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gradSTEP recap: “Beyond Four Walls: Transcending the Classroom”

Posted by on Thursday, January 31, 2013 in Events, News.

On Saturday, January 26th, 2013 the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching celebrated its 15th annual Graduate Student Teaching Event for Professional Development (gradSTEP).  This year’s event, co-sponsored by the Graduate Student Council, focused on the theme, “Beyond Four Walls: Transcending the Classroom.” The day’s events dealt extensively with how participants could utilize an array of pedagogies and techniques to enrich the student experience, both inside the classroom and out. Ninety-seven graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from 38 departments within six Vanderbilt Schools (Arts & Science, School of Medicine, Peabody, Divinity, School of Engineering, and School of Nursing) attended the event.

gradSTEP 2013 kicked off with a plenary panel, entitled “Networks of Learning: Online, in the Community, and in Students’ Lives.” The plenary sought to engage the changing nature of the college classroom, in particular, the challenges and opportunities associated with online learning, service learning, and bringing students’ lives into the classroom experience.  The plenary featured presentations by Dr. Nancy Chick (Center for Teaching/English), Dr. Sharon Shields (Human & Organizational Development), and Dr. Barbara Stengel (Teaching and Learning).  The event was moderated by Graduate Teaching Fellow Katie Headrick Taylor, a PhD candidate in Peabody College’s Teaching and Learning program.

After some introductory comments by Ms. Taylor, Dr. Nancy Chick, Assistant Director of the Center for Teaching, started off the panel with a brief presentation on her experiences as an online educator.  Dr. Chick provided tips and strategies for teaching online effectively, while targeting her presentation not only at those participants hoping to teach their own online courses, but also to those participants looking to enrich their traditional face-to-face classes through the integration of online tools and techniques.  Ultimately, Dr. Chick concluded, many of the best and most effective learning environments are blended, in which online activities are not merely supplemental, but engrained into the classroom experience.

Following Dr. Chick’s talk was a presentation by Dr. Sharon Shields, Professor of the Practice & Associate Dean of the Department of Human & Organizational Development.  Dr. Shields presented on her rich experience leading a diverse array of service learning courses at Vanderbilt.  After over twenty years of teaching such courses, Dr. Shields spoke proudly of the value and benefits of service learning, noting especially that it had allowed her to fuse the three areas of faculty life: teaching, scholarship and service. She also emphasized the popularity of this kind of experiential learning among contemporary students.

To conclude the plenary presentations, Dr. Barbara Stengel, Professor of the Practice and Director of Secondary Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning, spoke about how to incorporate diverse student perspectives in and out of the classroom.  Dr. Stengel evoked the importance of bringing students’ lives into the classroom experience to make teaching and learning more relevant and enjoyable for them.  Dr. Stengel concluded her presentation with a question for the teachers in attendance: in the classroom, who is doing the work and who is having the fun?  It is important, Dr. Stengel explained, that it be the students too, and not only the teacher.

Following the panelists’ presentations, Katie Headrick Taylor led a lively question and answer, which involved questions from an array of disciplinary perspectives.  After the exchange, it was time for plenary attendees to go off to their various workshops to continue learning and discussing issues related to theme of the day. Materials from these sessions is available on the gradSTEP page of our website and include handouts, powerpoint presentations, and links to Prezi presentations.

In the end, it was another successful gradSTEP for the Center for Teaching and a diverse group of participants! We give our thanks to all who attended and to all of the panelists and facilitators involved in the day. They include:

  • Sharon Shields, Professor of the Practice & Associate Dean, Dept. of Human & Organizational Development; Associate Dean for Professional Education, Office of the Dean
  • Barb Stengel, Professor of the Practice and Director of Secondary Education, Department of Teaching and Learning, Peabody College
  • Lori Rafter, Senior Lecturer and Assistant Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Mathematics
  • Michelle Sulikowski, Senior Lecturer and Director of Education at the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology, Department of Chemistry
  • Tiffiny Tung, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
  • Todd Hughes, Director of Instructional Technologies, Center for Second Language Studies
  • Zoe Leblanc, HASTAC Scholar, Department of History
  • Killian Quigley, Teaching Affiliate, Department of English
  • John Martin, Teaching Affiliate, Department of Biomechanical Engineering
  • Emily Marshall, Teaching Affiliate, Department of Mathematics
  • Katie Headrick Taylor, CFT Graduate Student Teaching Fellow, Department of Teaching and Learning
  • Beth Koontz, CFT Graduate Student Teaching Fellow, Department of Anthropology
  • Adam Wilsman, CFT Graduate Student Teaching Fellow, Department of History
  • Jessica Riviere, CFT Graduate Student Teaching Fellow, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages
  • Derek Bruff, Director, CFT; Affiliated Faculty, Department of Mathematics
  • Joe Bandy, Assistant Director, CFT; Affiliated Faculty, Department of Sociology
  • Nancy Chick, Assistant Director, CFT; Affiliated Faculty, Department of English
  • Rhett McDaniel, Educational Technologist, CFT





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