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Teaching Arts Lunches

Professor Suleiman Mourad teaching a class

Please join us on the following Fridays for discussions focused on teaching and learning at Smith. Unless otherwise indicated, we will meet in the Carroll Room (Campus Center) from noon until 1 p.m., with lunch provided (meat, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free/grain-free options). The primary aim of these lunches is to provide an opportunity for faculty and staff to learn from one another as they share their practices and experiences as teachers. We generally host 10 lunches per semester and have a diverse array of participants, including the occasional guest. Students from the SGA Curriculum Committee or other groups lead at least one Teaching Arts Luncheon each year.

Spring 2019

Friday, January 25, 2019 - Distilling your message: hands-on communication practices from the Alda Center
James Lowenthal (Astronomy)
Joanne Benkley (CEEDS)

Most academics are trained to communicate with other specialists in their field, but not necessarily with the public, the media, or even with their students and colleagues in other fields.  The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science uses theater improvisation and interactive exercises to build communication skills crucial for all academics wishing to share their passion with a broader audience.  In May 2018, fifteen Smith faculty members took a two-day intensive workshop in communication led by Alda Center staff. At this Teaching Arts lunch, we will offer a taste of the Alda Center curriculum and its well-proven tools and techniques.  Not for scientists only — all are welcome.

Friday, February 1, 2019 - Teaching Circles - CC 103/104

Friday, February 8, 2019 - Teaching to Empower
Carrie Baker (Study of Women & Gender)

As a women and gender studies professor, I teach about a range of issues that can be difficult for students to encounter, such as sexual harassment, domestic violence, sex trafficking, shackling of incarcerated women during childbirth, and more. I have struggled with the issue of how to teach about social injustice without leaving my students depressed and discouraged. In this talk, I will share with you the strategies I have developed to balance teaching about social injustice with giving students hope—and concrete tools—to fight for social justice.

Friday, February 15, 2019 - Conversation about Grading
Randall Bartlett (Economics)
Daphne Lamothe (Africana Studies)
Kristen Dorsey (Engineering)

How can we as teachers grade in ways that both support student learning and uphold rigorous standards? What is the relationship between formative assessment (feedback without grades) and summative assessment (feedback with grades)? Colleagues from three different divisions will share how they grade and why.

Friday, February 22, 2019 - Follow-up discussion about grading
Discussion facilitated by Floyd Cheung (Sherrerd Center Director)

Our colleagues--Randy Bartlett, Daphne Lamothe, and Kristen Dorsey--will return this week to join a broader conversation with all attendees about how to grade in ways that support student learning and uphold rigorous standards. Tell us your practices, ask your questions, and share your half-formed thoughts.

Friday, March 1, 2019 - What I Wish My Smith Professors Knew*
Maddie Wettach (‘20, SGA Curriculum Committee Chair)
Members of SGA Curriculum Committee

A review of the results of an open-ended survey where Smithies were asked that one simple question.  We hope that Smithies' thoughtful, sometimes challenging answers will promote as much discussion as they did last year.

*Please meet in Campus Center 103/104.

Friday, March 8, 2019 - Utilizing a Wholeness Framework in Advising & the Classroom
Kristina Mereigh (Director, Wellness Services)

Concerns about how mental and physical health affects academic study is increasingly prevalent in academic journals and higher education discourse. In this workshop we will introduce a new framework for wellness and explore specific classroom tools and methods that validate and affirm the "whole" student and, ultimately, create a healthier learning environment for students. We will discuss how wholeness is a campus-wide effort and highlight the current opportunities that the campus provides for engagement with wholeness and wellness.

Friday, March 22, 2019 - Help, I’m taking physics! - Teaching a subject that many students have been trained to fear.
Will Williams (Physics)

Many STEM courses cause anxiety and stress for our students, and students entering introductory physics often bring negative sentiments with them including the belief that physics is too hard for them.  Coupled with the stress culture at Smith College, introductory physics can be overwhelming for many. In this luncheon, I’m going to lead a discussion about techniques to reduce stress and anxiety in the classroom.  

Friday, March 29, 2019 - Teaching Circles - CC 103/104

Friday, April 5, 2019 - Varieties of Student-Faculty Partnership
Floyd Cheung (Sherrerd Center)
Sara Pruss (Geosciences)
Rhiannon Nolan ('19, Geosciences)
Tina Wildhagen (Sociology)
Dionna Jenkins (‘20, English Language & Literature)

Students and faculty work together on teaching and learning in various ways at Smith. Formal programs like the Student-Faculty Pedagogical Partnership Program pair professors and students to observe and reflect on a course all semester, not for the purpose of evaluation but for affirmation of what is going well and reflection on what might be improved. Other formal student partnerships take place via teaching and learning assistantships, course-based research, etc. Informal partnership might be said to happen any time professors and students work together to create knowledge, art, or a better society. At this teaching arts luncheon, we will hear from student-faculty partners, learn about your partnerships, and have a conversation about how you can get involved if you aren’t already engaging students as partners.

