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Blog » Join a Spring 2020 Teaching Circle

The Innovative Learning Institute is pleased to announce the following teaching circles for Spring 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, email the facilitator for the teaching circle directly. Unless otherwise noted in the circle description, circles will hold their initial organizational meeting in late January or early February. For more information about the purpose and organization of teaching circles at RIT, please see our Call to Form a Teaching Circle in Spring 2020. If you have any questions or suggestions for teaching circle topics, email Michael Starenko.


Best Practices for Teaching Overseas

Michael A. Radin (School of Mathematical Sciences, COS)

International teaching experiences can inspire new pedagogical innovations and forge international and interdisciplinary research coalitions. The teaching circle will examine how teaching innovations often emerge naturally during our international teaching experiences and during our long–term international travels. Furthermore, we will discuss how to handle challenges such as cultural barriers, different teaching and learning styles, and choosing the appropriate courses and seminars to conduct. We will discuss finding the balance between leading and following while adapting to a new culture and to a new educational system.

We will also focus on how to detect the similarities and differences between educational systems and work to answer the following questions: Why do differences among educational systems exist? How can we design new teaching innovations that reflect the differences? How can we align with the frames and restrictions of the new academic system and environment? If you are interested in joining this circle, email Michael A. Radin


Breaking Down the Ivory Tower: Getting to Know Our Students/Getting Our Students to Know Us.

Kristin Kant-Byers (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, COLA)

This teaching circle has the goal of helping faculty create a more personal experience in the classroom- not just for students, but for the faculty as well. It is the perspective of this circle that personal learning is effective learning, that is, information that is made relatable to students' lives, interests, and goals leads to more successful learning. So how can faculty share information that is relatable to the faculty member's life, interests, goals, and even their own academic journey? Many articles, blogs, and posts advise students on how to leave a good impression with their professors, how to communicate, and how to get to know professors.

Yet, very little is offered on how faculty can get to know their students. Even less technique and practices are offered that guide faculty in modeling the very personal process of learning to their students (probably because this is a vulnerable thing for faculty to do). This circle will brainstorm, create, experiment, encourage, and assess classroom practices that help faculty get to know their students and help students get to know their faculty.

We will meet Thursdays 2:00-3:00pm beginning Jan 30, and including Feb. 13 and 27, March 19, and April 2 and 16. If you are interested in joining this circle, email Kristin Kant-Byers.


Enhancing English Language Learners’ Educational Experience: Teaching and Supporting ELL Students

Kari Cameron (School of Communication, COLA)

I teach a Communication course that tends to be comprised of many students who are not native English speakers. Students who are not native speakers have raised discussions about how this impacts their success in the classroom. They've talked about distinct cultural differences in classrooms, as well as challenges they face when working on written assignments or in orally communicating. These identified differences impact their willingness to ask questions or participate in discussions, raises concerns about how their work is graded, and can generally impact their feelings of satisfaction in the classroom. In addition, instructors find that it can be challenging to ensure ELL students understand assignments, classroom discussion, and feedback.

The goal of this teaching circle is to research what instructors at RIT are currently doing to support ELL students and to develop a series of best practices that we can share with the RIT community to ensure that we are providing instruction and classroom interaction that is meaningful and effective. ELL students will benefit, but so too will their peers and their instructors. This circle meets Wednesdays, 9:00-10:00 AM on Jan. 15 and 29, Feb. 12 and 26, March 18, and April 1 and 15. If you are interested in joining this circle, email Kari Cameron.


Facilitating Self-Authorship through Classroom Dialogue

Linda Pratt (Student Life, Academic Success Center)

The RIT 365 model of instruction is centered on the premise of self-authorship, which is defined by Baxter-Magolda as “the internal capacity to define one’s beliefs, identity, and social relationships.” Creating classroom dialogue to facilitate self-authorship is a new construct for many instructors who are more familiar with teaching in a content-based format. Additionally, this was an unexpected change to the traditional model of college orientation courses for a number of first-year students, where topics and content are pre-determined by the instructor.

This learning circle is intended to build on existing practice and pedagogy to examine the phases of self-authorship and its application to classroom activities, student assessment, and/or 1:1 coaching. We will explore the questions and challenges of implementing opportunities that encourage students to discern their own construction as learners. Participants will review and discuss an article on self-authorship, and take turns acting as dialogue facilitator(s). These discussions would include, but not be limited to, efficacy of findings, classroom application to known or new learning activities, or possible areas for future study. It is not necessary for participants to have been RIT 365 Facilitators, as self-authorship can be a useful construct in other courses. Knowledge of the premise of self-authorship is helpful but not required, just a willingness to learn. If you are interested in joining this circle, email Linda Pratt.


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 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 8-weeks (January 21-March 10) 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.


