Faculty Reflections

Becoming a BANJO Writer
By Anthony Blash (Pharmacy) and Beverly Schneller (English)

In the summer of 2017, Anthony Blash invited a small group of colleagues from across campus to collaborate on an article on the mid-semester peer review of teaching that the Teaching Center coordinates each semester. He had a positive experience with his faculty peer reviewer, Julie Hunt, and he wanted to share what he learned with others.  He reached out to Beverly Schneller, Jonathan Thorndike, and Natalie Michaels.  Together, the team represented two graduate programs and three undergraduate programs. Anthony, Julie, and Natalie come from disciplines where collaborative writing is common and all had engaged in the peer review process as either a reviewer or a participant.  Beverly, though she had not participated in the review process, brought her experience in academic systems and review processes from an institutional perspective. Jonathan, as program director of Honors, conducts peer reviews of the Honors faculty. For the team, collaborating on a writing project allowed us to engage with different perspectives, interpretations, and articulation of the peer review of teaching.

We met weekly across the summer, beginning with brainstorming based on Anthony’s peer review.  From our discovery sessions, we identified a few possible themes or theses and then we agreed to write a section in our area of expertise.  Anthony recounted his peer review as a participant, Julie as his reviewer, Natalie as both a reviewer and a participant, Jonathan as one who used a complimentary process, while Beverly developed the initial literature review. We all agreed on the value of telling the story of the mid-semester review embedded as part of peer review. We quickly decided we wanted to approach it as a gem in the peer review process which needed more promotion among the faculty.

The meetings were fun and the topics were wide ranging.  A couple of meetings in we became the BANJO writing group (an acronym made of our first initials). The more we discussed the topics and refined our thinking, the more we uncovered about our passions for the topic and our earnest desire to invite more faculty to participate in the mid-semester peer review.  While at first we were all on separate tasks, within a few weeks we were in sync, starting to finish each other’s sentences! Significantly, when we met to edit the article, we concentrated on tone and word choice more than clarity or content, as we wanted to represent the personal as well as the professional merits of the peer review process to our readers.

The audience we had in mind was our peers, and those who struggle with finding meaning in required student evaluations and departmental peer reviews. We decided to submit to the Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning, because Anthony’s story repeatedly emerged as the hook, giving the emotional connection with readers. We submitted the finished product in November, and after an R and R in January, we are waiting to hear if we made it. We intend to continue generating new research on these topics since our diverse backgrounds and experience converged so harmoniously.

Editor’s Note: For more information on Teaching Center formative reviews and/or for help organizing a writing group, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Recently at the Teaching Center…

February Lunch Discussions

Panelists (left to right): Mary Claire Dismukes, Jeremy Fyke, Ryan Fox, Lori LeBleu, Jeff Overby, Catherine Graham, and Angela Clauson

Embedding Career Readiness in the Classroom
Belmont University aspires to be a premier teaching university, bringing together the best of liberal arts and professional education in a Christian community of learning and service.  We know that 94% of Belmont’s graduates are employed or pursing graduate school within six months of employment—but are they truly prepared?  On February 15th, the Teaching Center partnered with the office of Career and Professional Development to host a lunch discussion about how employers rate our graduates—and how that differs from their self-perception. Attendees engaged in dialogue with colleagues about strategies for developing students’ collaboration, communication, creativity, problem solving, professionalism, global fluency and leadership skills in the classroom, both in person and virtual.  Panelists included: Angela Clauson, Pharmacy; Jeremy Fyke, Communication Studies; Ryan Fox, Mathematics Education; Jeff Overby, International Business; Catherine Graham, Honors; Adrianne Archie, Student Affairs; Lori LeBleu and Chris Agans, Massey College of Business Career Development Center.

