Excellence in Teaching Day
Excellence in Teaching Day is a full-day event that brings faculty from across BC together with nationally-recognized scholars to discuss urgent questions about teaching and learning. This year Excellence in Teaching Day was held in person — with some hybrid options available — in 245 Beacon on Monday, May 8 from 9:30 - 3:30.
Grading: Evaluating What We Value
When the newly-formed Center for Teaching Excellence hosted its first Excellence in Teaching Day in 2015, the moment that spurred the strongest reactions – both positive and negative – was the conclusion of Mike Wesch’s keynote. Although providing few details, Wesch sketched a compelling picture of an alternative grading approach predicated on the rule that “everybody gets up.” In other words, grades weren’t about dividing students according to performance; they were a tool meant to help every student succeed. While some were inspired by Wesch’s push to reimagine grades in order to put learners’ needs first, others objected to the time commitment required by his approach and questioned its applicability at a research university committed to rigor. Everyone was left wanting to hear more.
Now, eight years later — driven by advances in the learning sciences, greater attention to student mental health, and pandemic-fueled reconsiderations of long-held classroom norms — conversations about “ungrading” and other grading alternatives are in the mainstream of pedagogical debates. For this Excellence in Teaching Day, we engaged these calls to re-examine the values driving our systems of evaluation by digging into the current research on grading. We looked back at the history of how today’s grading norms were first constructed and interrogate emerging calls to reimagine grading systems in light of concerns about equity, student learning outcomes, and student mental health. We reflected together on which values are driving our respective grading decisions and how well our grading systems enable us to evaluate the learning we value most.
"The Call Is Coming from Inside the House: How Grades Limit Learning and Impact Student Wellbeing"
Getting a good grade is supposed to be a marker of excellence, but research shows that grades diminish our intrinsic motivation and emphasize the outcome rather than the process that leads to what researchers refer to as deep learning. Grades also mirror and magnify many of the systemic inequities that are a part of higher education. Further still, rates of anxiety and depression have spiked dramatically for teens and young adults, and academic stress tied to grades is a leading cause of this escalation.
In this keynote presentation, Joshua Eyler (Director of Faculty Development at the University of Mississippi and author of How Humans Learn) led attendees through a structured reflection exercise designed to spark our thinking about the connections between our grading practices, our values, and our beliefs about education. He then explored some of the research on grades and offered a range of strategies we can try, both in our classrooms and at the institutional level, in order to be more just in our classrooms by mitigating the damaging effects of grades.
Expert Presentation & Workshop
Courtney Sobers, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Rutgers, also joined us for ETD to provide a research presentation and facilitate a workshop on alternative approaches to grading. See full details under the “Breakouts” tab below.
The CTE is committed to providing equal access to events and programs. Below you can find some of the proactive steps we took to make Excellence in Teaching Day accessible:
- Providing hybrid access to breakout sessions and the keynote
- Making accessible materials from presenters available at last 24-hours ahead of time whenever possible
- Providing pathways for verbal and written contributions throughout the day
- Using microphones whenever they are available
- Enabling automatic captioning in Zoom for remote participants and projecting it in the room for in-person participants
- Having ASL interpreters during the keynote session for in-person and remote attendees
- Making powerstrips available in breakout session rooms
- Access to lactation rooms
9:00 a.m. Light Breakfast (245 Beacon Street, 2nd Floor Entrance)
9:30 a.m. Breakout Sessions I (245 Beacon Street)
11:00 a.m. Breakout Sessions II (245 Beacon Street)
12:30 p.m. Lunch (Lyons Dining Hall)
1:45 p.m. Keynote & Raffle (245 Beacon Street, 107 Auditorium)
3:15 p.m. Coffee & Dessert (245 Beacon Street, 107 Auditorium)
Breakout Sessions I (9:30 - 10:45)
Tara Pisani Gareau (E&ES), Heather Olins (Biology), and Celeste Wells (Communication)
The Jesuit Essentials, a working group of Professors of the Practice organized by BC’s Jesuit Institute, have been reflecting on how the many and varied teaching challenges that came with the onset of COVID forced them to rethink much about how they taught. Learning to navigate those challenges was often difficult and even painful, yet forced creativity can have its upsides, one of which was new insight into what they really needed their students to learn. In this session, members of the Jesuit Essentials group describe ways in which they reassessed how students could be evaluated on their work and knowledge. They determined that there might be more creative and humane ways to assess student learning and development. What were originally adaptations to emergency have since become welcome changes in how they continue to teach today, and this session will reflect the value of these practices.
Imagining Alternative Grading in STEM
Courtney Sobers (Rutgers) and Henry Wisniewski (Rutgers)
Before the pandemic started, Dr. Courtney Sobers recognized that traditional grading systems made life unnecessarily difficult for the students in her general chemistry lab course. These students were managing circumstances that impacted their ability to focus on their academic responsibilities, such as being the first in their family to attend college, employment, and caregiving duties. The pandemic further highlighted these disparities in privilege, motivating Dr. Sobers to increase course flexibility without compromising the student learning experience. In this research presentation, Dr. Sobers, along with Head TA Henry Wisniewski, will describe the process of moving from traditional grading to alternative grading in General Chemistry II Lab. They will discuss how the grading approach changes impacted TAs, students, and the instructor, and the conversation around grades/grading. Dr. Sobers will also discuss alternative grading in summer Organic Chemistry I and II lectures. This interactive presentation addresses concerns particular to STEM courses, but also promises to be of interest to instructors considering using alternative grading in other disciplines or non-lecture style courses.
Investing in Trauma-Informed Advising
Sue Coleman (SSW) and Kathleen Flinton (SSW)
When the School of Social Work launched a Trauma Integration Initiative, Kathleen Flinton and Sue Coleman focused their efforts on developing better ways to support students who experience trauma in their field placements, either as echoes of those students’ own trauma histories or as vicarious trauma experienced through their close work with clients. Drawing on their expertise in trauma-informed care, Flinton and Coleman developed an initiative to help advisors in SSW build and maintain boundaries and trust while creating a supportive learning environment for students during their field placements.
In this presentation, Flinton and Coleman will share the research basis for their trauma-informed advising initiative and invite participants to reflect on how a trauma-informed approach could inform their own teaching and advising practices. Although this presentation is most directly relevant to those working with students in clinical placements, it promises to raise useful questions to anyone thinking about the ways advising can better support students’ intellectual, professional, and personal growth.
Technology Innovations to Engage Students
Linda Boardman Liu (CSOM), Alejandro Olayo-Méndez, S.J. (SSW), and Erik Owens (International Studies/Theology)
The Academic Technology Advisory Board is charged with advocating for faculty concerns in all matters related to educational technology at BC. As part of that work, each year they award Academic Technology Innovation Grants (or ATIGs) to support faculty seeking to experiment with creative uses of new and existing technologies for their teaching and research. For this panel, past ATIG winners will showcase successful projects that have broadened the scope of the learning experience for students by engaging local and global communities and providing resources for faculty to pool their knowledge to streamline the teaching process. Join us to explore new ways to engage with your students and colleagues.
Breakout Sessions II (11:00 - 12:15)
Academic Integrity as Formation
Treseanne Ainsworth (MCAS), Jeff DaCosta (Biology), Andrés Castro Samayoa (LSEHD), and Ethan Sullivan (CSOM)
As educators around the country struggle with concerns about academic integrity — what it is, what its purpose is, and the effects of current principles and practices — how can we work towards a proactive framework that contributes to formative education? We’ll hear about ways Boston College faculty are designing courses and assignments, modeling scholarship and engagement with tools including ChatGPT, and communicating with students about expectations and choices. We’ll also hear from members of the Committee on Academic Integrity developing new procedures to respond to violations, about the thinking that informs the process, including a restorative justice philosophy.
