Faculty Reflections

It Started With a Book
By Lina Sheahan, Music Librarian


I am a librarian, I am a musician, I am not an avid reader.  Surprising, I know, but it is also something I am trying to remedy, which is why I decided to participate in one of the Teaching Center’s summer reading groups.  I chose Violins of Hope, a book I wanted to read, and I knew participating in the group would keep me accountable.  Little did I know, my summer reading group would point me on a journey to uncovering some family secrets feeling more connected to my family history than ever before.

When I picked up my copy of Violins of Hope, I skimmed the table of contents, and among the violin names one stood out – Ole Bull’s Violin.  As a lover of Norwegian music and a proud person of Norwegian heritage, I am very familiar with Ole Bull’s work, but I was unfamiliar with the story that unfolded in the chapter.  Ernst Glaser, who was born in Germany but lived in Norway and identified as Norwegian, was concertmaster of the Oslo Philharmonic, and his love for Norway and its music made him a beloved cultural figure.  In January of 1941, Ernst was scheduled to perform a concerto with the Bergen Philharmonic on a 1742 Guarneri violin donated by Ole Bull’s family.  However, Bergen was occupied by the Germans and performing there was a huge risk for the Jewish artist.  The concert was disrupted by the Norwegian Nazi Youth, fights broke out in the aisles of the concert hall, and Ernst fled with the violin back to the relative safety of Oslo.  As anti-Semitic sentiments grew in Oslo, Ernst was encouraged to flee to neutral Sweden, which he did on October 27, 1942 with the help of members of the Norwegian resistance movement.  Ernst and his wife Kari traveled Sweden giving concerts for the “Boys in the Woods,” Norwegian freedom fighters who were being trained as a reserve police force in anticipation of liberating Norway from Nazi occupation. They returned to Norway in 1944, immediately after the liberation.

When I read this chapter, I got chills. Growing up, I was always told that my grandfather (my Morfar) fought in the Norwegian resistance, but we knew very few details.  I knew that he was chased by a Nazi through the mountains of Norway because he worked in mining and had access the heavy water Hitler wanted to build the atomic bomb.  Eventually, he fled to Sweden and was an officer who trained the troops that marched back into Norway and liberated the country.  Aside from a conversation we had in the Norwegian Resistance Museum when I was 10 (that I barely remember), Morfar never talked about the war so these few facts are all I know about his military service and life in occupied Norway.  I did know that Morfar loved music, and while I read about Glaser’s time in Sweden, I could not help but wonder if he was one of the “Boys in the Woods” that had the pleasure of listening to the violinist and his wife.

I brought my few facts, my curiosity, and my new knowledge from the chapter of Violins of Hope to the next reading group meeting.  I started telling my grandfather’s story, expecting that we would discuss it for a few minutes before moving on to another topic.  Instead, my fellow reading group members took immediate interest, and we ended up talking about my grandfather’s life and my family history the entire hour.  At the end of our meeting, the prevailing questions were “When are you writing a book?” and “You’ll include us in the acknowledgments, right?”  The interest, care, and support shown by my colleagues is indicative of my Belmont experience.  Even though I did not know a lot of information (my grandfather died with a lot of secrets), my reading group members were so encouraging and excited and interested in what little information I did know, that it lit a fire in me to fill in the gaps and find out the details Morfar was not able to share.  Now I have a project – a big project – my life’s work, if you will, and it all started because I decided it was time for me to read a book.

During the fall 2018 semester, the Teaching Center is offering book groups for Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning by James Lang, Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice by Maryellen Weimer, and A Good Cry: What We Learn From Tears and Laughter by Nikki Giovanni. For more information on Teaching Center book groups, click here.

Q & A With Campus Partners

The Q & A With Campus Partners series is designed to connect faculty with personnel and offices on campus in order to better serve Belmont’s students. This installment features David Sneed from the Growth & Purpose for Students (GPS) office.

What is your title and how long have you been at Belmont?
I currently serve as the Director of the GPS Program. I have had the privilege of serving for seven years now.

What brought you to Belmont?
After serving for over 20 years as a VP for Student Life and/or Dean of Students at small institutions, I wanted to seek a role that allowed me to work more directly with students and spend MUCH less time in the “administrivia” areas (especially campus budgeting).

