Student-Faculty Partnerships in University Teaching and Learning: A collaborative workshop

Date: Thursday February 25, 2016
Location: Newcomb Hall

For additional workshop details, please click here.


Typically faculty teach to students. What happens if faculty approach the task differently, aiming to teach with students? Emerging research suggests that engaging students as partners in teaching and learning has the potential to enhance, and perhaps even transform, student learning – and also faculty teaching. This workshop for faculty and students will explore practical strategies from diverse disciplines for creating and sustaining student-faculty partnerships in teaching and learning.

Peter Felten is the Assistant Provost for Teaching and Learning, Director of the Center for Engaged Learning, and Professor of History at Elon University. His publications include the co-authored books Transforming Students: Fulfilling the Promise of Higher Education  (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014) and Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching: A Guide for Faculty (Jossey-Bass, 2014). He also is co-editor of the International Journal for Academic Development and president-elect of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

For additional details, and to Register, please click here.

GTA Follow-up Coffee & Conversation: August Teaching Workshop

Date: Tuesday November 3, 2015
Location:Center for Teaching Excellence

For additional workshop details, please click here.


ATWLOGOYou are cordially invited to an hour of coffee or tea and conversation at the Center for Teaching Excellence on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, 4-5pm.  Snacks will also be provided. This gathering has two purposes:

First, we want to provide you an opportunity to build on what you started at the August Teaching Workshop and to speak with fellow GTAs about your own experience as an instructor. Have any surprise issues or new questions arisen? Do you have any concerns about how to approach the rest of the semester, or next semester?

Second, we are interested in having your feedback about the ATW. As we plan for next year and beyond, we are looking to keep what works and improve where we can. We want to know what you think and what you need, now that you have several weeks of teaching behind you.

Please join us to reconnect with GTAs from across disciplines and help shape the future of pedagogical training for graduate students at UVA.

Registration is required and space is limited.

For additional details, and to Register, please click here.

Center’s 25th Anniversary Open House

Date: Friday September 18, 2015
Location:CTE, Hotel D, East Range

For additional workshop details, please click here.


Please join us on Friday, September 18, as we celebrate our 25th anniversary!

With our anniversary come two exciting changes:

  • a name change from the TRC to the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE)
  • a beautifully renovated meeting space in Hotel D

The Center remains committed to supporting schools’, departments’, and instructors’ efforts to improve teaching in innovative ways, enhance student learning, and enrich the University’s distinctive residential experience. We look forward to increasing collaborations with colleagues around Grounds as we continue to help faculty and graduate teaching assistants “provide educational experiences that deliver new levels of student engagement,” as envisioned by the University’s Strategic Plan.

On Friday, September 18, between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m., stop by the CTE Open House in Hotel D, East Range (click here for directions).

At about 3:15 pm, Marva Barnett (CTE), Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Maurie McInnis, Tolu Odumosu (Engineering and Society), and Alison Levine (French) will speak briefly about the Center’s history and future.

Help us name our renovated meeting space in Hotel D and win a prize!

We will enjoy seeing old and new friends.

Our thanks go to the Provost’s Office for supporting our endeavors. And we thank you for contributing to fine teaching and learning at U.Va.

For additional details, and to Register, please click here.

Reinvigorate Those Course Requirements

Stephen Cushman, Robert C. Taylor Professor and Cavaliers’ Distinguished Teaching Professor of English, shares his experiences engaging students with an experimental course project.

What do teachers want? We want to feel excited by our courses, and we want our students to feel that way, too. Even more, we want to feel, and we want them to feel, excited by all aspects of our courses, not just the lively lecture or the animated discussion. And we want to be excited by the production and evaluation of the work we require. During the spring of 2015 I tried an experiment that succeeded in sparking this excitement, both for me and for the students.

The etymology of “student,” through its Latin ancestry, is “to be eager.” In turn, the Latin descends from an Indo-European root suggesting “to be pressing forward.” We want our students eager; we want them pressing forward. Meanwhile, the Indo-European root of “teacher” implies showing, and its descendants include the word Latin digitus, meaning “finger,” or that which one uses to point or indicate. A teacher’s job is to show, to point. In the best of all possible pedagogical worlds, the teacher points the way for the eager student to press forward.

