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RIT Ready: Moving Forward Into Fall
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Blog » Join a Fall 2021 Teaching Circle

The Innovative Learning Institute is pleased to announce the following synchronous online or synchronous hybrid (conducted via Zoom and/or in-person) teaching circles for Fall Semester 2021.

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 or more of these upcoming groups, please email the designated contact person for each circle as soon as possible, but no later than September 1, 2021. Circle facilitators will use a Doodle or similar poll to schedule their set of regular meetings (unless otherwise noted in the circle description).

For more information about the purpose and organization of teaching circles at RIT, please see our Call to Form a Teaching Circle in Fall 2021 blog post. If you have any questions about joining a circle, or would like to propose a topic for a future teaching circle, email Michael Starenko.

Effective Teaching in Large Classes Jessamy Comer, Stephanie Godleski, Rebecca Houston, and Tina Sutton (Psychology Department, CLA)

Teaching large classes (greater than 35 students) often requires different techniques and strategies to engage student interest and participation compared to smaller sections. Students may feel less comfortable speaking up in large groups, or they may feel less motivation to contribute to class discussions because they are less noticeable in a large class. Student expectations may also vary or there may be practical challenges to using specific techniques, such as space, technology, or accessibility. To facilitate active learning in the classroom, the instructor may need to use strategies that consider such issues.

In this teaching circle, we will discuss some of the challenges that come with teaching large in-person and online courses, as well as effective and ineffective strategies to produce active learning within these courses. Through an open discussion format, participants will learn from others’ experiences teaching large sections of courses and contribute their own experiences as well. Participants will also be encouraged to provide examples of successful and unsuccessful efforts to engage student participation in their large courses, and we will discuss how we can improve our teaching pedagogy. Lastly, participants will be encouraged to implement some of the effective teaching strategies within their own classes throughout the semester and report back on their success or solicit feedback for improvement. We hope to compile these findings and share with the entire group, as well as others who may be interested in them.

We will meet four times throughout the Fall semester, and each session will last one hour. All sessions will be held via Zoom. No preparation will be required for each session, so the total time commitment for this teaching circle will be four hours. If you would like to join this synchronous online circle, email Jessamy Comer.

Fostering Augmented Reality at RIT Through Interdisciplinary Conversations and Collaborations Susan Lakin (School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, CAD, and Director, Frameless Labs, RIT MAGIC Center)

Augmented reality, often referred to as mixed reality, is an immersive technology that overlays digital content onto the real world. The technology is being utilized widely across diverse fields such health services, construction, real estate, entertainment, communications, retail, manufacturing, and military training. Market growth projections for augmented reality are significant. One market research firm, Grand View Research, valued the current augmented reality market size at USD 26.75 billion with a revenue forecast of USD 340.16 billion in 2028.

These advancements have created a skills gap for immersive experience production and are challenging higher education to keep pace. However, this early stage of formation offers opportunities for innovative curriculum development across academic disciplines. Case in point: A 2020 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education paper exploring a model computer science-augmented reality curriculum, acknowledged the importance of combining creative and technical skills in building immersive educational programs.

This teaching circle is intended to facilitate interdisciplinary conversations and collaborations between faculty from various areas of study as a pathway to curriculum development in the augmented reality field at RIT. To extend the circle’s discussions and findings, we could do a survey of existing augmented reality courses offered on campus with the goal of developing an interdisciplinary introductory course on augmented reality and/or enable interested faculty to further extend curriculum development on the topic. If you would like to join this synchronous online circle, email Susan Lakin.

Metacognition, Critical Thinking, and Social Annotation Tools: Developing Instructional Models Rebecca Johnson (Innovative Learning Institute, Academic Affairs)

Research suggests that social annotation assignments can boost students’ metacognitive and critical thinking skills. Multiple platforms support social annotation, including Perusall,, and Google Drive. This teaching circle is for faculty who want to compare notes as they try social annotation for the first time, or refine how they have been using social annotation in their classes. One of goals, therefore, will be to document patterns of faculty use of these tools to learn more about what assignments or strategies seem particularly effective, and in which contexts. Participants should be confident working with tools that are unsupported by RIT. The full group will meet three times--an initial 90-minute kick-off meeting, followed by two hour-long discussion/updates. If you are interested in joining this synchronous online circle, email Rebecca Johnson.