What do you do in your role as Director of GPS?
Recently we’ve been reduced again to a staff with one full-time person, so my role will again change. Our entire model is about service to students in the general area of “academic success” and discernment.  Because of the support of Drs. Burns, Davis, and Schneller we have been able to grow to meet more needs.  We have an excellent corps of GPS Coaches, and my role is now to support them and office operations. That said, I will always focus on a few students who need my specific experiences and skill sets.

How does your office serve Belmont’s students?
We focus on 3 areas: Discernment & Direction, Academic Engagement, and Academic Success/Recovery. In each area, our focus is on individual student meetings. We also maintain an active Convo Series (Wednesday’s at 10 a.m. in JAAC 1034) in order to give students a broad understanding issues related to academic success and engagement, as well as providing an open invitation to have an individual meeting.

  • Discernment & Direction – Exploring and/or affirming academic programs. Too many times students do not know about the many offerings that could help them better achieve their goals.
  • Academic Engagement – We help students understand how to be a better student. Much of this information comes directly from Teaching Center speakers and resources, but also from experienced/successful students. This includes academic planning, understanding available resources, enhancing academic skills and strategies, etc.
  • Academic Success/Recovery – This is working with students with difficult circumstances (e.g. hospitalization, illness, emotional distress, etc.) that causes absences and/or a feeling of failure. We work with professors and students to develop a plan to salvage academic credits and still move forward in degree completion.

In what ways do (or can) faculty partner with your office?
Primarily by allowing us to speak to your class or having us listed as a resource for your students. We want you to know that if your student is concerned (or you are concerned FOR your student), we can be a place they can come for support and planning.

What would you like faculty to know about the GPS office?
We are here to partner with you to help your students be successful. Ideally, we love to help them identify their purpose and passions and relate those to their academic program. We would love for them to better understand why faculty and professional staff are here – to help them love learning and gain skills and experiences so they can meet their purpose.

You can find more information on the GPS office here.

Faculty Reflections

Please enjoy the following reflection from Dr. Ryan Fox, Assistant Professor of Math and Education. Also, don’t forget the deadline for full-time faculty to submit a Teaching Center travel grant application for upcoming teaching-related conferences and workshops is 4:00pm on September 11.

The Good Times Are Rolling On: Reflections Following a Mathematics Education Conference

This spring, the Teaching Center funded my travel to the Research Council on Mathematics Learning in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Taking advantage of the conference’s location, the theme of this year’s conference was Let the Good Times Roll in Mathematics Learning. At the conference, I was fortunate enough to make two presentations. In each presentation, I connected two key components of the expectations of our research agenda at Belmont: producing in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and incorporating undergraduates into our work.

My first presentation was a poster in conjunction with one of my advisees, Cearra “CC” Logan (Fox & Logan, 2018). In that presentation, we discussed how I connected mathematical games to mathematical activities I had done off-campus, working with new school teachers. In Table 1, I present a task and a game as focal parts of our presentation.

The Penny Flipping Task

Start with 7 pennies, all tails up. One turn is defined to be as flipping 3 pennies: either from heads to tails or from tails to heads. (Not all pennies have to be flipped the same way! One turn could be one head to tails and two tails to heads, for example.) What’s the fewest number of turns (flips of three pennies at a time) needed to turn all tails to all heads?

The Penny Taking Game

For two players only. The game has five rules:

  1. Place 20 pennies on the table.
  2. Decide who goes first.
  3. The first player takes one, two, or three pennies per turn.
  4. The second player choose to take one, two, or three pennies per turn.
  5. Turns alternate until the 20th penny. The player to take the 20th penny legally on his/her turn wins the game!

Table 1. Activities shared with future and novice teachers (Fox & Logan, 2018).

In the task described in Table 1, I had to find the appropriate balance: how could I encourage CC to find the pattern in the answer to my questions without giving away information that directly led the answer to the question. Re-framing the same dilemma another way: how could I question without telling my student the key idea and concept of the material? Furthermore, an interesting challenge opens up if I change either of the numbers seen in the task. By changing the numbers, patterns emerge. How could I, as a teacher of teachers, encourage my student, an aspiring teacher at the time, to look?

I think that is a question that cuts across many of our lectures and presentations as instructors. We are aware that the students-as-passive-receivers-of-information model is not ideal, yet we cannot leave our students to fly blindly without understanding something of the topic we have devoted some measure of our academic lives vigorously pursuing.