Friday, April 12, 2019 - Discovery Weekend/Open Campus. No TAL.

Friday, April 19, 2019 - Connecting Students of Color with Faculty and Teaching Staff Through Conversation
Kevin Shea (Director of the Science Center)
Valerie Joseph (AEMES Mentoring Program Coordinator)

The goal of this luncheon is to bring together students of color, faculty and teaching staff for conversation about teaching and learning at Smith. We hope to provide a venue for serious, informal, small group discussions around questions like: What don't faculty and staff know about being a student of color at Smith? How does racism work to impede students' progress? and How can faculty and staff help students of color thrive?

Friday, April 26, 2019 - Lessons From Executive Education: Engaging Participants (students) and Applying Learnings
Dina Venezky (Executive Director of Non-Degree Programs)

How can we best engage students to help them become lifelong learners and be able to apply what they are learning to their lives? In this interactive talk, you will have an opportunity to participate in mini executive education sessions and discuss how the techniques we use with executives could be applicable to teaching undergraduates. I will share several of the best practices we used at Stanford Graduate School of Business for in-person and online learning.

Past Teaching Arts Lunches

Below is the list of last semester’s Teaching Arts Lunches. We keep an archive of all Teaching Arts Luncheons and their supporting documents, so please contact us if you are interested in receiving more information about past programming.

September 7, 2018—How to Speak Up, Even When You’re Scared: Strategies to Increase Student Participation in the Classroom
Rachel J. Simmons (Leadership Development Specialist, Wurtele Center for Leadership)

How can we best encourage our students to raise their hands, wrestle with an idea with no “right answer,” or debate a position? In interviews and focus groups conducted on and off campus, I have learned that many students hesitate to speak because they fear being “wrong.” Others identify as introverts. In this session, I will share insights from students and classroom strategies to cultivate participation.

Rachel Simmons' TAL Handout (pdf)

September 14, 2018—The N-Word in the Classroom: Teaching Racist Language without Harm
Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor (History)

The n-word poses a particular problem when invoked insensitively in academic spaces. In this teaching arts lunch, Pryor models her own process teaching racially provocative materials with special attention to how racist language is often a time traveler: nestled in the dusty pages of old books while simultaneously taking up residence in the present-day classroom.

Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor is one of the Sherrerd Center’s Teaching Mentors this year.

September 21, 2018—A Framework for Thinking about Teaching & Learning
Al Rudnitsky (Education & Child Study)

“And here is a simple truth about teaching... Teaching is a system. It is not a loose mixture of individual features thrown together by the teacher. It works more like a machine, with the parts operating together and reinforcing one another, driving the vehicle forward.  This is a very different way to think about teaching. It means that individual features, by themselves, are not good or bad. Their value depends on how they connect to others and fit into the lesson.” Stigler, James & Hiebert, James. (1999). The teaching gap: Best ideas from the world’s teachers for improving education in the classroom. New York, NY: The Free Press.

This Teaching Arts Lunch talk takes a learning science look at this system.

Al Rudnitsky is one of the Sherrerd Center’s Teaching Mentors this year.

Al Rudnitsky's Powerpoint (pdf)

September 28, 2018Teaching Circles Friday—Please meet in Campus Center 205.

October 5, 2018—Supporting the Mental Health Needs of Smith Students: Research and Practice Findings of the Counseling Service
Pamela McCarthy (Director of the Schacht Center for Health and Wellness)
Kris Evans (Associate Director, Smith College Counseling Service)

The Schacht Center leadership will share some of the Smith-specific data we have on mental health on campus including presenting concerns, utilization rates, and demographics. We will then provide a brief overview of the types of services we provide and offer suggestions of when and how to seek support for students in mental health crises. We will highlight a few resources that are newly available this fall. 