Panelists (left to right): Michelle Corvette, Judy Williams, Liz Usman, Elena Espiritu, Marnie Vanden Noven, and Natalie Michaels

Faculty Peer Review Effective Practices
Belmont faculty determined a few years ago that part of our continuing professional development associated with teaching would include annual peer feedback through review and/or observation. But what does effective peer review and observation look like?  Which methods are most successfully used by our Belmont colleagues? In addition to teaching improvement, what are other benefits of the peer review process? On February 26th, the Teaching Center partnered with the Faculty Senate Continuous Improvement of Teaching Committee (CITC) for a panel discussion highlighting the differences and possibilities of peer review across our campus.  Faculty panelists include Liz Usman (Law and CITC Chair), Natalie Michaels (Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy, CHS), Michelle Corvette (Art, CVPA), Judy Williams (Faculty Librarian, Bunch Library), Marnie Vanden Noven (Sport Science, CLASS), and Elena Espiritu (Occupational Therapy, CHS).

Resource of the Month

February’s resource*, Encouraging Participation in Face-to-Face Lectures: The Index Card Technique, is found in Communication Teacher. The article, written by Laura Beth Daws, explains a strategy to increase students’ verbal discussion and participation in the classroom. According to its website, the journal, which is a peer-reviewed publication of the National Communication Association, publishes original scholarship that considers the practice and assessment of the teaching of communication across K-2, university/college, and other educational contexts.”

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.

* Editor’s note: I chose this month’s resource not only because it illuminates a great teaching idea,  but also because I wanted to highlight discipline-specific SoTL opportunities. I picked a journal from my discipline (Communication Studies), and I would encourage you to look for SoTL publications in your disciplines, as well.

First Year Faculty Thoughts

Heather Finch, Ph.D.

Faculty Fellow, Department of English

B.S., English, Tuskegee University
M.A., English, Auburn University
Ph.D., English, Auburn University

When I stepped into the college classroom as an instructor of record for the first time over 10 years ago, I could have never anticipated the needs this career path would meet for me as I grow as a professional and person. It’s that transformative nature of the classroom that will not let me turn away from it. Even as I worked in positions outside of the classroom, I eagerly said yes when asked if I had time to teach a class or two. The classroom transforms me every time by presenting me with the honor of learning with students who teach me more about the communities we’re currently building in not only our nation but the world. When presented with the opportunity to pursue teaching full time last year, I decided to make a change.

This change lead me to Belmont where my faculty fellowship presents me with many opportunities to grow as an instructor, scholar, and academic professional. I have worked with my faculty mentor to increase my preparedness for tenure-track, encountered welcoming colleagues willing to share their experiences, worked with thoughtful, creative students, and taken advantage of sessions and conversations that have made me a better teacher. My experience so far has shown me Belmont understands the support it takes to help faculty become better at every step in their careers. Transitions can be critical, and I’m grateful to have Belmont be a part of my transition to full-time faculty work and Nashville.


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.

Recently at the Teaching Center…

The Elephant in the Classroom: Addressing Sensitive Topics with Skill and Courage

Julie Hunt and Marnie Vanden Noven present at the lunch discussion.

For many faculty, leading classroom discussions on sensitive topics is a persistent challenge. Topics like politics, religion, race and ethnicity, sexuality, and healthcare can come up in courses in a multitude of programs and disciplines. How faculty navigate these discussions can greatly impact the classroom environment and students’ learning. Thus, the Teaching Center hosted a lunch discussion on January 26th titled, “The Elephant in the Classroom: Addressing Sensitive Topics with Skill and Courage.” Attendees heard from a panel of faculty, in a variety of disciplines, who have experience and expertise engaging in difficult conversations in their classrooms. The panel included Tracey Carter (Law), David Dark (Religion), Julie Hunt (Social Work), Vaughn May (Political Science), and Marnie Vanden Noven (Sport Science).

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 Mary Claire Dismukes from the Office of Career & Professional Development.

What is your title and how long have you been at Belmont?
I am the Director of the Office of Career & Professional Development and have been at Belmont since August 2016.

What brought you to Belmont?
I was drawn to Belmont for its mission–a student-centered Christian community providing an academically challenging education that empowers men and women of diverse backgrounds to engage and transform the world with disciplined intelligence, compassion, courage and faith. I believe that every person deserves to discover and realize their God-given potential and that belief has guided me throughout my career in higher education.   The last 13 years have been specifically focused in career development at both public and private, faith-based universities.  I have a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Temple University and am licensed by the state of Pennsylvania as a Professional Counselor. I am also certified by the National Career Development Association as a Global Career Development Facilitator. I grew up in the college town of Gainesville, FL and received my bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina.  Though my career took me to Philadelphia, PA for most of my professional life, I am thrilled to be back in the south and call Nashville home.

