February 2023
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From the Director

The spring semester is unfolding and undoubtedly you are facing many of the joys and challenges of teaching.  Please know the Center for Teaching is here to celebrate the former and support you through the latter. Our staff are happy to offer one-on-one, confidential instructional consultations to help you think through course design and teaching choices. Our Brightspace and Instructional Technology Support (BITS) team is reachable seven days a week for technical and pedagogical help using our course management system and other educational technology. If you are helping to administer a department, program, or school, the CFT can help you design and implement strategies to enhance instructional, curricular, or professional development throughout your unit. We also have a well-regarded collection of on-demand resources for the Vanderbilt teaching community available in the form of teaching guides and our course development resource site. Lastly, we will have a series of workshops and learning communities meeting throughout the spring semester for which we hope you will register. You will find them listed below or in future month’s newsletters. We have an amazing staff at the CFT who can meet any need you have, so please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

--Joe Bandy, Interim Director of the CFT 

JFTF Spotlights

Each year, the CFT Newsletter highlights the work of our Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows. This month, Dana Zhang from Computer Science and Alice Mark from Mathematics talk about their experiences in teaching and in the JFTF program.  
JFTF Spotlight on Dana Zhang
In 2021, I joined Vanderbilt University as an Assistant Professor of the Practice in the Department of Computer Science and the Data Science Institute. Computer Science (CS) and Data Science (DS) are both interdisciplinary fields that have multiple intersections with almost every industry and have major impacts on day-to-day activities today. Given the increasing demand for practical CS/DS applications, in my teaching in both undergraduate and graduate courses, I strive to push students to acquire not only the fundamental knowledge but also practical experience that prepares them with transferrable skills.

In smaller classrooms, personalizing teaching and student learning comes with a higher degree of flexibility, which often results in a relaxed and safe environment for students to actively participate in class with questions, answers, and real-time feedback. In large-sized classes or group-oriented courses however, this approach becomes more challenging to realize. Through the JFTF program, I have been working on identifying concrete methodologies to better engage students in large classrooms and to more effectively facilitate conversations and interactions in team-oriented courses, where students come from a large variety of academic and professional backgrounds. It has been stimulating and rewarding to exchange strategies and ideas with teaching faculty from other disciplines through seminars, consultations, and other JFTF program activities. I look forward to working with the CFT in my journey to disseminate knowledge and expertise in and outside the classroom.
JFTF Spotlight on Alice Mark
I am a Senior Lecturer in the department of mathematics, where I teach a variety of (mostly first and second year) courses. Calculus and Linear Algebra are foundational courses for major curricula in both the college of Arts and Science and the School of Engineering, so students have a lot riding on how they do in them. Because they are often taken in the first year or first semester of college, these courses can set a student up for future success, or be a destabilizing-ly difficult surprise. I am part of a major effort within the math department to reduce instances of the latter by building more student supports into our calculus program. My specific focus is on improving student sense of belonging within mathematics.

My current project is a course assistant (CA) program (affiliated with the larger learning assistant program) where more advanced students are assigned to groups of 5-8 calculus students. The CAs act as mentors and facilitators of group work. Because of the technicality and abstraction involved in math, it can be easy to lose track of the person-ness of the people who do it. Often students feel like they have to leave themselves behind when they enter a math classroom, and because of this they are less able to grow in the ways they need to and less able to develop new ways of thinking. The CA program aims to create a place where it is safe for students to experience the discomfort that comes from encountering a question and not having an answer immediately present itself. Ideally, that safety would come from the group being a small community, where students feel more at ease and able to be their full selves. Through consistent collaboration with their group mates, the students experience how the discomfort of struggling through difficult questions can be productive. By encountering different perspectives and ways of thinking, they will learn that there are often several ways to approach a problem or explain an idea, and be empowered to do math themselves rather than just receive it.

In the JFTF program, I am developing a pedagogy training course for the CAs. In its current form, this future course is an informal seminar where the CAs learn about and adapt various teaching frameworks, and reflect on their own experiences through those frameworks. The seminar supports them as the curtain gets pulled back a little bit on what teachers are thinking when we assign certain tasks or make choices about course structure. For me, the JFTF had been a meta-excercise in both learning and formalizing classroom practices to use in my own classes, while at the same time thinking about how to adapt and teach about them in a pedagogy course.
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Teaching Writing in the Age of AI

Across higher education, there is increasing concern about the implications of artificial intelligence (AI) for teaching and learning, particularly the disruptive role AI bots may play in the teaching of writing. What dilemmas does AI pose for writing’s place in our courses and assignments? How might it change how students learn to write and learn through writing? How might we respond with new and effective educational strategies? The Center for Teaching, The Writing Studio, and the College of A&S AI Grand Challenge Initiative will be co-hosting a workshop to answer these questions and begin a dialogue about the future of teaching writing in the age of AI. We hope you can join us. The workshop will be held February 3rd in Alumni Hall, room 201, from noon to 1:00pm. If you are interested in attending, please register here.

