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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 Carroll Room (Campus Center), with lunch provided.

Current Teaching Circles

Fall 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 Carroll Room, Campus Center
September 22, 2017
November 17, 2017
December 8, 2017
Please contact the Teaching Circle organizer for details.

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!

Design Thinking
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 2017–2018 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.

Feminist Science and Technology Studies
Jennifer DeClue (Study of Women & Gender) & Jordan Crouser (Computer Science)

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 First-Year, Writing-Rich Courses
Rick Millington (English) 
Julio Alves (Jacobson Center)

We have much learn from one another as teachers of first-year, writing-rich courses.  In this Teaching Circle, we will discuss critical pedagogical issues that often come up when we teach these courses:  What does it mean for a student to write well?  What is the relationship between writing and thinking, between reading and writing, between general and discipline-specific competencies?  What pedagogical practices and assignments produce the best writing?  How do we respond effectively to student writing? What role should public discourse play in the teaching of first-year writing?  What should our goals be in initiating students into different kinds of literacy—digital, quantitative, informational, visual, data, media, etc.?  How much should we focus on different genres (fiction, creative nonfiction, journalism, lab reports), digital technologies (Google Docs, digital narratives, podcasts), and purposes for writing (academic, professional, civic) in first-year courses?

The Circle is open to faculty and academic support staff from all divisions who teach first-year, writing-rich courses.

Other Teaching Circles Meeting on Smith Campus

Conversation About Instructing Laboratory Classes - will meet on September 5, 2017 from 12:00  p.m. - 1:00 p.m. in 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.

Strengthening the Math Preparation of Introductory STEM Students—will meet September 12, September 26, October 17 (Campus Center 204 this week), October 31, November 14, November 28, and December 12, 2017, from 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. in Campus Center 102
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 Conferences will meet on Saturday, October 14 in Campus Center 204; and on Saturday, November 18, Saturday, December 8, Wednesday, February 7, Wednesday, March 7, Saturday, April 28 in Campus Center 205 
Roberta Murphy (Campus School teacher), Jan Szymaszek (Campus School teacher) & 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).

Collaborators Inside and Outside the Classroom – will meet on December 15, 2017 from 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. in Campus Center 205
Jon Caris (Spatial Analysis Lab), Zaza Kabayadondo (The Design Thinking Initiative) & Charlene Shang Miller (Museum of Art)

This Teaching Circle brings together staff from a variety of campus resources (libraries, museums, labs, and centers) who are collaborators in teaching and learning inside and outside the classroom. In this initial meeting we will share approaches to integrating resources into the curriculum and generate ideas on forging partnerships with faculty and students.

Digital Liberal Arts - will resume meeting in Spring 2018, details TBD
Miriam Neptune (Digital Scholarship Librarian)

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.