Place-Based Education

Lisa Hermsen (Department of English, COLA), Kristoffer Whitney (Department of Science, Technology, and Society; COLA), and Rebekah Walker (Reference Librarian Group, Wallace Library)
This teaching circle will be continued from the Fall and will explore the possibility of expanding existing and newly implemented place-based or place-conscious pedagogy at RIT. This pedagogy connects students with local neighborhoods or communities and regions to engage with the cultural, social, and environmental landscape. Participants will be invited to collaborate to craft a 3-page concept paper that may lead to grant-seeking activity.

As such, the teaching circle discussions will start with these questions: how can we create an approach to learning that invites students to converse with communities and regions, within the context of mobility, and at the level of national and global arrangements? How can our teaching link the development of ecological awareness and stewardship to concerns about equity and cultural diversity, make connections among multiple disciplines to develop strategies for increasing civic engagement? How can we use digital public discourse to create modes for civil discourse in support of critical but “effective citizenship.”

In this teaching circle, participants will discuss the ways in which place-based education can connect students to a community, and use civic engagement with digital public discourse to build out to national and global topics. Participants will be invited to bring their own interest in place-based models–disability awareness, immigration reform, urban development, public history, or a literary marketplace. If you are interested in joining this circle, email Lisa Hermsen.


Solving the Equation: The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing

Marcos Esterman (Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, KGCE) and Sonia Lopez Alarcon (Department of Computer Engineering, KGCE)
We invite you to join our teaching circle--which will meet five times throughout the semester--to systematically review Solving the Equation, by Christianne Corbett and Catherine Hill. This report explores the factors that underlie underrepresentation of women in the engineering and computing workplace and argues for changes in the academy in order for women’s full participation. The report emphasizes the need to combat stereotypes and biases, emphasize the social relevance of STEM, cultivating a sense of belonging, and changing the environment.
We invite you to join our teaching circle—one starting in Week 2 and about every other week--to systematically review and discuss the chapters in the report, connect the content to RIT, and reflect on action that we could take to change the work environment. All of which does or should matter to the RIT community, as diversity in the workplace contributes significantly to the performance of that workplace. We need to be part of the solution that ultimately leads to parity—we need to start with us! While we will discuss actions, the goal of this teaching circle is self-reflection, collaborative discussion, and personal action. If something that benefits the Institute in a more systematic way manifests itself, we will leverage it, but that is not the goal. If you are interested in joining this circle, email Marcos Esterman.


Supporting Male Students

Rebecca Charry Roje, (Department of English, RIT Croatia-Dubrovnik Campus)
While much attention has been paid to the challenges that female students face, recent research shows that the gender gap in education may in fact have reversed in recent years -- females now outpace their male counterparts in college enrollment and graduation rates in many countries. In my own experience over 18 years as an instructor at RIT, although female students still have their struggles, and some of them are particularly female struggles, male students also seem to be facing particular challenges which deserve our attention.
This teaching circle will explore the challenges that male students face in the classroom and in college life, through an introduction to some of the current professional literature and sharing of our experiences as instructors. Participants will work together to create a list of potential strategies that can be used to identify problems that male students may be facing and to engage male students more actively in a variety of disciplines. We will focus on practical ways that we as instructors can support our students and each other.

Since I am based at our Dubrovnik, Croatia, campus, we will meet via Bluejeans a minimum of three times during the semester for approximately one hour. Due to time zone differences, our live meetings will be scheduled during morning hours EST (afternoon hours in Croatia). We may also choose to use some asynchronous discussion methods, if participants wish. If you are interested in joining this circle, email Rebecca Charry Roje.


The Learning Development of RIT Students

Cha Ron Sattler-LeBlanc (Student Life, Academic Success Center) and Melodie Kolmetz (Physician Assistant Program, CHS)
College transitions students to an adult model of learning with a curriculum for learning over the lifespan. In this teaching circle, we will explore how the learning styles and needs of our learners change over their college experience from a pedagogical model of teaching the child, toward becoming the leader and facilitator of their own learning. While there is extensive literature about the transition of students into post-secondary education, we will explore how our students develop their orientation to learning throughout their undergraduate career. If you are interested in joining this circle, email Cha Ron Sattler-LeBlanc.

Threshold Concepts of Writing across the Curriculum

Luke Daly (University Writing Program, COLA) and David Yockel (University Writing Program, COLA)
In light of the writing intensive (WI) requirement in general education and other university-wide writing concerns, faculty carry a burden not only to assign and evaluate student writing assignments, but also to understand student's writing developmentally. Similarly, faculty from across the curriculum possess deep knowledge of their disciplines' writing and thinking conventions that students are often encountering for the first time as they attempt to write successfully in those fields.
This teaching circle has two linked goals: 1) Engage faculty from varied disciplines in naming the central ways of thinking ("threshold concepts") within their communities of practice; 2) Work together to build cross-community knowledge of how writing addresses those needs in shifting ways. The deeper goal is to help faculty examine the underlying assumptions and designs in their writing assignments so that both they and their students can do great work. If you are interested in joining this circle, email Luke Daly.



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