What do you do in your role as Director of the Office of Career & Professional Development?
As director, I lead a team of 6 professional staff and four student assistants and provide the strategic direction of the office.  Our three-part vision includes: focused engagement with students and graduates, strengthened partnerships and relationships with faculty and employers and utilizing technology to better serve our constituents.

How does your office serve Belmont’s students?
We operate in Career Clusters and each major has a dedicated career development specialist. Each specialist focuses outreach efforts, programming, and appointments with students interested in a specific industry while cultivating and maintaining employer relationships in those areas.

In what ways do (or can) faculty partner with your office?
Last fall 2500+ students were reached during classroom presentations. We welcome the opportunity to engage with your students and can provide a custom presentation on a variety of career-related topics. Our Belmont & Beyond series focuses on career management, financial literacy, and industry-specific networking opportunities for all students and we are always looking for partners.  You can help us spread the word by including us in your syllabus. Does your inbox get flooded with internship and job opportunities from employers?  Let us help you with employer relationship management. We will follow up with any employer contacts/opportunities you refer, keeping you in the loop throughout, and assist employers with posting in Handshake, our university recruiting platform. We also invite you to attend our annual Career Fair and networking events on campus to build relationships with employers.

What would you like faculty to know about the Office of Career and Professional Development?
We are cosponsoring a Teaching Center Luncheon on February 15th focused on Embedding Career Readiness in the Classroom. Join us for a lunch discussion to learn more about how employers rate our graduates—and how that differs from their self-perception. Engage in dialogue with faculty colleagues and discover strategies for developing students’ collaboration, communication, creativity, problem solving, professionalism, global fluency and leadership skills in the classroom.  Panelists include: Jeremy Fyke, Communication Studies; Ryan Fox, Mathematics Education; Jeff Overby, International Business; Catherine Graham, Honors; Adrianne Archie, Student Affairs; Lori LeBleu and Chris Agans, Massey College of Business Career Development Center.

As leaders in career development, we aspire to make a difference in the lives of others by providing our community with meaningful connections in a global environment.  We value our faculty colleagues and the important contribution you are making in the lives of our students and greater campus community.

Resource of the Month

January’s resource, “I Hate Group Work!”: Addressing Students’ Concerns About Small-Group Learning, is found in InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching. According to its website, the journal, published by the Faculty Center for Innovation at Park University, “emphasizes the enhancement of post-secondary education through the professional exchange of scholarly approaches and perspectives applicable to the enrichment of teaching and learning.” The article, written by Elizabeth G. Allan, identifies strategies that can mitigate student concerns about group work.

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

Sue Iliff, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, School of Occupational Therapy

B.S., Occupational Therapy, University of Kansas
M.A., Occupational Therapy, Texas Woman’s University
Ph.D., Occupational Therapy, Texas Woman’s University

Accepting a faculty position at Belmont University was a serendipitous moment in my life.  Everything seemed to fall into place in a very short period of time.  I applied in early April 2017, interviewed in May, and accepted the position and moved to Nashville two months later to start work August 1st.  Needless to say, it was a whirlwind experience filled with emotion, however, never a day goes by that I regret making this career move!

As an occupational therapist, we value work-life balance, and this holds true at Belmont.  The faculty in the School of Occupational Therapy have been so supportive and eased me into the system slowly, allowing me to get my bearings and finish my PhD.  Co-teaching was a new experience for me, but I’ve decided I like and it gave me the opportunity to learn from others and observe different teaching approaches.  The Teaching Center was also integral in my transition.  Their new faculty educational seminars and lunch discussions offer current teaching strategies to implement immediately into the classroom and furthered my knowledge of the many pedagogical resources at Belmont.

As a whole, I am enjoying being faculty at Belmont and plan to take advantage of the many opportunities here—hopefully through more involvement in global health and inter-professional education.


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.