Getting Started with Alternative Grading
Courtney Sobers (Rutgers) and Henry Wisniewski (Rutgers)
Bring an assessment or assignment from one of your courses and think with colleagues about how to apply a grading method that better aligns with your intentions for student learning. Facilitated by Professor Courtney Sobers, attendees will explore alternative grading approaches for a range of assessments (classroom, clinical, skilled-based, etc.). Time will also be devoted to adapting for externally defined course requirements. Head Teaching Assistant Henry Wisniewski will contribute valuable insights around how TAs can support your efforts and how TAs impact the efficacy of the grading approach. Dr. Sobers and Henry will also discuss how to manage expectations and workload for students, TAs, and instructors. Space for this workshop is limited, so we encourage everyone interested to register soon. This workshop addresses concerns particular to STEM courses, large courses, and accelerated courses, but will be of interest to all instructors who are considering alternative grading.
Teaching as Scholarship
Juliana Belding (Math), Martha Hincks (English), and Avneet Hira (Engineering)
Pat Hutchings describes the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL) as the work of “faculty bringing their habits and skills as scholars to their work as teachers — habits of asking questions, gathering evidence of all different kinds, drawing conclusions or raising new questions — and bringing what they learn through that to [. . .] their students’ learning and their own teaching” (2013). Similarly, Nancy Chick defines SOTL as bringing “a scholarly lens” to the classroom: “the curiosity, the inquiry, the rigor, the disciplinary variety” (2015). For this panel, we’ll hear from three BC faculty who have experimented with turning a scholarly lens on their teaching. Each will share what motivated their project, how they approached it, and the ways it’s influenced their choices in the classroom. If you’ve been considering taking a more scholarly approach to your own teaching — or are just interested in learning from your colleagues’ investigations – then join our discussion of teaching as scholarship.
The Work of Supporting Student Mental Health
Julie Dunne (CSON), Sylvia Sellers-García (History), and Melinda Stoops (Student Affairs)
Faculty, given their routine contact with students, are often amongst the first to notice when a student’s mental health is suffering. As we face a national mental health crisis for college students and adolescents, more faculty are feeling called to take on the labor of supporting student mental health while also seeking to maintain appropriate boundaries given their role and expertise. This session provides an opportunity to hear from colleagues who have interviewed students about their experiences on campus and centered student mental health and wellness in their course design. It's also a chance to learn about Student Affairs resources that exist to support students and the faculty who support them.
For Excellence In Teaching Day participants visiting Boston College on May 8th:
- Campus Map (including accessibility information)
- Directions and Parking (please park in the Beacon Street Garage)
- Wireless Access on Campus
After nearly three years since our last on-campus Excellence in Teaching Day event, we were delighted to be able to hold ETD 2022 in person in Gasson Hall on Monday, May 9.
In the introduction to her book, What Can a Body Do? How We Meet the Built World, Sara Hendren asks of a world fundamentally changed by a global pandemic: “Is a desirable future one that only restores what was lost? Or is it a new set of possibilities asking to be imagined, or reimagined?” Hendren, an artist turned design researcher, invites her readers to explore that question through the lens of design — inviting us to ask of everyday objects and spaces, “Who is the built world built for?”
For Excellence in Teaching Day this year, we took up Hendren’s invitation to ask, “Who is the classroom built for?” How do the choices we make as we design and teach our courses shape what kind of learning – and learners – can find a place in our classrooms? Building on the recent uptick in interest across campus in the role of design in higher education, ETD this year featured faculty from a range of disciplines sharing the various ways they’ve “rebuilt” how they approach teaching and mentoring. See the tabs below for complete details about Hendren’s keynote, breakout sessions, and an afternoon “design thinking” workshop.
The Agency to Build: Ideas for the Convivial Classroom
Sara Hendren (Associate Professor of Arts, Humanities and Design at Olin College of Engineering)
How do we bring a spirit of agency to our classroom encounters—whether in the seminar, the studio, or the laboratory? At its best, the classroom offers students the chance to analyze more sharply and understand more deeply. But as educators, we also want to equip students with both the confidence and the proper humility to act—to collaborate, to prototype, to energize our many disciplines toward desirable futures. Sara Hendren walks us through some unusual laboratory-studio classroom encounters and offers ideas from many thinkers and domains about building a big generous house for nurturing young builders, in every corner of the university campus.
Sara Hendren is a humanist in tech—an artist, design researcher, writer, and professor at Olin College of Engineering. Her book What Can A Body Do? How We Meet the Built World explores the places where disability shows up in design. It was named one of the Best Books of 2020 by NPR and won a 2021 Science in Society Journalism award. Her art and design work has been widely exhibited in museum exhibitions and is held in the permanent collections at MoMA and the Cooper Hewitt. In 2021-22, she is Lecturer in Architecture at Harvard Graduate School of Design and a fellow in Education Policy at the New America think tank, where she is researching the future of work for adults with cognitive and developmental disabilities.
Faculty As Gatekeepers: Challenging Assumptions Around Access
Jordyn Zimmerman (BC Grad) and Kristen Bottema-Beutel (LSEHD)
Understanding the perspectives of disabled folx improves campus and educational practice while reducing unintentional harm. Presented by a nonspeaking Autistic BC grad, along with a BC faculty member, this session provides an important learning opportunity for experienced faculty and novices, alike. By the conclusion of this session, participants will be able to: 1) identify internalized and unintentional ableism in themselves and their work within higher education; 2) identify inclusive and exclusive practices in their work and how ableist beliefs contribute to these structures, and; 3) critically discuss and more readily describe ways they can support Autistic students, particularly those who are nonspeaking.
Jordyn Zimmerman (she/her) is a recent graduate from Boston College, where she earned her Masters of Education. As a nonspeaking autistic student who was denied access to effective augmentative communication until she was 18, Zimmerman has personal experience challenging the educational status quo, which is featured in the 2021 documentary, This Is Not About Me. Zimmerman also serves as the Director of Professional Development for The Nora Project, is on the board of CommunicationFIRST, was recently nominated to the President’s Committee on People with Intellectual Disabilities, and is passionate about ensuring every student is able to access effective communication and exercise their right to a truly inclusive education.
Materials for the “Faculty as Gatekeepers” panel
Mentoring Graduate Students
Cal Halverson (SSW), Charles Hoffman (Biology), Elida Laski (LSEHD)
For many of us, the only graduate mentoring models we have to draw on are the ones we experienced ourselves as graduate students, which can limit our ability to imagine different (and better) ways of supporting our own mentees. For this session, three BC faculty will reflect on their own approaches to graduate mentoring and share their experiences with common mentoring challenges. Focused on mentoring both master’s and doctoral students, the session will address the work of guiding students through their academic programs as well as helping them prepare for future careers within higher education or elsewhere.
View the “Mentoring Graduate Students” recording
Materials for the “Mentoring Graduate Students” panel
BC Funding Sources for Innovations in Teaching
Kathleen Bailey (Chair, University Council on Teaching), Mary Crane (Director, Institute for the Liberal Arts), Aleksandar (Sasha) Tomic (Chair, Academic Technology Advisory Board)
Looking for funding for a teaching-related project? Come learn about internal grants available for full-time faculty members, and bring ideas to share and receive feedback. Representatives from BC’s University Council on Teaching (overseeing TAM and TAME grants), Academic Technology Advisory Board (ATIG and ETG grants), and Institute for the Liberal Arts (Major Grants, Minor Grants and Grants for Innovation in Graduate Education) — will present options and answer your questions.
View the “BC Funding Sources” recording
“I Expected You”: Designing for Universal Learning
Richard Jackson (LSEHD), Tara Casebolt (Honors Program), Sam Bradley (SSW)
Aware that the college student population is much different now than it was when the norms of higher education teaching and course design were established, many faculty are taking another look at their courses to figure out how they can meet the needs of all their students. Some faculty have found Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a framework that emerged with the explicit intention of creating learning environments that are equitable for students with disabilities, helpful in their pursuit of that goal. Other faculty have turned to different frameworks, including methods seeking to decolonize the curriculum. This panel will include an overview of UDL and examples of how BC faculty pursue the goal of designing courses for universal learning from their own pedagogical perspectives.
