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Blog » Call to Form a Teaching Circle in Fall Semester 2020

Michael Starenko—The Innovative Learning Institute (ILI) is seeking RIT faculty and teaching staff (full-time and part-time, visiting, lecturer, academic support specialist, tenured, tenure-track, adjunct, etc.) who are interested in proposing a topic and facilitating a teaching circle in Fall semester 2020. A teaching circle is a small group of teachers who come together for at least one term to have robust discussions about a teaching and learning topic.

If you, as an individual or small group, would like to start a teaching circle this Fall, please complete our Qualtrics application Call to Form a Teaching Circle in Fall 2020 by August 3, 2020. Applicants will be notified by August 7, 2020. Accepted facilitators will be invited to attend a 50-minute Facilitator Orientation meeting in late August 2020.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we ask that all accepted facilitators be willing to offer their teaching circles in face-to-face and/or Zoom web-conferencing communication modes as needed.

ILI will announce the roster of Fall 2020 teaching circle topics/facilitators to the RIT community on August 26, 2020. Interested participants should email circle facilitators by September 2, 2020. Unless otherwise indicated in the circle description, each circle will establish a meeting schedule based on a poll of participants’ availability. See the sections below for additional details about the ILI Teaching Circles program. If you have any questions about teaching circles or the application process, please email Michael Starenko.

How are teaching circles organized?

As mentioned above, each teaching circle will be organized by one or more facilitators drawn from the RIT community, with support from ILI. Once formed, circles will be advertised by ILI and have an initial meeting to 1.) establish their own organizational structure and 2.) establish their subsequent schedule of meetings. Circles are intended to be egalitarian, with all members playing an equal role in their success. Unlike a typical course or workshop, in a teaching circle participants collaborate to develop expertise rather than have an expert facilitate meetings.

How are the teaching/learning topics decided?

An individual or small group (ideally 1-2 people) who want to explore a specific topic makes a proposal to ILI to form a Circle. Once formed, ILI will put out a call to the RIT community to join this and other Circles.

What can you do in a teaching circle?

Just about anything you wish, so long as it is related to teaching and learning. For example, some previous RIT teaching circles have focused on interdisciplinary work: active learning, critical thinking, and metacognition/learning about learning. Others have focused on topics within specific disciplines and programs: exploring online teaching/learning resources in STEM disciplines, or fostering "entrepreneurial mindsets" in engineering curricula. Still other RIT circles have investigated relatively narrow pedagogical issues: discussing books and videos on "teaching in a world of extroverts" or sharing ideas and strategies that support faculty mentoring of students.

How do teaching circles go about exploring teaching/learning topics?

Teaching circle meetings can take a variety of forms to stimulate conversation and help members investigate teaching/learning topics. As other colleges and universities have discovered, teaching circle members may use a number of methods for sharing knowledge, including, but not limited to:

  • Guided discussion: Members come prepared to discuss an item (article, chapter, video, etc.) or issue selected by the group.
  • Round-robins: Members share personal experience and knowledge on a topic of interest to the group.
  • Ask the expert: An “expert” (or expert panel) is invited to share insights on a topic. This can include an outside guest speaker or bringing in experts from across our own campus.
  • Progress” reports: Members report on experiments they have conducted with new ways of teaching. This can be especially helpful as a support mechanism while trying a new teaching style or project.
  • Peer tutoring: Members of the group take responsibility for learning different aspects of the topic being explored by the group. At each meeting, one or two members report back on the material they have researched.
  • Open discussion: Meetings can be occasions for informal conversations about the circle’s general topic. There is no set agenda. Participants bring in issues, questions, problems that are of interest to them.
What are the requirements for teaching circles?

Members are expected to attend and contribute to the majority of meetings. Every circle is expected to keep informal meeting minutes and produce a brief report/presentation of findings. Final findings will be presented at a Teaching Circles Capstone Luncheon hosted by ILI.

How does ILI support teaching circles?

The Innovative Learning Institute (ILI) will support teaching circles by

  • Matching would-be circle facilitators/topics with would-be circle members through common RIT communication channels
  • Orienting and advising facilitators on group communications and logistics (e.g., appropriate and available meeting rooms)
  • Hosting a Teaching Circles Capstone Luncheon at the end of every semester to enable circles to present their findings and discuss the implications of those findings for teaching and learning at RIT
  • ILI has a modest budget for teaching circles and will facilitate the purchase of supporting materials (e.g., books) on a per-request basis.

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