How wonderfully simple. And yet how hard. A teacher can point at a bird or an airplane, and the student can be eager to press forward and fly, but the combination does not guarantee liftoff. What should a teacher show a student in order to generate and make the best use of that student’s eagerness? In many cases teachers who manage to show students their own eagerness to press forward will have accomplished a great deal, and many of their students will respond by celebrating their teachers’ “enthusiasm” (a powerful word that originally meant “having a god within”) on course evaluations.

But while a teacher’s enthusiasm can make a class livelier or more fun, it cannot, by itself, guarantee eagerness in a student. We often modify enthusiasm with the adjective “infectious” or “contagious” and, in doing so, reveal our hope that somehow enthusiasm will spread itself spontaneously; yet for all kinds of reasons there will always be students who do not share in a general susceptibility to a particular teacher’s enthusiasm and remain immune to it.

One hard truth about teaching is that it cannot work without some initial eagerness on the student’s part, and a second hard truth about teaching is that no teacher’s eagerness is inexhaustible; it depends at some level on the student’s eagerness to press forward toward what the teacher is pointing out. Some teachers will depend on their students’ eagerness more than others, but no teacher is wholly free of the dependency.

So the question becomes, What can a teacher do to enhance or magnify a student’s initial eagerness so that the student’s enhanced or magnified eagerness will in turn keep the teacher eager to press forward toward showing the student more effectively what there is to show?

The search for an answer to this question led to an experiment during the spring of 2015 in ENSP 4800, a major-level English department seminar bearing the plain title “The Bible.” Here is the course description: “The goal of this course is simple: to sample a range of stories and poems in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, so that readers and writers of English can recognize and appreciate allusions to them or echoes of them in other contexts, whether artistic or not.  No prior knowledge of the Bible needed or assumed.  All are welcome, as are all points of view, religious and secular. Participants may choose to submit analytic work or creative work.”

There are several experiments implicit in this description, such as the experiment of reading the Bible as the source for so much that circulates around us every day, rather than reading it “as literature,” an overly familiar qualification that will sound to many ears as though somehow the Bible is being discounted and pigeonholed safely next to novels and other works of the imagination we seek for distraction in the luxury of our leisure moments. But the experiment that concerns us here is the one to which the final sentence points: “Participants may choose to submit analytic or creative work.”

Let us be frank. Anyone who reads student writing for more than three decades is quite likely to find his or her eagerness to read more of it in need of replenishment, especially when the eagerness of students to churn out yet one more example of the standard critical essay is also in need of replenishment. For every student who can write a standard-template essay that makes a teacher feel as though the top of his or her head had been taken off, there are many more students for whom cranking out the familiar product has become stale, soulless drudgery wholly disconnected from anything vital and nourishing in the rest of the student’s life. For these students and their teachers, the production and evaluation of required writing is a lose-lose situation.

But what if the teacher gave students every chance to follow the leads of their initial eagerness? The assumption here is that a student at the University of Virginia who enrolls in an upper-level elective will have some minimal eagerness to do so, and the assumption feels like a reasonably safe one. Presumably, that initial, minimal eagerness will exist in a student who also has other interests, some of which will tend more or less in a critical or analytic direction, some of which will tend more or less in a creative one. A second assumption is that encouraging a student to connect any one of these other interests with work for a course will enhance and magnify that student’s initial, minimal eagerness. This assumption also feels reasonably safe.

So the experiment was to throw wide open the requirements of ENSP 4800, according to guidelines on the syllabus, which appear at the end here. The guidelines encouraged students to do whatever they were most eager to do. Out of seventeen, three chose to turn in conventional critical essays (one wrote a 20-pager, one two 10-pagers, one four 5-pagers); three turned in fiction or poetry or both; three turned in both a conventional critical essay and pieces of fiction; one devoted a blog to writing about the Bible; a student in the Curry School developed lessons plans for teaching the Bible to high school students; one student, a DJ, produced two CD mixes based on books of the Bible, along with liner notes for each song chosen; three students turned in works of visual art; one student composed songs, accompanied by guitar, and recorded them; one student developed a web site devoted to images and discussion of four women in the Bible. Proud of their own work and curious about the work of their classmates, the students pushed to turn the final meeting of the semester into a session during which they could exhibit, read, perform, or describe what they had done.

The point of the guidelines was to encourage rigor in the midst of freedom and some kind of common understanding in the midst of diversity. The experiment showed that the students who did the most impressive work, in whatever genre or medium they chose, were those who also chose to demonstrate the link between their work and the reading for the course by producing some kind of summary written statement about that reading at the end of the semester. The “tip” that now appears in section two of the guidelines resulted from this observation. In addition, I have added language about grading that puts in writing things I said to the students in class. Otherwise, the language is from the original syllabus, offered here for others to consider and use in whatever ways they please.

