Take Time to Reflect

Survival – that is what we are trying to do right now, and rightly so. Educators from every level of education, from those seasoned and those just beginning, describe this semester as the most difficult teaching semester of their career. But when we survive (and we will) what is next? In the article The Power of Reflection, educator Lori Cohen suggests that we take time to reflect.

Reflection is a common classroom practice. Faculty routinely ask students to reflect as a metacognitive exercise to strengthen learning connections and identify key means for improvement. Cohen encourages faculty to do the same for themselves. She describes reflection as a “thinking tool” that informs future mindsets and enhances decision making. Thus reflection may be our most valuable tool as we prepare for an equally uncertain spring semester. To develop this tool, Cohen suggests three key steps:

  1. Set conditions for reflection: Cohen says that each of us have “conditions for writing.” For some, it may be a comfy chair; for others, it might be a pretty pen. Cohen encourages faculty to identify and satisfy these personal conditions.
  2. Set a time to reflect: Cohen acknowledges that making space for reflection can feel like a monumental task, but it’s important to identify a time to reflect and stick to it.
  3. Determine a process that works for you: Often we assume reflection takes the form of writing, but there are other equally effective forms of reflection, such as sketch noting, using voice memos, or micro-reflecting on post-its. Cohen says the key is to make reflection easy and fit your strengths.
  4. Get started: Finally, Cohen says the most important step in the reflective process is to simply begin, and her article suggests several entry points for doing so.

Author Lori Cohen is the former Dean of Faculty at the Bay School of San Francisco and was the founder/coordinator of Bay’s Teaching Fellows program. She currently serves as an independent school consultant for Bright Morning Consulting. Her article The Power of Reflection was posted by the California Teacher Development Collaborative.

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.

Navigating Challenging Classroom Conversations

Recently the Teaching Center partnered with Belmont’s Faculty Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (FIDE) Committee to host the mini-workshop “Navigating Challenging Conversations: Growth Opportunities with Our Students and Ourselves.”

Through this workshop FIDE committee members discussed the importance of facilitating diverse ideas, perspectives and experiences with our students. While important opportunities, these conversations can often create challenges for maintaining a safe and positive learning environment. As a result, FIDE identified three steps to help faculty build respect while ensuring everyone has a voice in the classroom.

First, faculty should establish and maintain ground guidelines for respectful, engaged dialogue. For example, faculty could ask students to  help co-construct conversation guidelines, or ask students to try to understand each other’s perspectives before responding.

Second, faculty should promote different perspectives by modeling open-mindness. For example, during a conversation, faculty could invite those who have not contributed yet to join the discussion, or faculty might lead students in considering counter-approaches to an idea. Faculty could also offer students follow-up opportunities to continue or respond to the conversation by visiting faculty during office hours or emailing faculty their thoughts or concerns.

Finally, faculty should reflect, gather feedback and refine the approach. For example, if tension increase during the conversation, faculty could offer a five minute reflection exercise where students reflect, write and think about the topic and why it has become challenging. Faculty could also develop a “ticket out the door” formative assessment where students anonymously provide their perspective on the topic/discussion and what worked or could be improved.

FIDE committee members offered several additional examples on how to implement each of these steps in the classroom. The full resource is available here.

Belmont’s Faculty Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (FIDE) Committee is comprised of Michelle Corvette, Chuck Hodgin, Mona Ivey-Soto, Loren Mulraine, Doug Crews, Edgar Diaz-Cruz, Mary Mayorga, Marieta Velikova, Don Byrd, Matt Heard and Eric Holt.

Resource of the Month

The hyflex and online teaching formats have altered our approach to teaching and engaging with students as well as raised questions on how to enhance student learning in the age of COVID. September’s resource of the month briefly addresses one of these concerns, how to sustain emotional connections with students.

In the article “Cameras and Masks: Sustaining Emotional Connections with Your Students in an Age of COVID19,” Howard Aldrich, professor of sociology at UNC Chapel Hill, offers several suggestions on how faculty can enhance engagement in the classroom and online. Of those, Aldrich suggests faculty lecture less and utilize more structured discussions, polls, and in-class videos in an effort to “replace yourself as the chief talker.” He also suggests having a brief “check-in” at the beginning of every class “during which students can share some of the difficulties they’ve encountered in learning under the constraints imposed by COVID-19 restrictions.” Aldrich offers additional suggests on how to teach while practicing social distancing and how to handle student cameras when teaching online. This article is the first of a two-part series on how to foster and sustain student engagement during this time.

