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Blog » Join a Fall 2020 Teaching Circle

The Innovative Learning Institute is pleased to announce the following online Teaching Circles for 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 are interested in joining one of these upcoming groups (conducted synchronously in Zoom or asynchronously in myCourses), please email the identified facilitator as soon as possible, but no later than August 26. Based on a Doodle or similar poll, circles will start holding their synchronous online meetings in September (unless otherwise noted).

For more information the purpose and organization of teaching circles at RIT, please see our Call to Form a Teaching Circle in Fall Semester 2020. If you have any questions about, or would like to propose a topic for a future teaching circle, email Michael Starenko.

Exploring Games for Teaching and Learning

David Simkins (School of Interactive Games and Media, GCCIS)

Regardless of your level of experience with games for teaching and learning, here are a few reasons for joining this teaching circle.

When we are children, learning is exciting. This is in part because as children we learn through games, and each game is a new learning experience. Games for college students and adults are not the same as those for children, but game-based learning can bring to higher education students the excitement of childhood learning without losing any educational value. We are all adjusting to new ways of educating. While adding a new way of doing things may feel overwhelming, this is an opportune time to start changing the way we think about teaching and learning.

Game-based pedagogy can help us to create more engaging and effective experiences, helping our students get the most out of their time and effort. However, there are pitfalls to game-based learning and new problems arise we don't see elsewhere. Game-based learning require adjusting how one prepares for class, expectations of participation, and learning new ways to create learning opportunities, ways which place learning more squarely under the control of the student. During COVID, it is becoming clear that learning in our new environment is now even more directly a responsibility of students and us, the skilled facilitators.

There are three main aspects to game-based pedagogy: 1) creating game-like models to help reinforce good practices (gamification), 2) adapting the use of games made for the public in the classroom, and 3) creating or using existing games specifically made for learning. All three require somewhat different skill sets, and the implementation of each game is unique. This circle is for those who either already are or wish to learn more about game-based pedagogy. I expect three general tiers of interest - those who are curious but unsure, those who are gearing up to use games in their classroom, and those who are already using games and need support from peers. All three of these groups are welcome and encouraged to participate - we will determine based on interest how to meet in order to satisfy all of our needs. There is a lot on our plate, and adding game-based learning opportunities may seem like a waste of time, but we can take advantage of the new normal, prepare for a day when in-person interactions are less strained, and offer opportunities to students for highly engaging, effective, active learning. If you are interested in joining this teaching circle, email David Simkins.

Success Strategies for Women Faculty [Sorry, this circle is full]

Betsy Dell (AdvanceRIT and Manufacturing & Mechanical Engineering Technology, CET)

The goal of this teaching circle is to develop skills and strategies for women faculty to have a successful career and a well-balanced life. This teaching circle will utilize guided activities and discussion, build connections across the university, and provide the opportunity to build a network of potential new mentors, collaborators, and sponsors across campus. We will read Rena Seltzer’s book, The Coach’s Guide for Women Professors Who Want a Successful Career and a Well-Balanced Life. Topics will be selected based on the interests of participants and may include: How to Have More Time; Establishing a Productive Writing Practice; Teaching; Work-Life Balance; Networking and Social Support; Tenure; Promotion, and the Academic Job Market; Authority, Voice, and Influence; Negotiation; Life after Tenure; and/or Leadership. Guest facilitators will be invited based on the topic of each session. The first meeting will be held during the week of August 31-September 4. The last meeting will be the week of November 9-13. If you would like to join this teaching circle, email Betsy Dell.

Inclusive Pedagogy

Taj Smith (Division of Diversity and Inclusion, Diversity Education)

Teaching and mentoring today's college students requires us to add to our toolbox. Many of us learn how to teach by observing former professors or subconsciously tapping into our preferred learning style. As we seek to educate a diverse student body who learn differently from previous generations and who struggle with finding belonging, we must evaluate the inclusiveness of our pedagogy.

