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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 members 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 p.m. in the Neilson Browsing Room, with lunch provided.

Current Teaching Circles

Spring 2017

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 Meetings in the Neilson Browsing Room
February 17, 2017
March 10, 2017
Contact the Teaching Circle organizer for details on meeting dates.

Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teachingwill meet on February 17, 2017, in CC 103/104. Will meet on March 10, 2017, in the Neilson Browsing Room.
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 Sustainable Course-Based Research Opportunities—will meet on February 17 and March 10, 2017*
Patty DiBartolo (Psychology)
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!
*This Teaching Circle will meet in the Kahn Colloquium Room on the third floor of the Neilson Library. Please stop by the Neilson Browsing Room to pick up your lunch and then proceed to the third floor of Neilson to participate in this teaching circle. Thank you!

In the Lab: Effective strategies for STEM research experience mentoringwill meet on February 17, 2017
Kristen Dorsey (Engineering)
Research experiences for undergraduate students can be a challenging balancing act. Students and faculty may have different expectations about the research project, nature of the work, or outcomes. This teaching circle is for faculty who work with students outside of the classroom on research projects. We will meet to follow activities from a research mentoring workshop and discuss effective strategies for making sure a research experience is productive and rewarding for both student and faculty member.

Mentoring First-Generation Studentswill meet on February 17 and March 10, 2017
Tina Wildhagen (Sociology)
Research indicates that relationships with faculty are associated with a number of positive outcomes for students, and first-generation college students are less likely to form these relationships. This teaching circle is for faculty who formally and informally mentor first-generation students, and for those who are interested in doing so. We will explore ideas for how to form meaningful and sustained connections with these students, drawing from our own challenges and successes. Faculty working as mentors in the First-Gen Out Loud Program are particularly encouraged to attend.

Contemplative Pedagogy—will meet on February 17 and March 10 , 2017, in Seelye Hall B8
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 B8Please 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!

Design Thinkingwill meet on February 17 and March 10, 2017, in the Neilson Browsing Room
Borjana Mikic (Faculty Director, Design Thinking Initiative)
Zaza Kabayadondo (Co-Director, Design Thinking Initiative)
Design determines our infrastructure, our services, our policies and how we think or talk about our systems in the public sphere, in historical archives and in social media. Design is the process of intentionally making something that does not yet exist, transforming ideas into tangible realities. The Smith brand of design thinking envisions design in service of a broader range of social issues of participation, intervention, and leadership. This Teaching Circle is for any faculty or staff member whose work with students involves design or “making” as a form of thinking. We encourage all 2016–17 recipients of our Curricular Enhancement Grants to attend these sessions in order to establish an ongoing community of practice for those involved in this type of work.

Creating Student-Centered Learning Opportunities in Foreign Language Classroomswill meet on March 10, 2017, in the Neilson Browsing Room
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.

Digital Liberal Arts - will meet on February 17 and March 10, 2017, in the Neilson Browsing Room, and on May 5, 2017, in the Knowledge Lab on the second floor in the Neilson Library
Feb 17—led by Deborah Keisch (Instructional Technologist)
Mar 10—led by Miriam Neptune (Digital Scholarship Librarian)
May 5—led by faculty partner TBD
The Digital Humanities is a concept which has expanded into a discipline at many institutions—incorporating emerging digital technologies as methods of research, as tools for making scholarly work more widely accessible, and/or for creating new ways of knowing, understanding and visualizing data. We propose to broaden the term to “Digital Liberal Arts,” or DLA, to acknowledge that many existing projects extend beyond the traditional “humanities” and are grounded in the social sciences or other fields. DLA provides an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to work as co-researchers, co-creators and co-presenters of scholarship. It also demands that we build a sustainable ecosystem to enable researchers and students to experiment with new technologies and develop teaching strategies which take into account new processes. This Teaching Circle will collect examples of successful digital projects underway at Smith as well as explore models of DLA collaborations and pedagogy at peer institutions.

*We are looking for a faculty partner to co-facilitate this series. The commitment will entail one preliminary planning meeting in early February, attending all three sessions and leading the final session.

Other Teaching Circles Meeting on Smith Campus

Strengthening the Math Preparation of Introductory STEM Students—will meet February 2, February 16, March 2, March 9, March 23, April 6, April 20, and May 4, 2017, from 9:30–10:30 a.m. in CC 103/104
Gary Felder (Physics)
Many students enter Smith with math skills inadequate for introductory courses in STEM disciplines. Often these students start taking calculus with gaps in their algebra and other precalculus skills, and go on to enter courses such as physics or engineering without the preparation they need to succeed in those courses. These problems disproportionately affect minority students, first-generation college students, and any students from academically weak high schools. In order to provide these students with the support they need to thrive in our STEM curricula we need to identify their needs as early as possible and have structured support mechanisms in place for them. The goal of this teaching circle is to bring together the people working on this problem throughout the STEM disciplines to share ideas and coordinate our efforts.

Collaborative Assessment Conferenceswill meet on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, from 4:30–6:30 p.m. and Saturday, April 15, 2017, from 9:30–11:30 a.m., Campus Center Room 205
Roberta Murphy, Jan Szymaszek, Lara Ramsey (Education)
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).

Conversation about Instructing Laboratory Classes—will meet on January 18 and January 25, 2017, from noon–1 p.m., Ford Hall 246
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.
The topic for the Jan 18 meeting is going to be Lab Notebooks. Marney Pratt will present how she uses OneNote Class Notebooks for keeping digital lab notebooks, and others can share how they do lab notebooks (or why they don't if they don't) in their labs.
The topic for the Jan 25 meeting will be Writing Assignments in Science Labs. We will compare and contrast what we are looking for in our students' writing to find out what is common and what is different between disciplines and classes so that we can point this out explicitly to students. Students often complain they are confused because different instructors expect different things. If we instructors are more aware of the differences (and what is truly standard across disciplines), then we can hopefully reduce some confusion.

Student presentations: Support, Evaluation, and Pedagogical Effectivenesswill meet on its own schedule
Jim Johnson (Exercise and Sport Studies)
Instructors of ESS graduate program.

Feminist Science and Technology Studies—will meet on its own schedule
Lisa Armstrong (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.