Teaching Circles Program

A teaching circle is a small group of faculty or teaching staff (6-8 members are ideal) who come together—with the support of the Center for Teaching and Learning—for at least one term to discuss a teaching and learning topic that they can delve deeply into during group discussions.

Unlike a typical course or workshop, in a teaching circle people collaborate together to develop expertise rather than being taught by someone who already has more expertise.

Getting Started

Each Fall and Spring semester, CTL will release a call to form a teaching circle approximately six weeks prior to the start of the semester. An individual or small group of faculty/teaching staff (ideally 1-2 people) who want to explore a specific topic will make a proposal. Once facilitators and topics are selected by CTL staff, CTL will release a call to join a teaching circle approximately two weeks prior to the start of the semester; the call will list the respective facilitators, topics, and descriptions of every circle offered that semester. Prospective participants should directly contact facilitators of their interest prior to the end of Week 1 of the semester. Circles typically hold their first meeting during Weeks 2 or 3.

Topics and Activities

Teaching circles can be about just about anything you wish, so long as it is related to teaching and learning. For example, some teaching circles might focus on interdisciplinary work (e.g., Technology/Art/Design, Sustainable Development, or methods to encourage interdisciplinary undergraduate research), while others may focus on a single academic discipline (e.g., Packaging Science faculty sharing materials and ideas they’ve developed for their own classes). Some groups may explore relatively narrow pedagogical topics (e.g., discussing contemporary books on teaching, using case-study teaching techniques, or sharing ideas and strategies to foster student-generated media), while other circles may select broader topics (e.g., fostering inclusive learning or the scholarship of teaching and learning).

Teaching circle meetings and other activities can take a variety of forms to stimulate conversation and help members investigate teaching/learning topics. Teaching circle members may make use of one or more methods for sharing knowledge, including, but not limited to:

  • Guided discussion: Members come prepared to discuss an item (article, chapter, video, etc.) or issue selected by the group.
  • Round-robins: Members share personal experience and knowledge on a topic of interest to the group.
  • Ask the expert: An “expert” (or expert panel) is invited to share insights on a topic. This can include an outside guest speaker or bringing in experts from across our own campus.
  • “Progress” reports: Members report on experiments they have conducted with new ways of teaching. This can be especially helpful as a support mechanism while trying a new teaching style or project.
  • Peer tutoring: Members of the group take responsibility for learning different aspects of the topic being explored by the group. At each meeting, one or two members report back on the material they have researched.
  • Open discussion: Meetings can be occasions for informal conversations about the Circle’s general topic. There is no set agenda. Participants bring in issues, questions, and/or problems that are of interest to them.

Organization

Each teaching circle will be organized by one or more facilitators drawn from the RIT community, with support from the CTL. The facilitator(s) is more of a champion of the circle topic than a leader with specialized knowledge. Once formed, circles should devote sufficient time to discuss and establish their collective goals, participant responsibilities, sharing of findings, and organizational structure. Circles are intended to be egalitarian with all members playing an equal role in their success.

Requirements

Each circle can have up to 10-12 members, including the facilitator(s). If more people are interested, the circle can be split into two circles. Members are expected to attend and contribute to all meetings. Every circle is expected to keep informal meeting minutes and produce a brief final report or other output on what the group discussed and found that could be shared with the RIT community.

Support from CTL

The Center for Teaching and Learning will support teaching circles by:

  • Matching would-be circle facilitators/topics with prospective circle members through RIT-wide communication channels
  • Orienting and advising facilitators on group communications and logistics (e.g., circle descriptions, appropriate and available on-campus or virtual meeting spaces, circle activities)
  • Recognizing the membership and final reports of every teaching circle via public communication (e.g., blog posts) that directs the RIT community (and beyond) to a webpage devoted to Teaching Circles Findings
  • The CTL will also consider facilitating the purchase of supporting materials (e.g., books) on a per-request basis

Contact

For more information about current circles, the call to form future circles, or the teaching circles program, contact Michael Starenko.

Previous Topics and Facilitators

Active Teaching and Learning in Large Classes
Jessamy Comer, Stephanie Godleski, Rebecca Houston, and Tina Sutton (Psychology Department, CLA)
Review: Active Learning in Large Classes: A Teaching Circle Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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

Flexing into the Future: Creating Flexible Courses for Students
Joseph Lanzafame (School of Chemistry and Materials Science, COS)

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)

How Am I Doing on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)? – Towards a Social Justice Curriculum
Elisabetta D’Amanda (Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, CLA)

Lean In, Listen & Learn: Developing as Allies for Women of Color
Betsy Dell (AdvanceRIT and Department of Manufacturing & Mechanical Engineering Technology, CET)

Promoting a Community of Inquiry in Online Teaching and Learning
Bridgette Yaxley (University Writing Program, CLA)

Threshold Concepts of Writing Assignments Across the Curriculum
Luke Daly and David Yockel, Jr. (University Writing Program, CLA)

Exploring Games for Teaching and Learning
David Simkins (School of Interactive Games and Media, GCCIS)

Success Strategies for Women Faculty
Betsy Dell (AdvanceRIT and Manufacturing & Mechanical Engineering Technology, CET)

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

Infusing the Entrepreneurial Mindset Among Our Students
Beth DeBartolo (Multidisciplinary Design, KGCOE) and Jen O’Neil (Manufacturing & Mechanical Engineering Technology, CET)

Integrating Jupyter Content 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).

