Advice from Teaching and Learning Sources: Do Less

The move of classroom structure to an online format has pushed many of us from our comfort zone. As we navigate this new terrain, we wanted to share an article that offers advice to faculty in their pivot to online instruction.

Anya Kamenetz in the article “Panic-gogy: Teaching Online Classes During the Coronavirus Pandemic” encourages faculty to “do less,” a sentiment echoed by many teaching and learning sources. She encourages faculty to practice “panicgogy,” or critical compassion, by identifying “what’s going on, how you can operate within that, and how you can be compassionate in that [context].”

If the Teaching Center can be helpful with non-technical teaching matters, questions or concerns, please contact us at


Resource of the Month

Most of us would readily agree that professor-student rapport in the classroom affects student learning. What is more difficult is determining how to establish and sustain this rapport between teachers and students.

March’s resource of the month offers some guidance in this area. In the article, Making Connections: Student-Teacher Rapport in Higher Education Classrooms, researcher Roehl Sybing uses ethnography to examine how a teacher establishes rapport and facilitates understanding with first- and second-year undergraduate students. He considers the impact of differing personal backgrounds and circumstances as well as growing class sizes and concludes that through rapport, professors can validate student knowledge and participation while mitigating identity differences between teacher and student.

Author Roehl Sybing is a Language, Literacy & Culture doctoral candidate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His work is published in the December 2019 issue of the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Founded in 2001, the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (JoSoTL) is published by Indiana University’s Faculty Academy on Excellence in Teaching. The journal seeks to “address contemporary issues bridging teaching and learning in higher education, philosophical approaches to teaching, current research, and praxis.”

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.

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.



Critical Thinking: Knowing It When You See It

Jeremy Lane, Director of the School of Music


In a recent Teaching Center workshop, participants discussed how to see and cultivate critical thinking in the classroom. As part of this workshop, Jeremy Lane, director of the School of Music, offered a 4×4 matrix of critical thinking focused on identifying critical thinking, discerning its unique characteristics, developing critical thinking in the classroom, and assisting students in demonstrating critical thinking.


  1. Four Challenging Questions in Teaching Critical Thinking…
    • Critical thinking is deceptive: Sometimes what may look like critical thinking may actually not be. How can we ensure that what they are doing (and what we are doing) is developing and promoting critical thinking?
    • Defining critical thinking can be vague: Identifying specific outcomes related to critical thinking can be an elusive task. How can we know what to look for, and how can we describe critical think when it happens?
    • Critical thinking may appear to students as irrelevant: Students may not always grasp how critical thinking relates t their discipline. How can we engage our students by stressing the relevance of critical thinking to their academic, artistic, and research work?
    • Collegiate curriculum not always conducive to critical thinking: A four-year collegiate curriculum packed with classes doesn’t always allow students to attempt activities or projects multiple times, reflect on success and failures, or think through processes deeply before engaging. How can we overcome some of the systematic hurdles in order to develop critical thinking?
  1. Critical thinking may be deceptive, but it always involves these elements…
    • Transfer: Critical thinking always involves the transfer of skills/knowledge learned in one setting into a new, different setting.
    • Synthesis: Critical thinking always involves the synthesis of knowledge & skills learned across varying settings and applies them appropriately.
    • Contextual awareness: Critical thinking requires an awareness of the context in which the student is engaging , and the ability to discern how context influences choices and actions.
    • Flexibility/adaptability: Critical thinking requires the ability to adapt and adjust in the moment, and a willingness to change predetermined plans as need to accomplish the intended outcome.
  1. Four strategies to develop critical thinking in your class today…
    • Accomplished learner: Define the behaviors/actions of the ideal student – what does the ‘A’ student know and do? Make this a priority of your planning before instruction begins.
    • Time for reflection: Build reflection-based activities as frequently as possible – even something as simple as a 10-minute group reflection on a recent project can really help students process and grow for their experience.
    • Leverage existing activities: Don’t try and create new experiences – look at what you are already doing & see what can be tweaked or transformed into a deeper-level learning experience.
    • Force the issue: Develop class activities that force students to demonstrate transfer, flexibility, synthesis, and contextual awareness. As you do this, draw students attention to it – be very overt & intentional about letting them know what you are doing.
  1. A four-tiered strategy for students to demonstrate elements of critical thinking…
    • Perform: Develop an activity that allows students to do something authentic to their discipline – a research project, a performance, a speech – whatever is appropriate for the discipline being studied that allows students to do something.
    • Describe: Once the student has done something, then ask them to describe what they did – how the approached the activity, the thought process on how they made their choices, and their perceptions on how well they did.
    • What was learned: Provide the student with an opportunity to describe what they learned – were their preconceptions that changed? Skills that improved? A process that was developed or refined?
    • What will be used moving forward: Allow the student to reflect on what the learning experience meant, and how they can use the experience to guide future actions.