In the game in the right column of Table 1, I could show one game could offer so many variations. Each variation offers me, as a teacher and a teacher of teachers, a slight variation on one mathematical concept. In the original form of the game, as presented in Table 1, the strategy to win the game is defensive in nature. However, changing any of the rules listed in Table 1, except the second one, changes the nature of the winning strategy, if only slightly. The strategy for winning involves mathematical concepts that I could explain to from fourth-grade students to an opening activity for a Pre-Calculus Mathematics course here.

My second presentation was a collaboration I had with Dr. Shawn Broderick at Weber State University (Broderick, Weyburn, & Fox, 2018). Dr. Broderick and his undergraduate researchers investigated how future elementary school teachers understand how to multiply and divide two fractions. In mathematics education literature, researchers have delineated a distinction between procedural understanding and conceptual understanding. Although an adult can perform the two operations–albeit with the help of a mnemonic device or two–teachers have to develop a deeper understanding of what the operations mean. In these cases, future teachers have to confront and challenge commonly-held misconceptions of the topic (multiplication makes bigger, division makes smaller) while representing the work in a meaningful way to others (connecting concepts from whole numbers to fractions, picturing the work and the answer that matches the given mathematical operation) and connecting to more advanced topics in the content (dilational transformations and rates of change). Working with future teachers at Belmont, I get the chance to ask the same questions in this study to encourage a deeper exploration of a topic my students have not seen in a long time. I enjoyed thinking about my teaching as a researcher, and developing stronger pedagogical practices firmly grounded in established literature in my field.

The other fascinating component to this project and presentation is to work with undergraduates in a field where they are often participants in a research study, not necessarily equals as researchers. There are some interesting challenges that arise in this field when incorporating undergraduates into research in this field. Cultivating an appreciation and understanding of those for a population known to be apprehensive of mathematics is challenging enough, working with a few students to research that a few semesters removed from the very same coursework adds a fascinating level of complexity. How can undergraduates see the value of presenting two versions of fraction division with limited experiences working with students or background in higher-level mathematics? I was very excited to tag along to the beginning of their work and to share their results and continue their work in later projects!

I am grateful to the Teaching Center and the funding opportunity they provided me to attend and present at this conference. The conference was a wonderful opportunity to present where I had worked on two key components of my research agenda. At the conference, I received wonderful feedback on how to think about making these presentations in publications. In the coming weeks and months, I hope to follow through with the presentations and feedback to produce exciting publications in teaching teachers about mathematics!

Fall 2018 Events and Deadlines

So you can plan accordingly, you will find a list of upcoming Teaching Center events and deadlines below. The Teaching Center will email invitations and reminders for individual events and opportunities.

Lunch Discussions

Wednesday, September 5
Voting and Elections: Engaging Our Students
12:00 – 1:30pm
Massey Boardroom

Thursday, September 20
Nikki Giovanni’s Life and Writing: Ideas for the Classroom
11:30am – 1:00pm
Massey Boardroom

Tuesday, October 2
Fostering Diversity and Inclusion in the Classroom Through Hospitality
11:30am – 1:00pm
Massey Boardroom

Monday, November 5
Social Justice in Higher Education
Guest Presenter: Alexander Jun
11:30am – 1:00pm
Massey Boardroom

Mini-Workshop Series

Supporting Our Students: Campus Connections
12:00 – 1:00pm

Wednesday, October 24
Johnson Center 423

Wednesday, November 14
Room TBD

Reading Groups

September 11, 18, & 25 or September 7, 14, & 21
A Good Cry: What We Learn From Tears and Laughter
Tuesdays at 8:00am or 3:30pm or Fridays at 10:00am or noon
Location TBD

Dates, Times, and Locations TBD
Belmont Applied Teaching and Learning (BeATLe) Groups
Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Teaching and Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practices

Additional Deadlines and Opportunities to Note

Tuesday, September 11 – 4:00pm
Deadline to submit Teaching Center Travel Grant application

September 18 – October 5
Teaching Center Formative Reviews

Save the Dates

Thursday, January 3
Circle of Trust Retreat

Friday, January 4
Teaching Center Workshops

Welcome Back

Greetings from the Teaching Center! We hope that summer provided you with plenty of opportunities for rest and rejuvenation. Since our last blog post, the Teaching Center has been busy. For example, ever the summer, almost 70 faculty and staff participated in 10 different reading groups. We also welcomed 24 first-year faculty and four faculty fellows to campus for New Faculty Orientation, and we connected our new faculty to a dozen or so mentors across campus. In addition, we hosted James Lang, the author of Small Teaching and Cheating Lessons, on campus for our Fall Faculty Workshop.