Author Howard Aldrich is a Kenan Professor of Sociology in the department of sociology at UNC Chapel Hill. His article is published in Tomorrow’s Professor Postings sponsored by the Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning. This publication seeks to foster a diverse, world-wide teaching and learning ecology among its over 65,000 subscribers at over 1,000 institutions and organizations in over 100 countries around the world.

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.

Recordings of Previous Teaching Center Events Now Available

Previous Teaching Center workshops are now available through Belmont’s Teaching Center Repository.

This repository provides helpful resources on teaching and learning previously offered by the Teaching Center that faculty can view or review on-demand as part of their overall professional development.

Currently, the Teaching Center Repository offers several recent Teaching Center events, including:

  • The Teaching Center May Workshop on Tenure & Promotion at Belmont: Best Practices in Creating An Effective Faculty Portfolio hosted by Jamie Adam, James Al-Shamma, Annette Sisson and Darlene Panvini.
  • The Summer Webinar Series offers three webinars on online course development presented by Angela Clauson and Catherine Starnes, Ginny Lamothe and Beth Miller, and Kevin Trowbridge.
  • The Teaching Center August Workshops with Claire Major. This set of resources includes three workshops: Engaging with Flexible and Resilient Teaching: HyFlex and Blended Learning, Teaching for Learning: Active Learning in the Online Classroom, and Terms of Engagement: Understanding and Promoting Engagement in Online Courses. The accompanying slides for each workshop are also provided.
  • The Fall Lunch Discussion on Supports for Belmont Students: Connecting with Student Life presented by Angie Bryant, Melissa Smith, David Sneed, Katherine Cornelius, Maren Bishop and Janelle Briscoe.

Additional lunch discussions and webinars will be added throughout the semester.

Teaching Center Events: Fall 2020

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.

Lunchtime Presentations

Thursday, September 3

Supports for Belmont Students: Connecting with Student Life Resources

Noon – 1:30 p.m.

Zoom Online

*Cosponsored with Student Life Departments

Wednesday, September 23

Universal Design for Learning to Address Student Needs

Noon – 1:30 p.m.

Zoom Online

*In conjunction with Diversity Week

Thursday, October 1

Women’s Suffrage: Teaching and Learning Connections and Opportunities

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Zoom Online

*Cosponsored with the Humanities Symposium

Teaching and Learning Idea Swap Sessions

Wednesday 3:30-4:30 p.m.

September 2

September 16

September 30

October 14

October 28

Reading Groups

Veil by Rafia Zakaria

Tuesday Reading Groups

8-9 a.m.; 3:30-4:30 p.m.

September 8, 15, 22

Friday Reading Groups

8-9 a.m.; Noon – 1 p.m.

September 11, 18, 25

*In conjunction with the FYS Featured Presenter

Belmont Applied Teaching and Learning (BeATLe) Groups

Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes

Teaching for Learning: 101 Intentionally Designed Instructional Activities to Put Students on the Path to Success

Dates and Times TBD

Teaching Center Travel Grants

Tuesday, September 15 – 4 p.m.

Deadline to submit Teaching Center Travel Grant application

Recording of the Tenure and Promotion at Belmont Online Workshop Now Available

In partnership with the Belmont University Tenure, Promotion and Leaves Committee, the Teaching Center recently hosted the workshop, “Tenure & Promotion at Belmont: Best Practices in Creating an Effective Faculty Portfolio.” During this workshop, members of the Tenure, Promotion and Leaves Committee walked attendees through the process of preparing the tenure and promotion portfolio. Faculty participants had the opportunity to view specific examples from recent successful portfolios and get answers to commonly asked questions.

Faculty can access a recording of the workshop as well as the workshop’s PowerPoint slides.