I was probably told the meaning of the verb “to be” several times in my education, but like many things, it dropped from my usable memory long ago. Yet today, the verb nagged in my cloudy, early morning thoughts, pestering for consideration.

“To be” is a workhorse in the English language. We use it to describe (The flower is red.), to identify (This is Sharyl.), and to locate (The meeting is down the hall.). Yet what I found most interesting is “to be” is also a helping verb, joining hands with the main verb of a sentence to express an ongoing action (She is teaching class).

I remember a personal and perhaps over-fondness of “to be” verbs in my own writing that one poor English teacher sought to correct with “write tighter” scrawled in angry red at the top of my papers. A dutiful student, I sought to correct my error, changing sentences such as I am writing to I wrote. I received less angry red on my papers, but looking back, I lost an important idea in the transaction. Without the helping verb, my revised sentence and perhaps outlook, shifted to one of accomplishment. An avid checklist-lover, I reveled in this subtle shift: I wrote (check); I taught (check); I graded (check, check, and check). With all boxes checked, I had completed “educating.” It seemed I had accomplished much, but I found that I gained little. I was missing the ongoing action that the helping verb provided. I believe Carol Dweck termed this a “growth mindset,” and research has shown this mindset to be pivotal in learning. I did not have this terminology at the time to shape my thinking. I only knew that despite my checklist accomplishments, I was not being a teacher.

At the Teaching Center’s Effective Teaching: An Essential Element for Tenure and Promotion lunch discussion, Dr. Loretta Bond reminded attendees that teaching requires courage. While it can be challenging to instruct a class, it’s courageous to teach students day-after-day, in-class and out, walking with them through the learning valleys and up the assessment mountains. It requires help and ongoing action. It requires being.

Being a teacher – I certainly haven’t figured it out, but perhaps if I did, I would diminish it to a checkmark on my to-do list. I do know that being requires ongoing action with assistance. And I am thankful that the Teaching Center offers this help, not as a sage guide but a helpful companion in being together.

If you are interested in being, join the Teaching Center in lunch discussions, book clubs, workshops, and one-on-one conversations. You can reach the Teaching Center at

Resource of the Month

It’s that time of year when Belmont faculty review their year-end accomplishments and set goals for the upcoming year. Student course evaluations are often used in this process, but how can faculty best utilize the qualitative student comments? Todd Zakrajsek in his article Analyzing Student End of Course Written Comments offers some practical tips. Using thematic analysis and contemplative reflection Dr. Zakrajsek offers three keys to effectively utilize student comments to enhance course design and improve student learning.

Dr. Todd Zakrajsek is an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and the associate director of the Faculty Development Fellowship Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel. Hill. This particular article was one of the Top 10 Most Read Articles of 2019 in The Scholarly Teacher. The full list of top 10 articles can be found here.

The Scholarly Teacher, hosted by the International Teaching Learning Cooperative, presents a balanced approach of scholarly evidence and practical application for enhanced student learning by systematic improvement of effective teaching.

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.

