From the Director
Think, Pair, Share. It’s a simple approach to engaging students in class discussions. Instead of asking a question of your class and waiting for a few students to respond, ask students to think about the question silently for thirty seconds, then pair up and discuss their responses for a minute or two. When you ask students to share their perspectives with the entire class, you’ll likely hear from more students sharing more thoughtful responses. A simple approach, but one that’s informed by what we know about how students learn.
It’s also an approach I find myself frequently sharing with instructors, from graduate students taking on teaching assistant duties for the first time to senior faculty members interested in motivating more of their students to speak up during class. Designing learning experiences for students, engaging students in learning both in and out of the classroom—these are skills that we continue to develop and refine throughout our teaching careers.
There’s a line in the CFT’s mission about helping instructors explore “new teaching practices.” All teaching practices are “new” when we first learn about them, of course. One of the highlights of my job is seeing instructors of all experience levels foster deeper learning through teaching practices that are new to them.
Educational technology often feels very new to instructors, both exciting and challenging at the same time. That’s why I’m happy to launch new CFT initiatives aimed at helping instructors use technology to meet their teaching and learning objectives. We now provide support for instructors across campus using Blackboard, Vanderbilt’s course management system. More information on this can be found on the renovated Blackboard website. Additionally, we are starting three new working groups for faculty, staff, and students interested in exploring particular educational technologies. See below for information on these groups.
New teaching practices aren’t limited to those that require power and Internet connections. We’re continuing the conversations from last year’s “Teaching, Difference, and Power” theme through a learning community focused on teaching, gender, and sexuality. See below for information on this group, as well as another new learning community on the topic of community engagement pedagogies. And we’re excited to welcome not one, but two cohorts of Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows, thanks to support from the School of Nursing.
We’re able to provide these programs and services to the campus thanks to our incredible staff, a staff that has gotten a bit larger in recent months! Please join me in welcoming Stacey Johnson, Assistant Director for Educational Technology, and Lee Scarborough and Rebecca Panter, Instructional Technologists. Stacey, Lee, and Rebecca are leading our new Blackboard support, as well as assisting with other educational technology initiatives. Also new to the CFT staff are Assistant Director Vivian Finch, who heads up our graduate student offerings, and postdoctoral fellows Lauren Campbell and Noah Green, who support the open, online courses on STEM teaching we offer in conjunction with the CIRTL Network. And see below for our 2015-16 Graduate Teaching Fellows!
Director, Center for Teaching