New Faculty Seminars on Teaching
The New Faculty Seminars on Teaching are monthly gatherings where full-time faculty in their first two years at BC can discuss the fundamentals of teaching with colleagues. Launched in 2021 as a re-imagining of the CTE’s earlier Junior Faculty Conversations program, the New Faculty Seminars seek to address the topics of most interest to those getting started in the BC classroom.
Seminar meetings are largely discussion-based, with CTE staff typically spending 10 - 15 minutes of each session sharing research and strategies relevant to the topic at hand. Session topics are chosen based on the input of that year’s new faculty.
Thursday, September 9, 2:00-3:00 | O'Neill 250 (Innovation Lab)
Whether our classes involve significant amounts of lecturing or rely more on other formats, presenting content tends to be a central task in university teaching. Our first meeting of the year will explore ways to make delivery engaging and effective, and to further enliven a strong lecture by interweaving it with other types of instructional activities. We’ll draw on learning sciences and other research, share ideas and questions, and learn from each other’s experiences of lecturing and presenting.
Fostering Student Belonging
Wednesday, October 6, 10:00-11:00 | O'Neill 250 (Innovation Lab)
Research indicates that fostering students’ sense of belonging — the feeling that their presence in the classroom is anticipated and that they can be themselves — is fundamental to supporting student learning. These questions of belonging are even more pressing for students from historically marginalized groups, because our larger social and cultural systems are more likely to denigrate and dismiss those students and their place in higher education. Join us for a recap of relevant research on fostering belonging before exchanging questions and ideas from your own practice with colleagues.
Designing Better Discussions
Tuesday, October 26, 2:00-3:00 | O'Neill 250 (Innovation Lab)
When classroom conversations go well they can be kinetic, exploratory, enabling everyone involved to consolidate and apply their learning and to come into a better understanding of the world. But discussions don’t always reach those heights, either because they never gain momentum or because they get derailed early. Whether you’re teaching seminars or looking to integrate discussion opportunities into a lecture or project-based course, join us for an overview on troubleshooting discussions. We’ll explore how that troubleshooting can inform future planning and you’ll have the chance to hear what’s worked—and what hasn’t—for your colleagues.
Wednesday, November 17, 10:00-11:00 | O'Neill 250 (Innovation Lab)
Grading is the most tedious and painful part of teaching for many faculty members, and the specter of grades can hang over an entire learning environment, fueling anxiety and training students to avoid intellectual risk-taking. Grading can also clarify the stakes of inequities in higher education: Do our grading practices implicitly replicate existing social stratification? Join us for a review of grading practices that can promote equity across disciplines and to hear how your colleagues are approaching this concern in their own teaching.
Managing the Workload
Thursday, February 18, 3:30-4:30 | via Zoom
The pandemic has only amplified what faculty have long known: good teaching takes time. Preparing engaging class sessions, providing meaningful feedback, meeting with students to talk through questions — it can feel overwhelming trying to meet the needs of our students at the same time we’re trying to meet our other professional and personal obligations. For this month’s Junior Faculty Conversation, we’ll share ideas for making the best use of the time we devote to teaching and discuss strategies for keeping workloads in check.
Teaching to Repair Democracy
Wednesday, March 17, 4:00-5:00 | via Zoom
Following the January 6 storming of the capitol, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a number of think pieces interrogating the role universities should play in our democracy. Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, wrote that “Colleges Share the Blame for the Assault on Democracy”; Brian Rosenberg urged that “never has our commitment to understanding the truth been more vital”; and Beth BcMurtie reflected on the challenge of “Teaching in the Age of Disinformation.” This month’s conversation will invite junior faculty to discuss the role they see their classrooms playing in shaping our democracy and preparing students to be informed participants. We’ll address student resistance, concerns about being seen as “too political,” and how to balance curricular needs with the demands of the current moment.
Making Sense of Course Evaluations
Tuesday, April 13, 12:00-1:00 | via Zoom
Course evaluations are meant to be tools to help faculty identify areas for improvement in their teaching. But making sense of what can often feel like contradictory feedback from our students can be a challenge. For this month’s Junior Faculty Conversation on Teaching, we’ll discuss strategies for analyzing the sometimes unclear feedback we get from students and for prioritizing how we choose to respond to it.
Teaching in an Election Year
Monday, October 19, 12:00-1:00 | via Zoom
While election years can provide opportunities to make connections between our courses and national civic discourse in real-time, they can also challenge us to revisit our pedagogical values, facilitation instincts, and instructional persona. And given our national political discourse, the stakes for political discussions may feel especially high at present. During this Junior Faculty Conversation on Teaching, we’ll share ideas for how to discuss politics in the classroom while balancing a number of values and priorities.