Spring 2020 Events and Deadlines

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

Tuesday, January 14

Faculty as Front-Line Truth Workers: Preparing Students to Evaluate the News

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Massey Boardroom, 4th Floor Massey Business Center


Tuesday, January 21

Translating MLK Themes to Our Classrooms

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Frist Lecture Hall, 4th Floor Inman

*Cosponsored with the MLK Committee


Wednesday, February 19

Short Term Study Abroad and Study Away Programs

Noon – 1:30 p.m. – Massey Boardroom, 4th Floor Massey Business Center

Thursday, February 20

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Massey Boardroom, 4th Floor Massey Business Center

*Cosponsored with the Office of Study Abroad


Thursday, March 19

Women’s Suffrage: Teaching and Learning Connections and Opportunities

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Massey Boardroom, 4th Floor Massey Business Center


Monday, March 30

Celebrating Our Teaching Successes

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Ayers 4094C


Mini-Workshop Series

Measuring Student Learning

Noon – 1p.m.

Friday, January 31 – Inman 211

Wednesday, March 4 – Inman 211


Mental Health First Aid Workshop

Monday, February 10

2-3 p.m. – JAAC 5003

Thursday, February 13

3:30 – 4:30 p.m. – JAAC 1034


Sabbatical Preparation and Planning Workshop

Tuesday, February 25

3:30 – 4:30 p.m. – JAAC 1034


Teaching Center Workshop

Tuesday, May 5 – Frist Lecture Hall, 4th Floor Inman


Reading Groups

February Reading Groups

On the Brink of Everything by Parker Palmer

Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer

Tuesday Groups

8 – 9 a.m. or 3:30-4:30 p.m. – February 4, 11, 18

Friday Groups

10 – 11 a.m. or Noon – 1 p.m. – February 7, 14, 21


Dates, Times, and Locations TBD

Belmont Applied Teaching and Learning (BeATLe) Groups

Teaching Naked Techniques: A Practical Guide to Designing Better Classes

Dynamic Lecturing: Research-Based Strategies to Enhance Lecture Effectiveness


Additional Deadlines and Opportunities to Note

February 4 – 21

Teaching Center Formative Reviews


Tuesday, February 11 – 4 p.m.

Deadline to submit Teaching Center Travel Grant application

Faculty Kick-Off Spring Semester with Diverse Faculty Breakfast


Faculty gathered together last Tuesday for the Diverse Faculty Breakfast. Dr. Phil Johnston, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, led the program by welcoming faculty and discussing diversity initiatives and recruitment efforts at Belmont. The breakfast also included brief reports from Belmont First-Year Fellows, Welcome Home Diversity Council, and the Faculty Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Committee.

This year’s Belmont Fellows offered a short synopsis of their first semester at Belmont and their upcoming plans. The Belmont Fellows Program is a “post-doctoral teaching and research program that provides university-level teaching and research experience with a Belmont faculty mentor for members of under-represented groups that have recently completed their terminal degree.”

Dr. Cheryl Slay Carr, Associate Dean of the Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business, discussed the work of the Welcome Home Diversity Council and announced upcoming faculty development opportunities through the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity, “an independent professional development training and mentoring community for faculty members.” Finally, Dr. Mona Ivey-Soto, chair of the Faculty Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Committee and committee member Dr. Edgar Diaz-Cruz discussed the purpose and current initiatives of the Faculty Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Committee.

The Diverse Faculty breakfast was hosted by the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and the Teaching Center.

Special thank you to Dr. Syb for providing pictures of the Diverse Faculty Breakfast.



Recent Events

Belmont Faculty Present Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at Lilly Conference


Back row left to right: Julie Hunt, Jason Lovvorn, Nathan Webb Front row left to right: Pete Giordano, Christie Kleinmann, Sue Trout, Andrea Stover, Mike Pinter

Nine Belmont faculty participated in the Lilly Conference on College Teaching November 21-23 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Based on ongoing scholarship and/or longstanding collaborations with campus colleagues, four faculty members contributed four presentations as part of the Evidence-Based Learning and Teaching conference theme.

Nathan Webb (Communication Studies), Julie Hunt (Social Work) and Andrea Stover (English) shared their experiences as an active scholarly group in a poster entitled “The Quest to Develop Authentic Learning Objectives Through an Interdisciplinary Faculty Group.” Hyangsook Lee (Media Studies) discussed her scholarship in a poster entitled “Augmented Learning: Understanding Augmented Reality (AR)’s Progress and Potential in Higher Education and Professional Training.” In their presentation entitled “Radical Redesign: What To Do When Teaching Just Isn’t Working,” Jason Lovvorn (English), Andrea Stover (English) and Sue Trout (English) offered examples of transforming courses during the middle of a semester.  Pete Giordano (Psychological Science) and Mike Pinter (Teaching Center and Mathematics) delivered an invited presentation entitled “The Role of (Organized) Unpredictability in Teaching and Learning” in which they explored opportunities for faculty to fruitfully and effectively use elements of unpredictability in their courses. Christie Kleinmann (Teaching Center and Public Relations) also participated in conference sessions and contributed to the Belmont group’s conversations about teaching and learning that occurred throughout the conference.

