September 2020
This summer I marked 15 years on staff at the Center for Teaching. Looking back at those 15 years, I can’t remember any season as busy or as fulfilling as this summer. With hundreds of Vanderbilt instructors looking ahead to an uncertain fall, the Center for Teaching launched new programs to help our community prepare for the kind of adaptive teaching necessary for 2020.
The centerpiece of our efforts was the Online Course Design Institute. Participants came from all over campus to develop course plans, design online learning materials, learn how to help students thrive, and build skills with educational technology. We offered the institute every two weeks from May through August, and we saw a total of 490 faculty and other instructors complete the institute.
For those who couldn’t commit two weeks to the institute, we offered dozens of short workshops focused on online and hybrid pedagogy. A total of 753 individuals attended these workshops, including 570 faculty representing all of Vanderbilt’s colleges and schools. Meanwhile, our Brightspace support team responded to more than 3,000 requests this summer, three times our usual support volume.
Center for Teaching offerings are, for the most part, opt-in, and we’ve never seen demand for our services like we did this summer. Faculty and graduate students, postdocs and staff—they knew that teaching this fall would require new technologies, new skills, and new approaches. And they looked to the CFT to help them teach effectively in whatever teaching contexts they found themselves in.
I am honored at the confidence that the Vanderbilt teaching community placed in the CFT this summer, and I’m proud of the role we could play supporting the university’s teaching mission. I’ve lost count of the many thank-you emails and tweets I received from program participants. I’m also deeply grateful for our amazing staff, who worked tirelessly all summer to do what seemed impossible back in May.
And that staff is about to get a little more amazing! Please join me in welcoming not one, but two new assistant directors to the Center for Teaching!

Ransford Pinto is our new Assistant Director for Graduate Programs. Ransford completed his PhD in educational leadership and policy analysis at the University of Missouri earlier this year. While at Mizzou, Ransford served as a graduate research assistant at the Teaching for Learning Center, among other roles. Prior to his doctoral studies, Ransford worked at the British Council in his native Ghana as the administrator in charge of the University of Cambridge International Exams.

Julaine Fowlin will start as our new Assistant Director for Instructional Design in October. Julaine has a PhD in learning sciences and technology from Virginia Tech, and comes to us from Auburn University, where she is the director of faculty development at the Harrison School of Pharmacy. Julaine has helped design and launch online and blended courses and programs at Auburn, Virginia Tech, Holy Names University, and the University of the West Indies, and we’re excited to have her bring this expertise to Vanderbilt.
Starting in January, Ransford will oversee the CFT’s programming for graduate students and postdocs, taking over that portfolio from CFT assistant director Heather Fedesco. Heather and her family are relocating to Huntsville, Alabama, where she will teach for Purdue University and continue researching student motivation. We are very sad to see Heather leave, but we’re glad we don’t have to say good-bye until December!
Derek Bruff
Director, Vanderbilt Center for Teaching

Brightspace and Teaching Focused Workshops for the Fall
We have several Brightspace and online teaching focused workshops lined up for September. Offerings include:
Grades and Feedback in Brightspace
Participants in this workshop will learn how to organize their gradebook and about the range of tools available in Brightspace to make grading and feedback more efficient and effective.
September 2, 12:00-1:30pm.
Assignments in Brightspace
Participants in this workshop will learn about how to use the Brightspace Assignments tool to  receive, organize, and provide feedback on student work. September 7, 12:00-1:30pm.
Asynchronous Online Interaction
This workshop is for instructors who want their asynchronous online instruction to be interactive and engaging, but have questions about how to build community and interact effectively with their online students. This is an asynchronous workshop with an optional Zoom meeting to debrief and strategize.
If you have any questions about these workshop offerings, check out the Brightspace support workshops page or reach out to Stacey Johnson at Other CFT workshop options for the fall can be found here.

Instructional Design Consultations through iDesign
Vanderbilt University has partnered with the instructional design firm iDesign to make available a number of services to help faculty and other instructors prepare for online and hybrid teaching this fall. iDesign learning specialists are on-hand to assist with your course design and teaching effectiveness questions. If you have a question relating how to best implement a teaching strategy or best practice in your course, iDesign is here to help! Support requests can be submitted via or through the iDesign Faculty Resource Hub. You can self-enroll in the iDesign Faculty Hub. Self-enrollment instructions are here.

CFT Announce Graduate
Teaching Fellows for 2020-21
L to R Abena Boakyewa-Ansah (History), Amanda Brockman (Sociology), Leah Roberts (Human & Organizational Development), and Mohammad Meerzaei (Religion)
The Graduate Teaching Fellows provide a variety of services for Vanderbilt’s graduate and professional students and postdocs, including one-on-one consultations on teaching issues and professional development, syllabus and course design, interpreting and responding to student evaluations, writing teaching statements, and engaging techniques such as discussion leading, lecturing, and using technology in the classroom. 
In addition to fostering initiatives such as the the Certificate in College Teaching Program, they also create and facilitate Teaching Assistant OrientationTeaching Workshops, and help facilitate/support CFT learning communities and working groups. 

