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RIT Ready: Moving Forward Into Fall
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Blog » TLS Teaching Circles Program

Michael Starenko--Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) launched a Teaching Circles program in Fall 2017. We intend to sponsor a small set of Teaching Circles every fall and spring semester. Our first call to form a circle resulted in three circles for Spring 2018; for more information about them, see our Join a Spring 2018 Teaching Circle blog post. If you’re interested in forming a circle in Fall 2018 or Spring 2019, please email Michael Starenko.

What is a Teaching Circle?

A small group of faculty or teaching staff (6-8 members are ideal) who come together—with the support of Teaching and Learning Services (TLS)—for at least one term to discuss a teaching and learning topic that they can delve deeply into during group discussions. Unlike a typical course or workshop, in a Teaching Circle people collaborate together to develop expertise rather than being facilitated by someone who already has more expertise.

How are the teaching/learning topics decided?

An individual or small group of faculty/teaching staff (ideally 1-2 people) who want to explore a specific topic decides. Ideally 1-2 people will make a proposal to TLS to form a Circle. Once formed, TLS will put out a call to join it 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 Circles might focus on interdisciplinary work, e.g., Design Thinking, Sustainable Development, methods to encourage interdisciplinary undergraduate research. Others may focus on a single academic discipline, e.g., Packaging Science faculty sharing materials and ideas they’ve developed for their own classes. Some groups may explore relatively narrow pedagogical topics, e.g., discussing contemporary books on teaching, using case-study teaching techniques, or sharing ideas and strategies to foster student-generated media. Other Circles may select broader topics, e.g., fostering inclusive learning or the scholarship of teaching and learning.

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. Teaching Circle members may make use of one or more method 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.

How are Teaching Circles organized?

As mentioned in the “How are the teaching/learning topics decided?” section, each Teaching Circle will be organized by one or more facilitators drawn from the RIT community, with support from Teaching and Learning Services (TLS). The facilitator(s) is more of a liaison to TLS than a leader with any special knowledge. Once formed, Circles will be advertised by TLS and have an initial meeting to: (1) establish their own organizational structure, and, if the facilitator has not already done so, (2) establish their subsequent schedule of meetings. Circles are intended to be completely egalitarian and all members play an equal role in their success.

What are the requirements for Teaching Circles?

Each Circle should be comprised of 5-10 members, including the facilitator(s). If more people are interested, the Circle can be split into two Circles. Members are expected to attend and contribute to all meetings. Every Circle is expected to keep informal meeting minutes and produce a brief final report (a 1-3 page account of what the group discussed and worked upon). Final reports will be presented at Teaching Circles Capstone Luncheons sponsored by TLS and also posted to the TLS website.

How does TLS support Teaching Circles?

Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) will support Teaching Circles by:

  • Matching would-be Circle facilitators/topics with would-be Circle members through RIT-wide 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 final reports and discuss the implications of their activities and findings for faculty development at RIT
  • Recognizing the membership and final reports of every Teaching Circle via public communication (e.g., emails and blog posts) that directs the RIT community (and beyond) to a special TLS website devoted to Teaching Circles
  • TLS will also consider facilitating the purchase of supporting materials (e.g., books) on a per-request basis.

How can an individual or small group form a Teaching Circle?

If you, as an individual or small group, are interested in forming a Teaching Circle around a topic of your choosing for Spring 2018, please complete the Call to Form a Teaching Circle for Spring Semester 2018. We will respond with acceptances on a rolling basis.


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