?

Join us for a conversation about digital literacies, disability, and universal design for learning at the Center for Teaching on Friday, March 15th, from 12:10 to 1:30pm.

Our panelists will be:

  • Eric Moore, universal design for learning and accessibility specialist for the University of Tennessee’s office of information technology, and
  • Emily Pendergrass, director of the reading education Master’s program in the department of teaching and learning at Peabody College

Lunch will be provided, so please RSVP.

April 2019: A Conversation on the Future of Digital Literacies

It’s a safe bet that technology will change. And as technology changes, the ways we create and consume information and media will change, as will the ways we connect and communicate with each other. What will digital literacies look like in five or ten years? And what does the answer to that question mean for the ways we teach digital literacies today?

Join us for a wide-ranging and speculative conversation about the future of digital literacies at the Center for Teaching on Wednesday, April 17th, from 3:10 to 4:30pm.

Our panelists will be:

  • Douglas Fisher, associate professor of computer science and faculty head of Warren College
  • Corbette Doyle, senior lecturer in leadership, policy, and organizations
  • Jaco Hamman, associate professor of religion, psychology, and culture and author of Growing Down: Theology and Human Nature in the Virtual Age (Baylor University Press, 2017)

Please let us know you’re coming!


Teaching Design Thinking

Design thinking, also called human-centered design, is an approach to creative problem solving useful in a wide variety of contexts. Design thinking consists of five steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. Learning and applying this process can help students to tackle open-ended or ill-defined problems with creative confidence; to hear, understand, and value the perspectives of others; and to be resilient in the face of failure, knowing that the first solution to a problem is not always the best solution.

In support of Vanderbilt’s new DIVE (Design as an Immersive Vanderbilt Experience) initiative, the Center for Teaching is hosting a learning community for faculty, staff, and students who are interested in teaching design thinking. How can you introduce someone to the design thinking process? How can you integrate design thinking assignments in a course? How can you mentor a group of students applying design thinking to solve real problems? The learning community will address these and other questions, as well as share on- and off-campus resources for design thinking.

The learning community will be particularly useful for faculty and staff working with students in curricular or co-curricular contexts as part of DIVE, but all members of the Vanderbilt community interested in teaching design thinking are welcome to participate.

Contact CFT Director Derek Bruff if you’re interested in participating.

Check back for details about upcoming conversations!



Community Engagement

Community engagement pedagogies, often called “service learning,” are ones that combine learning goals and community service in ways that can enhance both student growth and the common good. In the words of the National Service Learning Clearinghouse, it is “a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.” This learning community will be an opportunity for Vanderbilt faculty to explore ways to incorporate community engagement into their courses in ways that maximize the benefits to students, community, and faculty themselves. The group will focus on several more specific goals throughout the year:

  • Discuss the benefits and challenges of community engagement
  • Learn about the ethics of community partnership
  • Build learning and project assessments
  • Incorporate best practices of reflection
  • Develop courses and projects with community engagement