To schedule an appointment with a GTF, please call 322-7290.
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Conversations on Teaching
These sessions provide members of the Vanderbilt teaching community a chance to share their teaching experiences and learn from each other
in an informal, discussion-based format. 
Teaching in a Hybrid and Physically Distanced Classroom
For some instructors, the classroom looks very different this fall. Some of their students are in the classroom, but masked and physically distanced. Some of their students are participating remotely during class via Zoom. Prior to this fall, no one had taught in these conditions. The Center for Teaching put together a number of resources this summer suggesting strategies for fostering active learning environments in the hybrid and physically distanced classroom. Now join us for an informal conversation about what’s working and what’s not. Plan to share your experiences teaching in these unusual conditions with your colleagues.
Date: Tuesday, September 8th

Registrants will receive a Zoom link

Teaching with Perusall and Social Annotation
Asking students to annotate a class reading or video collaboratively can change how students engage with course materials and with each other. Perusall is a collaborative annotation tool recently adopted by Vanderbilt by many instructors who are exploring new approaches to online teaching this fall. How can instructors use Perusall and other social annotation tools to support student learning and build social presence in an online, face-to-face, or hybrid course? Join us for this informal conversation on teaching to share your experiences teaching with Perusall this fall and learn from other instructors experimenting with social annotation.
Date: Tuesday, September 15th

Registrants will receive a Zoom link

Join a CFT Learning Community
The Center for Teaching 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.  This year’s learning communities are:
Teaching and Race
In the midst of racist and anti-immigrant violence in the United States, and in response to protest movements calling for racial justice, many Vanderbilt instructors and staff have expressed a commitment to address these concerns in their teaching. 
As part of that commitment, they have wished to understand critical approaches to teaching about race and racial justice and to develop an ever more inclusive and just campus for students of all backgrounds. Towards this end, the Center for Teaching is hosting a learning community throughout 2020-21 that will address a variety of related topics, including the scholarship on teaching race and racial justice, the experiences of faculty and students of color at Vanderbilt, transforming conflicts around race into productive dialogue, the benefits of culturally appropriate pedagogy, reducing racial and other performance gaps for students across the disciplines, among other subjects. The meetings have yet to be scheduled, but should take place monthly.
If you have an interest, please register at this link and we will keep you informed about the learning community as it is finalized.
Promoting Persistence in STEM 
STEM disciplines have long been concerned with disparities between underrepresented and well-represented student groups and the associated “pipeline” problem, where underrepresented students are more likely to switch away from STEM majors. The book
 Talking about Leaving Revisited, published in December 2019, discusses findings from a five-year study that explores the extent, nature, and contributory causes of field-switching both from and among STEM majors, and what enables persistence to graduation.  This learning community will use Talking about Leaving Revisited to promote discussion of changes we will make to reduce disparities in our courses and our programs. We’ll meet monthly to discuss excerpts from the book as well as possible individual and programmatic responses. If you register below, you’ll receive an email with information about accessing the book and to solicit input about meeting times by mid-September. REGISTER HERE
Online Teaching
This faculty learning community is for Vanderbilt faculty, staff, or grad students who want to dig deeper into online and hybrid course design principles in order to create excellent socially-distanced courses. In our working group, we will explore principles of effective online teaching as described in research literature, expert accounts, and personal perspectives. As a group, we will work together to develop public-facing web pages for the Online Course Development Resources (CDR) site to support our own professional development and provide resources that can benefit other Vanderbilt instructors’ digital pedagogy.
Meetings will take place monthly beginning in September. You can register for this group using this form.

Graduate Student/Postdoc Workshops in September
These workshops focus on practical, concrete strategies for common teaching tasks, challenges, and opportunities. These sessions draw on research-based best practices from the literature on teaching and learning and help participants consider ways to apply those best practices in their teaching.
Crafting an Effective Teaching Statement
In this workshop, we will address best practices for writing a teaching statement/philosophy for the academic job market. This workshop is open to Vanderbilt graduate students & Postdocs from across the disciplines who want to improve their teaching portfolio materials. All teaching experience levels are welcome.
Note: This is an interactive workshop. Please come prepared to think, reflect, and discuss in pairs and as a larger group.
Date: Friday, September 18
Time: 1:00-2:30 pm
Location: Zoom meeting
Facilitator: Mohammad Meerzaei,
CFT Graduate Teaching Fellow
Open to Vanderbilt Graduate Students & Postdocs
Developing a Written Diversity Statement
In this workshop, we will discuss evidence-based practices for writing a diversity statement for the academic job market. Increasingly, universities and colleges are requesting that faculty job applicants provide a statement addressing how they plan to contribute to inclusive excellence in their professional lives. 
This session will introduce several approaches to developing and writing a diversity statement. Please come prepared to think, reflect, and discuss in pairs and as a larger group.
Date: Wednesday, September 23
Time: 2:30-4:00 pm
Location: Zoom meeting
Facilitator: Amanda Brockman,
CFT Graduate Teaching Fellow
Open to Vanderbilt Graduate Students & Postdocs
Mid-semester Feedback?
It is always a good idea to check in with our students about how a course is going during the middle of the semester, and that will be more true than ever this fall. We at the Center for Teaching can help with our Small Group Analysis (SGA) process, which we have modified to work in a virtual setting. At your request, we can meet with your students for 30 minutes via Zoom during your regularly scheduled class time. Students will have a chance to give input, both in writing and verbally, on how the course is progressing—with a particular emphasis on how course elements are impacting their learning. The CFT staff member who conducts the session will then meet with you via Zoom to discuss the results and how you want to respond. The process can help ensure that you and your students work together to have a good experience, making the most of Fall 2020.
To schedule a mid-semester SGA, contact your CFT liaison or

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