The Lilly Conference brings together scholar teachers from across academic disciplines and is one of the nation’s most renowned conferences presenting the scholarship of teaching and learning. The conference engages scholar teachers in the sharing of innovative pedagogy and the discussion of challenges and insights about teaching and learning. Additional information about Belmont faculty’s presentations and the conference is available at

Resource of the Month

For students and professors alike, the end of a semester can feel heavy. Students are struggling to retain all they have learned throughout the semester; professors are deciding if they can squeeze in one last crucial lesson before finals. For educators, it is the age-old balance of quality over quantity, but finding that balance can be difficult.

November’s resource of the month offers guidance in achieving this end-of-semester balance. Author Dr. Todd Zakrajsek explains the concept of cognitive load and its impact on student learning. In this brief article, Zakrajsek describes when students are able to process new information and when they are not, and how using schemas support the student learning process. The article, Cognitive Load: A Fundamental Key to Student Learning, is found in The Scholarly Teacher.

Dr. Todd Zakrajsek is an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and the associate director of the Faculty Development Fellowship Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel. Hill. The Scholarly Teacher, hosted by the International Teaching Learning Cooperative, presents a balanced approach of scholarly evidence and practical application for enhanced student learning by systematic improvement of effective teaching.

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.

Recently at the Teaching Center

HOPE Council President Khyesha Everett shares with faculty and staff.


HOPE Council Seeks Faculty Involvement


Each spring HOPE Council offers World Culture Week and World Culture Festival as a celebration of cultures and experiences. Yet, in a recent Teaching Center workshop, faculty learned that HOPE Council offers additional ways for faculty to get involved.

HOPE Council is a student-led organization dedicated to creating a more diverse and inclusive Belmont community. Senior Belmont student and HOPE Council president Khyesha Everett said that the cornerstone of the Council is open conversations.

“HOPE Council exists to create an environment where diversity is appreciated, understood and celebrated,” Everett said. “We seek to create a space where everyone has a seat at the table and is comfortable to celebrate their culture.”

To do so, HOPE Council offers a variety of events in addition to World Culture Week and World Culture Festival.

  • HOPE Talk: HOPE Talk are monthly conversations on issues of diversity and offer an opportunity for students to learn about key issues from educators and professionals. In October, Dr. Heather Finch discussed criminal justice, forgiveness and faith through the lens of New York Times bestseller Just Mercy.
  • HOPE World Politics: HOPE World Politics is hosted by a panel of educators and professionals who lead student small group discussions on politics and the impact on diversity.
  • HOPE Gatherings: HOPE Gatherings offer safe conversational spaces to discuss emerging issues near home and around the world. These gatherings are often in response to a current event and offer students a venue to reflect and converse with others.

In addition to these events, HOPE Council serves as the umbrella organization that supports several multicultural and identity groups at Belmont, including the Black Student Association, the Hispanic Student Association, Bridge Builders, the Gender Equality movement, the South Asian Middle Eastern Association, Bruin Vets, the Japanese Culture Club, and the Chinese Cultural Club. “We support these organizations with their campus efforts through partnerships such as movie nights as well as provide these groups opportunities to share with one another,” Everett said.

Everett encourages faculty to become involved in HOPE Talk and HOPE World Politics as guest speakers, explaining that diversity is not limited to discussions on race, but about anyone and anything not in the majority. She noted that topics such as women in science or financial literacy would be important diversity conversations.

In addition to speaking, Everett encourages faculty to simply join the conversation. “Our events are not just for students. All faculty are welcome,” Everett said. “We have a space for community.”

If you are interested in learning more about HOPE Council, please contact Khyesha Everett at