James Lang speaks on Cheating Lessons at the Fall Faculty Workshop
First-year faculty and faculty fellows pose after winning a contest at New Faculty Orientation

During the 2018-2019 school year, we will offer many opportunities to support your teaching and professional development. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions related to the Teaching Center, do not hesitate to contact Mike Pinter, Nathan Webb, Nanci Alsup, or any of the Teaching Center Advisory Board (TCAB):

Jessica Mueller (CVPA)
Sally Holt (CTCM/Honors/Library/ISGE)
Doyuen Ko (CEMB)
Amy Crook (COB)
Debbie Farringer (Law)
Elena Espiritu (CHS)
Elisa Greene (Pharmacy)
Andrea Stover (CLASS)
Steve Robinson (CSM)

We look forward to working with you and seeing you at Teaching Center events this year!

Upcoming Teaching Center Events and Opportunities

Debora Finch (University College) presents her G.I.F.T. (Great Ideas for Teaching) at the Teaching Center May Workshop

As we transition from the end of the spring semester to a summer schedule, I’m writing with the final blog post of the 2017-2018 school year. The blog will be taking a summer break until August, but don’t hesitate to contact us in the meantime with any questions, comments, or suggestions. As Mike stated in an email he sent out last week, we hope that summer includes time for reflection, rest, and rejuvenation.  Below are some reminders of upcoming Teaching Center events and opportunities.

  1. If you wish to be part of a summer Writing Group, please check your email for an invitation from the Teaching Center sent out a few weeks ago. If you want to arrange for a consultation regarding your spring semester student course evaluations, please see the separate email invitation sent from teachingcenter@belmont.edu.
  2. Also, check your email for a message from Mike with a list of conferences with a SoTL element or emphasis. Where possible, he included deadlines for proposals in case you are interested in developing a presentation proposal for such a conference.
  3. Please mark your calendar for our August 13, 2018 Teaching Center Workshop to be lead by Dr. Jim Lang, Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence and Professor of English, Assumption College.  Dr. Lang will provide an interactive presentation entitled Cheating Lessons and workshops on Small Teaching.  He is the author of recent books with those titles. We will send out an email during July inviting you to register for the workshop.
  4. Between now and August, there are nine reading groups meeting and discussing books offered by the Teaching Center. Our Teaching Center June 27th lunch discussion will be an opportunity for general conversation about the reading group books. We will send out an email invitation for the lunch discussion one week in advance.
  5. We will welcome our incoming new faculty members to Belmont during New Faculty Orientation scheduled for August 1-3, 2018.  The Teaching Center works with the Provost’s Office and Human Resources to plan and provide a variety of interactive sessions for NFO.
  6. The Teaching Center will offer two different kinds of reading groups during Fall 2018:
    • a September group, in partnership with the Office of General Education, for a title (poetry or prose) by Nikki Giovanni in anticipation of Giovanni’s September 23 presentation as the FYS Speaker
    • Fall semester Belmont Applied Teaching and Learning groups (BeATLes) – we will use Lang’s Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons From the Science of Learning as one of our Fall 2018 book options

Faculty Reflections

A New Kind of Journey
By Hope Buckner

I sat in those seats – in fact, I was a student at Belmont when the very building I’m teaching in was the newest one on campus. I remember walking the halls as a tour guide my sophomore year and the classrooms I sat in as a student throughout my years on campus. Now, though, I’m in this room for a very different reason. Though I’ve been a member of the Belmont community for nearly 10 years (as an undergraduate student, graduate student, alumna and now full-time staff member), when I entered Inman 342 early this semester, I found myself in a very different role.

As I prepared to teach my first class in January, I sought out a lot of advice. I was told many things—but one of the most poignant in my mind came the night before classes began. As I was reviewing my notes one last time and checking my syllabus for final details, I heard from a colleague. Passing along final blessings before my first day she said, “I suspect you will want to remember tomorrow, your first day teaching, always.” I wasn’t aware of the meaning of her words initially, but now, just 4 months later, they resonate with such truth.

