Goals of the Center
Based on the understanding that teaching is always a work in progress and always improvable, the Sherrerd Center strives to:
- Create opportunities for faculty to engage in a continuous discourse about student learning
- Support new faculty as they develop into excellent teachers
- Disseminate knowledge of the craft of teaching to support ongoing faculty professional development
- Provide opportunities for faculty to learn from one another by sharing innovative teaching practices and strategies for improving student learning
- Build synergy between faculty development efforts and student academic support services (e.g. Jacobson Center, Educational Technology Services, Spinelli Center, Disability Services, Libraries, etc.)
- 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
- Enhance Smith’s efforts towards creating a culture of purposeful inquiry among students
- Ensure that consideration of teaching and learning inform campus decision making
- Improve measures of teaching performance so that they provide information useful to the teachers themselves and can serve as reasonable indicators of teaching performance for the purposes of re-appointment, tenure, and promotion
- Support the scholarship of teaching and learning among faculty from diverse disciplines
Sherrerd Center's Theme for 2020-2021: Connectivity
This academic year at Smith is one unlike any other. The vast majority of our students are away from campus, learning in remote environments, both across the US and across the world. When COVID-19 shut down our campus in the Spring of 2020, many of us thought this would be a brief break from daily life and all would return to normal soon, but instead, this has become a sustained experience for our community. During the 20-21 academic year, we plan to use connectivity as our guiding principle in our Sherrerd Center programming. With trauma from the global pandemic, the continuation of brutal racial injustices in the US, and a contentious US election cycle all coalescing, it is arguably more important than ever to feel connected to our community – and yet, it has never been harder. In the work that we do at the Sherrerd Center for teaching and learning, we hope to center anti-racism, teaching in and amidst trauma, and the best inclusive practices in the remote classroom so that we can remain connected: to our core mission, and to each other in the Smith community.
While solitude has its purposes and charms, many activities like teaching and learning benefit from partnership. Just as we at the Sherrerd Center believe that there are many different ways to teach well and that all teaching is improvable, we understand that there are a variety of different kinds of partnership (student-faculty, peer instructor, institutional, community, etc.) and all partnerships are improvable. During the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years, we plan to use partnership as a lens through which to make decisions regarding roughly half of our Teaching Arts Luncheon programming.
Such programs might privilege pursuing such questions as:
- What conditions make for the most fruitful partnerships?
- What have we learned from the student-faculty pedagogical partnership program?
- What other kinds of student-faculty partnership ought the College support, develop, and sustain
- Can all students be partners in teaching and learning?
- How can we enable collaborative learning in and out of the classroom?
- In what ways can partnerships between the curricular and co-curricular be enhanced?
- What barriers exist and how might we lower them for colleagues to engage in collaborative teaching?
- How can we better support staff partnerships with students and faculty?
- What would greater collaboration between different units of the campus enable?
In Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching, Alison Cook-Sather et al. argue that good partnerships require respect, reciprocity, and shared responsibility. We resolve to work together to ensure that our partnerships at Smith College follow these principles.
In 2015, the members of the advisory board of the Sherrerd Center decided to be more intentional than usual regarding our programming for 2016–18. 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 2016–18, 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: