Growth Mindset for Teachers

I chanced upon an article from my colleague Jessica Riddell the other day that I thought worth sharing. The title caught my eye: “There is no such thing as a naturally gifted teacher.” Jessica calls out the pedagogical hypocrisy in academia that would commit us to a growth mindset for our students (as learners) while subtly encouraging a fixed mindset for ourselves (as teachers). We expect our students to stumble with new tasks, to learn as they go, to develop unevenly. And yet, when we see teachers who are particularly adept, we tell ourselves they are simply “naturally gifted.” Here is the important question that Jessica asks: “Why do we believe that we can help our students master difficult concepts over time with effort and careful training, but fail to devote the same attention to developing our teaching capacities?” Jessica’s corrective is drawn straight from the academic’s playbook: pick a pedagogical area, read the research on it, test out approaches in class, and iterate.

Here at the Teaching Center, we are in the middle of conducting formative reviews that help our faculty to do just that. I rarely turn down an opportunity to conduct one of these reviews in my own classes—they have been the single most encouraging and helpful tool in my toolkit. I encourage you to reach out to one of us if you would like to schedule your own review! And in the meantime, consider the ways you have grown and continue to grow as a teacher. After all, we’re all always learning.

Teaching Center Spring Events

Now that the Spring semester is in full swing, I wanted to post our calendar and opportunities for faculty this semester! Also note deadlines for travel grant applications below.

Lunch Discussions


Reading and Working Groups Workshops and Retreats First-Year Faculty Seminars
Tuesday, January 24


ChatGPT and Other AI:

Impacts for Teaching and

 Student Learning

12:15 – 1:30

Ayers 4th Floor Conference Center


Belmont Applied Teaching and Learning (BeATLe) Groups


Designing Your Life


The Discussion Book


Self-Compassion for Faculty


Teaching Center January Workshop

January 5, 2023

Ayers 4th Floor Conf. Center


Taking Care of the Teacher:

High-Impact Wellness Strategies for Faculty Members



Cosponsored with Be Well BU


and Beyond


Friday, January 20

1:00-2:15 pm


Thursday, January 26

8:00-9:15 am






The  Healing Classroom

Working Groups


Wednesday, February 15

10:00-11:00 a.m. Inman 312


Thursday, February 16

2:00-3:00 p.m. Inman 312

Mini-Workshop Series

Student Success/Flourishing


Friday, February 17

12:00 – 1:15

Ayers 4094C


Thursday, March 16

3:15 – 4:30

Massey Boardroom

Friday, February 24

Effective Discussion Strategies


Ayers 4th Floor Conference Center

The Healing Classroom Asynchronous Webinar

January 24-February 24

For login instructions, email



Sabbatical Preparation and Planning Workshop

Wednesday, March 15

3:00-4:30 pm

Ayers Conference Center


Day/time TBD


The Healing Classroom

Location TBD



First Friday Faculty Walks

Wednesday, March 22 at 10:00

Tuesday, April 18 at 2:00

Freedom Plaza


Cosponsored with Be Well BU

Circle of Trust Retreats/Events

Facilitated by Judy Skeen


Spring 2023 retreats

Monday, January 9   9:00-1:00

Thursday, May 11   9:00-2:00


A Monthly Pause

Thursdays,  10-noon or 4-6 pm

January 19

February 16

March 16

April 20

May 18

Tuesday, April  4


Celebrating Innovative Teaching

12:15 – 1:30

Massey Boardroom


Check out the Teaching Center Collection of recordings in the Bunch Digital Repository:


Teaching Center blog:

Save the Dates


Teaching Center Workshops

Ayers Conference Center


May 9-10, 2023


August 14-15, 2023



New Faculty Orientation

August 2 – 4,  2023


Other Dates to Note:

Formative Reviews for Spring 2023: February 7 – 24

Deadline for Spring 2023 Teaching Center Travel Grants: Tuesday, February 7 @ 4:00 p.m.

Teaching Center Team:  Mike Pinter 460-6044, Jayme Yeo  460-6233, Nanci Alsup 460-5423

Location:  Second floor of Ayers Academic Center, Rooms 2049/2051.


Leaves are falling, there’s a snap in the air, students seem more exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed, and faculty are strained and spread thin. It must be midterms. The hopes of the beginning of the semester always seem to dissolve into the time constraints of academic life this time of year. My best intentions—to embrace active learning, to be present and vulnerable with my students, to create a supportive community in the classroom—all bend a bit these days. In the business and busyness of mid-semester life, I find myself losing sight of the core of my teaching as peripheral objects crowd my vision and pull focus.

In this context, I’ve been thinking about encouragement.

The word comes from the Latin for “heart,” as in, “to instil heart-ness.” It is a close cousin of the word “courage,” a kind of bravery born out of acting from the core of one’s being. I like to think of it as “whole-heart-ness.” Midsemester is the time of year when I—and my students—begin to lose heart.

In The Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer writes about good teaching:

“In every class I teach, my ability to connect with my students, and to connect them with the subject, depend less on the methods I use then on the degree to which I know and trust my selfhood—and I am willing to make it available and vulnerable in the service of learning.”

Palmer wants to remind us that the subjects we teach are more than dry facts floating around somewhere “out there.” They are immediate in us. They touch us, shape us. Our ability to see the connections between what we teach and who we are is at the literal and figurative heart of what we do. It’s what opens us up to transformation and renewal.

This connectedness is also, not coincidentally, at the center of some of the more rigorous understandings of deep learning, advocated by folks such as Stephen Chew and Ken Bain. Put simply, being able to understand the connections between our fields and our lives is the result of and results in thorough articulations of our academic fields. Far from being some touchy-feely approach to learning, teaching with courage requires a committed investment in our disciplines.

In this space, I want to be a source of encouragement for my students. I want to create space for them to find the heart of their learning and themselves. This requires that I first make space for myself to rediscover—or discover for the first time—the heart of the subjects I teach. I have no easy answers here. It takes time, connection, and curiosity: three things that are in short supply these days. And yet, the need to find these resources is imperative.

I encourage you to join me in resisting the urge to lose heart. I’m going to be cultivating small practices: setting aside 20 minutes to get lost in an idea, picking up a good academic or pedagogical book, having lunch or taking a walk with a colleague to talk about what’s happening in my classes. I’m hoping these small acts of self-encouragement will branch into my classrooms and inspire my students. I invite you to join me.

Want to read Palmer’s book? Read it for free online at Belmont’s library!

Survey Finds Faculty Adjusted Well to Teaching in the Pandemic

Though 2021 may be behind us, the benefits and challenges of teaching and learning in a digital space continue. And while faculty certainly have more experience this year in these areas, how well did faculty adapt in the midst of pandemic teaching? A recent survey finds faculty adjusted very well.

A survey released late February 2022 found that students had positive perceptions of how faculty modified their courses to fit hybrid and online teaching challenges. The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) noted that 73 percent of students believed faculty and staff at their institution did a “good job” helping students adapt to remote instruction.

This finding is in large part due to the exceptional changes faculty made in their classes. The survey found that nearly 88 percent of faculty members significantly adjusted the nature of their assignments, and 89 percent were more flexible about assignment due dates. Further, 64 percent of faculty altered their reading assignments, and 69 percent said that they changed their approach to grading.

Kate Drezek McConnell, vice president for curricular and pedagogical innovation at the American Association of Colleges & Universities, said that the “pandemic made faculty members think more strategically to identify the core ideas in a course and to design courses more thoughtfully.”

The survey also highlighted the broadened responsibilities of faculty as it considered the pandemic’s emotional and mental health impact on students.  Jillian Kinzie, interim co-director of NSSE, said that although online learning wasn’t idea, faculty acted as a “lifeline” for students.

“Instruction became the lifeline for students,” Kinzie said. “A lot of what happened that was effective for students happened through their courses because that was the one consistent experience they had, even during the pandemic.”

This survey was part two of NSSE’s annual report “Engagement Insights – Survey Findings on the Quality of Undergraduate Education.” The survey was conducted in spring 2021 and received responses from 7,413 first-year students and 9,229 seniors from 47 bachelor’s degree-granting institutions in the U.S.

To learn more, visit the National Survey of Student Engagement.

Teaching Center Events: Spring 2022

The Teaching Center has a number of events and opportunities this semester. Details are provided below. The Teaching Center will email invitations and reminders for individual events and opportunities.

Lunch Discussions

Friday, January 21

Faculty Perspectives on Elements of Race in Our Teaching and Student Learning

Noon-1 p.m.


In conjunction with MLK Week events


Date/Time TBD

Questions to Ask About Our Teaching


Thursday, February 17

Technology’s Impact on Human Learning

Guest Presenter: Dr. Doreen Dodgen-Magee

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

JAAC, 4th Floor conference Center

Cosponsored with University Ministries


Thursday, March 3

Reconsidering Approaches to Grading Student Work

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Massey Boardroom, 4th Floor Massey Business Center


Monday, April 4

The Science of Learning and Innovative Teaching

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

JAAC, 4th Floor Conference Center


Mini-Workshop Series & Retreats

Circle of Trust Experiences

Facilitated by Judy Skeen


Monday, January 3, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Thursday, May 12, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

   Lunch Breaks, Noon-1 p.m.

Monday, January 10 & Wednesday, April 6

   Afternoon Pause, 3:30-5 p.m.

Monday, January 24 & Friday, April 8


Be Well BU and Student Learning

Wednesday, February 9 & Wednesday, March 30

Noon – 1 p.m.

Massey Boardroom, 4th Floor Massey Business Center


Advising Tips and Strategies

Wednesday, February 23

3:30-4:30 p.m.

JAAC 4098


Sabbatical Planning

Tuesday, March 8

2-3 p.m.

JAAC 4111


Teaching Center May Workshop

May 10-11


Reading Groups

 February Reading Groups

All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks

Tuesday Groups

8 – 9 a.m.; 3:30-4:30 p.m.

February 8, 15, 22

Wednesday Groups

Noon – 1 p.m.; 3:30-4:30 p.m.

February 9, 16, 23


Belmont Applied Teaching and Learning (BeATLe) Groups

The New Science of Learning: How to Learn in Harmony With Your Brain

Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead)

Dates, Times, and Locations TBD


Additional Deadlines and Opportunities to Note

February 1 – 18

Teaching Center Formative Reviews


Tuesday, February 8 – 4 p.m.

Deadline to submit Teaching Center Travel Grant application

Maintenance Required

As faculty, we can often find ourselves with plenty to do – grade, conference with students, serve the university and our community, design our next set of courses. You name the task, and you’re likely to find it on our to-do list. Then as humans, we have relationships to tend to, hobbies to enjoy, plans to bring to fruition – so much to do. Our guest for this blog post, Heather Gerbsch Daugherty – University Minister here at Belmont, invites us to pause and take care of ourselves as the semester closes and the break and holiday season commences.

I was in a hurry the late September morning that I turned on my trusty Prius, Pearl, and the message “Maintenance required soon” flashed onto the display.  Having no time to think about that need, I hit the “Dismiss” button and went along with my day.  This ritual repeated itself daily for the next several weeks as I saw the message that it was time to pay attention to the real needs of Pearl, but I couldn’t make space in my days to do anything about it.  A few weeks later, the message changed to “Maintenance Required” and when I pushed the button to dismiss, the message would not go away.  I finally had no choice but to make time in my calendar to get Pearl what she needed.

As I watched that message pop up each day, I began to think about what I was experiencing in my own life – a rapid return to “in person” life, the demands of a never-ending to-do list, and the number of times I had chosen to forgo essential healthy habits because there was just too much to do.  And just as soon the proverbial “Maintenance required soon” messages started popping up in my life (incredible stress and anxiety, sleeplessness, a short temper with my colleagues and friends), I hit the dismiss button as quickly as possible because I didn’t have time to deal with it.  And the longer I put off what my body was telling me I needed – the more urgent the messages became.

As the end of the semester draws near – I am feeling the effects of my continual dismissal of the need to treat my mind and body with kindness.  I am feeling the need to find immediate solutions because I am not sure how long I can keep up the pace this semester has asked of me.  As I look toward next semester I am asking myself what it would look like to pay attention the first time the warning light comes on and making space for daily “maintenance” of my body, mind, and spirit.  For me, it looks like some kind of daily physical activity, a regular time of prayer and meditation, and permission to give myself time each day to set aside the never ending list of tasks and chores.  I invite you, give you permission even, at the end of a long and challenging semester to stop hitting the dismiss button on your maintenance requirements and take the time you need to care for your own health and needs.

The Teaching Center offers Circle of Trust experiences facilitated by Judy Skeen. These experiences help faculty experience guided renewal. Our calendar will be updated soon with dates for spring 2022 Circle of Trust opportunities. 

Thank You, Belmont Faculty

“‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say.” – Alice Walker

November ushers in a time of intentional gratitude and signals that we pause and reflect over all that we can be grateful for right now. In my reflection, I always give thanks for those who taught me the importance of a genuine “thank you” – my father, mother, and grandmother. Each lesson built on each other: my father’s constant reminders to say, “thank you,” followed by my grandmother’s echoes/questions of if I had said, “thank you,” then my mother’s reinforcing requests to write those thank yous down in meaningful ways. All of this has helped me become a person who tries to never miss an opportunity to say, “thank you.”

For this month’s post, I gave some Belmont students an opportunity to say “thank you” to Belmont faculty. We know that students are grateful for the work we do, but these thank yous serve as tangible reminders that they see us and our work and, in these challenging times, are thinking of us in gratitude. As our lives, at work and beyond, become busier this time of year, I hope we can pause and let these thank you notes fill us with the love with which the students wrote them.

Thank You Notes from Belmont Students

Thank you to the professors of Belmont. I feel like I am always learning new information every time I go to class. They are always available for me to ask questions when I cannot understand the material or when I need help. I feel very lucky to be a part of this institution.

Thank you for your guidance and kindness throughout the semester!

 Andrea Poynter – Thank you for always being upbeat and inclusive in class. Your class is a highlight of the week. Even though it is a longer class, you make the time fly and spread everything out, so it doesn’t feel super long.

 Thank you, Dr. Wayne Barnard, for being a great professor throughout the semester. The semester has been crazy because of online classes and lab cancellations, but we know you did your best.

 The professors at Belmont are some of the most genuine people I’ve met! They all truly care about our well-being, both in and outside of the classroom, and do all they can to ensure it.

 Thank you for all you do for us and always being there to help us in any way we need.

 I would like to thank Professor Jay Gilmore for his commitment to caring for his students, both in and outside the classroom. Professor Gilmore always checks in on his students whenever we miss a class, asks us about our weekend plans every Friday, and always stops to say hello when he sees one of his students around campus. I have been very privileged to be one of his students this semester!

 I thank all of the professors that I have had this semester, because they have helped me to think critically in the world. As a college student the classes I am taking have helped me be aware of everything around me.

 I really appreciate the transition from online to in-person. I know some things are more efficient and convenient online, but thank you for understanding and believing in the importance of human interaction. I couldn’t do another year like last year. Thank you for making a difference.

