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Learning Communities

The CFT hosts a number of learning communities, intended for members of Vanderbilt’s teaching community interested in meeting over time to develop deeper understandings and richer practices around particular teaching and learning topics. See below for information on the CFT’s 2018-19 learning communities.

Environmental Course Development  |  Teaching, Difference, and Power: Disability and Learning
| Teaching Design Thinking | Lab Pedagogies

Environmental Course Development

Proposals are invited from faculty who wish to participate in a learning community at the Center for Teaching in 2017-2018 focused on course design for new courses in the Environmental and Sustainability Studies minor.

Our plan is to have five meetings over the course of the year, culminating in a final celebration of the minor with a speaker and a public presentation of the learning community’s course development work. This project builds on the experience we have supporting faculty in Environmental and Sustainability Studies via the Cumberland Project, but in a different form focused more on course design and on gaps we can fill in the ESS curriculum. We are specifically interested in proposals for upper-level (3000-level) courses that can count for the minor.

Faculty who complete the learning community meetings and course development will receive $750 in support from the Program in Environmental and Sustainability Studies. Support can include travel to present an environmentally related paper at a meeting or to hire a current graduate or undergraduate student to help on the faculty member’s own environmentally related research and/or environmental course development (with expiration date of Aug. 15, 2018). Additional funding from the Program in Environmental and Sustainability Studies is also available for faculty who wish to bring in guest speakers for their courses or departments.

Proposals for new environmental course development should come from tenure-line faculty or senior lecturers and may be from all schools; faculty should plan on submitting the new course proposal by the end of the spring semester of 2018.


Teaching, Difference, and Power: Disability and Learning

Teaching, Difference, and Power

Higher education today is home to an increasingly diverse student population with a wide variety of needs and abilities.  This presents innumerable opportunities to enliven and enhance the intellectual dynamism of our classes and campuses.  To take full advantage of these opportunities, university educators must develop the knowledge and skills of teaching inclusively to diverse audiences.  This has been the purpose of the Center for Teaching’s learning communities for faculty and graduate instructors under the banner of “Teaching, Difference, and Power.”

In 2017-18, the CFT is proud to host a year-long learning community on disability that will address a variety principles of inclusive teaching, universal design for learning, instructional accommodations, as well as legal and cultural issues relevant to students and faculty with disabilities—inclusive of all disability sub-groups such as physical, sensory, learning, intellectual, and mental health.  We also will address ableism, the history of disability rights endeavors, and other dimensions of social inequalities that can touch down in higher education. If you are interested in attending this learning community throughout the year (which will involve a total of 5-6 meetings throughout the year), please register at the link below or write



Teaching Design Thinking

Design thinking, also called human-centered design, is an approach to creative problem solving useful in a wide variety of contexts. Design thinking consists of five steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. Learning and applying this process can help students to tackle open-ended or ill-defined problems with creative confidence; to hear, understand, and value the perspectives of others; and to be resilient in the face of failure, knowing that the first solution to a problem is not always the best solution.

In support of Vanderbilt’s new DIVE (Design as an Immersive Vanderbilt Experience) initiative, the Center for Teaching is hosting a learning community for faculty, staff, and students who are interested in teaching design thinking. How can you introduce someone to the design thinking process? How can you integrate design thinking assignments in a course? How can you mentor a group of students applying design thinking to solve real problems? The learning community will address these and other questions, as well as share on- and off-campus resources for design thinking.

The learning community will be particularly useful for faculty and staff working with students in curricular or co-curricular contexts as part of DIVE, but all members of the Vanderbilt community interested in teaching design thinking are welcome to participate. Contact CFT Director Derek Bruff ( if you’re interested in joining.

Lab Pedagogies

MicroscopeLab courses provide a rich opportunity for experiential learning, giving students time, space, and support to develop into practicing scientists and engineers. Lab courses also, however, carry their own challenges. How do we best foster the ways of thinking that characterize our disciplines? How do we also help students develop the practical skills—from keeping records to performing assays—that they will need as they advance? How do we help students develop the communication skills that are particularly associated with investigation in our discipline? And how do we help our TAs develop the teaching skills they need to foster these abilities?

The CFT facilitates a learning community for faculty members interested in grappling with these issues. Our topics change from session to session in response to the group’s needs; previous topics have included TA development, electronic record-keeping, assessment/assignment types, and approaches to enhance inquiry in labs. This semester, the group plans to act as a journal club, reading journal articles that can inform lab instruction.

Please contact CFT Assistant Director Cynthia Brame if you are interested in attending.

Check back for group meeting dates and times for spring 2018.