Building Connections During a Pandemic
Tuesday, November 10, 12:00-1:00 | via Zoom
The new normal of this continuing pandemic is forcing all of us to learn new ways of connecting with our students and cultivating professional networks. For those of us newer to BC, figuring out how to build meaningful relationships with colleagues and students while we’re largely “separate, but together” is especially difficult. For this Junior Faculty Conversation on Teaching, we’ll share ideas for building connections with students and colleagues from BC and beyond, even while we’re keeping our distance.
Tapping Into Student Motivation
Thursday, February 13, 12:00-1:00 | O'Neill 246
Motivation for learning can be a complex mixture of forces, from pursuing extrinsic rewards (like grades) to exploring an interest for its own sake. How can we maximize intrinsic forms of motivation, while being realistic in meeting students where they are? In this session we'll consider factors, some visible and some more hidden, that influence our students' attitudes to their work. We'll share ideas for fostering student ownership of learning, across class levels and course settings.
Teaching Intentionally With Technology
Monday, March 23, 12:00-1:00 | via Zoom
In light of the fact that BC will be completing spring 2020 classes remotely due to COVID-19, this conversation will be held via Zoom and redirected toward a discussion about teaching remotely.
Teaching In An Era Of Gun Violence (Canceled)
Tuesday, April 14, 12:00-1:00 | O'Neill 246
In our current national climate of frequent school shootings, our teaching and learning contexts are increasingly shaped by the threat of gun violence. For instructors, this reality also raises pedagogical questions: How, if at all, do faculty talk with students about safety preparedness? What does it look like to facilitate a fruitful classroom climate given this broader context? How do faculty understand “classroom safety” when their personal schooling histories may also have been shaped by the shadow of gun violence? In this session, instructors will have a chance to share questions, concerns, strategies, and philosophies with one another and will access some outside resources on the subject.
Taking Ownership Of Teaching Evaluation
Tuesday, September 10, 12:00-1:00, CTE Innovation Lab | O'Neill 250
Even in departments with well-defined teaching evaluation practices, faculty can feel they have little agency in that process. In this month’s Junior Faculty Conversation on Teaching, we’ll discuss these challenges and also share strategies faculty can use to take greater ownership of how their teaching is evaluated. We’ll discuss how faculty can more intentionally respond to end-of-semester course feedback as well as approaches for gathering formative feedback throughout the semester.
Engaging Jesuit Values In The Classroom
Thursday, October 10, 12:00-1:00, CTE Innovation Lab | O'Neill 250
Faculty come to Boston College with widely varying degrees of familiarity with the Jesuit tradition and the values that undergird it. And the ways faculty express that tradition in the classroom are equally varied. In this Junior Faculty Conversation on Teaching, we’ll provide a brief overview of some key tenets of the Jesuit tradition and then shift to an open discussion of how session participants engage Jesuit ideals in their classrooms, if at all. Associate Professor of French Régine Jean-Charles will be joining us for this conversation.
Academic Integrity: Modeling The Ideal, Addressing The Problems
Wednesday, November 6, 12:00-1:00, CTE Innovation Lab | O'Neill 250
Over the past year, the University Council on Teaching has been talking with faculty and others across campus about their experiences with academic dishonesty in the classroom. Those discussions revealed concerns about cheating, plagiarism, and the proliferation of online paper mills. In this session, we’ll discuss how participants have sought to limit students’ opportunities to cheat and plagiarize, as well as approaches meant to target the underlying drivers of academic dishonesty (such as lack of confidence, lack of motivation, and performance anxiety).
Class Discussion And Participation
Tuesday, February 19, 12:00-1:00
One of the most common teaching questions we hear in the CTE is “How can I get more students to participate?” — with faculty defining participation in myriad ways. Whether you’re interested in facilitating more lively class discussions, ensuring students come to class prepared, or seeking to encourage greater student ownership of their own learning, it can be a challenge to motivate broad student participation in and out of class. At this month’s conversation, we’ll talk about the barriers we see to student participation and the strategies we’ve found effective in encouraging greater student engagement.
(What) Are My Students Learning?
Wednesday, March 13, 12:00-1:00
Looking ahead to our Excellence in Teaching Day conversation on “making learning visible,” we in the CTE have been thinking a lot about the formal and informal ways instructors seek to uncover what (and whether) their students are learning. In this month’s Junior Faculty Conversation, participants will have the chance to share their own challenges with gauging students’ learning and discuss strategies for more intentionally surfacing what their students are taking away from the classroom.
Monday, April 1, 12:00-1:00
Junior faculty are often the first to know when a student is struggling personally, and faculty can struggle themselves in figuring out how to support their students while still maintaining their own healthy boundaries. This month’s conversation will focus on the particular well-being challenges we see Boston College students facing and the various approaches faculty have found effective in supporting them.
