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. We provide both financial and logistical support for Teaching Circles.
The following are Teaching Circles that are continuing or currently forming for spring 2013. 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 Kevin Shea (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss it further.
Teaching Food and Sustainability
Drew Guswa (Engineering, Center for the Environment)
As an interdisciplinary field about a familiar life necessity, teaching about food and food systems can open creative ways of learning about the social sciences, the sciences and the humanities. This teaching circle will allow participants to explore the challenges and possibilities of drawing on unfamiliar fields connected to food issues to enrich their courses or to develop a new course.
The teaching circle will meet 2-3 times per semester over dinner to workshop a range of topics, including questions we're facing in our classrooms, ways our courses can cover cross-disciplinary materials with rigor and care, and developing discrete projects in our courses that illuminate course readings. The circle is open to anyone who has an interest in joining, whether you are teaching about food in your classes, want to develop a food-related component to an existing course, or want to create a new course.
Patty DiBartolo (Psychology)
Measuring student learning is a daunting task. What are the possible concerns and opportunities emerging from a department's attempts to capture student knowledge within its discipline? This Teaching Circle includes faculty from the departments of Education and Psychology as well as staff from Institutional Research who are working to develop a tool assessing disciplinary knowledge, especially related to research methods, within Psychology student majors. The pilot tool we created, and are continuing to hone, is an open-ended assessment that measures transfer and application of disciplinary knowledge aligned with our collective learning goals. At our meetings, we discuss the complexities and promising directions of our work as we attempt to address the essential question of how best to measure what our students know.
Gary Felder (Physics)
Over the next two years Smith physics will be doing away with separate labs and lectures in introductory physics, moving to an integrated model where students go back and forth between doing experiments, discussing the results, and solving problems. We will discuss our plans for making this transition and the open questions we are still working on in that process.
Practice, Progress, Performance
Judith Gordon (Music)
This Teaching Circle will focus on how the Performing Arts are being and may best be taught in a Liberal Arts environment. It will include discussion of shared preoccupations in teaching what is both ineffable and attainable. It will explore how we transform what many students have done 'for fun' into a serious and nourishing part of their curriculum.
Multi-Disciplinary Discussions to Develop Inquiry Based Introductory Science Courses
HHMI has funded Smith to develop three new inquiry-based introductory science courses. These courses are designed as an experiment to test a model that uses participation in authentic research to engage students in the sciences. All three courses are multidisciplinary. This teaching circle continues a Smith science community conversation about: the challenge of balancing knowledge acquisition with understanding process and the design of inquiry; ways to alter assessment to reflect the different skill set; ways to involve faculty from multiple departments and re-distribute teaching responsibilities; and the potential for integrating these courses with the existing curriculum and major requirements (e.g., in Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Physics, Mathematics).
L. David Smith