In order to foster and sustain a culture that practices, values, and rewards university teaching and learning as vital forms of scholarship, the Center takes as its mission to:
- Promote deep understanding of teaching and learning processes by helping both individuals and groups of instructors to gather, analyze, and reflect on information about their own teaching and their students’ learning.
- Cultivate dialogue about teaching and learning through orientations, workshops, working groups, and other programs.
- Create and disseminate research-based best practices, models, and approaches to university teaching and learning — and facilitate access to resources that support them.
The Center was founded in 1986 to advance teaching excellence in the College of Arts and Science, and expanded in 1997 to serve the entire university. The Center’s programs and services are thus available to any member of the university’s teaching community, including full-time and part-time faculty, teaching assistants, post-doctoral fellows, and anyone else involved in the instructional process at Vanderbilt.
Through conducting confidential individual consultations, facilitating faculty and graduate student working groups, offering practical and theoretical workshops on teaching and learning, and providing other programs and services, the Center supports all aspects of the educational process. The Center’s staff includes a director, assistant directors, a program coordinator, administrative support staff, graduate student teaching fellows, and undergraduate students.
All of the senior staff members have earned Ph.D.’s and continue to teach at Vanderbilt in their respective fields. Recognizing that teaching, like research, takes many forms in a variety of disciplinary contexts, these senior staff members combine this institutional teaching experience with their knowledge and expertise in the disciplines of the university to serve as liaisons to colleges, schools, and departments across campus. In this capacity, we help individuals, departments, colleges, and schools to learn about and develop best practices for teaching and learning in their disciplines.
The Center for Teaching shares Vanderbilt University’s commitment to excellence in teaching and learning. We honor this commitment by promoting teaching and learning as ongoing and collaborative processes of inquiry, experimentation, and reflection. In this way, we underscore that teaching and learning as intellectual invention differ from research only in kind, not in degree and importance.
For this invention to succeed, departments and schools as well as individual instructors must recognize that teaching well takes time. Like excellent research, it requires experimentation in design, rigor in implementation and assessment, and ongoing reflection on and refinement of methods and goals.
As Pat Hutchings puts it in Making Teaching Community Property: A Menu for Peer Collaboration and Peer Review, “teaching is a matter not simply of method and technique (though these are the aspects of teaching that have received the most attention) but of selecting, organizing, and transforming one’s field so that it can be engaged and understood at a deep level by students. Like scholarly research, our courses are acts of intellectual invention, and our teaching of those courses enacts the ways we think about and pursue our fields of study. Seen in this way, the work of teaching…rightly belongs to and requires the attention of the community of scholars.”
This work can take many shapes and durations, ranging from single conversations to multi-year collaborative projects, and can be tailored to meet specific interests and needs. Because we hold these conversations and conduct collaborations across the University, the Center for Teaching brings together people with shared visions for teaching and learning who might not otherwise recognize the interests they have in common. Through fostering and facilitating these alliances, we support Vanderbilt in practicing, valuing, and rewarding university teaching and learning as vital forms of scholarship.