Excerpts from Syllabus

Your Work for the Course

The flexibility here is large, the possibilities great.  You may elect to submit analytic work, creative work, or a combination.  There is nothing wrong with choosing to submit conventional papers of the kind you are used to writing.  You are also free to submit poems, short stories, personal essays, as well as other kinds of creative work.  Digital projects are also fine.

A few guidelines to help you work with so much freedom.

  1. Due by [a date two weeks into the semester] in hard copy at the beginning of class: a proposal for work you would like to do, including dates for its submission and what parts of it you would like graded.  These dates become your deadlines, and work that comes in after the deadlines will be penalized for lateness. The proposal becomes binding once I have reviewed it, made suggestions for you to incorporate, and returned it to you. Please include in your proposal a statement for how you would like to be evaluated. You may elect to receive grades on each piece of work you submit; you may elect to receive one grade at the end of the course; you may elect to have some things graded and some ungraded; you may specify how much weight you would like one thing to receive relative to another. You may also specify what you would like to me to focus on, e.g., “I’m really trying to improve my sentences, so please focus on grammar and syntax,” or “I’ve been told my writing is disorganized, so please focus on structure and organization,” or “I’ve always wanted to try writing fiction (or composing music or painting a painting), so please focus on how well my creative work conveys a serious and sustained engagement with what we’re reading for the course.”
  2. In all cases the burden of proof is on you.  If you elect, say, to choreograph a dance piece inspired by a section of the Bible, it is up to you to make clear in some way that you have done the reading for the course.  You might submit a reading journal in addition to video footage of the dance piece; you might submit an informal prose statement describing your reading and how it inspired you; you might elect to have an extended question-and-answer session with me or with other students in which you talk about your reading.  In all cases the question I will be asking is, Could you have produced this piece of work without taking this course?  If the answer is yes, then the piece of work will not be successful in this context.  Again, it is up to you to show the link between the work and the course.  Tip: People who have done the best in this course have included some sort of written summary statement about their reading both in the Bible itself and in the essays at the end of our edition.  The statement can be an informal one.
  3. Degree of difficulty will figure in the final assessment of your work.  For example, if you elect to submit a single haiku for the semester, it is unlikely that the quality of the haiku, no matter how high, will offset the easiness of producing only seventeen syllables in fourteen weeks.
  4. Be wise in scheduling. Don’t put off everything until the end of the semester, when the weather will be fine and you will be stricken with spring fever [or when the days will be cold and dark at 5 p.m. and you will have a terrible cold and be anxious about getting home for the holidays]. Turn in something early in the semester, before other obligations flood you.

Class Preparation, Attendance, and Participation

NO LAPTOPS OR PHONES IN CLASS, PLEASE.   Attendance is required, and your eager presence is the factor most likely to make this course succeed. Two absences allowed, no questions asked, no excuses wanted. Each absence over two will lower final grade by one-third. Lateness is discourteous to all. Please avoid it. Portions of class time missed will be counted toward absences, e.g., if you miss the first thirds of three classes, you have missed an entire class.   Spirited class participation is expected, and its scarcity or absence will affect a final grade. At the beginning of each class someone will be chosen by lot to start the conversation. Come to each class as though you knew you were the one to be chosen. Be ready to point to a particular word, phrase, verse, or passage (have the page number at hand) and have something in mind to say about it, a statement, a question, an attraction, a repulsion.


Supporting Students in Distressing Times

Nine faculty members share their stories on how they have responded to the crises of the 2014-15 academic year. The intention of this collection is to make visible and learn from the wide varieties of ways in which instructors have supported individual students, nurtured a sense of classroom community, and fostered departmental learning. The stories also help us understand some of the challenges and barriers to acknowledging or responding to distressing events in the context of the classroom.  If you have a story to tell, please email us at

For excellent suggestions on how to support students in distressing times see Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPs) guide “How Faculty Can Help.

From Rip Verkerke, Professor of Law

I always try to connect with students about matters that might concern them. That effort often involves offhand comments about current events or about the performance of prominent sports teams or the behavior public figures. But we didn’t spend any class time on the Rolling Stone controversy, and I wasn’t teaching in the fall semester when the Hannah Graham tragedy unfolded.

