First Year Faculty Thoughts

Matthew Heard, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Biology

B.A., College Scholars (Emphasis in Ecology & French), University of Tennessee
Ph.D., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University

Part of the reason that I decided to become a teacher was that every day is different. Despite teaching the same classes over and over again and covering the same topics I’m continually surprised about how working with different students can yield vastly different results. Talk about air pollution and how it relates to human health and someone has a story about a family member who was affected. Share the same facts with another class and on comes a debate about politics and how we make energy decisions as a country. Every day is exciting and brings me the joy of working with young minds that are eager to learn and grow.

Over this past year, I’ve been so impressed with the students I’ve encountered here at Belmont. But more than that I’ve been impressed with the community as a whole. This year has been a major transition as my wife and I had our first child and picked up and moved back to Nashville, our hometown. To say that it has been challenging and overwhelming doesn’t even come close to characterizing how tough the transition has been. But the truth is that every day has still been different and exciting and has kept me going. And the Belmont that I’ve encountered over this time period inspires me to be a better teacher and person. So thank you to everyone out there for making this a special place and I look forward to seeing what the future brings.


The First Year Faculty Thoughts series is a way for the Belmont University community to get to know new faculty members as they reflect on their journeys to Belmont.

Resource of the Month

The resource for November, Keeping Students “on Their Toes and on Their Game”: Serendipitous Findings in Students’ Assessments and Reactions, is found in the Journal on Excellence in College Teaching. The article, written by Kathy L. Pelletier, examines the effects of two-minute papers and mini-quizzes on exam scores and student attendance. According to its website, the Journal on Excellence in College Teaching is published “by and for faculty at universities and two- and four-year colleges to increase student learning through effective teaching, interest in and enthusiasm for the profession of teaching, and communication among faculty about their classroom experiences.”

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.

First Year Faculty Thoughts

Ken Corbit, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Public Relations

B.A., Communication Studies, Arkansas State University
M.A., Communication Studies, Arkansas State University

Ph.D., Strategic Communication, University of Alabama


Integration into a new institution has the potential to be a comic adventure of signature mishaps. Yet, my assimilation into the Belmont community has been nearly seamless. Throughout the process leadership has over communicated, excelled in training and provided reflective opportunity.

The Teaching Center has provided ongoing orientation for new faculty and the monthly training sessions have been outstanding. Each session provides new pedagogical content and time for rumination. Regardless of an individual’s time in academia, the content is enlightening, challenging and applicable. Likewise, the ability to become part of the team has been incredible.

I’ve already been welcomed onto the Faith & Academics Committee, developed an LCC class for a Belmont Abroad Maymester, worked as a team leader for a Fall service opportunity through Plunge and signed up to lead a Small Group revolving around Christian leadership this fall. The combination of teaching and service are unique, yet the embracing of scholarship is apparent as well. I have been given opportunity to continue my own research agenda, and as a result have four conference presentations pending.

Belmont University has exceeded all my expectations to this point. I am excited about the journey and chasing the dream.


The First Year Faculty Thoughts series is a way for the Belmont University community to get to know new faculty members as they reflect on their journeys to Belmont.

Faculty Reflections

Teaching as Learning, Learning Through Teaching
By Virginia Christy Lamothe
Lecturer, School of Music

At this past August’s annual Teaching Center workshop, Belmont faculty were treated to an opportunity to work with Dr. Saundra Yancy McGuire, author of Teach Students How to Learn (2015) and Director Emerita of the Center for Academic Success at Louisiana State University.  Dr. McGuire focused on how teaching students about metacognition and learning better mentoring skills can help students succeed in college and beyond.

Whenever I attend one of these Teaching Center workshops, I look for an activity I can try out myself with my students to improve learning outcomes, or help students learn better study skills.  I was intrigued by a slide that Dr. McGuire showed that asked a question directed at a student. It read “For which task would you work harder?”  The choices were “A. Make an A on the test” and “B. Teach the material to the class.”  McGuire explained that when she asked this question of students she worked with, they almost always chose task B.  She then went on to explain how teaching the material makes us think more deeply along the lines of the Bloom’s taxonomy, as opposed to surface learning or “memorizing” information.

