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Goals of the Center

Goals of the center
 

Based on the understanding that teaching is always a work in progress and always improvable, the Sherrerd Center strives to:

  • Encourage continuous discourse among faculty about learning, addressing such questions as: What do we know about how people learn? What are our learning goals for our students? How should students be engaged in order to take ownership of their learning?
  • Support new faculty as they develop into excellent teachers
  • Support ongoing professional development for faculty
  • Encourage faculty to share innovative teaching practices and strategies
  • Build synergy between faculty development efforts and student academic support services (e.g., Jacobson Center, educational technology services, quantitative learning center, disability services and libraries)
  • Enable the academic success of students from diverse backgrounds by promoting best practices for inclusive teaching, investigating achievement gaps in student learning and supporting strategies for overcoming such gaps
  • Create a culture of purposeful inquiry among students
  • Ensure that consideration of teaching and learning inform campus decision making
  • Improve measures of teaching performance so they are useful to teachers and can serve as reasonable indicators for determining reappointment, tenure and promotion
  • Support the scholarship of teaching and learning among faculty from diverse disciplines

In 2015, the members of the advisory board of the Sherrerd Center decided to be more intentional than usual regarding our programming for 2016–17. We surveyed attendees at Teaching Arts Luncheons, talked with other members of the Smith community and conducted an online survey to collect suggestions for future topics. Ultimately, we decided to focus on creating inclusive learning environments after receiving a large number of requests for programming on that topic. Hence, we have selected Teaching Arts Luncheon topics and invited guest speakers like Kelly Mack and Beverly Daniel Tatum to promote this aim. From the start, however, we understood that the word “inclusive” was in danger of becoming meaningless, so we have been drafting and revising the following statement in the attempt to clarify our intent. We welcome suggestions for revision.

During 2016–17, the Sherrerd Center will focus on enhancing our abilities to create and sustain effective and inclusive learning environments, regardless of whether course content areas directly engage with controversial topics. An inclusive learning community—as opposed to simply a diverse one—is one in which everyone's voice is equally encouraged and welcomed. But this kind of community is what inclusion is all about. There are no formulae for achieving this. Hence, we will pay special attention to fostering conversations, workshops and other programming about how to create inclusive learning communities.

What can professors convey through their course planning, choice of materials, classroom practice and assessment to make deep learning accessible to all students? What must professors themselves need to learn so that they can best teach an ever more diverse student body? How can innovative pedagogies promote communities of reflective and creative learners capable of working, playing and solving the world’s problems together?

We do this work in the context of global and local challenges—some tragic and some mundane—that both threaten inclusiveness and make the creation of inclusive learning environments increasingly important. Some of these challenges seize the attention of the world, while others are felt privately. Instead of simply reacting to each challenge, our programs and collaborations seek to increase our communal preparedness, our individual empathy and our institutional commitment to inclusive teaching.

As teachers, we cannot control all aspects of the learning environment. Sometimes local, national, and international events send shock waves through our communities that most of us cannot ignore and that all of us—students, faculty and staff—experience in different ways. Although we can never predict how to respond in such moments, here are a handful of resources that might help with framing conversations both in and outside of the classroom.

Please see this selected list of resources:

PDF iconTeaching in Tumultuous Times (PDF)