Teaching Online and Hybrid Psychology Courses
Alan Smerbeck (Department of Psychology, CLA)

Breaking Down the Ivory Tower: Getting to Know Our Students/Getting Our Students to Know Us
Kristin Kant-Byers (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, CLA)

Enhancing English Language Learners’ Educational Experience: Teaching and Supporting ELL Students
Kari Cameron (School of Communication, CLA)

Facilitating Classroom Dialogue Through Self-Authorship
Linda Pratt (Student Life, Academic Support Center)

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

Place-Based Education
Lisa Hermsen (Department of English, CLA), Kristoffer Whitney (Department of Science, Technology, and Society; CLA), and Rebekah Walker (Reference Librarian Group, Wallace Library)

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)

Supporting Male Students
Rebecca Charry Roje, (Department of English, RIT Croatia-Dubrovnik Campus)

The Learning Development of RIT Students
Cha Ron Sattler-LeBlanc (Student Life, Academic Success Center) and Melodie Kolmetz (Physician Assistant Program, CHS)

Threshold Concepts of Writing across the Curriculum
Luke Daly (University Writing Program, CLA)

Infusing the Entrepreneurial Mindset Among Our Students
Beth DeBartolo (Multidisciplinary Design, KGCOE) and Jen O’Neil (Manufacturing & Mechanical Engineering Technology, CET)

Use Writing to Improve Student Learning and Engagement
David Martins (University Writing Program, CLA)

Inclusive Pedagogy
Taj Smith (Division of Diversity and Inclusion, Office for Diversity and Inclusion)

Teaching English with Second Language Learners
Kari Cameron (School of Communication, CLA)

Solving the Equation: The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing
Marcos Esterman (Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, KGCE) and Margaret Bailey (Department of Mechanical Engineering, KGCE)

Place-Based Education
Lisa Hermsen (Department of English, CLA), Kristoffer Whitney (Department of Science, Technology, and Society; CLA), and Rebekah Walker (Reference Librarian Group, Wallace Library)

Infusing the Entrepreneurial Mindset into the Undergraduate Curriculum
Beth DeBartolo (Multidisciplinary Design, KGCOE) and Jen O’Neil (Manufacturing & Mechanical Engineering Technology, CET)

Defining Mentoring and its Application / Value for Today’s College Student
Barry Strauber (School of Communication, CLA)

Teaching in a World of Extroverts
Suzanne O’Handley (School of Chemistry and Materials Science, COS)

Fostering Social Impact Design and Engagement Opportunities for Students
Rob Stevents (Mechanical Engineering, KGCOE), Sarah Brownell (Multidisciplinary Design, KGCOE), and Ann Howard (Science, Technology, and Society; CLA)

Best Practices in Modern Languages
Elisabetta Sanino D’Amanda (Modern Languages and Cultures, CLA)

Integrating Research into Classroom Teaching
Kaitlin Stack Whitney (Science, Technology, and Society; CLA)

Defining Mentoring and its Application
Barry Strauber (School of Communication, CLA)

Teaching in a World of Extroverts
Suzanne O’Handley (School of Chemistry and Materials Science, COS)

The Importance of Metacognition/Learning About Learning
Melodie Kolmetz (Physician Assistant Program, CHS)

Fostering Social Design and Engagement Opportunities for Students
Rob Stevents (Mechanical Engineering, KGCOE), Sarah Brownell (Multidisciplinary Design, KGCOE), and Ann Howard (Science, Technology, and Society; CLA)

Best Practices in Teaching Modern Languages
Elisabetta Sanino D’Amanda (Modern Languages and Cultures, CLA)

Using Active Learning to Foster Critical Thinking
Melodie Kolmetz (Physician Assistant Program, CHS)

Using Imagery to Help Stimulate Critical Thinking
Colin Mathers (Philosophy Department, CLA)

Put the WOW back in STEM
Sandi Connelly (School of Life Sciences, COS), Jeff Mills (School of Chemistry and Materials Science, COS), and Paul Craig (School of Chemistry and Materials Science, COS)