October 12, 2018—Writing-Enriched Curricula @ Smith?
Pamela Flash (Director, Writing Across the Curriculum, University of Minnesota)

Where do students learn to write in their majors? How can departmental faculty possibly agree on what discipline-relevant writing even looks like, never mind who should be teaching what in which courses?  In this brief presentation, these questions will be addressed with an overview of the Writing-Enriched Curriculum (WEC), a model developed at the University of Minnesota and currently implemented on university and college campuses across the country. WEC offers a dynamic, faculty-driven, and collaborative method for supporting the intentional incorporation of relevant writing and writing instruction into undergraduate curricula. Assessment data indicate shifts in the ways that students and faculty conceive of writing and writing instruction, and increases in the frequency with which student writing meets faculty expectations. At the end of the presentation, attendees will consider whether and how this model might be implemented at Smith.

Pamela Flash's Powerpoint (pdf)

October 19, 2018—Team and Active Learning Activities from the Arts to the Sciences
Justin T. Fermann (Chemistry Lecturer, University of Massachusetts)
Lena Fletcher (Natural Resources Conservation Program Manager, Chief Advisor, and Lecturer, University of Massachusetts)
Jason Hooper (Senior Lecturer, Music Theory, University of Massachusetts)

This luncheon will involve a panel of three UMass faculty members, a chemist, a musician, and an ecologist discussing and modelling their varied use of active and creative pedagogies in their classes. This will be an interactive session, the panel will model examples as applied across their disciplines.

October 26, 2018—Discussion of Possible Database of Student Feedback on Courses*
Floyd Cheung (Sherrerd Center; Design and Implementation Committee)
Susannah Howe (Engineering; Design and Implementation Committee)
Ru Madziwo (’19; Student Representative on Design Committee)
Cate Rowen (Institutional Research; Design and Implementation Committee)

The Ad Hoc Committee to Review Course Evaluation recommended that our new course feedback questionnaire include a question whose answers could be shared with other students for the purpose of making course selections and learning how to make the most of a particular course. The Provost and SGA Curriculum Committee endorsed this idea, and so we have piloted asking the following questions: "What would you like to say about this course to a student who is considering taking it in the future? What strategies would you recommend to future students to make the most out of this class?" We call this pair of questions Q7.  Many of you have seen your students' responses to Q7 following the spring 2018 pilot of the new questionnaire. We have not created a secure database for sharing Q7 responses yet but are currently considering potential ways to do so. This Teaching Arts Luncheon, which will be led by members of the Ad Hoc Committee, will give an update on policy and design considerations and invite your questions and feedback regarding the possible creation of this database.

*Please meet in the Paradise Room, Conference Center this week.

November 2, 2018—Teaching Circles Friday—Please meet in Campus Center 103/104.

November 9, 2018—Conversation about Trigger Warnings
María Helena Rueda (Spanish & Portuguese)
Floyd Cheung (English & American Studies; Sherrerd Center)

Debates continue about whether instructors ought to use trigger or content warnings in their teaching. Do they help or impede student learning? How are instructors to predict what might be triggering? Are there implications for academic freedom? What are current students' expectations regarding such warnings? Colleagues disagree about answers to these questions. For instance, Sarah Orem (American Studies) makes her case for using trigger warnings in this essay, while Ellen Kaplan (Theatre) speaks against them in this video. Come share your own experiences with and thinking about this topic.

Trigger Warnings Discussion Notes (pdf)

Awareness & Self-Care Handout example from Arden Pierce (pdf)

November 16, 2018—Getting Messy with Plants: Partnering with the Botanic Garden in Inclusive Liberal Arts Teaching
Nancy Bradbury(English Language & Literature)
Randi Garcia(Psychology, Statistical & Data Sciences)

Come learn how teaching partnerships with the Botanic Garden can help you create wonderfully messy classroom experiences. In this talk we will share two such courses that span the Smith curriculum, Eden and Other Gardens (FYS) and Research Design and Analysis (SDS). Incorporating a living campus facility fosters a material connection in the classroom — think dirty hands, growing plants, and aroma therapy! — which may offer an alternative point of entry for learners unaccustomed to the level of abstraction in many college courses. Real, messy problems requiring an all hands on deck approach invite all students to see that their life skills and experiences are valuable.

November 30, 2018—Teaching Circles Friday – Please meet in Campus Center 103/104

December 7, 2018—Student Residences as Sites of Teaching and Learning: How we (faculty and staff) can partner to enhance the student’s experience
Stacey Steinbach (Residence Life, Area Coordinator)
Mariana Estrella Rivera (Residence Life, Area Coordinator)

As a residential college an emphasis is placed on the student’s lived experiences. In this session we will discuss the ways in which students engage with Residence Life’s and the College’s Core Values as well and how that translates to their work in the classroom. We will also share ways in which we can be partners with each other to ensure a well rounded academic experience.