In this asynchronous online teaching circle, we will explore how culture, identity and our life experiences influence our teaching style, learning philosophy and epistemology. We will learn from student testimonials by inviting in a student panel to inform us about their cultural-based learning styles and their experiences in RIT classrooms. We will discuss and share best practices for creating a more inclusive learning environment for first-generation students, students of color, students with disabilities, introverts, visual learners, students across the gender spectrum, deaf students, and international students. By the end of our journey, we will be able to better articulate our culturally-responsive teaching styles and identify strategies to improve our effectiveness. You will have seven weeks (August 31-October 18) to submit and respond to discussion posts, review text and video resources, and complete additional activities (e.g.,Inclusive Teaching Strategies assessment) by a specific due date. If you are interested in joining this circle, email Taj Smith.

Infusing the Entrepreneurial Mindset Among Our Students

Beth DeBartolo (Multidisciplinary Design, KGCOE) and Jen O’Neil (Manufacturing & Mechanical Engineering Technology, CET)

As a new partner in the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN), RIT is committed to infusing an entrepreneurial mindset into a variety of undergraduate courses in CET and KGCOE. Above all, this means teaching students in these two colleges to be Curious about the world, make novel Connections, and Create Value in the world around them--KEEN’s three C’s.

Any faculty member who teaches CET or KGCOE students is encouraged to participate in this teaching circle. With RIT being the first institution granted membership with a focus both on Engineering and Engineering Technology students, we would like to take advantage of this additional opportunity to build collaboration across the two colleges, as well as with faculty members in other colleges who teach CET and KGCOE students.

In this Teaching Circle participants will help guide the integration of the entrepreneurial mindset into the curriculum at RIT. This grassroots approach will be facilitated through participant discussions to determine where it makes sense to include mindset and skillset in the classroom. These discussions will help broaden faculty development around this student mindset. If you are interested in joining this teaching circle, email Beth DeBartolo.

Integrating Jupyter Notebooks into STEM Courses

Tony Wong, (School of Mathematical Sciences, COS); John Whelan, (School of Mathematical Sciences, COS); and Ben Zwickl, (School of Physics and Astronomy, COS).

This teaching circle will focus on integrating Jupyter notebook content into courses. Jupyter notebooks combine code in Python, R or Julia, equations in LaTeX, figures and regular prose in a single interactive document. This functionality facilitates their deployment as tutorial or lab exercises and provides flexibility in the types of materials instructors can create. This group will discuss strategies to integrate Jupyter notebooks into existing courses and design useful and, dare we say, enjoyable activities for students, (auto)grading techniques and other topics that participants are interested in discussing. Later meetings will include workshop-style sessions for faculty to work together to develop their notebook materials. Highly relevant for the present COVID situation, Jupyter notebooks are equally useful for in-person and online teaching.

We have found interest in using Jupyter notebooks and JupyterHub servers among instructors in, for example, Physics, Math and Chemistry. A common hurdle for faculty is the overhead of integrating Jupyter notebooks into their assignments and workflows. We will begin by assuming no previous usage of Jupyter. Throughout the semester, we will generate a set of blog posts to develop and reflect on incremental steps instructors can take. We will generate a set of tutorials and workshop materials, including working examples and videos, which will be available in a shared git repository for reference. We will work together to create a community to assist one another in creating and implementing new curricular materials. If you are interested in joining this teaching circle, email Tony Wong.

Teaching Online and Hybrid Psychology Courses

Alan Smerbeck (Department of Psychology, CLA)

The purpose of this teaching circle is to allow psychology department faculty to share techniques, experiences, and feedback with one another on best practices in online and/or hybrid instruction, with particular focus on methods of building community and supporting student mental health. While many faculty in our department have previously taught certain classes online, some have never done so and a number of key courses were never or rarely offered in the online modality. Most faculty have not been directly taught how to teach online, and have not had the opportunity to observe their peers' online teaching. In fact, relatively few faculty have taken online courses.

Collaboration among faculty can improve instructional quality and decrease trial-and-error. We intend to meet regularly to discuss course planning, delivery, activities, and means of assessing student mastery. In addition, attending to students' emotional well-being is particularly challenging in an online format; this is of particular concern during this time when many students have heightened mental health needs. We hope to share effective techniques for attending to and promoting students' well-being within the context of a distance learning format. While some skills and techniques shared in this circle will be generally applicable, many will likely be more narrowly focused to the psychology subject area and the expectations of the major. For this reason, the intent is to focus on psychology department faculty. If you are interested in joining this teaching circle, email Alan Smerbeck.


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