I’ve had conversations with individuals and small groups of students about the apparent pattern of overly aggressive behavior by ABC agents in Charlottesville. I also made a few jokes in class this spring about the fact that University alcohol policies have largely shut down a longstanding Thursday Afternoon Social at the Law School that included a keg. But again these comments and efforts to connect with student concerns don’t really rise to the level of a concerted effort to address students’ distress.

My decision not to raise these issues more systematically in class probably rests on a largely unconscious judgment that, in order to warrant class time, events should be either directly relevant to the subject of the class or so intrusive as to demand immediate attention (active protests, physical or emotional disruption of students’ attention to the class, or a national tragedy unfolding during class time). Finally, I think law students here feel at least somewhat insulated from some of the issues that arise among undergraduates on Central Grounds. I know that they care deeply about the issues addressed in the aftermath of the Rolling Stone article. But those concerns are far less likely to be a part of students’ conversations immediately before and after class than they undoubtedly were in the College. It is often those informal comments that prompt me to engage students in further discussion.

 From China Scherz, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology

I’m sure that many professors have different strategies but the things that worked best for me this time around were:

  • sending an email prior to class letting people know that we’d be talking about the incident
  • being willing to take a position on the incident. Many of my African American students were concerned that other professors had tried to create such an open discussion that they inadvertently supported the opinions of a minority of white students that the beating was not the result of racial bias.
  • opening by asking them to tell me what was going on, what had happened at the rally the night before, and what they thought faculty could do to support them
  • putting a small package of tissues in my bag before I left for class. No one cried, but I felt less afraid of possible tears knowing that no one would be blowing their nose into a post-it note.
  • spending some time reading the available media on the incident.

I was actually terrified walking into the classroom that day, but the tremendous response from the students, many of whom sought me out after class and in office hours to thank me for devoting class time to the issue, made it clear that it was well worth the effort.

 From Marva Barnett, Founding Director, Teaching Resource Center and Professor, Department of Drama

Before class a few days after The Rolling Stone article appeared, one of my fourth-year students, a guy, quietly said to me, “It would be great if we could talk about The Rolling Stone article, especially since so many of the issues connected to it are central to Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables” (the course topic).

He was right, and I appreciated how he had immediately connected the novel’s real-life relevance to our world. It was also worth noting, I thought, that this student was someone who didn’t speak up very much in class, thoughtful as his written work showed him to be.

I welcomed his suggestion but wasn’t ready to tackle the issue of sexual assault and its emotion without thinking about it. Fifteen minutes on the phone with UVA Counseling Center’s Andrea Iglesias helped me launch and manage such a conversation with 40 students. The connection to the course’s subject matter helped, but it would have been fine to have the conversation simply as a recognition of the stress and emotional roller-coaster rides that students have survived throughout this year’s events.

Andrea’s suggestions helped me frame the conversation:

  • I told students at the beginning of the next class that one of them had proposed the conversation, and that I thought it was a great idea.
  • That we would save the last 30 minutes of class to talk about it.
  • That anyone could leave at any time, with no effect on grades.
  • That the discussion might provoke unexpected feelings or reactions, and that anyone was free to take a break, get a drink of water, walk outside, write about how you’re feeling, and come back or leave at any time.
  • I wrote the CAPS 24/7 phone number (434-972-7004) on the board.

And I used these pedagogical practices:

  • I gave the students individual thought time and posed a specific question: “Take 3-4 minutes to think about the themes and issues Hugo presents in his novel and what connections you see with any of the issues raised by the Rolling Stone article.”
  • I reminded them of the respectful attitude and tone we had taken throughout the semester, based on our co-created aspirations for the great discussions.
  • I noted that it might feel different to talk about issues right here in community, events and ideas that touch us closely.
  • I reminded them that they were free to interact with the discussion as much as they liked and could take a break or leave at any time.
  • Before we all spoke together, I asked them to compare their ideas with those of one or two people around them and decide what they’d like to share respectfully with the class.
  • The students had so often worked in small groups that this activity likely increased their comfort level.
  • Finally, I asked them help let everyone who wanted to speak by waiting before speaking a second time to see whether anyone who hadn’t yet spoken wanted to contribute.

The ensuing whole-class discussion only once looked as though it might turn emotional or confrontational. But the students turned the conversation back to listening and responding respectfully. Several students thanked me for making room for this conversation, and one took the time to email not only her thanks but ideas that she was still thinking about hours later.