I’m not sure that I’ve developed what will ultimately become my teaching style, I know there are plenty of times when I confused things that should have been clear and there’s no doubt that some of my ‘rockstar ideas’ flopped when put into practice – but the ways in which my students have embarked on a valuable, intentional journey of engaged learning has been some of the most meaningful moments of my time at Belmont.

They’ve trusted my leadership, participated whole heartedly, completed assignments and engaged with the process—all with the goal of learning as much about nonprofit leadership and fundraising as they possibility could. And I’ve been amazed at the ground we’ve been able to cover.

Forever and always, as long as I continue teaching (which I hope to be quite lengthy), may each semester, each month, each class begin with the mentality that accompanied this one. May I continue to desire to craft experiences my students will want to remember—always. May I lead them down paths of discovery that are meaningful, evoke so many unanswered questions and continue to make them think—always. May my classroom be conducted in a spirit of curiosity, inclusivity, thoughtfulness, intentionality, community-mindedness that invites their responses, their best thinking, their truest levels of themselves—always.

Q & A With Campus Partners

The Q & A With Campus Partners series is designed to connect faculty with personnel and offices on campus in order to better serve Belmont’s students. This installment features Tim Stewart from the Office of Service-Learning.

What is your title and how long have you been at Belmont?
I am the Director of the Office of Service-Learning and I have been at Belmont since October, 1994.

What brought you to Belmont?
For the first seven years of my time at Belmont, I worked as Coordinator of Volunteer Services while being employed by the YMCA of Middle TN as their Student YMCA and International Director.  After some reorganization of the space I was using at a previous campus necessitated finding a new space to work, I approached Belmont with the idea of coming here to help coordinate volunteer opportunities for students.  The timing couldn’t have been better as the University had just begun the Convocation program that required students to do community service in order to graduate.  When the opportunity arose in 2002 for me to come onboard as an employee of Belmont, adding the responsibilities of Assistant Director of International Education, I was thrilled to be able to continue serving Belmont in new and expanded ways.

What do you do in your role as Director of the Office of Service-Learning?
I work to connect Students, Faculty and Staff to the community in ways that meet both the learning objectives for our students and the needs of the community.  I also collaborate with other offices and departments on campus such as Career Development, Community Relations, University Ministries and Student Affairs to give our students additional opportunities to learn and serve outside the classroom.

How does your office serve Belmont’s students?
Our office serves as a conduit between the campus and our students, helping our students meet their needs and desires for serving others while at the same time, helping agencies in our community meet vital community needs.  We host and/or facilitate volunteer fairs, regular Days of Service such as SERVE Day, MLK Joint Day of Service and Family Literacy Day, publish bi-weekly newsletters of volunteer needs in the community and maintain the Get Connected online platform that helps to connect the Belmont campus to more than 135 agencies in the community.

In what ways do (or can) faculty partner with your office?
Belmont faculty partner with me to design and implement service-learning components for their classes and students.  With over 20 years’ experience with service-learning in the community, I can help faculty identify ways to incorporate service into their learning objectives, find suitable community partners, support them and their students through the service experience and help them develop reflection activities to tie the service and learning together.

What would you like faculty to know about the Office of Service-Learning?
While incorporating service-learning into a class requires some extra effort, most faculty and students who participate in it feel it is worth the effort.  Seeing your students make the connections with the things you’re trying to teach them, while at the same time, building their confidence and helping them help make our community a better place for us all is very rewarding.  The Office of Service-Learning stands ready to help you make it happen!

You can find more information on the Office of Service-Learning here.

Resource of the Month

The Resource of the Month series typically features a recently published SoTL article. However, in the final installment of the series in the 2017-2018 academic year, we are going to feature an online resource you can revisit any time you are considering doing SoTL research. This month’s resource is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Research Guide, created by Belmont’s Lila D. Bunch Library. The guide provides a wealth of information on SoTL, including conferences/journals, further readings, and additional resources to explore.

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.

Resource of the Month

April’s resource, Digital Storytelling: A Method for Engaging Students and Increasing Cultural Competency, is found in The Journal of Effective Teaching. According to its website, the journal is “a peer reviewed electronic journal devoted to the discussion of teaching excellence in colleges and universities.” The article, written by Natalie S. Grant and Brien L. Bolin, explores digital storytelling as a pedagogical approach to develop students’ cultural competency.

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.