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 ( 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 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

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.



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.