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Teaching Circles

Teaching Circles

Every semester, the Sherrerd Center sponsors a variety of Teaching Circles in which faculty and teaching staff come together to discuss a teaching topic of shared interest. These have proven especially useful for many faculty and staff over the past several years, and we encourage faculty and staff members to consider leading or participating in a Teaching Circle this semester. The Sherrerd Center arranges for Teaching Circles to meet on two or three specific Fridays from noon until 1 p.m., with lunch provided.

Current Teaching Circles

Spring 2019

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 its organizer. If you have ideas for other topics, please contact Floyd Cheung.

Teaching Circle Friday Meetings

  • Friday, February 1, 2019, 12:00 - 1:00 pm, Campus Center 103/104
  • Friday, March 29, 2019, 12:00 - 1:00 pm, Campus Center 103/104

Please contact the Teaching Circle organizer for details.

Teaching Circle on Teaching in Seelye 301 and other Flat-Floor Classrooms
Shannon Audley (Education & Child Study)

Last year a new classroom with a flexible floor plan, movable furniture, and multiple projectors came online: Seelye 301. This circle convenes those who teach in that room and those who are considering teaching in flat-floor flexible classrooms in general. We will exchange ideas about what pedagogies that room makes feasible, including Team-Based Learning and other similar "active" pedagogies, and draw upon insights from the learning sciences to improve our classroom practices. 

Women Faculty and the Affective Labor of Teaching in 2019*
Darcy Buerkle (History)

This will be an occasion for women faculty to share experiences, concerns, insights about the gender-specificity of emotional labor in our classrooms, with particular interest in the impact that the contemporary political climate has had and continues to have on our teaching. Women faculty only.

*Meeting on February 1, 2019 from 12:00 - 1:00 pm in Campus Center 003 (pick up lunch in Campus Center 103/104).

Creating Sustainable Course-Based Research Opportunities 
Kevin Shea (Chemistry, Director of the Science Center)

One of the strategic themes of the college's draft strategic plan focuses on fostering experiential and applied opportunities for students to connect their academic interests to the broader world, for example through expanded research opportunities. This teaching circle will build on momentum in the sciences to create successful and sustainable models for course-based research experiences, with particular attention to courses at the introductory or intermediate level of the curriculum. Through these conversations, we hope to collaborate on all of the questions we have when we set out to integrate scholarship into our classrooms. Colleagues from all divisions at the college are welcome!

Imagining New Partnerships Within and Beyond the Arts & Humanities 
Alexandra Keller (Film and Media Studies)
Hélène Visentin (French Studies)

In spite of much evidence supporting the Arts and Humanities as vital sites for the kind of education that not only enriches students' intellectual and creative lives, but also prepares them well for careers after college, these fields are not always perceived that way by the public or prospective students and their families.  Last spring, a working group formed to engage in Humanities and Arts Strategic Planning (HASP).  After spending some time identifying the strengths and challenges of the Arts & Humanities at Smith in both an institutional and a broader higher education context, this group continues its work this year, and we welcome a broad range of perspectives, rich discussion, and plenty of input on the following questions:  How can we shape a thriving future for the Arts & Humanities in which students, faculty, and staff in Division I (and IV) partner more extensively with each other, and other divisions, in more intentional and creative ways? How can we better collaborate on new kinds of courses that cross divisions? With an open curriculum, how can we encourage students to move among divisions in a meaningful way? Which kind of experiential and applied opportunities for students in the arts and the humanities can we imagine?

Teaching Circle for Prospective and Experienced Pedagogical Partners* See note below
Al Rudnitsky (Education & Child Study; Sherrerd Teaching Mentor)

The Smith College Student-Faculty Pedagogical Partnership Program is now in its third year. This program pairs faculty members who choose to reflect on their teaching with paid student consultants who can share their perspective and serve as a non-evaluative interlocutor throughout the semester. So far, we have supported 34 partnerships from all divisions and ranks. This circle will give past and present faculty partners a chance to talk about their experience with one another. If you are interested in learning about the program, you are also invited to join the conversation. 
* This Teaching Circle will not meet on March 29th. Instead it will meet on Friday, April 12th from 12:00 - 1:00 pm in the Conference Center. Please RSVP using this form so we can order enough lunch.

Other Teaching Circles Meeting on Smith Campus

Collaborative Assessment Conferences
Roberta Murphy (Campus School teacher)
Jan Szymaszek (Campus School teacher)
Lara Ramsey (Director of Teaching and Learning at Hilltown Community Charter School)

To participate in a Collaborative Assessment Conference centered on a single piece of student work is to tune oneself to the complexity of assessment, teaching, and learning. This teaching circle is an opportunity for educators to learn a useful assessment protocol and practice skills of observation (noticing what is there, rather than what isn’t there), deferring judgment (what are the values present in the piece, rather than what is the value of the piece), and responsive teaching (what surprises me about this work, and to what end?). It is also an opportunity to experience how a diverse collection of perspectives, brought together by design, can hone and deepen individual insights (in this case, about learning and teaching).