Problem Solving Studio in Action Patti Cyr and Robin Borkholder (Industrial and Systems Engineering Department, KGCE)

Problem Solving Studio (PSS) is a new and effective teaching method developed by Georgia Tech that was awarded the 2019 Bernard M Gordon Prize by the National Academy of Engineering for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education. PSS uses very open-ended questions to help students develop the strategies and mindsets needed to solve the challenging problems of tomorrow. This teaching circle will explore the pedagogy and support each other in the design of PSS activities for their classes.

After developing and implementing a PSS activity their classes, circle members are encouraged to create a card in the KEEN network describing the activity so that other instructors could use the activity as well. Although KEEN is associated with Engineering Unleashed, the PSS method can be used in many disciplines. PSS takes learning from “doing homework problems,” where most information is given, to a more realistic environment where a question is posed, and students need to figure out what information and methods are needed to obtain a solution. The emphasis of PSS is on the journey, not a specific answer.

Members new to PSS will spend about two hours in an immersive experience to understand PSS in the classroom. From there, the teaching circle will meet biweekly via Zoom for one hour to discuss the method and share successes and challenges with the design of PSS sessions. If you would like to join this synchronous online circle, email Patti Cyr.

Reflecting on Asian International Students’ and Faculty/Staff Members’ Experiences During the Pandemic Xia Wu (University Writing Program, Academic Affairs)

The ongoing conversation on the effects that the pandemic brought to higher education needs to be expanded. The experiences of Asian international students and faculty/staff members, in particular, need to be a focus of the conversation, even though they are not American citizens. Because of the hatred expressed towards Asian Americans and people with Asian appearance escalated during the pandemic, the conversation on the experiences of Asian international students and faculty/staff members needs to be deeper.

This teaching circle will open up a conversation about this bias and invite people from different disciplines, with different identities, to share and reflect on their experiences either in working with Asian international students and Asian international faculty/staff members, or as members of these minority groups. Having conversations that focus on this topic is timely and important, as they will help us to model how to have a meaningful conversation, respond and react to this unique social phenomenon appropriately, to our students, both in and beyond the classroom. If you would like to join this synchronous online circle, email Xia Wu.

Success Strategies for Women Faculty Betsy Dell (Director of AdvanceRIT and Senior Faculty Associate for Women Faculty) and Sarah Sarchet (Faculty Associate for Non-Tenure Track Faculty)

The goal of this circle is to develop skills and strategies for women faculty to have a successful career and a well-balanced life. We will use 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. The Coach’s Guide for Women Professors Who Want a Successful Career and a Well-Balanced Life (Rena Seltzer) will be used to guide the discussion (and provided to all participants). Topics may include: How to Have More Time; Teaching; Work-Life Balance; Networking and Social Support; Promotion; and Authority, Voice, and Influence; Negotiation.

We intend to hold one-hour meetings every other week starting Wednesday, September 8, and ending on December 1 from 11:15-12:15. There will be reading assignments and activities to complete between meetings. The current plan is to run as a hybrid model where participants can join in person in the Reading Room of the Campus Center (2050) or via Zoom. Enrollment is limited to 15 spots and will be filled on a first a first-come-first-served basis with preference given to faculty on the wait list from last fall.  If you would like to join this synchronous online and/or synchronous in-person circle, email

Teaching a Writing Intensive Course Gretchen Wainwright (Civil Engineering Technology, Environmental Management and Safety, CET)

Have you ever thought about teaching a writing intensive (WI) course? Or, are you teaching a WI course for the first time and don’t know the best methods for doing it? Or maybe you are just tired of spending forever editing and grading the research paper assignment in your class and you want to find a simpler approach. If any of these apply to you, then you should join this teaching circle.

This teaching circle will allow faculty who are currently teaching WI courses to share best practices with and support other faculty who are either teaching a WI course for the first time or have an interest in designing and teaching a WI course. During our meetings, we can explore how to develop good writing-related learning outcomes, assignment design, grading rubrics, approaches to providing feedback on student writing, informal writing assignment, and other topics of interest. Faculty from the University Writing Program will occasionally join our discussions. We intend to meet for one hour, via Zoom, every 2-3 weeks throughout Fall semester.

If you would like to join this synchronous online teaching circle, email Gretchen Wainwright. In your email, indicate your level of experience teaching writing intensive courses on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being a rookie and 5 being experienced. If it becomes necessary to divide the circle into smaller subgroups, this information can be used to ensure a mix of experienced and inexperienced faculty are brought together to meet.




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