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Blog » Join a Spring 2022 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 Spring Semester 2022.

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 January 14, 2022. 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 Spring 2022 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.

Active Teaching and Learning 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 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 semester, and each Zoom session will last one hour. 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.

Being the Best NTID Tutors We Can Be Karen Tobin and Sarah Sarchet (Science and Mathematics Department, NTID)

We, the facilitators of this teaching circle, are on a quest to be become the best NTID tutors we can be. With the pandemic, however, the isolation of our position and its uniqueness has increased. This has made us question our best practices up to this point. With the ever- changing environment and an uncooperative pandemic, we have been looking for best practices, new resources, and learning from anyone with relevant experience and knowledge.

Our situation is very different from that of a typical RIT instructor. We are educators, but we don’t have control of the class, the material, and the pace, and yet we are much more than “mere” tutors. We would like to start a conversation about what we do and how we can improve our (and our student’s) experiences/knowledge. We are sure there are things that you, as a fellow tutor, we can all learn from. We want to know! We’re hoping we’re not alone.

This teaching circle will meet every two weeks for one hour to discuss topics that we NTID tutors face each semester. Let’s work together, learn from, and support each other. Some topics to start our discussions:

  • Policies and your tutoring rules
  • Liaison relationships
  • Boundaries and work balance
  • The mixed model, differences in each department
  • Best practices for making content materials
  • Multi-modal communication
  • Tutoring multiple sections with multiple books and instructors
  • Tutoring in general

Information will be pulled from many different sources: articles, speakers, each other’s experiences. The information to perform our job better is not in one place, like a book, but there is a lot of great information we can compile and use for our purposes. Please join us as we discuss, learn, and laugh. We can’t wait to see you. If you would like to join this synchronous online circle, email Karen Tobin.

Capstone Connections Beth DeBartolo (Multidisciplinary Senior Design Program, KGCOE)

An engineer, an industrial designer, and a museum expert walked into a bar...wait, no, maybe it was a lumberyard. Anyway, time passed, the students had a great adventure, and they all graduated richer for the experience, but only because we were able to make some curricular connections between RIT programs.

RIT has dozens of capstone/senior project classes, and when we're able to find projects that bring these students together in interesting ways, the students, instructors, and clients benefit. If you're interested in finding ways for your capstone/senior project students to find projects and collaborators outside their major, join us for once-a-month (ideally on a Friday) discussion and planning starting in late January.

One potential output for the group is to create a map and comparison of our capstone/project course structures—which will help enable future collaboration. Depending on the disciplines represented within the circle, these findings could be published at the Capstone Design Conference or IJEE’s semi-annual, special issue on capstone projects. If you would like to join this synchronous online circle, email Beth DeBartolo.

Exploring Extended Reality (XR) and Immersive Learning Susan Lakin (School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, CAD; Director, Frameless Labs, RIT Magic Center)

This teaching circle will investigate ways to enhance learning and teaching with extended reality (XR). XR is an umbrella term used to describe all immersive technologies (AR/MR/VR). Augmented reality (AR), often referred to as mixed reality (MR), is an immersive technology that overlays digital content onto the real world and virtual reality (VR), submerges the viewer into a 360 virtual world. The rapid development of XR is changing how students interact with course content, instructors, and peers. Immersive learning transcends space and time, creating new opportunities in education and methods to augment the traditional classroom. We will research code-free XR platforms such as EON Realities, inviting a demonstration during the term. The teaching circle will explore how XR can foster learning and engage students in interactive and immersive experiences with the intention to apply some techniques in our respective classes. If you would like to join this synchronous online circle, email Susan Lakin.

Fostering Active Learning in Advanced Graduate Courses in the Physical Sciences Michael Zemcov (School of Physics and Astronomy, COS)

Advanced graduate courses in the physical sciences are typically taught using very traditional modalities. However, the format of these courses (small enrollments of skilled and enthusiastic students, technically challenging materials, and the instructor's desire to communicate the front-line state of some narrow field) make active learning using discussion and interaction a natural and effective modality. In this teaching circle, we will discuss experiences, methodologies, and pedagogical designs with the goal of adapting some of the active learning techniques we use in undergraduate courses to the graduate level.

Circle participants should expect to meet via Zoom for one hour roughly every 2-3 weeks during the semester. Little time commitment outside of these sessions is expected. We hope to produce a two-page report and slide deck describing our deliberations and to present these outputs at faculty meetings in the Physics, AST, and IMGS graduate programs. If you would like to join this synchronous online circle, email Michael Zemcov.

Making Great Writing Assignments with Threshold Concepts and Backward Design Luke Daly, Xia Wu, and David Yockel, Jr. (University Writing Program, CLA)

The purpose of this teaching circle will be to help faculty reimagine and revise their writing assignment sequences by combining aspects of backward assignment design with the theory of threshold concepts.

The “backward design” approach simply begins by identifying the desired results of the project, then uses those desired results (or learning outcomes) as tools in building a comprehensive and transparent assignment sequence. And, in short, a threshold concept is something that, once understood, completely changes the way a person thinks about a particular subject—something like a door that students need to walk through before they can truly engage in the work of their disciplines.

By introducing the “backward design” approach in connection with threshold concept theory, this circle hopes to encourage faculty to construct creative, effective, fair, and equitable writing assignments whose learning outcomes are both explicit to students while clearly connected to the threshold concepts of their particular disciplines.

