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Blog » Join a Spring 2021 Teaching Circle

The Innovative Learning Institute is pleased to announce the following online teaching circles for Spring 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 of these upcoming groups (conducted synchronously in Zoom), please email the designated contact person as soon as possible, but no later than February 5, 2021. Based on a Doodle or similar poll, circles will start holding their synchronous online meetings by mid-February (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 Spring 2021 blog post. If you have any questions about, or would like to propose a topic for a future teaching circle, email Michael Starenko.


Flexing into the Future: Creating Flexible Courses for Students

Joseph Lanzafame (School of Chemistry and Materials Science, COS)

The uncertainty of face-to-face instruction in the COVID-19 Era has required faculty to develop flexible approaches to instruction to ensure continuity of learning when we couldn't always be in the classroom. Some of these approaches may forever alter teaching and learning in the post-COVID-19 Era.

This teaching circle seeks to investigate the different modality options and available technology to create more flexible and supportive learning environments moving forward. Depending on participants’ interests, we’ll strive to produce a list of resources/technologies and a set of best practices related to flexible course design and delivery. If you would like to join this circle, email Jospeph Lanzafame.


Fostering Applied Critical Thinking (ACT) Across the Disciplines

Jennifer Schneider (Fram Chair, Academic Affairs, and Department of Civil Engineering Technology, Environmental Management and Safety, CET)

The way information is consumed and used to develop knowledge has changed, especially for young people. New methods of gaining knowledge also impact our information application within our disciplines. This teaching circle will focus on ACT (Applied Critical Thinking) with particular emphasis on developing best practices for (1) student capacity to evaluate information quality and use information from various sources across the disciplines and (2) practicing the art of collegial conversations and critique in the disciplines. This compendium could be shared on the Fram website.

We acknowledge that “information acuity” is a crucial skill broadly developed in general education. In addition to supporting that, this teaching circle aims to address the need to firmly translate foundational ACT also into discipline-based thinking. Possible areas for exploration include such initial ideas as:

  • How do we define information?
  • How do we evaluate the claims and data behind the scientific headlines?
  • How does public perception impact the view and success of technology and innovation?
  • How can we develop skills for conversations and discourse across opposing views?
  • Can the skill of critique in art lead us toward more fruitful interactions in other arenas?
  • How has our emerging style of knowledge consumption driven differing views of what constitutes fact?
  • How should we “research” facts from a variety of sources, including social media?

Every few weeks, we will host an approximately one-hour Zoom session. The circle will be limited to 8-10 teachers and each member should be prepared to develop and share best practices across this crucial topic. This teaching circle will be a shared experience, facilitated by Jennifer Schneider and several members of the Fram Advisory Board. If you would like to join this circle, email Jennifer Schneider


How Am I Doing on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)? – Towards a Social Justice Curriculum

Elisabetta D’Amanda (Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, COLA)

This circle will research and discuss issues and best practices in DEI in a safe and supportive community of peers. We will read and discuss the following:

  • White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin Di Angelo
  • So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo
  • Developing A Disability Justice Mindset, by Luticha Andre Doucette
  • Scholarly articles and books on Social Justice in terms on gender and different abilities

To keep the discussion focused and effect, each participant will be encouraged to create or redesign a full course. Findings from the circle may be shared in a conference poster or and/or presentation, or journal article, depending on participants’ interest. We will attempt to meet on five Thursdays, time TBD based on participants’ availability via Doodle. If you would like to join this circle, email Elisabetta D’Amanda.


Lean In, Listen & Learn: developing as allies for women of color

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

The topic of this teaching circle will be white women developing as allies for women of color. People of color shouldn’t always have to be the ones to educate white people about racism and oppression. This circle is to learn about racism, our own white privilege, and how to challenge it as white people. A particular focus will be on the experiences of women of color faculty. The group will engage in readings and media (videos, podcasts, etc.) on the topics of white privilege, effective allyship, and experiences of women of color in higher education and in the workplace.

Topics will be connected with relevant events hosted by RIT this Spring semester, which include:

  • Minda Harts (March 4th) author of The Memo – What Women of Color Need To Know To Secure A Seat At The Table. Hosted by the Multicultural Center for Academic Success, AdvanceRIT and partners
  • Picture a Scientist viewing and panel discussion (March). Hosted by AdvanceRIT and RIT’s HHMI Inclusive Excellence
  • Carol Anderson, Ph.D. (April 8th) author of One Person, No Vote -How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy. Hosted by the Moving Forward: Suffrage Past, Present and Future initiative
  • Coffee Chats hosted by the RIT HHMI Inclusive Excellence Team in College of Science
  • A facilitated conversation with women of color to be held in May.

We will also read and discuss the following books, articles, and web resources during our four virtual meetings:

Our teaching circle will meet via Zoom every three weeks on the following Tuesdays at 3:00-3:50 PM: February 9, March 2, March 23, and April 13. A Slack channel will be available to the group for discussion and sharing outside of meeting times. If you would like to join this circle, email Michael Starenko.


Promoting a Community of Inquiry in Online Teaching and Learning

Bridgette Yaxley (University Writing Program, CLA)

As educators, we aim to inspire our students to write, research, think, and respond critically. When teaching in an online learning community, these constructivist learner-centered activities provide excellent opportunities to help students process information and collaborate by promoting a Community of Inquiry (CoI) (see Garrison et al., 2000). Students are guided by the teaching and social presence of the framework as they enhance their cognitive presence.

Because research has demonstrated a connection between the three presences in the CoI theoretical framework and student success, this teaching circle intends to explore pedagogical strategies and best practices that fostering a humanizing presence when teaching and learning online. We will begin with a round-robin discussion to share effective practices when teaching online, followed by a discussion of recent research regarding instructor presence. Each member of the circle will be encouraged to design and try out a CoI-informed assignment in one or more of their courses, and then share their successes and student responses, any limitations observed, a list of instructional technologies used, and recommendations. This information can serve as a helpful reference for others who wish to incorporate CoI strategies when teaching online. If you would like to join this circle, email Bridgette Yaxley.


Threshold Concepts of Writing Assignments Across the Curriculum

Luke Daly and David Yockel, Jr. (University Writing Program, CLA)

Faculty who use writing assignments--for Writing Intensive course components and other student needs-- often do so to initiate students into deeper knowledge of a discipline's writing and thinking conventions. However, students sometimes encounter these assignments without explicit understanding of the discipline's ways of making meaning. And the assessment of such efforts may lead frustrated students to be less concerned about learning the thinking conventions and more about avoiding error.

In this teaching circle, University Writing Program faculty will invite you to 1) share some central ways of making meaning--"threshold concepts"--within your discipline; 2) explore how your current writing-assignment design encourages student encounters with those concepts; and 3) revise your writing assignments collaboratively to help students gain more explicit understanding of the discipline they are being asked to understand through writing. If you would like to join this circle, email Luke Daly.


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