 Thank you, Professor Shaw, for being one of the best teachers I’ve ever had!! I appreciate you for treating us like adults and trusting us enough to have deep conversations without shying away from important topics. You created a wonderful class environment where we all really respect each other and we’re not afraid to offer up our opinion. I’ve learned so much about how to critically but respectfully listen to information and other people’s viewpoints, and how my own experiences affect my way of looking at the world. I also just really appreciate how kind you always are and understanding of our struggles as students/young adults. I always feel respected and seen in your class. I’m going to use the things I learned for the rest of my life and I’m endlessly grateful for the time and effort you put into making this class as helpful and meaningful as it was. You’re amazing!!! Thank you!!!

 Thank you to Dr. Stepnick for being a wonderful teacher and kind person! Your passion for sociology is contagious, and it makes class even more engaging. I always appreciate how collaborative class is and how you encourage us to share our ideas without being afraid of making mistakes. I also really appreciate how much you clearly care about us and how understanding you are, always making sure we’re not too stressed out or struggling with anything. I feel very supported and encouraged in your class, and I just want you to know how appreciated your kindness is by all of us. Thank you for making sociology my favorite subject!! You rock!! 🙂

Thanks for all the work you do. Last year was rough and everyone is still adjusting. You have been patient with us, and we can’t thank you enough for it.

 Thank you to the songwriting professors for being so kind and helpful!

 Dr. MarQo Patton, thank you for seeing potential in me and your other students. You have a love for others that is so drastically underrated! Your style, expertise and humor are second to none! May you stumble upon many blessings and opportunities in the future!

Many thanks to the students who took the time to pause, reflect, and say, “thank you!”

Incorporating Inclusive Elements for Our Courses, Classrooms, and Labs

As teachers, we need to be intentional about our course design and activities because they impact how we engage students and recognize their diverse identities and experiences. While it can be challenging to identify ways to show a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, checking in with colleagues and discussing their approaches is helpful. The Teaching Center’s workshop, Incorporating Inclusive Elements for Our Courses, Classrooms, and Labs, featured our colleagues Dr. Paula Roberts, Dr. Gideon Park, and Dr. Jimmy Davis who offered insights we can all use in our courses, classrooms, and labs.

Learn students’ names – A student’s name can be the first part of their identity and individuality that we encounter. By investing time in learning our students’ names, we signal that we see them and are committed to creating a community where all students are valued and recognized. If you find learning names challenging, consider the following:

  • Use name tents and have students place them in front of them for the first few class meetings or until no longer needed.
  • Have students complete profiles that include more specific information about them and their interests.
  • With their permission, have students upload a photo on Blackboard.

Acknowledge your personal identity – Ignoring our own identities may signal to our students that we do not have a strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion practices. By acknowledging that you are part of, for example, majority and historically valued groups, you can help contextualize and acknowledge certain perspectives and ideologies in honest and transparent ways that can help both teachers and students navigate the emotions and reactions that come with learning.

Incorporate relevant readings/studies/assignments connected to your field of study – While this is often seen as the low-hanging fruit of DEI strategies, it is one not to be underestimated. Every field has opportunities to explore diverse scholarship, studies, and conversations. Some students may not see the impact their biases and limited knowledge can have on their field, but through assignments, readings, and activities, they can have the opportunity to engage with the possibilities of understanding diversity, equity, and inclusion in their field.

Syllabus statement – Students often encounter our syllabi before they even begin the course, so it is an important opportunity to include a diversity, equity, and inclusion statement to establish your commitment to it for the course. There are plenty of options for how to incorporate this, but here is an example from my syllabus:

In this class, people of all abilities, ages, ethnicities, genders and gender identities, religions, sexual orientations, socioeconomic backgrounds, regions, nationalities, and other categories of difference have a space to learn and share their perspectives. If you do not feel included, please speak with me as soon as possible to discuss this and important resources.

Influence our professional organizations – The need for diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies stems from larger systemic concerns likely found in the professional organizations that set standards and practices that influence our campus cultures and courses. The trickle-down effect easily finds itself in how we design and implement learning practices. Our involvement in these organizations can help shift the professional standards. Whether publishing in the field’s journals or working in leadership positions, we can help our professional organizations grow to reflect a more dedicated mission to be diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

Our conversation during this workshop included other ways to incorporate inclusive elements, so continue to explore ways that work best for your course and students. If you have inclusive elements you would like to share on the blog, contact me, and it may be featured soon.