View the “Designing for Universal Learning” recording
Materials for the “Designing for Universal Learning” panel
Beyond Essays and Exams: Creative Ways to Evaluate Student Learning
Angela Ards (English), Ethan Baxter (Earth and Environmental Sciences), Nora Gross (Sociology), María de los Ángeles Picone (History)
Asking students to complete a creative major assignment, rather than writing an essay or taking an exam, can provide a different way for students to demonstrate their learning, keep students motivated, and make grading less grueling. Panelists in this session will share some of the ways they have experimented with creative assignments, including interdisciplinary video presentations, publications about campus issues, and giving students the option to propose a project.
View the "Beyond Essays and Exams" recording
Materials for the “Beyond Essays and Exams” panel
From Students to Citizens and Professionals: Formation in and Beyond our Disciplines
Susan Coleman (SSW), Tam Nguyen (CSON), Sarah Ross (History)
Teaching in our fields means not just instilling knowledge and technical skill, it also involves fostering dispositions and habits of mind that characterize a mature thinker, responsible community member, and ready contributor in any professional setting. How can we do more in our courses to cultivate curiosity, productive humility and a learner’s mindset? How do we get to the “so what” questions for students, and get them meaningfully engaged? How can practices from one discipline, reinforce and support the formative work of another? This session will explore how the teaching in our fields can promote the broader work of intellectual and personal formation.
Workshopping Our Teaching with Design Thinking
Kyrah Malika Daniels (Art, Art History and Film / AADS), Jonathan Krones (Engineering), Njoke Thomas (CSOM)
This past year the Center for Digital Innovation in Learning organized a Design Thinking Working Group meant to provide faculty and a chance to develop meaningful digital learning experiences for their students and reflect on the design process. Several key questions animated the group’s work together:
- How can we develop empathy for students and find ways to involve them in the design process?
- How can workshopping ideas with faculty from a variety of disciplines help improve our teaching?
- How can we prototype our assignment ideas and learning technologies before going live with them in a course?
For this interactive panel session, working group participants will share their reflections about the design process and the results of the learning experiences they developed. CDIL staff will also be available afterward to discuss applications to the Fall 2022 Working Group.
Design Thinking and Re-imagining “the Who” of Our Classrooms
Sunanda Bhattacharya (Associate Vice Provost, Design and Innovation Strategies), Maria-Isabel Carnasciali (Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering, University of New Haven), Daniel Riehs (Associate Director, Information Systems, Institutional Research & Planning), and Allison Reilly (Data Graphic Designer, Institutional Research & Planning)
How can we as educators listen, observe, reflect and discern on Next Gen’s mindsets, habits, and outlook to create relevant, meaningful, and impactful innovation ecosystems?
Across the world, education is being challenged by its next generation audience. This audience, raised on a digital diet, has expectations and aspirations significantly different from its predecessors. Their technology-driven sense of innovation, their methods of connecting and maintaining relationships, as well as their mindset for working, collaborating, problem-solving and communicating, require higher education to re-examine its methods of education to significantly exceed this generation’s expectations rather than just adequately meeting it. Coupled with the above, higher education is also under pressure from industry, society, and the environment to respond to the rapidly changing global outlook and graduate the next generation of citizens for jobs that may not even exist yet.
During this interactive design thinking session, attendees will have the opportunity to share, collaborate, listen, reflect, discern, and discuss the next gen learner’s mindsets, habits, and outlook in the context of the future of learning. Participants will have the opportunity to take away ideas to build upon, with the ultimate purpose of exceeding student, societal, and industry expectations.
Excellence in Teaching Day 2021
As we came to the end of what, for many of us, had been among the most challenging years of our teaching careers, what it meant to celebrate “Excellence in Teaching Day” took on new meaning. The pandemic forced us not only to remake our courses and our classrooms but also challenged us to redefine what “excellence” in teaching (and learning) looked like.
Some of us had to reckon in new ways with our own and our students’ human limitations. Others gained new insight into what we thought was truly fundamental to learning in our disciplines. And many of us discovered new ways of thinking about teaching that we’ll carry with us even after the pandemic ends.
In many ways, Excellence in Teaching Day this year marked a moment of transition, a time to pause and see what meaning we could make of the past year as well as a time to start imagining what we wanted teaching and learning to look like in a post-pandemic world. Despite being a virtual event, ETD continued to serve as a space for colleagues to gather and think together about the work of the past year and the years ahead.
Keynote: “What Remains: Reflections on Pedagogy, Pandemics, and Practices of Freedom”
Given this unusual year, we decided to keep our focus closer to home for this year’s keynote address. So we were grateful that Dr. Amey Victoria Adkins-Jones, Assistant Professor in Theology and AADS, agreed to kick off the day with a talk on how she’s making sense of this year: “What Remains: Reflections on Pedagogy, Pandemics, and Practices of Freedom.” She was joined by Dr. Sylvia Sellers-García, Professor of History, who delivered a response to the keynote, followed by a short dialogue between the two.
The program then shifted to breakout room discussions, where participants were able to move among different virtual conversations, with some focused on discussion of the keynote and others dedicated to particular teaching topics or for specific populations (e.g. graduate students, instructors of color, STEM instructors, etc.). Participants had the opportunity to choose which discussions they wanted to join on the day.
(Re)imagining Student Learning and Engagement
Kyrah Malika Daniels (Art History and AADS), Ellen Goldstein (Math), Rita Owens (CSOM)
As faculty worked this past year to revise their courses for socially distanced and remote contexts, the need to let go of familiar approaches to classroom interaction and assessment often spurred new thinking about student work and its purposes. Instructors experimented with creative new ways that assignments could provide structure, promote interaction with content, move students towards mastery, and even build community. In this session, we’ll hear from three faculty who adapted and re-envisioned their approaches to student learning this past year and how they anticipate those changes will influence their teaching choices moving forward.
Redefining “Inclusion” when Teaching in Times of Crisis
Nicholl Montgomery (LSEHD), Heather Olins (Biology), Min Song (English)
The past year has forced many instructors to rethink their definition of “inclusive” learning. As COVID-19 exacerbated health disparities and experiences of loss, remote learning challenged assumptions about accessibility, and people protested racial injustice on campus and across the country, many instructors found themselves revisiting what they mean when they affirm a commitment to an inclusive classroom. Instructors are asking questions about whose experience is centered in the classroom, what is necessary to enable learning for students who face stigmatization and harassment, and how instructors’ own social location informs how they express their commitments to students. Whether questions about inclusive teaching are familiar to you or a new commitment, this session provides an opportunity to hear BC instructors reflect on how they are defining inclusion against the backdrop of the past year and how they are living out that definition in their classrooms.
The View from the Student Side: Undergraduates Share their Reflections
To get a window into how students are making sense of the past year—and what they’re anticipating in the year ahead—we’ve invited four students to share their reflections on undergraduate life during a pandemic. Representing a mix of class years, majors, and perspectives, these students have offered to share what their learning experiences have been like since last March and how that’s shaped the ways they’re thinking about the rest of their college careers. We’ll spend the first half of the session hearing from the students and then open the floor for questions from attendees.
Excellence in Teaching Day 2020: Re-Envisioning Resilience
Given restrictions on campus gatherings, this year’s Excellence in Teaching Day was reimagined as a virtual event on Friday, May 15, 2020. Over the past several years, “resilience” has become a loaded term in higher education and more broadly in our national cultural discourse. Some have argued that young people are not showing the tenacity or persistence required to thrive personally and professionally. Others have countered that the problem resides not in young people, but in economic, social, and political realities that threaten well-being. Others still have highlighted the existing resilience of college students from historically marginalized groups who advocate for their own and their community members’ well-being at institutions that were built to exclude them.
In any case, faculty are finding themselves teaching students who are generally more open than previous generations about sharing their social, psychological, and academic struggles and more willing to seek help to address those personal concerns. And in light of the positive correlation between student well-being and learning, many instructors are experimenting with pedagogical practices to support students’ holistic flourishing and academic engagement, without overextending themselves or compromising their own well-being.
At Excellence in Teaching Day this year, instructors were invited to re-envision resilience from a broad range of perspectives as we seek to foster rigorous, just, and humane teaching and learning environments that help students and instructors alike prepare to confront the significant challenges ahead.