Teaching, Difference, and Power Learning Community: Anti-Racist Teaching

This spring, the CFT continues co-hosting a learning community with Meredyth Wegener (Neuroscience) on anti-racist teaching with the goal of better understanding how higher education systems, teaching and learning practices, and our disciplines can resolve rather than reproduce racial marginalization and exclusion. Discussion will largely focus on the challenges and opportunities white anti-racist educators confront, but all are welcome to attend regardless of identity, discipline, or expertise. The topics will we address will include teaching in predominantly white institutions, histories of whiteness, the way social structures of racism impact higher education, inclusive and equitable teaching, practices of interracial partnership, and strategies of teaching about race and racism, among others. Throughout, we hope participants will engage one another in a co-creative, in-person process of open inquiry into their teaching philosophies and strategies, and all the while provide one another with community, accountability, and encouragement.  If you are interested in joining the February, March, and April discussions, please register for the learning community at this link.  If you have any questions, please contact joe.bandy@vanderbilt.edu

Come work with the CFT! 

Each year the Center for Teaching (CFT) hires a number of graduate students and postdocs as part of its efforts to mentor and train graduate instructors across campus, including those serving as teaching assistants or instructors of record here at Vanderbilt as well as those interested in developing teaching skills for future faculty careers. The CFT has three types of positions available for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Teaching Affiliate
The primary responsibility for Teaching Affiliates is to lead a cohort of incoming TAs through 3-day synchronous and asynchronous workshops during August’s TA Orientation. These workshops familiarize new TAs with the challenges and opportunities of working as TAs at Vanderbilt and help prepare them for their roles. Cohorts are divided by discipline, and so the CFT seeks Teaching Affiliates from a wide variety of disciplines on campus. The Teaching Affiliate position is a 70-hour position, with most of those hours occurring in August 2023, carrying a $1,000 stipend.

Certificate in College Teaching (CiCT) Facilitator
The CiCT Facilitator will lead a section of the CiCT program.  The facilitator will read and prepare lesson plans, lead class sessions, and attend weekly meetings with the Assistant Director of Graduate Programs. When the CiCT program is in session (8 weeks per semester), the approximate workload will be between 5-10 hours/week. The CiCT Program Facilitator position carries a $3,000 total stipend, and we expect to hire three next year. See below for more information.

Postdoctoral Fellow
The CFT is seeking a Postdoctoral Fellow who will promote excellence in teaching and learning across the university. The Postdocs will work with graduate students, faculty, and others in the Vanderbilt teaching community to enhance student learning using research-based practices in university teaching. The Postdocs will report to the Assistant Director of Graduate Programs and work collaboratively with senior and support staff at the CFT in supporting teaching at the university.

These positions are great opportunities for graduate students and postdocs to refine their teaching and presentation skills and network with colleagues outside of their department or program. 

Applications for Teaching Affiliate and CICT Facilitator positions are due Friday, February 10, 2023. Learn more about each of these positions and apply online by visiting the CFT's employment opportunities page. Applications for the Postdoctoral Fellow are due Friday, February 28, 2023. Learn more about the position here.

Workshop: Three Ways to Use Perusall Right Away

Workshop Date: Wednesday, February 15
Time: 12:00-1:00pm
Location: CFT classroom (1114 19th Avenue South, 3rd floor) Click here for location information.
Facilitator: Stacey Johnson, Assistant Director for Educational Technology, and Jenny Park, Instructional Technology Consultant, Center for Teaching

Perusall is a tool that brings the social annotation of digital resources into your classroom. Instructors can assign PDFs, webages, video, or audio and have students collaboratively engage with those texts. In this workshop, we will explore three concrete ways you can start using Perusall in your classroom right away to increase student engagement with readings, respond to student questions, and direct student attention to course policies and expectations.

Open to anyone who teaches at Vanderbilt.

Register here.
Vanderbilt University is committed to providing universal access to all of our events.
Please contact Juliet Traub at
cft@vanderbilt.edu or 615-322-7290 to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.

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