Teaching Tips from the Pandemic

As the pandemic continues, its lasting impact on our pedagogy is evident in how our shift included unexpected silver linings. Our first Teaching Center luncheon explored what colleagues learned about their pedagogy and how they decided to stick with those techniques/activities that may have started as temporary. Here are a few highlights from the luncheon:

Group Office Hours

Choose a time when students can stop by in groups on Zoom and ask questions. This gives them an opportunity to hear and learn from each other’s questions and get important information and insight from the professor.

Blackboard Announcements

This feature gives students and professors a space where information can be gathered and shared. With so much going on, everyone knows there is one place where they can find what they need. Students also receive an email when announcements are posted for the extra communication option.

Learning Triads

Building community is more challenging as we are mindful of physical distancing and its impact on our health and safety. Helping students create triads or assigning triads helps students create community that can be used for peer review or peer check-ins. Whether participating online or in-person, students create connections with another peer they can contact about the course.

Inclusion Resources

This pandemic has been not only about our public health but also about our society’s systemic ailments. Creating resource packets with intention can help you highlight resources and knowledge that contributors of undervalued groups – e.g., Asian American and Pacific Islander, Black/African-American, women – add to the access students have to various perspectives and expertise in the course.


March 2020 revealed the importance of flexibility, and the lessons learned show that flexibility is a requirement in this enduring pandemic. When availabilities shift and guidelines change, it impacts our pedagogy.

These shifts proved to be integral beyond the earliest parts of the pandemic. While we are still learning and teaching in this pandemic, we are learning more about ourselves, our pedagogy, and our students’ engagement. As we adjust with new and different techniques, may we have moments, as our colleagues at this luncheon shared, where we can find ways to create a new normal in an ever-changing academic experience. Many thanks to our colleagues who shared their experiences and techniques!

If you’re interested in taking this opportunity to publish about your pandemic experience with teaching, check out this post from The Scholarly Teacher.

Have a pedagogical shift that you would like to share? Email it to Heather Finch – . We might feature it in a future blog post.

What Faculty Do Matters

At the end of an exhausting academic year, it is good to stop and celebrate the importance of our work. In 10 Reasons Higher Education is One of the Most Challenging Careers, Terry Doyle does so by discussing the challenges faculty overcome to do their jobs well. In the article, he outlines 10 reasons why college teaching is one of the most challenging jobs in the world and one of the most important:

  1. Faculty Teach More than Content.
  2. All Learning is Interconnected.
  3. Faculty Have Little Control Over Many Aspects that Impact Learning.
  4. Faculty Cannot “Make” Students Learn.
  5. Time to Teach is Limited.
  6. Learning is a Social-Emotional Experience.
  7. Teachers Teach the Whole Person, Not a Subject Area.
  8. Diverse Learners.
  9. Technology as a Tool for Learning or a Distraction from Learning.
  10. Preconceived Expectations of Learning.

Doyle concludes that college teachers are “miracle workers” that are integral to every occupation and profession. He ends the article with an encouraging affirmation for faculty. “Although it is easy to focus on fatigue and negative aspects of being a college faculty member,” Doyle said, “create time to realize you do what few in our society can do, and it makes all the difference.

Terry Doyle is an author, educational consultant and  professor emeritus of reading at Ferris State University where he worked for 38 years. His work focuses on ways to assist higher education faculty in becoming learner centered teachers and how faculty can apply  new findings from neuroscience, biology and cognitive science in their teaching to improve students’ learning.

Interested in learning more about the scholarship of teaching and learning or accessing more of these resources? Belmont and Bunch Library offer the SoTL Resources at Bunch Library that provides information on SoTL professional organizations, research journals, conferences, etc.