Keynote: “The Inner Work of Teaching and Learning for All”
We were pleased to announce that Professor Rhonda Magee would serve as the keynote speaker for this year’s Excellence in Teaching Day. Magee, Professor of Law at the University of San Francisco, is a nationally-recognized authority on mindfulness and racial justice in the field of law and beyond. Her keynote occured via Zoom on Friday, May 15 from 2:00 - 3:30.
Her current research examines mindfulness and contemplative pedagogy as means to further effective teaching in diverse learning communities, develop more just law and policy, and enhance collaborations for transformative change towards a more equitable world. Magee invites us to lean in to the places where we struggle, rather than away, and mindfully probe our sources of resilience both as individuals and communities.
Excellence in Teaching Day 2019: Making Learning Visible
Excellence in Teaching Day occured on Monday, May 6, 2019 and invited participants to reflect on the challenge of “Making Learning Visible” in our classes. It asked us to consider how we might more intentionally design our courses—our assignments, class activities, exams, lectures—so that both instructors and students can identify and gauge the learning happening in their classes. As BC seeks to build a more robust culture of assessment, faculty have the opportunity to shape the role that assessment plays in student learning.
Keynote: “Every Teacher A Teacher-Scholar”
Professor Claire Major delivered this year’s keynote address, titled “Every Teacher a Teacher-Scholar: Learning Assessment as a Way to Build Teacher Knowledge of Effective Teaching.” A dynamic speaker who got her start teaching English literature, Dr. Major is currently Professor of Higher Education at the University of Alabama, where she teaches courses on college teaching and technology in higher education. An author of many teaching guides for faculty, Major is a leading thinker on the role of assessment in the classroom.
Major’s address challenged faculty to take a more scholarly approach to teaching through the practice of learning assessment, which involves linking learning goals, instructional practices, and assessment in a seamless whole. In many ways this is work we are already doing. Whenever college teachers take stock of what went well in a class session or online learning module, we are assessing teaching. Whenever we think about whether students understand information, we are assessing learning. These regular activities can be harnessed in a powerful process that can help us develop the knowledge we need to improve student learning.
The keynote took place from 1:30 - 3:00 in McGuinn 121, and the first 50 people to arrive received a free copy of Dr. Major’s book, Learning Assessment Techniques.
Breakout Sessions I (9:00 - 10:15)
Authentic Assignments: Helping Novices Think Like Experts
Carling Hay (Earth & Environmental Sciences), Drew Hession-Kunz (CSOM), and Joe Nugent (English)
Authentic learning experiences task students with ‘doing’ the discipline by presenting them with a real-life challenge that requires them to use a range of different skills and knowledge to solve. At the heart of this strategy is the need for instructors to deconstruct their disciplinary expertise into demonstrable activities that enable novices to achieve proficiency as experts. But how can faculty identify and curate challenges that are both appropriately demanding, and manageable for students? In this session, attendees will hear from three BC faculty members who brought authentic learning into different elements of their teaching practice.
Creative Process As A Vehicle For Critical Thinking
Amey Victoria Adkins-Jones (Theology/African & African Diaspora Studies), Crystal Tiala (Theater), and Jon Wargo (LSEHD)
Creativity can be a means of freeing and focussing our thinking, and faculty in seemingly unrelated fields are exploring it use for a range of teaching purposes. This session will highlight a number of ways instructors have had students generate or respond to creative expression as a way of deepening their engagement with their work, and will include an exercise to explore the role of creativity in learning.
Developing Brains, Developing Lives: Promoting Student Well-Being In The Classroom
Jessica Black (SSW) and Elise Phillips (Health Promotion)
Stress is a growing problem on most college campuses, and we sometimes find ourselves at a loss for how to hold students to high standards while meeting them where they are and supporting them appropriately. Neuroscience and research on late adolescent brain development can shed light on these questions and suggest ways to structure student work, in and out of the classroom, that tend to promote their well-being. Professor Jessica Black will present her research on this topic, accompanied by Elise Phillips, Director of Health Promotion, who will share resources available for students at BC.
Disciplinary Approaches To Constructive Disagreement
Jonathan Howard (English/African & African Diaspora Studies), David Storey (Philosophy), and Susan Tohn (SSW)
As we look for ways to heal social and cultural divides in and out of our classrooms, our fields themselves provide a wealth of resources. In this panel discussion, faculty from across the University will share strategies from their disciplines for cultivating respectful debate, deep listening, careful analysis, and other skills that transform conflict into meaningful exchange.
Making Learning Visible In Culturally Diverse Classrooms
Betty Leask (LSEHD)
Cultural diversity is the norm rather than the exception in university classes today. Teachers and learners respond to diversity in complex ways. In this interactive session, Dr. Betty Leask (Professor Emeritus in Higher Education at La Trobe University, Melbourne and the author of Internationalizing the Curriculum) shares hers and others' research undertaken in Australian University classrooms over a period of 5 years, the result of which was a set of good practice principles for learning and teaching across cultures. Participants will explore the possibilities and potentialities of diversity in their classrooms and ways in which they can apply the good practice principles to make learning visible.
Breakout Sessions II (11:00 - 12:15)
Making Learning Visible To Students: Crafting Assignments That Center Core Curriculum Learning Goals
Claire Major (University of Alabama)
The University Core Curriculum seeks to invite students to consider how and why the liberal arts matter, both for themselves and for the world. However, even when students are deeply engaged in their Core courses, they don’t always recognize those bigger questions at work. In this session with plenary speaker Claire Major, faculty will explore ways to design assignments that make learning visible not only to the instructor but also to the students, with a particular emphasis on the Core Curriculum Learning Goals. While this session is particularly relevant to faculty teaching Core courses, it could also be helpful to anyone interested in making learning more visible to their students.
Decolonizing The Mind: Disrupting Disciplinary And Classroom Assumptions And Practices
Nick Gozik (International Programs), facilitating; panelists: Ana Martínez Alemán (LSEHD) and Kalpana Seshadri (English)
This interactive session explores how faculty might question, disrupt, and transform the exclusive and marginalizing narratives and frameworks that dominate disciplinary scholarship and classroom practices. The session begins with an overview of the concept of "the decolonization of curricula" and continues with presentations by BC faculty who will discuss approaches that they have employed in the past. The session concludes with an open conversation in which all participants are invited to contribute to the dialogue around decolonizing pedagogical practices in BC’s classrooms.
From Theory To Practice: Helping Students Apply What They Know
Rob Fichman (CSOM), Laura Lowery (Biology), and Chandini Sankaran (Economics)
This session will confront the gap between articulating a principle and using it to solve an appropriate problem -- or even recognizing it as the solution. This gap is familiar in many fields, and we will hear from a panel of faculty who have explored ways to give students the practice and insight to bridge it that apply across disciplines.
Geo-Spatial Mapping For Learning: Insights From The Libraries GIS Faculty Cohort
Anna Kijas (BC Libraries), facilitating; panelists: Mike Barnett (LSEHD), Andrés Castro Samayoa (LSEHD), and Sam Teixeira (SSW)
Mapping and data visualization can be powerful tools for learning in a range of disciplines. Over this past year O’Neill Library’s GIS Cohort has brought faculty together from around the University who were interested in exploring the affordances of using spatial visualization across disciplines and issues of social justice. In this panel we will hear from Cohort participants and other faculty who have brought this work into their classrooms, and the Library’s Digital Scholarship team will share information about support available to all faculty interested in pursuing similar projects.
Inside Texts, Outside Comfort Zones: Helping Students Read Differently
Allison Curseen (English), Natana DeLong-Bas (Theology), and Laura Hake (Biology)
Learning content can be as much about navigating new formats and phrasing as it is about grasping the concepts themselves. Students find it difficult sometimes to get started with a text, and at other times to grasp its full meaning. This panel gathers faculty who have found ways to meet this challenge in a variety of settings, and help their students grow as successful readers in and beyond their courses.
