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Teaching Circles

Every semester, the Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning sponsors a variety of Teaching Circles where faculty come together to discuss a teaching topic of shared interest. These have proven especially useful for many faculty over the past several years, and we encourage faculty to consider leading or participating in a Teaching Circle this semester. The Sherrerd Center arranges for Teaching Circles to meet on three specific Fridays from noon until 1:00 in Neilson Browsing Room with lunch provided. See below for this semester's dates and specifics.

The following are Teaching Circles that are continuing or forming for the current semester. If you are interested in joining one of these groups, please contact the faculty organizer noted below. If you have ideas for other Teaching Circle topics, please contact Floyd Cheung to discuss it further.


See below or contact the Teaching Circle organizer for details on meeting dates.

Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching- will meet on February 26, March 25, April 15
Floyd Cheung (English Language & Literature, American Studies)

Building on ideas from Alison Cook-Sather’s book Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching: A Guide for Faculty, this circle convenes staff and faculty members interested in talking more about their own attempts at engaging or possible plans to engage students as partners. How can partnership increase student engagement and learning? How can partnership improve our teaching? What principles ought we to follow to assure respect, reciprocity, and responsibility? How can we make sure that our efforts reach the widest possible range of students?

Creating Student-Centered Learning Opportunities in Foreign Language Classrooms - will meet on February 26 and March 25
Atsuko Takahashi (East Asian Languages & Literature)

In this Teaching Circle, foreign language educators are invited to gather to discuss the latest trends in language teaching and issues in language classes, and to share ideas about curricula. This semester, we would like to focus on discussing how to create student-centered learning opportunities.


Contemplative Pedagogy - will meet on February 26, March 25, and April 22
Ruth Ozeki (English Language and Literature)

This teaching circle is for teachers interested in incorporating mindfulness practices in their classrooms. We’ve all heard about the beneficial effects of mindfulness meditation on mental and physical health, which include stress reduction, improved focus and concentration, and increased emotional stability and self-confidence. These are desirable states of well-being for student and teacher, alike, but understanding is one thing, and implementation is another. How do we bring mindfulness into the classroom? What kinds of practices are there, and how do we offer them to students in an open, respectful and non-coercive way? In this teaching circle, we’ll look at these questions, practice a little meditation, exchange ideas and techniques, and support each other in this inquiry into what a mindfulness-based contemplative pedagogy might be.

*Ruth Ozeki's teaching circle will meet in Seelye Hall, Room B8. Please stop by the Neilson Browsing room to pick up your lunch and then proceed to the Basement of Seelye Hall to participate in this Teaching Circle. Thank you!

Building Capacity for Fostering Student Learning and Persistence in the Sciences -will meet on February 26, March 25, April 15
Patty DiBartolo (Psychology)

How can we catalyze change in order to build long-standing institutional capacity for excellence in terms of student outcomes and persistence in the sciences? This is the critical question posed by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) for its next round of grant competition. This Teaching Circle will be used as a mechanism to provide input and feedback on the emerging ideas about how to foster excellence for all as we work together to write the HHMI grant and plan for the future.

*Patty DiBartolo's teaching circle will meet in the Neilson Browsing Room on April 15th.


Other Teaching Circles Meeting on Smith Campus:


Conversation about Instructing Laboratory Classes - will meet on April 13th in Ford 246 from 11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Marney Pratt (Biological Sciences)

This teaching circle is an opportunity for lab instructors (and anyone else who teaches lab courses) to get together and talk across disciplines about teaching lab courses. We will talk about what works and what we would like to improve. Some possible topics to cover include: research-based lab instruction, teaching students how to write lab reports, using peer-review, teaching data analysis and graphing, presentation assignments, methods of grading, making links across disciplines, documentation in lab notebooks, etc.


Teaching English Language and Literature -will meet on its own schedule
Ambreen Hai (English Language and Literature)

The Department of English Language and Literature's mission states that it "aims to teach all the students it serves, both majors and non-majors, to write and speak well and to read skillfully, thoughtfully and with pleasure." This circle will discuss what pedagogies can best achieve this mission.


Teaching Exercise and Sport Studies - will meet on its own schedule
James Johnson(Exercise and Sport Studies)


Feminist Science and Technology Studies- will meet on April 15
Lisa Armstong (Study of Women & Gender)

This teaching circle will combine professors from the humanities, social sciences and sciences to discuss course units, readings and themes that address gender studies research in and about the sciences. We will work together to discuss on ongoing classes as well as course development projects.


Teaching with Art -
Maggie Lind (Smith College Art Museum)

How can we use art objects as the basis for deep critical inquiry and expansive student-driven discussion? For students who are constantly bombarded with visual media in their daily lives, how can we slow down their looking to unpack works of art as resources for research and learning? In this Teaching Circle, we'll come together at the Smith College Museum of Art to spend some time looking at art, discussing pedagogical strategies that can be relevant across disciplines, and brainstorming ideas for curricular connections. We'll meet at Neilson Browsing Room, but pack up our lunches to bring them over to the Museum.