Dr. McGuire encouraged us to try an activity with which she had seen some success where students “teach” the material they are learning.  She gave an example of a young man who was studying for his Praxis exams, but feeling like he was overwhelmed and having no success.  She asked him to “teach” his lessons – even if he was not teaching them in a formal setting or even to a human being.  The young man chose to teach his “Baby Groot” action figure of Guardians of the Galaxy on a regular basis.  Soon, the young man saw great improvements in his own retention and understanding of the material.

I decided to try this activity out for myself.  I spend the first two weeks of my Freshman Seminar talking with them about study skills.  I showed my students a slide similar to Dr. McGuire’s and asked the students the same question: “For which task would you work harder?” with the same tasks.  Only a few of my students answered, “To make an A on the test.”  Almost all the students chose “Teach the material to the class.”  But, when I asked them why they thought they would work harder for teaching the material, they had few ideas as to why that task would require more hard work.  For homework, I asked the students to “teach” a lesson from one of their classes to anyone or anything that would listen.  I also offered extra credit to those students who made an mp4 video of themselves teaching the lesson.  The students were asked to write down their observations about how they felt they understood the lesson both before and after they taught it.  Most of the students returned the next class day and reported that “teaching” the lesson made them aware of “holes” in their knowledge or understanding.  Some even reported that teaching the lesson helped them simplify it in their own minds, thus making it more accessible and easier to remember.  While I did expect these improved learning outcomes, I was pleasantly surprised by the adorable videos some of the students made.  I now have videos of my students teaching business basics to Batman, the intervals of a major scale to a cookie (although the cookie’s music career was cut short as it was eaten in the end), and a piano lesson for a stuffed snowman, a blue dog, and Mickey Mouse.

The students who made the videos did so with the agreement that I could share their lessons with the rest of the class.  I did this because I often teach from a social constructivist philosophy that students learn best when they learn from each other.  While the students also agreed that the videos were funny and cute, they also said that they learned the material each student-instructor in the video was teaching, even if it was material outside of their major.  This further reinforced the idea that teaching is a highly effective way of learning material, and when one can learn the material well enough to teach it, they also make that same material accessible to others.

Recently at the Teaching Center…

Author Talk with Dr. Kelly Garner

On Monday, October 30, 2017, Dr. Kelly Garner sat down with Dr. Beverly Schneller to discuss So You Want to Sing Country: A Guide for Performers, which is part of series of books published for the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) by Rowman and Littlefield.  Garner discussed how she was approached at a recent NATS meeting to write the book, and shared her goal that from the book, students would learn how to be entrepreneurs as well as great performers.  She emphasized the importance of doing “whatever it takes” to build a positive reputation within the recording industry and to work at a variety of jobs to gain a wide range of experiences.  When asked how she knew that her own career as a composer, a performer, and an educator was right for her, Garner said she could think of nothing else that gave her the personal and spiritual satisfaction that her work does.  She pivoted on this point to stress that students should strongly consider the joy that a career in music might bring when going through their own discernment processes.  The book is available by contacting Dr. Garner and through

Resource of the Month

This month’s resource, Flipped Learning, Flipped Satisfaction, Getting the Balance Right, is found in Teaching and Learning Inquiry (TLI). The article, written by Rosemary Fisher, Bella Ross, Richard LaFerriere, and Alex Maritz, investigates student perceptions of learning outcomes, engagement, and satisfaction in a course utilizing a technology-facilitated flipped approach. TLI is the flagship journal of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. According to its website, TLI “publishes insightful research, theory, commentary, and other scholarly works that document or facilitate investigations of teaching and learning in higher education.”

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.

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.
To provide faculty with innovative ideas that promote effective pedagogy.