Held at 10:15 a.m. in Stokes N203, the Teaching Innovation Poster Session featured the creative pedagogical work of faculty from across the institution:
- Muhammad Adil Arshad and Betty Leask (LSEHD)
- Helen Healy and Kathryn Santilli (CTE)
- Timothy Mangin (Music)
- Suzanne Matus (SSW), Margaret Cohen (BC Libraries), and Jessica Greene (Institutional Research, Planning & Assessment)
- Heather Olins (Biology)
- Jon Wargo and Melita Morales (LSEHD)
- Laura White and Amy Smith (CSON)
- Christopher Wilson (English)
We were pleased to have Professor Cathy Davidson, Founding Director of the Futures Initiative and a Distinguished Professor of English at City University of New York, and Professor Randy Bass, Vice Provost for Education and Professor of English at Georgetown University, serve as the keynote speakers for our May 7, 2018 Excellence in Teaching Day. Professor Davidson and Professor Bass engaged in a conversation around the theme of “Imagining the Future of Learning.”
Breakout Sessions I (9:00 - 10:15)
#MeToo In The Classroom
Tiziana Dearing (SSW), Rachel DiBella (Women’s Center), Régine Jean-Charles (Romance Languages and Literatures), and James Keenan, S.J. (Theology/Jesuit Institute)
This roundtable discussion invites participants to consider the various ways the #MeToo conversation has entered our classrooms. The group will discuss what they’ve learned from reflecting on their teaching during a period when public conversations about sexual violence and harassment were inescapable, focusing on how student experiences and responses, attentiveness to trauma, faculty experience, and an emotionally and intellectually charged public moment invite us to revisit our pedagogical practices and the role of gender in the classroom.
Space Matters: How Use Of Our Classrooms Impacts Our Teaching
Jenna Tonn (History) and Stacy Grooters (CTE)
How much does space matter in the classroom? This interactive session invites faculty to consider creative ways to use pedagogical spaces on campus. First, Professor Jenna Tonn will situate 21st-century academic spaces within the long history of university architecture, from the invention of the seminar table, to the construction of scientific laboratories, to the introduction of active learning technologies into the modern classroom. Together we will then interrogate classroom spaces as a function of the built environment, as a collaborative process of engagement, and as a space increasingly mediated by digital technologies. Participants will leave with new ideas for making use of their own classroom spaces.
Amey Adkins (Theology), Karen Arnold (LSOE), Sarah Cabral (CSOM), and John Makransky (Theology)
From close reading of texts in the humanities to treatment of patients in clinical settings, many of our fields require empathy as a foundational skill. Yet finding ways to center empathy as a learning goal can be tricky. Join faculty from varied disciplines for a round-table discussion about the role empathy plays in their work and how to help students cultivate deeper empathy for others as well as greater self-understanding.
Ways To Support Low Income And First Generation College Students
Heather Rowan-Kenyon (LSOE), Rossanna Contreras-Godfrey (McNair Scholars Program), and Yvonne McBarnett (Montserrat Coalition)
We know the effects of economic disparity follow our students to campus, but how do these differences manifest in the classroom? And just as importantly, what resources does BC provide to assist low income and first generation students? This series of short presentations and a case study will explore how BC works to support all of our students, regardless of inequalities in wealth and opportunity. Participants will have the opportunity to reflect on how their own classroom practices impact low income and first generation students.
Breakout Sessions II (10:30 - 11:45)
The Future Of The Liberal Arts At Boston College
David Quigley (Provost and Dean of Faculties), facilitating; panelists: Andy Boynton (John and Linda Powers Family Dean, CSOM), Mary Crane (Director, Institute for the Liberal Arts), Gregory Kalscheur, S.J. (Dean, MCAS), and Martin Summers (Director, African & African Diaspora Studies)
Boston College in particular and the Jesuit educational tradition more generally have long insisted that the liberal arts are central to their educational mission. Despite the fact that many in our society question the value of the liberal arts in today's world, BC insists that the liberal arts "promote integration of students' intellectual, spiritual, social, and affective lives, inspiring them to reflect on who they are and how they want to engage the world." But the world is not static, and our students will face challenges that we who teach them could scarcely have imagined only a generation ago. The University's strategic plan calls on us to re-envision liberal arts education, to consider anew how to prepare our students to live rich and fulfilling lives for others. How can the liberal arts promote our students' integration of the various aspects of their lives? How can they help students to engage a changing world? Join us for a panel discussion on the future of the liberal arts at Boston College.
Innovative Approaches To Grading
Nathaniel Brown (LSOE), Sean MacEvoy (Psychology), Chris Polt (Classical Studies), and Andrés Castro Samayoa (LSOE)
Grades do more than simply measure student learning; they communicate to students what we value. And the values communicated by most traditional grading systems (of product over process, performance over mastery) can actually undermine our goals to help students become self-directed, personally motivated, and resilient learners. For this panel, BC faculty will share the innovative approaches to grading they’ve experimented with in response to these challenges. They will discuss why they made the change away from more traditional approaches and how that has impacted both their own teaching and their students’ learning. These approaches include negotiated weighting of assignments, specifications grading, mastery-based grading, and adapting scoring guides and rubrics to support self and peer assessment.
Andrés Castro Samayoa handout
Making Learning Public: Fostering Student Engagement With Authentic Audiences
Lauren Diamond-Brown (Sociology), Lori Harrison-Kahan (English), Alan Kafka (Earth & Environmental Sciences), and Chelcie Rowell (O’Neill Library)
This panel, organized in collaboration with BC Libraries Digital Scholarship group, will feature faculty who have invited students to create work for a public audience with the goal of enhancing student learning. They will reflect on both the benefits and challenges they experienced when extending the audience beyond the classroom and will offer some best practices around such topics as student privacy and copyright.
Simulations In The Classroom
Sarah Ehrich (English), Tracy Regan (Economics), and Carolyn Romano (SSW)
Simulations can be the vehicle for authentic learning of concepts as well as skills, in classes of any size and seemingly on any topic. A panel drawn from this year’s Faculty Cohort on Teaching exploring Simulations in the Classroom will discuss how they’ve planned and carried out these interactive exercises from student preparation to debriefing, and what they’ve learned in the process.
Handout: Simulations Checklist
The Teacher's Presence: Insights From Theatre
Patricia Riggin (Theatre)
Actors are keenly aware of maintaining audience attention during performances, and they train their focus, intentions, and voices to maximize this effect. As teachers, we can learn from these methods to enhance communication skills and motivate more engaged learning in the classroom. In this interactive workshop, Patricia Riggin will introduce participants to exercises that release tension, heighten motivation, and increase the free flow of communication that can help them bring greater mindfulness and intentionality to their work.
Held prior to the keynote conversation, the Teaching Innovation Poster Session featured the creative pedagogical work of faculty from across the institution. Find PDF versions of the faculty and staff posters, below. If you are using a screen reader, please note that you will need to download the poster files first:
- Muhammad Adil Arshad (CTE)
- Kathleen Bailey (Political Science), Tim McCranor (Political Science), and Adam Wunische (Political Science)
- Juliana Belding (Math)
- John Gallaugher (CSOM), Shirley Cho (CTE), John FitzGibbon (CTE), and Jorge Mahecha (CTE)
- Helen Healy (CTE)
- Anne Homza (LSOE)
- Linda Boardman Liu (CSOM) and Stephanie Jernigan (CSOM)
- Kathleen Lyons (English)
- Francesca Minonne (CTE)
- Andrew Timmons (English)
- Susan Tohn (SSW), Ximena Soto (SSW), Kelsey Oakes (SSW), and Yvonne Castaneda (SSW)
During lunch in Lyons Dining Hall (11:45-12:45), representatives from several BC offices and programs offered information meant to support faculty in supporting their students. Participants included:
- Boston College Internal Grants
- Boston College Libraries
- Disability Services Office
- Office of International Programs
- University Council on Learning Outcomes
We were pleased to have Professor Shaun Harper, founder and Executive Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education, serve as the keynote speaker for our May 8, 2017 Excellence in Teaching Day. You can view the slides from Dr. Harper's keynote address. Dr. Harper’s research examines race and gender in education and social contexts, equity trends and racial climates on college campuses, Black and Latino male student success in high school and higher education, and college student engagement. Professor Harper launched a day of discussions around the theme of “Difference, Justice, and the Common Good.”
