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Graduate Student Course Design Institute

The CFT invites Vanderbilt grad students and postdocs to apply to its 2020 Course Design Institute on the theme of “Students as Producers.” During the three-day institute in early June, participants will design (or redesign) courses that engage students not only as consumers of information, but producers of knowledge.

The graduate student Course Design Institute will be held June 1-3, 2020. This institute is open to both graduate students and postdocs. If you’re leaving Vanderbilt to take a faculty position next year, the CDI is a great way to launch your new faculty career.

Check for Updates. This Institute may be moved to an Online platform in response to the University’s COVID-19 protocols.

“Students as Producers”

sap2Short videos created to explain computer algorithms. A radio drama exploring the future of gene editing. Proposals for museum acquisitions of African-American art. A water conversation education program aimed at children. A virtual reality simulation of protein-protein interactions. A candle-making device developed through human-centered design for a local nonprofit.

These are just some of the products of student learning created in courses at Vanderbilt using the “Students as Producers” approach to course design. Students in these courses were encouraged to tackle open-ended problems, to operate with a high degree of autonomy, and to share their work with wider audiences.

“Students as Producers” is shorthand for an approach to teaching that helps students become not just consumers of information, but also producers of knowledge, engaging in meaningful, generative work in the courses they take. Through this year’s Course Design Institute, the CFT continues its efforts to support instructors in building these high-impact teaching practices into their courses.

For more examples of “Students as Producers,” see the stories from our annual Celebration of Learning.


Benefits to Participants?

Course Design Institute participants will…

  • Learn and apply a process for designing courses in which learning objectives, activities, and assessments are aligned;
  • Enhance their understanding of how students learn and apply that understanding to teaching in their disciplines;
  • Design assignments that foster deep learning by engaging students in meaningful, generative work; and
  • Expand their network of fellow Vanderbilt educators, connecting with peers with similar teaching interests.

Participants will leave the institute with course plans and draft syllabuses for courses to be taught in the following academic year.

For more on the Course Design Institute experience, read stories from past CDI participants.



The Course Design Institutes will consist of a mix of small-group and large-group sessions, as well as individual work time and teaching consultations with CFT staff. Lunches will be provided each day. For small-group sessions, participants will work in cohorts based on discipline and/or the kinds of student production their courses might involve.

Elements of the Course Design Institutes are based on similar institutes hosted by the University of Virginia Center for Teaching Excellence and the Ohio State University Center for the Advancement of Teaching.


How do I apply?

The graduate student Course Design Institute is open to both graduate students and postdocs. Preference will be given to applicants starting faculty or teaching positions in 2020-2021, at Vanderbilt or elsewhere. If you’re leaving Vanderbilt to take a faculty position, the CDI is a great way to launch your new faculty career. And if you will be serving as an instructor of record at Vanderbilt in the fall and have the opportunity to design your own course, the CDI is a great way to get a head start on planning.