Faculty Reflections

Remembering the Joy of Learning in Oaxaca
By Beth Ritter-Conn
Lecturer, College of Theology and Christian Ministry

When was the last time you decided to try to learn something just for the joy of learning it—not because you needed to know it for a research project, or because you needed to brush up on an unfamiliar topic for a class lecture, but just because you wanted to know more? Maybe it hasn’t been that long for you, but it had been a while for me.

So this summer, on a bit of a whim, I flew solo to Oaxaca, Mexico for a week to participate in a Spanish immersion program. I spent my days in one-on-one conversational lessons with two different teachers. I practiced grammar. I memorized vocabulary. I wrote essays and did homework. It was hard. I felt nervous and uncertain and uncomfortably vulnerable every day. I made mistakes and felt embarrassed about them.

But it was also one of the most fun and rewarding experiences in my recent memory. No one needs me to improve my Spanish. No one was making me work on this—I wasn’t being graded on this work, nor did a certificate or credential await me at the end. I was doing it for the pure joy of seeing myself get better at a skill that I want to have.

In First-Year Seminar, we tell students that part of the purpose of a liberal arts education is to learn how to learn, just for the sake of learning. Yes, they are here at Belmont to develop skills and absorb knowledge they’ll need in their chosen professions, but we mostly want to emphasize that liberal education is concerned with pursuing knowledge for its own sake—for the purpose of becoming more well-rounded humans who approach life with wonder and curiosity. I had begun to feel like a hypocrite, preaching this sermon to students year after year while, on some barely conscious level, I clearly considered my own education to be complete.

My week in Mexico reawakened something in me that had been sleeping. Now I spend an hour each week practicing Spanish with one of my teachers in Oaxaca, via Skype. That hour used to be devoted to frantically catching up on grading, or responding to emails, or prepping for class (or, if we’re being REALLY honest, doing some other meaningless activity by way of procrastinating on any of the above). I’ve found that I still have time for all that. I have more energy for it, too, because I am taking the time to learn something I love. I am taking the time to feed my mind, just because it’s hungry, not because I have to.

Recently at the Teaching Center…

A World of Possibilities: Curriculum Elements and Opportunities from Around the Globe

Presenters (left to right): Joan Li, Cindy Bisson, Eduardo Lopez, Jim Al-Shamma, Andy Watts, and Robbie Pinter

As part of Belmont’s Diversity Week, the Teaching Center hosted a lunch discussion focusing on teaching and learning experiences and approaches from around the world. Attendees heard from Belmont faculty members who have extended beyond Western ideas and frameworks to enrich their students’ learning.  Presenters Joan Li (Asian Studies & Chinese Language) and Cindy Bisson (History) examined Belmont’s Asian Studies program both on campus and abroad, Jim Al-Shamma (Theatre) focused on his research interests in Iraqi theatre, Robbie Pinter (English) and Andy Watts (Religion) presented on their partnerships with Native American communities, and Eduardo Lopez (Management) discussed his background and experience in South America.

Book Groups at Belmont

The Teaching Center at Belmont provides a number of opportunities for faculty to come together to read and reflect on books related to teaching and learning. Specifically, the Teaching Center organizes three types of reading groups: Belmont Applied Teaching and Learning (BeATLe) book groups, reflective book groups, and summer reading groups.

BeATLe groups are encouraged to read a particular text and then apply ideas from the reading to the classroom. Groups are also encouraged to explore the potential of SoTL projects related to the reading and corresponding implementation. For the fall 2017 semester, BeATLe groups are reading and applying ideas from Saundra McGuire’s Teach Students How to Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate Into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation. Dr. McGuire led the August 2017 Teaching Center workshop entitled Student Learning, Motivation, and Mentoring: Metacognition is Key!

In addition to BeATLe groups, the Teaching Center regularly offers additional reading groups in both the fall and spring semesters. These groups encourage a reflective approach to teaching and are often offered in September and February. This semester groups are meeting to discuss The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction by Belmont’s First-Year Seminar common speaker, Matthew B. Crawford.

The Teaching Center also offers reading groups each summer. These groups read a wide variety of books both directly and indirectly connected to teaching and learning. Here is an excerpt of a reflection from one of the participants in a 2017 summer reading group:

I so appreciated the opportunity to read The Road to Character by David Brooks. I am also grateful for the specific time and energy the Teaching Center invested in coordinating these reading group discussions. The book was certainly an encouraging and refreshing summer read for me—as it reminded me to be intentional about the ways I navigate my days and the space that creates (or doesn’t create, sometimes) to develop more grounded dispositions and practices in my life.

If you have any questions about book groups offered by the Teaching center, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Resource of the Month

This month’s resource, The role of SoTL in the academy: Upon the 25th anniversary of Boyer’s Scholarship Reconsidered, is found in the Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (JoSoTL). The article, by Beth Kern, Gwendolyn Mettetal, Marcia Dixson, and Robin K. Morgan, examines the connection between the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) and Ernest Boyer’s model of scholarship (for information on how Belmont utilizes Boyer’s model, see pages 22-23 of the Faculty Handbook). In addition, the authors present a new model that explains important distinctions between teaching practice and SoTL research. According to its website, JoSoTL “aims to address contemporary issues bridging teaching and learning in higher education, philosophical approaches to teaching, current research, and praxis.”