Breakout Sessions I (9:00 - 10:15)
Classroom Climate: What Does The Research Tell Us?
Ana Martínez Alemán (LSOE)
What does the research on college classroom climate tell us? In this presentation, Professor Ana Martínez Alemán explores what we know about classroom climate and its relationship to college student learning, development and engagement. We will discuss new research on the uses of technology to engage minoritized students in our classrooms.
Engaging Students In The Large Lecture Course
Paul Cichello (Economics), Clare O’Connor (Biology), and Sarah Ross (History)
Large classes can pose unique challenges for instructors. Faculty can find that their tried-and-true strategies for motivating student participation, checking student understanding, and even managing grading may not translate to the larger class context. However, there are creative ways faculty have found to meet these challenges. For this session, an interdisciplinary panel of BC faculty will share their strategies for teaching and engaging students in larger classes.
Marginalized Identities And Psychological Well-Being: University Counseling Center Perspectives
University Counseling Services: Julie AhnAllen, Yvonne Jenkins, Patrick Latham, Johanna Malaga, and Sarah Piontkowski
Members of the University Counseling Services Diversity Committee have a unique window into the lives of Boston College students and, in particular, the complexities faculty encounter in their efforts to support students with multiple marginalized identities. In this session, UCS staff will lead faculty in a discussion of vignettes of student experiences that represent various issues including vulnerable identities, power, bias, and stigma. Faculty will have the opportunity to reflect upon issues of appropriate roles and boundaries, intention versus impact, and empowerment versus enabling. Our goal is for participants to learn from each other and share their experiences so they can best navigate tension points and gain strategies to engage in difficult conversations both in and outside the classroom.
Real News, Real Sources: A Civic Responsibility
Marcus Breen (Communication), Margaret Cohen (BC Libraries), Leslie Homzie (BC Libraries), Julia Hughes (BC Libraries), Steve Runge (BC Libraries), and Mike Serazio (Communication)
The ease at which information is created and the speed at which information is disseminated poses new challenges for educators grappling with the implications that “fake news” and “post-truths” have for our classrooms. Organized by the BC Libraries, this interactive roundtable discussion seeks to shed new light on the role of news, media and information literacy, and to explore ways faculty can help prepare their students to be more thoughtful digital citizens. BC Communication faculty members will present their insights, and BC research librarians will share concrete suggestions for developing students’ critical digital literacy skills.
Real News, Real Sources: Slides
Real News, Real Sources: Handout
Supporting Students With Effective Writing Assignments Across Academic Disciplines
Marla De Rosa (English, Writing Fellows Program), Sean Clarke (CSON), Lisa Goodman (LSOE), Gustavo Morello (Sociology), and Rita Owens (CSOM)
Writing is a core component of a liberal arts education and faculty members in different academic disciplines use a range of writing assignments to help students more fully develop their capabilities as writers. The Writing Fellows program has the opportunity to work with faculty in these different disciplines and learn how they support student writing in their courses. In this session faculty members and members of the Writing Fellows program will share their experiences regarding successful writing assignments in different courses. The session will also focus on the challenges students face in understanding the various expectations for writing across disciplines.
Supporting Students with Effective Writing Assignments: Slides
Supporting Students with Effective Writing Assignments: Handout
Kara Godwin (Center for International Higher Education) and Aleksander (Sasha) Tomic (WCAS)
As technologies for online collaboration improve, faculty are finding new and creative ways to engage their students at a distance. Whether through a synchronous conversation held online during a snowstorm or a pre-recorded video students respond to on their own time, faculty appreciate the flexibility such approaches allow. For this session, CTE staff will provide an overview of the tools available for remote instruction, and two BC faculty will share their own experiences with teaching remotely.
Breakout Sessions II (1:15 - 2:30)
Bridging Classroom And Community
Meghan Sweeney (PULSE), Donna Cullinan (CSON), Marilynn Johnson (History), Micah Lott (Philosophy), and Prasannan Parthasarathi (History)
Community-based learning (whether service or research-based) can lead not only to greater student engagement and understanding of why our disciplines “matter” in the world, but also to deeper student learning. This roundtable conversation featuring BC faculty who have experimented with a range of community-based pedagogies will discuss approaches for designing academically rigorous community-based assignments that are also mutually beneficial to our community partners.
Centering LGBTQ Experiences In The Classroom
Mark D'Angelo (LSOE), Franco Mormando (Romance Languages and Literatures), Theresa O’Keefe (STM), and Laura Tanner (English)
As scholars increasingly turn their attention to the LGBTQ community in their research -- and as LGBTQ students become more visible in our classrooms -- faculty across disciplines are seeking new ways to make space for LGBTQ perspectives and LGBTQ students in their classroom communities. In this roundtable discussion, Boston College faculty will share their experiences and ideas about how we might center LGBTQ experiences both in our curricula and also in our pedagogical approaches.
Helping International Students Succeed
Adrienne Nussbaum (International Students and Scholars)
Did you know that BC's international student population has doubled in the past ten years? Along with opportunities, having more international students in the classroom may also create challenges. How do we make sure these students feel included? What cultural factors may impact academic performance? This workshop will present statistics and trends in the international community at BC, cross-cultural issues with specific advice and suggestions, as well as a panel of current international students sharing their experiences.
Ignatian Pedagogies In The 21st Century
Susan Gennaro (Dean, CSON), Gregory Kalscheur, S.J. (Dean, MCAS), and Stanton Wortham (Inaugural Charles F. Donovan, S.J. Dean, LSOE)
Join three Boston College deans in a conversation about how the Jesuit tradition might inform teaching practices here at BC in a way that respects both the richness of the tradition and the fact that we are an increasingly diverse community. Possible topics include: the challenges and opportunities of the growing diversity in the academy and in the larger community; how our teaching and learning play out in our increasingly digital world; how faculty and students are to reflect deeply in the face of the growing number of distractions that make it harder to find time and space for reflection; and the role of the liberal arts in shaping citizens in the current climate.
Reflecting With The “Creating Inclusive Classrooms” Faculty Cohort
Yonder Gillihan (Theology), Anne Homza (Teacher Education, Special Education, and Curriculum & Instruction), David Scanlon (Teacher Education, Special Education, and Curriculum & Instruction), Susan Tohn (SSW), and Celeste Wells (Communication)
The CTE’s “Creating Inclusive Classrooms” Faculty Cohort has been meeting monthly during the 2016-17 academic year to discuss strategies for creating classroom spaces that support all students in meeting their learning goals. In this session, we will invite participants in small groups to examine real-life cases regarding issues of exclusion, intentional or not, that serve to oppress, disregard or otherwise marginalize the voices and experiences of particular groups based on gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, ability, gender-conformity, etc. We will reflect on problems and solutions that these cases bring up, and to discuss how as individuals and as a faculty committed to social justice we can more deeply interrogate how our own life experiences and histories shape our ability to be inclusive. The goal will be to provide participants with ideas and strategies to use in their own classrooms.
Teaching From The Margins: Underrepresented Faculty Perspectives On The Classroom
Kelli Armstrong (Vice President for Planning and Assessment), Rocío Calvo (SSW), Joe Liu (BCLS), Margaret Lombe (SSW), and Danielle Taghian (Biology)
Data from recent surveys and focus groups show that female faculty and faculty of color at Boston College report lower levels of satisfaction in their classroom experiences and in their interactions with students. This panel discussion brings together an interdisciplinary group of female faculty and faculty of color to discuss their own experiences in BC classrooms and the strategies they’ve found effective. Kelli Armstrong, Vice President for Planning and Assessment, will kick off the panel with a brief presentation about these recent findings on faculty satisfaction.