This circle will consist of four (4) meetings, one (1) hour each, spread out over the semester, starting towards the end of January. We hope that, at the very least, each participant leaves the teaching circle with at least one new or revised assignment sequence and a new outlook on and approach to the construction of writing assignments. If you would like to join this synchronous online circle, email James Daly.

Pre-Tenure and Pre-Promotion Accountability Buddy Group Kierstin Muroski (ASLIE Department, NTID)

Pre-tenured and pre-promoted faculty must keep track of their progress in order to produce successful tenure and promotion documents. Often, faculty will race in the final-hour to complete their writings, resulting in a stressful and sometimes unsuccessful experience. This circle will dedicate time for writing, discussing, and reviewing the many documents required for successful tenure and promotion applications.

The circle will meet weekly throughout the Spring semester for a series of Zoom discussions of the tenure and promotion requirements; dedicated parallel writing time; peer-review of each other's documents; and peer-to-peer shared tips related to the overall experience of drafting a dossier. It is intended for those who would like to have a few ‘buddies’ to keep them accountable for completing their tenure and promotion application documents and offer some friendly collegiality as we wade through the process together.

I propose we meet every Wednesday morning, 8:00-9:00am ET; however, if there is conflict with schedules of people interested in the circle, then I will take a poll. If you would like to join this synchronous online circle, email Kierstin Muroski.

What Makes an NTID Faculty Member an Effective Online Educator? Austin Gehret (Science and Mathematics Department, NTID) and Rebecca Carpenter (Office of the Associate Dean for Research, NTID)

As an immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the RIT community was tasked to provide instructional continuity exclusively online – synchronously or asynchronously. Since that time, we have seen hybrid models of instruction evolve with some faculty currently having the opportunity to exercise choice in their preferred modality. NTID faculty, through all of this transition, have also needed to consider the implications for providing academic support (tutoring) remotely.

From a social-support perspective, d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) students forced into remote learning have also experienced a greater degree of isolation owing to the importance that is placed on community in Deaf Culture. Bringing NTID folks together to share their experiences will be key in enhancing the online learning experience, both synchronous and asynchronous, for our DHH students.

This NTID-specific teaching circle will gather faculty across a variety of course modes and experiences (synchronous delivery, asynchronous delivery, HyFlex delivery, synchronous tutoring delivery) to participate in a discussion of best practices for delivering engaging content and/or mitigating isolation. No one is expected to be an expert in all areas, but we do think we have many talented individuals that may be thriving in at least one of these experiences.

The teaching circle will roll out as three round-robin sessions (in no particular order):

  1. Synchronous experiences
  2. HyFlex experiences
  3. Asynchronous experiences

Meeting minutes will be used to develop a list of best practices and video tutorials as appropriate that will be hosted online by the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Virtual Academic Community (DHHVAC). A final report summarizing the teaching circle activities will live on this website too. Teaching circle participants will be supported by internal NTID funds to obtain a computer tablet and stylus for both participation in the teaching circle and to develop new online educational materials or modify their existing online materials using discussed strategies and practices.

Participants will also be expected to help disseminate best practices to their home departments/units through collaboration with the DHHVAC. Additionally, NTID’s Office of Online Learning will serve as a resource to assist circle participants in using alternative technologies (e.g., Wacom tablets, desktop lightboards) and/or online pedagogical design strategies. If you would like to join this synchronous online circle, email Austin Gehret.

Integrating Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Grand Challenges into Course Activities Sarah Brownell (Grand Challenges Scholars Program, Engineering Leadership, KGCOE)

The challenges we face as a nation and global community—whether we call them “Grand Challenges for Engineering” or “Sustainable Development Goals” or something else—do not fit neatly into disciplinary boxes. Students who hope to address these challenges after graduation need to be prepared to grapple with the complexity that surrounds them. How might their courses help them get ready?
If you are interested in adding a little bit of content around the “grand challenges” to your courses, and would like to work with faculty from another discipline to explore a topic from varied perspectives, this learning circle is for you! Join with a partner from another discipline that shares a common interest, or join on your own and we will match-make partnerships.
As an engineering faculty member working with faculty from the liberal arts, I have had very positive and fun experiences, learned a lot about other disciplines, and gained confidence in bringing up non-technical issues in my own engineering courses. I hope this learning circle will provide a low-key, low-stakes opportunity for faculty collaborations to form and perhaps, over time, grow.
We plan to meet once monthly via Zoom and/or on-campus for 1 hour throughout the Spring semester (time and communication mode will be determined by a poll). The goal will be to work in pairs (or trios...) to develop course activities—e.g., role play, case study, problem-solving activity, creative assignment, written response, lecture, homework problem—that integrate different perspectives around an important challenge (you get to define the challenge!).
To get you thinking, here are some examples from previous collaborations:

  • Provide Access to Clean Water – Students review articles from various sources on the Flint Water Crisis, exploring the intersection of policy, law, ethics, and the capabilities of the existing water infrastructure and water testing methods/rules. (From my collaboration with Wade Robison in Philosophy.)
  • Advance Personalized Learning – Students use SWOT analysis to evaluate the product-design process and implementation of MIT’s One Laptop Per Child Project and then compare their predictions to what actually happened. (From my collaboration with Ann Howard in Science, Technology, and Society.)

If you would like to join this hybrid-mode circle (Zoom and/or on-campus), email Sarah Brownell.



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