Kids Today: Teaching The Post-Millennial Generation
Wednesday, September 12, 12:00-1:00
Jean Twenge writes that the majority of undergraduates today—“iGens” who spent their adolescence with smartphones always within reach—are entering adulthood more committed to individualism and tolerance than previous generations, but less independent and less happy than their predecessors. In our first Junior Faculty Conversation of the year, we’ll discuss the particular opportunities and challenges we find teaching this new generation and share strategies for reaching them. We’ll also consider the question of how to find the balance between meeting students where they are and maintaining our expectations for academic performance.
The Role Of Civility In The Classroom
Tuesday, October 16, 12:00-1:00
Recent calls for greater civility on the political stage—and rebuttals arguing that such demands serve to silence the powerless—invite us to consider whether and how civility should play a role in our classrooms. Most faculty are invested in creating learning environments in which students can engage in rigorous yet respectful debate, but they can struggle to know how to police the boundaries of “respect.” In our October conversation, we’ll share our own approaches to defining acceptable classroom conduct and discuss ideas for improving the classroom climate for all our students.
Learning Smarter: What The Science Of Learning Teaches Us
Thursday, November 29, 12:00-1:00
As Silvia Bunge reminded us in her 2015 Excellence in Teaching Day keynote, the study habits our students bring from high school—as well as the teaching habits many of us have inherited—are not always effective in helping students meet the learning demands of higher education. Luckily, recent findings from cognitive psychology and other learning sciences suggest that even small adjustments in our pedagogy can lead to learning gains for students. For example, spacing out practice so that students can better test their recall of what they’ve learned, incorporating “desirable difficulties” into the learning process, and helping students self-assess their own mastery have all been shown to improve learning outcomes. In our final conversation of the semester, we’ll briefly review some of these findings and then discuss possible strategies for implementing them in our classrooms.
Making Sense Of Course Evaluations
Wednesday, January 31, 12:00-1:00
Course evaluations are meant to be tools to help faculty identify areas for improvement in their teaching. But making sense of what can often feel like contradictory feedback from our students can be a challenge. In this conversation, we’ll discuss strategies for analyzing the sometimes unclear feedback we get from students and for prioritizing how we choose to respond to it.
Finding The Balance: Teaching, Research, . . . Life?
Thursday, March 15, 12:00-1:00
One consequence of the current push to continuously expand the boundaries of “excellence” in higher education is that faculty find themselves needing to meet higher and higher expectations for research productivity, teaching quality, and service to the institution. This leaves many faculty feeling overwhelmed as they try to meet expectations for tenure or contract renewal, much less maintain personal commitments to their health, well-being, family, and community. This open conversation invites faculty to share their experiences with negotiating these myriad institutional expectations and the strategies they’ve found effective in the (sometimes elusive) quest for balance.
Cancelled: Navigating Free Speech In The Classroom
Monday, April 23, 12:00-1:00
Questions about free speech on college campuses continue to dominate the headlines as institutions struggle to protect open expression while also protecting their students’ safety. The headlines, however, provide little guidance to faculty who may be experiencing new uncertainty about what acceptable limits to free speech (if any) are appropriate in a classroom setting. Our final Junior Faculty Conversation of the semester invites faculty into dialogue about their own approach to free speech in the classroom and whether our changing political climate has impacted their practices in this area.
Teaching After Charlottesville
Tuesday, September 26, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Following the hatred and bigotry recently on display in Charlottesville, faculty across the country have been questioning whether and how they might address the current racial climate with their students this fall. For our kick-off meeting of this year’s Junior Faculty Conversations on Teaching, we invite faculty in their first years at BC to join us for a conversation about how we’re approaching our classes in the wake of Charlottesville.
If you’d like to do a little reading in advance of the conversation, here are a few suggestions:
- “Professors See Charlottesville as a Starting Point for Discussions on Race” (Chronicle of Higher Education)
- “There Is No Apolitical Classroom: Resources for Teaching in These Times” (NCTE)
- Teaching After Charlottesville (Vanderbilt University)
Managing Digital Distractions
Wednesday, October 18, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
As studies increasingly point to the negative impact that digital devices in the classroom can have on student learning, more and more faculty are choosing to ban laptops from their classrooms. However, not everyone believes that these kinds of restrictions are in the best interests of our students. For this month’s Junior Faculty Conversation on Teaching, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of classroom technology bans and how best to engage students no matter what technology is present.
- “The Case for Banning Laptops in the Classroom” (The New Yorker)
- “No, Banning Laptops is Not the Answer” (Chronicle of Higher Education)
Grading Fairly In The Era Of Grade Inflation
Thursday, November 9, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
One consequence of the rising specter of grade inflation is that faculty face increasing demands from their departments to keep their grade distributions in check. Whether in the form of gentle feedback from a chair or in an explicit departmental policy, faculty can feel pressured to find ways to lower grades, even when they see the majority of their students mastering course content. In our final fall Junior Faculty Conversation on Teaching, we’ll discuss how different departments at BC approach grade norming and how faculty can meet departmental expectations while still supporting their students’ learning.