Teaching from the Margins: Mentoring
Held during the reception that concludes the day, the Teaching Innovation Poster Session featured the creative pedagogical work of faculty from across the institution. Featured faculty and staff included:
- Nathaniel Brown (LSOE)
- Nanci Haze (CSON)
- Dorothy Jones (CSON)
- Jim Lubben (SSW) and Carrie Johnson (Institute on Aging)
- Jorge Mahecha (CTE & LSOE)
- Cristina Mirshekari (CTE) and Shirley Cho (CTE)
- Nelson Portillo (LSOE)
- Laura Rumbley (LSOE), Georgiana Mihut (LSOE), and Kara Godwin (Center for International Higher Education)
- Aleksander (Sasha) Tomic (WCAS)
- Eric Weiskott (English) and Madeline George (Undergraduate Student)
We were pleased to feature Professor Sherry Turkle of MIT, a nationally renowned expert on the impact of technology on personal engagement, as the keynote speaker for our May 9, 2016 Excellence in Teaching Day. Spurred by her provocative claim that technology has led us to “sacrifice conversation for mere connection,” we organized a day of discussions around the theme of “Rethinking Connection.”
Once a vocal advocate for the transformative potential of technology to build connection, Turkle argues in Alone Together (2012) and Reclaiming Conversation (2015) that our current age of pervasive technology has disrupted our ability to develop the necessary skills for connection. The CTE is grateful to the Institute for the Liberal Arts for helping support Turkle’s visit.
Faculty Cohort Panel Discussions (8:45 - 10:00)
Faculty who participated in the CTE’s Faculty Cohorts on Teaching will discuss results of their year-long inquiry into new teaching approaches.
Engaging Students In The “Flipped” Classroom
Nanci Haze (CSON), Annie Homza (LSOE), Ellen Winner (Psychology), and George Wyner (CSOM)
A panel of faculty from the CTE’s “Flipping the Classroom” cohort will discuss their experiments with shifting content delivery outside the classroom to free up more time for meaningful student interaction in class. Cohort members taught classes as small as 16 and as large as 70. The challenges they addressed included developing new content, ensuring students had support and were held accountable, and managing workload.
Annie Homza presentation slides
Reimagining Course Content And Teaching Using MediaKron
Stephanie Leone & Nancy Netzer (Fine Arts), Bonnie Rudner (English), David Scanlon (LSOE), and Eric Weiskott (English)
A panel of faculty from the CTE’s MediaKron Cohort will discuss how they have used this BC-developed software to engage students with course materials in more creative and critical ways. Projects have varied from teaching visual analysis with curated sets of images to guiding students as they built a virtual textbook.
Workshops And Panel Discussions (1:30 - 2:45)
Concurrent breakout sessions in the afternoon allow for smaller group conversations about a variety of teaching questions.
Advocating A Space For Learning Diversity
Matthew Kim and Michael Riendeau (Eagle Hill School)
In this interactive workshop, faculty from the Eagle Hill School in Hardwick will present a model for inclusive pedagogy centered around the idea of “learning diversity” rather than “learning disability.” Participants will be introduced to alternative theories of disability and concrete classroom practices meant to create more inclusive learning spaces for all students.
Learning Diversity presentation slides
Affordable Course Materials
Sergio Alvarez (Computer Science), Lynne Anderson (English), Howard Straubing (Computer Science), and Pieter VanderWerf (CSOM)
The high cost of textbooks is a well-publicized problem for students in higher education. Actual costs for course materials may be over $1000 per semester, double the maximum allotment from financial aid. In this session we will hear from Boston College faculty members from a range of departments who are exploring ways to provide alternative, affordable course materials to their students. They will describe what the process has involved, and the differences they have observed as they lower costs and tailor content more responsively to course needs. Library and CTE staff will be on hand to share information about the support they can provide.
Brian Robinette (Theology), David Storey (Philosophy), and John Rakestraw (CTE)
This workshop will explore how instructors might integrate different sorts of mindfulness or contemplative practices into their teaching. More and more college and university instructors teaching in a wide range of disciplines have incorporated such practices into their teaching. At Boston College, we often speak about educating the whole person; contemplative pedagogy may be an effective strategy for pursuing that goal. Participants will learn about particular pedagogical practices, have the opportunity to share their own experiments in contemplative pedagogy, and explore how they might judge the effectiveness of these practices.
Fostering Student Resilience In The Classroom
Tom McGuinness (Provost’s Office) and Stacy Grooters (CTE)
The question of whether today’s students lack “resilience” has taken on a particular urgency in recent years both at BC and nationwide. In this workshop, we will discuss the most common ways we see students struggle with resilience in the classroom and review simple strategies that faculty can implement to help foster greater resilience within their students.
Increasing Student Participation With In-Class Polling Software
Nathaniel Brown (LSOE), Judy McMorrow (BCLS), and Colleen Simonelli (CSON)
Fostering student engagement in the classroom can be challenging, especially in a course with large numbers or sensitive content. Personal Response Systems such as clickers allow students to answer questions anonymously, giving the instructor a way to assess comprehension, open difficult dialogues, or invite students to learn from each other. This panel offers an opportunity to hear from faculty members who have been working with i>clicker and other alternatives that allow students to use their own devices.
Poll Everywhere Presentation Slides
Instructional Practices For Increasing Student Motivation
David Miele (LSOE)
In this session, David Miele (Buehler Sesquicentennial Assistant Professor in the Department of Counseling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology) will discuss two types of instructional practices for increasing student motivation. The first type involves fostering students' "growth mindsets"; that is, helping them to think about intelligence and ability as something that can be improved over time with effort. The second type aims to enhance the perceived utility or relevance of course content. The session will begin with a presentation that briefly reviews the theoretical basis for these instructional practices, as well as empirical research examining their efficacy in different learning contexts and for diverse groups of students. The presentation will be followed by an extensive group discussion.
Teaching About Whiteness And Privilege
Rhonda Frederick (English), Yonder Gillihan (Theology), Anjali Vats (Communication), and Catherine Wong (LSOE)
This interdisciplinary panel of faculty will delve into the question of how best to engage students in conversation about race, whiteness, and other areas of privilege. Relevant for faculty teaching courses explicitly about race and ethnicity, as well as for those who want to be better prepared when unexpected conversations arise, participants will leave with a better understanding of the challenges of engaging students in conversations about race as well as strategies for making those conversations more productive.
Teaching Scientific Thinking
Ken Galli (EES), Jim Lubben (SSW), Kate McNeill (LSOE), Clare O’Connor (Biology), and Neil Wolfman (Chemistry)
Whether their students will someday be conducting social work research, teaching in elementary schools, interpreting geologic data or pursuing medical training, instructors in the sciences share a common challenge. This panel of faculty from a variety of fields will talk about their efforts to teach their students to “think like scientists,” in courses ranging from first-year introductions to graduate seminars.
Scientific Thinking: PDF document
Scientific Thinking Presentation slides
Teaching The Core: What We’ve Learned
Julian Bourg (History), Brian Braman (Philosophy), Tara Pisani Gareau (EES), Paula Mathieu (English), Michael Naughton (Physics), and Meghan Sweeney (Theology)
Teaching in the Core can present a unique combination of challenges and opportunities as we seek to engage students from across the university in the fundamental questions that define a BC education. This panel discussion features faculty who take very different approaches to teaching in the Core. Participants can expect to learn more about common challenges across Core classes as well as a variety of creative strategies for meeting them.
Teaching With Simulations And Creating Immersive Material
Warren Dent and James Kerwin (Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School)
Teaching with simulations is an exciting and immersive experience for both instructors and participants. We will explore the benefits of teaching with simulations in an active learning environment by running some short exercises with workshop attendees. We will also discuss the choices facing faculty and staff who want to write and produce their own immersive teaching material. Warren Dent manages the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at the Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School. James Kerwin is Assistant Director of the Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School.