An Invitation for Reflection on Teaching During COVID-19

Teaching by its nature is a reflective process, and so the Teaching Center invites you to reflect on your teaching during COVID-19. We offer four open-ended questions to guide your reflection. Your responses will be thematically organized and presented (without identifiers) on the Teaching Center’s “The Art of Teaching” blog in late May. The Teaching Center also extends this as an opportunity to engage in a virtual discussion for those who would like to share their experience with one another.

You can participate by responding to the reflective prompts on the Faculty Teaching Reflections on COVID-19 response form. On this form, you can also indicate your preference to be part of a virtual reflective discussion.

If you have questions, please contact us at teachingcenter@belmont.edu.

Summer 2020 Reading Groups

The Teaching Center will offer summer reading groups again this year. To sign up for a group, email the Teaching Center (teachingcenter@belmont.edu) with the title(s) of the book(s) you are interested in reading.  You are welcome to sign up for more than one group.

Please reply by Friday, April 17 so that we have adequate time to determine which books have sufficient interest to form a group. Also include your general availability from Maymester through the second summer session.

Finally, indicate whether you would be interested if the group meets online instead of in-person. We will arrange for a brief planning meeting with your group in late April so that group members can decide on dates, locations and times the group will meet.

Here is a list of the book titles being offered:

  • Little Fires Everywhere (2018) by Celeste Ng
  • The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote (2019) by Elaine Weiss
  • The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life (2019) by David Brooks
  • Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (2018) by Joseph Aoun
  • The Water Dancer (2019) by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Originals: How Non-conformists Move the World (2016) by Adam Grant
  • What Our Stories Teach Us: A Guide to Critical Reflection for College Faculty (2012) by Linda Shadiow

Campus Partners: Coping with COVID-19

I recently reached out to Belmont’s Director of Counseling Services Katherine Cornelius, LCSW, on how we can help students cope during COVID-19. As I read through the resources she provided, I realized that like our students we as faculty need tools to help us manage this change, and in many ways our sense of loss.

Katherine provided an article to help us and our students, navigate this time. In his Harvard Business Review article “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief, Scott Berinato interviews David Kessler, the world’s foremost expert on grief and founder of www.grief.com. In the interview, Kessler describes the different types of grief and management techniques, beginning with the importance of naming grief, grief. “When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you,” Kessler said. “Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through.”

Kessler ends by encouraging us to “stop at the first feeling.” He notes that we often tell ourselves, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. Stopping at the first feeling, though, allows us to feel sad and then process through it. “It’s absurd to think we shouldn’t feel grief right now,” Kessler said. “Let yourself feel the grief and keep going.”

Katherine adds the importance of connection to his advice. “One of the biggest things we can do right now is normalize the fact that nothing is normal and encourage folks to reach out,” Katherine said. “Help is still there even though it may look a little different during this time.”

At Belmont, the Be Well BU team is offering a variety of tips via email and social media, including their “Wellness While You Wait” video series. Counseling and support groups are also available. Faculty and students can learn more by calling 615.460.6856 or via email at mailto:counseling@belmont.edu.

Three Miles an Hour

Three miles an hour – it’s roughly the speed humans walk. Mind you, I haven’t timed it.  I probably move a bit faster when walking from my 8 a.m. class in the sport science building to my 9 a.m. class in JAAC. If I’m being honest, I dash more than I walk – dash to class, dash to a meeting, dash to the next event. Well, until recently.

Long before this pandemic, Kosuke Koyama wrote on the value of walking, not for physical benefit but for relational fulfillment. In his book Three Mile an Hour God, Koyama reminds us that three miles an hour leads to a “slow life” that seeks “depth rather than distance.”

Life has certainly slowed in recent weeks, but distance not depth has dominated news headlines. Koyama, however, notes that depth stems from engagement, and deep engagement is best achieved at three miles an hour.

As I flip through my calendar from last April, I notice an engagement of doing. My calendar was filled with classes, meetings and end-of-the-year celebrations – all very good things. This April, well it is considerably slower in terms of events. Instead of doing, I find myself being being intentional, being fully present. I find being requires listening; being requires vulnerability. Doing sprints at 300 miles an hour. Being walks at three.

Out of necessity, I am learning to walk at three miles an hour, and I have been overwhelmed by its richness. Yet, Koyama reminds me I should not be surprised by its depth, as three miles an hour is the speed of God’s love.

May we be in this season, loving one another deeply.