From Bonnie Gordon, Associate Professor & Director Graduate Programs, McIntire Department of Music

In the music department we have been thinking hard about sexual misconduct, student mental health, and the effects of community issues on pedagogy. Music departments tend to function both curricularly and extracurricularly. In addition to small seminars and performance situations, our performance faculty teach students in individual lessons once a week. Moreover, music is an intensely personal experience so our classes often encourage students to think about their personal experiences. Beyond the classroom many of us supervise students in performance ensembles or perform with our students. This means that as a department we necessarily interact with our students outside of class and often also notice very quickly when our students are in distress.

We began working aggressively on the connected issues of safety, sexual misconduct and student life when second year student Hannah Graham disappeared. This was a wake up call for us. We have hundreds of students in our building until late each night: rehearsing with ensembles, using the music library, and using practice rooms. Our students also frequently play musical gigs or attend concerts and other events off Grounds as part of ethnographic projects.

After Hannah Graham disappeared we realized that in addition to working with individual students, we needed to think hard about how to work with our students as a collective. We formed a committee comprised of a tenured professor music historian, assistant professor of ethnomusicology Nomi Dave, non-track performance faculty Ayn Balija, graduate student Rachel Trapp, and fourth year undergraduate Olivia Bona, to assess our needs and take quick action. By the time the Rolling Stone story came out we had already been working hard on these issues and had created a mechanism to address issues raised by the article. Below are the actions we took at the end of fall semester 2014 and during spring semester 2015. We were able to work effectively because we delegated tasks, asked committee members to work with their peers, and were lucky to have complete structural and budgetary support from our chair Richard Will.

The effect of all of this action was that many of our classes at every level addressed the issues surrounding rape and racial violence that the Rolling Stone article and the Martese Johnson incident brought up. Soft surveys indicated that for many students the music department was the only setting in which these issues were discussed in class. We also had five people complete various levels of Green dot training and have worked hard to make sure that our colleagues understand the implications of the changing landscape around title IX and that our colleagues are aware of issues that students are facing. The specific actions we took are listed below.


  1. Music Department Teach In on Sexual Misconduct
  2. Music Department Syllabus Statement
  3. Gigging Musicians Guide to Getting Home Safely
  4. Faculty and Grad Student Suicide Prevention Workshop
  5. Faculty and Grad Student Survivor Support Network Training
  6. Encouraged faculty and graduate students to participate in Green dot.
  7. Green Dot presentations to Faculty and Performance faculty and Very High Green Dot participation
  8. Self Defense Workshop held in March 2015
  9. Walk Home Safely Program
  10. High participation in various dialogues on community, race, and sexual violence.
  11. New Fight Song Competition
  12. Coordinated lists of places on the Lawn where increased lighting would benefit everyone.


From David Leblang, Chair, Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics

I teach an undergraduate seminar that meets Wednesdays from 1:00-3:30.  We took a break around 2:15 and when I returned to the classroom to find all my students looking at a youtube video. I asked what happened and we started discussing the events.  That discussion turned into a larger conversation about violence on campus, the Rolling Stone article and subsequent retraction, and the general mood of students on grounds over what has been a tumultuous academic year.  I referenced that we would spend the balance of class talking about this—not just because it would be impossible to return to the class material, but because the students said that none of their professors had engaged in a discussion of Rolling Stone, Hannah Graham, etc.  So we talked.  I found it cathartic and I know the students did as well.

After that seminar I thought hard about sending an email to politics students in my capacity as chair.  I struggled and struggled with what to say.  And, as you can guess, the longer I put it off, the more I struggled to find the “perfect” thing to say.  I mentioned this to Bonnie when I saw her on Sunday, March 22.  She convinced me that saying anything, even something imperfect, was better than nothing.  So I wrote the following:


Dear Politics Students,

The events last week on the corner and the response authorities left most of us stunned, surprised, angry, and hurt.  It left me speechless and searching for answers which, I admit, is not something I am used to.  I had thought about sending an email letting you know about student services and encouraging you to seek support from CAPS or your Association Dean.  But that felt trite and a little condescending.

I spent the weekend thinking about what to say to you.  It finally dawned on me that not having an answer is not a problem.  A University is a place where we come together to ask questions and to seek answers even if those answers are not obtainable.  Usually our questions and answers are confined to scholarly pursuits.  The events of this academic year vividly illustrate, however, that real life often gets in the way.  It has been a challenging year as a faculty member so I can only imagine how difficult it has been to be a student on grounds.

