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Teaching Circles

Every semester, the Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning sponsors a variety of Teaching Circles where faculty come together to discuss a teaching topic of shared interest. These have proven especially useful for many faculty over the past several years, and we encourage faculty 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 1:00 in Neilson Browsing Room with lunch provided. See below for this semester's dates and specifics.

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 the faculty organizer noted below. If you have ideas for other Teaching Circle topics, please contact Floyd Cheung to discuss it further.

FALL 2016

Teaching Circle Meetings in the Neilson Browsing Room:
September 23, 2016
October 21, 2016
November 11, 2016

See below or contact the Teaching Circle organizer for details on meeting dates.

Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching- will meet on September 23, 2016
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?


Student presentations: Support, Evaluation, and Pedagogical Effectiveness - will meet on September 23, 2016
Jim Johnson(Exercise and Sport Studies)

Instructors of ESS graduate program.


Creating Sustainable Course-Based Research Opportunities - will meet on September 23, October 21, and November 11, 2016
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!

*Patty DiBartolo's teaching circle will meet in Seelye Hall, Room B8 on September 23rd and in Seelye Hall, Room 207 on October 21st and November 11th. Please stop by the Neilson Browsing room to pick up your lunch and then proceed to Seelye Hall to participate in this Teaching Circle. Thank you!


Mentoring First-Generation Students - will meet on September 23, October 21, and November 11, 2016
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 October 21, 2016 and November 11, 2016
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 B8 on October 21st and November 11th. Please 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 Thinking - will meet on September 23, October 21, and November 11, 2016
Borjana Mikic (Faculty Director, Design Thinking Intitiative)
Zaza Kabayadondo (Co-Director, Design Thinking Intitiative)

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.


Other Teaching Circles Meeting on Smith Campus:


Strengthening the Math Preparation of Introductory STEM Students - will meet on 9/29, 10/13, 10/27, 11/10, 12/1, 12/15 from 9:00-10:00 am 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.


Conversation about Instructing Laboratory Classes - meeting schedule for this semester TBA
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. We will talk about what works and what we would like to improve. Some possible topics to cover include: research-based lab instruction, teaching students how to write lab reports, using peer-review, teaching data analysis and graphing, presentation assignments, methods of grading, making links across disciplines, documentation in lab notebooks, etc.


Teaching English Language and Literature -will meet on its own schedule
Ambreen Hai (English Language and Literature)

The Department of English Language and Literature's mission states that it "aims to teach all the students it serves, both majors and non-majors, to write and speak well and to read skillfully, thoughtfully and with pleasure." This circle will discuss what pedagogies can best achieve this mission.


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.