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Individual Consultations

The Center for Teaching offers a variety of individual consultation services as part of our mission-driven work that aims to

  • Provide opportunities to develop and refine foundational teaching skills through workshops, seminars, and individual consultations;
  • Consult with educators as they adopt and evaluate new teaching practices as part of their continuing professional development;
  • Foster campus conversations on teaching and learning that are informed by national and international higher education developments, as well as local issues and priorities; and
  • Identify, share, and advocate for research-based practices in university teaching and the resources that support them.

The types of consultations include the following:

Confidentiality Policy

The Center for Teaching is a university-wide resource for the Vanderbilt teaching community. Its goals are to promote excellence in teaching through dialogue, inquiry and research, and to offer teachers feedback and an opportunity for reflection on their teaching. To fulfill these goals, the Center must offer a trustworthy environment to those it serves, and thus has established the following policies. These policies were created by the Center’s faculty advisory board with representation from all of Vanderbilt’s schools, and are also supported by the Ethical Guidelines for Educational Developers developed by the national POD Network in Higher Education. Please address any questions or concerns to the Center’s director.

Teachers can receive feedback on their teaching through the Center for Teaching in a variety of ways: small group analyses (SGAs), videotaping, class observations, microteaching, conversations about particular teaching challenges, or other consultation sessions.

The Center is dedicated to providing teachers with these opportunities to observe themselves and their students in a confidential manner, for formative purposes, without risk of evaluation or censure. Therefore:

  • The Center will gather feedback (SGA, observation etc.) about a course only upon the request of the teacher.
  • The Center does not make feedback information available to anyone except the teacher.
  • The Center expects that consultation on a videotape will occur first between a Center consultant and the teacher. The Center recognizes that teachers may benefit further by subsequently sharing the videotape with their colleagues, and they may do so at their own discretion.
  • Feedback gathered and/or given by the Center is meant to be formative, and thus is not intended to be used in promotion, tenure or re-appointment processes.
  • The Center will release the name of a participant only upon his or her request. At the request of a participant, the Center will provide written verification of participation listing the type(s) of activity, date(s) and Center consultant(s). Such “certificates of participation” may be included in tenure and promotion files, or used for other evaluative processes.
  • Occasionally, the Center may ask for a teacher’s written permission to show another individual or group an excerpt of a videotape or other material to illustrate a particular teaching issue.
  • The Center periodically consults with schools and departments on ways of improving the teaching done by, and the mentoring of, graduate student teaching assistants. In this capacity, the Center shares models and ideas, raises questions, and otherwise advises-but is not responsible for monitoring or enforcing TA teaching requirements.

Factors that Encourage Teaching Improvement

Below are some characteristics of the instructor and consulting process that will most likely lead to progress when a person works with the Center for Teaching:

  • The instructor is interested and willing to change.
  • The instructor has support from the department.
  • There is an adequate amount of time to work on making modifications to the instructor’s teaching strategies. Often, a couple of semesters are necessary to see significant change.
  • The instructor has clear goals, guidelines and evaluation criteria, based on feedback from the department and school.

Substantive changes take time, and there are sometimes situations in which the CFT may not be able to facilitate that change. For example, if the situation and not the person’s teaching is the problem, change may not happen. Some examples of these kinds of situations are:

  • having very large classes and no or few TAs or other administrative support
  • finding room conditions that hinder rather than facilitate teaching
  • receiving a teaching assignment right before classes begin
  • teaching a class that is not in the instructor’s area of expertise
  • being spread too thin with other responsibilities (committee service, research, etc.)
  • health / family / personal problems

Teaching well requires a substantial time commitment. When major factors inhibit instructors from spending substantive time on teaching preparation and execution, it is very difficult for them to receive strong evaluations from students or their peers.

Adapted from materials created by the Center for Teaching Effectiveness, University of Texas at Austin