At selected times throughout the day, representatives from several BC offices and programs were on hand to offer information meant to support faculty in supporting their students. Participants included:
- Boston College Libraries, 12:00-1:00 (Lunch, Lyons Dining Hall)
- Church in the 21st Century Center (Lunch, Lyons Dining Hall)
- Disability Services Office, 12:00-1:00 (Lunch, Lyons Dining Hall)
- Office of International Students and Scholars, 12:00-1:00 (Lunch, Lyons Dining Hall)
- Office of the Dean of Students, 2:45-4:00 (Reception, Gasson Rotunda)
- Boston College Internal Grants, 2:45-4:00 (Reception, Gasson Rotunda)
- Office of International Programs, 2:45-4:00 (Reception, Gasson Rotunda)
In addition, resources from a number of other BC offices were available for faculty to peruse throughout the day:
- Connors Family Learning Center
- Learning Resources for Student-Athletes
- Office of Graduate Student Life
- Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center
- University Counseling Services
- University Mission and Ministry
- Women's Center
Held during the Wine & Cheese Reception that concludes the day, the Teaching Innovation Poster Session features the creative pedagogical work of faculty from across the institution. Featured faculty will include:
- Stephanie Berzin (SSW)
- Maureen Connolly (CSON)
- Karen Daggett (Romance Languages & Literatures) and Atef Ghobrial (Slavic & Eastern Languages and Literatures)
- Ikram Easton (Slavic & Eastern Languages and Literatures)
- Silvana Falconi, Esther Gimeno Ugalde and Andrea Javel (Romance Languages & Literatures) with Cindy Bravo (Language Laboratory)
- Nick Gozik (International Programs)
- Theresa O’Keefe (STM)
- Brian Quinn (BCLS)
- Bonnie Rudner (English)
- Taylor Stevenson (FWS, English)
The Teaching and Learning Resource Fair is an opportunity to learn about the programs at BC meant to support you in supporting your students. Participants will include:
- Academic Technology Advisory Board
- Career Center
- Center for Teaching Excellence
- Connors Family Learning Center
- Dean of Students
- Disability Services
- Internal Grants
- International Students and Scholars
- Learning Resources for Student-Athletes
- Mission & Ministry (Intersections)
- Office of Graduate Student Life
- Office of International Programs
- Technology Services
- Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center
- University Counseling Center
- University Libraries
- Women’s Center
- Writing Fellows Program
Excellence in Teaching Day 2015 was held on May 13. The plenary session featured Mike Wesch, Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State and 2008 U.S. Professor of the Year, and Silvia Bunge, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at University of California, Berkeley. Additional information about the day can be found below.
Dubbed “the prophet of an education revolution” by the Kansas City Star and “the explainer” by Wired Magazine, Wesch is a recipient of the highly coveted “US Professor of the Year” Award from the Carnegie Foundation. After two years studying the implications of writing on a remote indigenous culture in the rain forest of Papua New Guinea, he turned his attention to the effects of social media and digital technology on global society and education. His videos on culture, technology, education, and information have been viewed over 20 million times, translated in over 20 languages, and are frequently featured at international film festivals and major academic conferences worldwide. Wesch has won several major awards for his work, including a Wired Magazine Rave Award, the John Culkin Award for Outstanding Praxis in Media Ecology, and he was named an Emerging Explorer by National Geographic. After years of experimenting with social media and assessing the learning potential of these tools, Wesch argues that they don’t automatically foster significant learning or establish genuine empathy or meaningful bonds between professors and students. Using social media is but one of the many possible ways to connect, but the message that Wesch’s experimentation brings is that only genuine connections may restore the sense of joy and curiosity that we hope to instill in our students.
At Excellence in Teaching Day, Dr. Wesch discussed the question, "How does the (real but) virtual realm in which we live affect teaching and learning in higher education?
Dr. Silvia Bunge is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California at Berkeley. Her other affiliations at UC Berkeley include the Institute of Human Development and the Research in Cognition and Mathematics Education program. Professor Bunge directs the Building Blocks of Cognition Laboratory, which draws from the fields of cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, and education research. Researchers in the laboratory examine developmental changes and neural plasticity in cognitive control and reasoning skills in healthy and neurologically impaired children and adults. The laboratory seeks to better understand both negative and positive environmental influences on brain and cognitive development. Through her research and membership in the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Frontiers of Innovation, the Latin American School on Education, Cognitive, and Neural Sciences, the International Society for Mind, Brain, and Education, etc., Professor Bunge seeks to promote academic readiness among children at risk for school failure.
At Excellence in Teaching Day, Dr. Bunge discussed the question, "What does the science of learning teach us about the practice of teaching university students?"
View video footable of 2015 Excellence in Teaching Day:
Teaching with Technology Award winners:
- Can Erbil
- Andrew Hargreaves [accepted on behalf of Andrew by Michael O'Connor]
- Nanci Peters
- Tiziana Dearing
- George Wyner
Teaching Upside Down: Starting With Why
Michael Wesch, Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Kansas State University
When we prepare to teach a class, we often spend a great deal of time deciding what we are going to teach, and sometimes how to teach it, but we spend less time contemplating why. In this workshop, we will flip the questions and start with the big why, build new and more suitable hows, and rethink our whats. Meanwhile we will be guided by the question of Who. Who are our students? Who do we want them to become? Who are we? And how can we help them get there?
Reasoning And The Brain: Implications For Education
Silvia A. Bunge, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Building Blocks of Cognition Laboratory, University of California at Berkeley
Reasoning, or the ability to think logically and solve novel problems, is a prerequisite for scholastic achievement. Despite – or rather because of – its central role in theories of human intelligence, reasoning has in recent years fallen out of favor as a topic of research. However, it is worth revisiting this line of work with a fresh perspective. Is the capacity for reasoning set in stone by the time students get to college, or can it be strengthened through practice? In this session, I will describe a key aspect of reasoning that is essential for scholastic achievement, and present results from our laboratory showing that intensive practice of reasoning skills in college students can alter brain structure, function, and task performance. This overview will serve as a springboard for a broader discussion on how best to build reasoning skills into introductory courses so that students are prepared to tackle more complex challenges in upper-level courses.
Discussion As A Form Of Presence: Asking, Listening, Learning
Allison Pingree, Director of Professional Pedagogy, Harvard Kennedy School of Government
With the proliferation of online learning, the possibilities for faculty-student and student-student interchanges have multiplied exponentially. In the face of these changes, what remains as the value of in-class interaction? What kinds of learning, if any, are still best achieved through face- to-face conversation? And how might we as instructors make the most of these in-person discussions with our students? This workshop is designed to enhance our capacity for discussion facilitation, with particular focus on asking better questions, listening more deeply, and being fully present.
Learning To Teach Inclusively
James Keenan, S.J., Canisius Professor of Theology and Director of the Jesuit Institute
Patrick McQuillan, Associate Professor of Teacher Education
Racial inequities raise challenges to those of us teaching in a community with the explicit commitment to prepare students to live lives in service to others. How do we teach in a way that's inclusive of all students? How do we want to learn to teach in a way that's inclusive of all students? Join Fr. James Keenan, Prof. Patrick McQuillan, and other faculty colleagues for a discussion about race and teaching.
Engaging Students In The Sciences
Clare O’Connor, Associate Professor, Biology
Can Erbil, Associate Professor of the Practice, Economics
Ken Galli, Lecturer, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Teaching in the sciences comes with its own set of challenges, particularly around student engagement. This panel discussion will feature Boston College science professors discussing strategies they have found successful for engaging their students in the classroom. Topics to be discussed include use of personal response systems, interactive media, project-based learning, and more.
Exploring Project-Based Learning
Tim Lindgren, Senior Instructional Designer, Center for Teaching Excellence
This workshop will consider what it means to have students learn by creating projects, particularly in light of recent teaching scholarship and emerging digital technologies. We will survey a range of strategies for assignment design, such as engaging students with real-world problems, cultivating an authentic sense of audience, using primary material for research, and incorporating relevant digital tools. We will have opportunities to share our experiences about what has worked in our classes as well as the challenges we may have encountered with project-based learning.
Read a Google Document with information from the workshop
Professor As Designer: Best Practices For Creating Learning Materials
Drew Reynolds, Instructional Designer, Center for Teaching Excellence
Are you ready to take the next step in developing your online course sites? Come to this workshop to learn how to work with Canvas Pages to author content directly online, find and embed rich media (video, audio, images) to support learning goals, design your site according to accessibly standards, and design your site to work on mobile devices.