Creative Writing Salon 
Andrea Stone (English Language & Literature)
Gillian Kendall (English Language & Literature)
Ruth Ozeki (English Language & Literature) on leave Spring 2019

The Creative Writing Salon is an occasion for faculty and staff who are teaching and practicing creative writing to meet informally to discuss the things that interest and concern us—pedagogy, craft, and our own writing projects—and to share work as well. The Salon is for anyone who has some kind of creative writing practice and engages in some way with creative writing pedagogy.

The Salon is hosted by the English Department's Creative Writing Committee and the Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning. We meet twice a semester for wine and cheese, and in the interim to use a Moodle site to stay connected. 

  • February 21, 2019 at 5:00 pm in the Poetry Center
  • March 28, 2019 at 5:00 pm in the Poetry Center
  • April 29, 2019 at 5:45 pm in the Poetry Center

Conversation About Instructing Laboratory Classes 
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.

  • Monday, January 28, 2019, 12:00 - 1:00 pm
  • Tuesday, May 7, 2019, 12:00 - 1:15 pm

Collaborators Inside and Outside the Classroom
Charlene Shang Miller (Museum of Art)
Jon Caris (Spatial Analysis Lab)

This Teaching Circle brings together staff from a variety of campus resources (libraries, museums, labs, centers, etc.) who are collaborators in teaching and learning inside and outside the classroom. In our meetings, we will discover our various sites, share pedagogy and approaches to integrating resources into the curriculum, build community through networking, and generate ideas for collaborations with faculty and students as well as each other.

1) Friday, February 8, 2019, 4:00 - 5:00 pm: Special Collections, Young Library, Bass Hall, Room 201

2) Tuesday, March 19, 2019, 12:00 - 1:00 pm (lunch included): Costume Shop, Mendenhall, Room T12 

3) Thursday, April 4, 2019, 12:00 - 1:00 pm (lunch included): Imaging Center, Hillyer 3rd floor

RSVP here

To be added to the group contact list for this Teaching Circle, please email Charlene Shang Miller.

Constructing Critical Conversations in your Classroom: Creating Change 
Peggy O’Neill (Assistant Professor, School for Social Work)

The Critical Conversations (CC) model provides a framework for facilitating conversations to directly and constructively engage immediate discussions of power and privilege, oppression, and structural inequalities active in the classroom. Although such issues often activate emotional tension and conflict in classrooms, they can produce fruitful dialogue that fosters critical analysis when facilitated effectively. The CC model, grounded in dialogic learning principles provides a pathway for faculty and students to deconstruct how power dynamics that perpetuate inequities across relationships and structures are enacted within their immediate conversation and explore the inherent relationship to the content of the course.

Critical conversations are those in which power dynamics in social context are illuminated, substantively examined in the moment and subsequently reflected upon in order to produce change—personal, systemic, institutional.

This Teaching Circle is open to those faculty who attended the Critical Conversations Professional Development Series in January as well as to other faculty who are curious and interested in enhancing their skills in participating in and facilitating critical conversations in their classrooms. 

We will have opportunity to discuss ways in which to use the CC model when challenging issues related to power, privilege, oppression and structural inequities emerge and are played out among students and instructors.  Discussion will be open and applied to common situations many of us can connect with.

  • Tuesday, February 26, 2019, 12:00 - 1:15 pm, Seelye Hall B8
  • Friday, March 29, 2019, 12:00 - 1:15 pm, Seelye Hall B8
  • Friday, April 12, 2019 12:00 - 1:15 pm, Seelye Hall B8

Please RSVP by emailing so we can adjust the lunch order. 

Teaching Circle for Students Who Teach
Tiv Hay-Rubin ('21, History) 
Juliet Cheng ('19, Biochemistry) 

This teaching circle is for students who have a pedagogical question or identity in common that they want to explore together. The group includes Learning Assistants, Teaching Assistants, Tutors, Museum Educators etc. It is open to any student who self-identifies as a student who teaches others. 

We will start with a discussion of The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion and focus on the theme of emotion in teaching. The Sherrerd Center will purchase copies of the book for all teaching circle members. Other themes for future discussions will include reassurance, community, authority, and boundaries. 
Please contact one of the circle conveners, Tiv Hay-Rubin or Juliet Cheng, to be added to the list of interested students for the spring. We will email you when we schedule the next meeting.  Contact to request a copy of the book.