Recently at the Teaching Center…

Reacting to the Past at Belmont: Pedagogy and Play

By James Al-Shamma

Presenters (left to right): Mitch McCoy, James Al-Shamma, Paul Gatrell, and Andy Miller; Not pictured: Beverly Schneller

On January 3, 2018, the Teaching Center hosted a workshop titled, “Reacting to the Past at Belmont: Pedagogy and Play.” Reacting to the Past (Reacting) is a role-playing pedagogy that places students at specific moments in history and asks them to debate the big ideas that influenced events at that time. It promotes deep learning through research, writing, speaking, and debate, in an environment that requires creative problem-solving, teamwork, and negotiation, all in the spirit of friendly competition. At this workshop, five Belmont faculty shared their experience with Reacting. The results of a survey administered to their students in Fall 2017 was presented as well. The panelists have used Reacting in diverse courses from across the Belmont curriculum: James Al-Shamma, Paul Gatrell, and Beverly Schneller in the First Year Seminar; Al-Shamma in a theatre history course; Mitch McCoy in an upper division Spanish course; and Andrew Miller in Honors Math Analytics and Mathematical Inquiry.

During the first hour of the workshop, following a brief explanation of Reacting, panelists shared their experience with the pedagogy, and the student survey results were presented. The panelists reported the practice to be a challenging and rewarding one, and all plan to continue incorporating it into their classes. The survey instrument was generously supplied by researchers at the University of Georgia. It addresses the learning environment promoted in the Reacting classroom, and its designers drew on social cohesion theory and the theory of relationship-driven teaching as they formulated their questions. At Belmont, 91 students participated in the survey, with a positive response across such categories as Reacting’s impact on learning and research, and on student behaviors and relation to faculty.

During the second hour of the workshop, attendees played the microgame, “Athens Besieged,” in order to experience Reacting firsthand. In this scenario, set in 405-404 BCE, members of the Athenian Assembly debate the best means of ensuring their survival as they face inevitable defeat at the hands of Sparta and its allies. Reacting allows for outcomes other than those dictated by history, and indeed the Spartan Kings at the workshop chose to utterly destroy Athens rather than spare its citizens and install the rule of the Thirty Tyrants, as actually occurred. A departure from the course of historical events, such as this, is not uncommon in Reacting; the pedagogy encourages students to conceive of history as not predetermined, as it may appear to be when read from a textbook, but rather as developing out of the complex interplay of numerous personalities, driven by various conflicting ideologies and motivations.

For more information on Reacting to the Past, click here and/or email James Al-Shamma.

Spring Events and Deadlines

Welcome back and happy 2018! So you can plan accordingly, you will find a list of upcoming Teaching Center events and opportunities below. As always, you will receive emails about individual events and deadlines.

Lunch Discussions

Friday, January 26
The Elephant in the Classroom: Addressing Sensitive Topics with Skill and Courage
12:00 – 1:30pm
Massey Boardroom

Tuesday, February 15
Embedding Career Readiness in the Classroom.
11:30am – 1:00pm
Massey Boardroom

Monday, February 26
Faculty Peer Review Effective Practices
12:00 – 1:30pm
Massey Boardroom

Wednesday, March 14
What Does Faith Have to Do With How We Teach?
12:00 – 1:30pm
Location TBD

Tuesday, April 3
Celebrating Effective Teaching
12:00 – 1:30pm
Massey Boardroom


Wednesday, February 7
Interdisciplinary Approaches to Teaching
12:00 – 1:00pm
Johnson Center 422

May 8/9
Teaching Center Workshop
Ayers 4th Floor

Reading Groups

February 6, 13, & 20 or February 9, 16, & 23
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
Tuesdays at 8:00am or 3:30pm or Fridays at 10:00am or noon
Location TBD

Dates TBD
Belmont Applied Teaching and Learning (BeATLe) Groups
Time TBD

Additional Deadlines and Events to Note

Tuesday, February 13 – 4:00pm
Deadline to submit Teaching Center Travel Grant application

February 6 – 22
Teaching Center Formative Reviews

Wednesday, March 28 & Friday, April 13 – 10:00am
Author Talk Series

Thursday, May 10 – 3:00 – 8:00pm
Circle of Trust Retreat