The purpose of the Resource of the Month is twofold:
1) To encourage the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) by providing examples of high-quality research.
2)
To provide faculty with innovative ideas that promote effective pedagogy.

Upcoming Events and Deadlines

The Fall 2017 semester is officially in full swing! In the midst of our busy schedules, I hope you are able to take some time to breathe, reflect, and learn. With that in mind, you will find a list of events and opportunities below I trust you will find enriching. As always, you will receive emails from the Teaching Center about individual events and deadlines. For a more detailed list, click here.

Dates to Note

September 8
Deadline to sign up for a Belmont Applied Teaching and Learning (BeATLe) book group

September 12
Deadline to submit Teaching Center Travel Grant application

September 19 – October 15
Teaching Center Formative Reviews

Lunch Discussions

Thursday, September 7
Promising Practices of Academic Service-Learning as a High Impact Education Practice
11:30am – 1:00pm
Massey Boardroom

Tuesday, September 19
The World Beyond Your Head
11:30am – 1:00pm
Frist Lecture Hall

Wednesday, October 4
Non-Western Curriculum Elements and Opportunities
Massey Boardroom
12:00 – 1:30pm

Monday, November 13
Teaching and Reflective Practices
Ayers 4094
12:00 – 1:30pm

Mini-Workshop

Wednesday, October 25
Vision 2020: Developing Interdisciplinary Initiatives
Johnson Center 474
12:00 – 1:00pm

An Introduction and Invitation

Welcome to The Art of Teaching, the weblog of Belmont University’s Teaching Center!

My name is Nathan Webb, and in my role as the Teaching Center Assistant Director, I will be administering the blog during the 2017-2018 school year. Throughout the upcoming year, expect to hear from a variety of voices on a number of topics related to teaching and learning, including:

  • Upcoming Teaching Center Events
  • Past Teaching Center Events
  • First Year Faculty Thoughts
  • Reflections on Teaching and Learning
  • Resources/Offices on Campus Related to Student (and Faculty) Success
  • Teaching and Learning Resources Off Campus (Books, Journals, Conferences, Etc.)

If you have any additional ideas for The Art of Teaching and/or if you would like to contribute, I invite you to contact me at nathan.webb@belmont.edu.

First Year Faculty Thoughts

 

 

 

Michelle Corvette, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Art – Painting

BFA Painting & Drawing, University of Tennessee
MFA Interdisciplinary Art, New York University
PhD Educational Psychology, University of Tennessee
PhD Visual Art Research, University of London, Goldsmiths

On the first day of classes I promised students that I would help increase their creativity across all disciplines and fields. This requires seeing the world with new eyes by standing back from the quotidian details and making space to notice what is positive and fascinating to be more mindfully engaged. What I have been blessed to realize is that Belmont students are steadfast in their commitment to learning and collaboration which helps facilitate creativity. Likewise, they are motivated and enthusiastic to understand arduous concepts and to be challenged. It is humbling to be part of such a dynamic university where the administration, faculty, students, and staff have been overwhelmingly supportive, respectful, and kind. I find myself practicing gratitude and deeper appreciation for all the people in my life and to quiet moments of reflection and faith. I look forward to what the future holds for all of us at Belmont University.

Recently at the Teaching Center…

Academic Rigor and Student Success Lunch Discussion

Professor John M. Braxton of the Higher Education Leadership and Policy Program at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University led a discussion on the role that course examination questions play in the process of student persistence in private residential colleges and universities.  His analysis utilized a sample of 408 first-time, full-time undergraduate students at eight private residential colleges and universities as described in Rethinking College Student Retention (2014) by Braxton, Doyle, Hartley, Hirschy,  Jones and McLendon.

Upcoming Events for March


Lunch Discussion:

Tuesday, March 14
Many Roads Lead to SoTL 
11:30 am – 1:00 pm
Massey Boardroom

Mini-Workshop:

Wednesday, March 22
Postsecondary Inclusive Education
12:00-1:00 pm
Johnson 327

Coffee Conversation:

Thursday, , March 16
Helping Our Students Cope with Stress and Improve Their Self-Efficacy
Dr. Caroline Gaither, College of Pharmacy Scholar-in-Residence
3:30-4:30 pm
McWhorter 308

Recently at the Teaching Center…

Short-term Study Abroad Programs: An Introduction to Teaching on the Road from Faculty Leaders
Lunch Discussion

Presenters (left to right):  Thandi Dinani, Alison Parker, Nathan Webb, and Mimi Bernard

Creating a Maymester or summer study abroad program is one way that a faculty member can internationalize the curriculum and take learning outside of the classroom.  For this Lunch Discussion, the Teaching Center partnered with the Office of Study Abroad and experienced faculty program leaders to discuss the principles and practicalities of designing the academic course for short-term study abroad programs. Faculty presenters Nathan Webb (Communication Studies), Mimi Barnard (ISGE), and Alison Parker (Chemistry) shared their short-term study abroad experiences, including faculty preparation, setting and achieving academic goals, logistics and travel planning, and utilizing resources abroad.  Participants also had the pleasure of being introduced to Belmont’s new Director of Study Abroad, Dr. Thandi Dinani.  To find out more about study abroad at Belmont, click here.