We have always been concerned with providing the best education possible.  But know that the faculty, staff and students here in Politics—as well as across grounds—are engaged in an ongoing discussion about how to ensure that teaching and learning occur within a safe environment. Politics faculty are available if you want to talk.

Best wishes,

David Leblang

Chair, Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics


The response I received was amazing.  I kept three:

“Thank you for sending this out.  My name is Matthew Kincaid and I am a fourth year in the Politics DMP program.  Tonight, after sending in the first drafts of our full work to Prof. Furia, several of us gathered for dinner to celebrate and inevitably started talking about the events of last week.  It was exactly what we needed after all that has happened this year.

I wanted to quickly write to thank you for encouraging discussion that includes asking tough questions.  This discussion is happening and prevalent among the politics majors I’ve encountered and I’m very heartened by both those discussions and your words here tonight.  “


“Dear Professor Leblang,

Thank you.  For once, we are receiving an e-mail regarding this event that shows a heartfelt response.”


Dear Professor Leblang,

I wanted to thank you for your sincere, non generic note. It was refreshing. It was striking how the students responded to what I felt to be a poor expression of sentiment by me.  It really demonstrates that they crave engagement.

I hope that this is helpful with your program. I do apologize that I cannot be there.  Do let me know if I can be of additional help.



From Elizabeth Friberg, Associate Professor, School of Nursing

I teach a 3-hour population and public health nursing course on Tuesdays for our RN-BSN students. These part-time students are adult learners from all over the Commonwealth working toward the baccalaureate degree following completion of an associate degree and entry-level licensure as a registered nurse. Some have several years of experience as a registered nurses, full time jobs, family and lives. The majority of students are newly licensed and often adjusting to their first full time position as a registered nurse, juggling jobs, school and families. The class of 36 is composed of 22% male students and 78% female students and racially mixed (under 15%). The students come to grounds for an intense one day a week with doubled up class sessions to accommodate their lives. Faculty makes every effort to integrate them into the life of the university.

I came to class the first Tuesday after the events on The Corner. It had already been a tough academic year. As a faculty, we discussed our willingness to create a space for dialogue for our students. I took the opportunity to open a discussion on violence on and around UVA grounds not quite sure what the students were aware of or how engaged they were with the events. Violence is a relevant topic for this population health focused course. The students were aware of recent events and we folded in a broad discussion on violence, the deaths of students on and off grounds, the ABC student assault on The Corner and the Rolling Stone article. Several students related personal experiences from their own lives, including an encounter with ABC officers. Other students spoke about being law enforcement families and wanting their loved-ones to come at night. The students expanded the conversation to discuss recent media events related to black deaths at the hands of police enforcement and subsequent demonstrations resulting in further violence. The students were willing to explore the many faces of violence and the lived experiences of victims of violence as well as the challenges we face as a society to take a critical stance on these issues. The conversation went on uninterrupted for 45 minutes with the majority of students actively engaged in the dialogue. It came to a natural end and students took a ten minute break before class resumed. I had no idea how this opportunity would be embraced by this unique cohort of students but I can say, I was very pleased with the outcome. Creating a space, is key.

I subsequently participated in an open forum organized by faculty for all levels of students but especially the traditional undergraduates. The open forum filled a large classroom to overflowing. The Dean and Director of Inclusion, Diversity and Excellence facilitated the session. The students expressed deep emotions and articulated what they wanted from the SON faculty during these tough times and many tears were shed. Being present to the pain in the room was a privilege. Faculty and students have moved ahead with a commitment to respond and support both students and faculty when adverse events shake us to the core. There are lessons to learn.

From a head TA in science

Unfortunately my story is one of lack of acknowledgement about the difficult and challenging events that our students have struggled with this past year.   I have been the head TA for the [science] labs for the past four years and will be the instructor for the course next year. Each semester we have ~1400 students enrolled in the course, and over 30 TAs who are the instructors and directly interact with students on a weekly basis.

My role is to train the TAs and to circulate around the labs every few hours to check on TAs and observe students. I desire to discuss events that are impacting our students, but I am challenged by how to do so given the number of students we have and the lack of interaction I have with them. If I tried to meet with each student in the course for 10 minutes to try and get to know them in some capacity, I would spend 233 hours in meetings each semester.   This is quite overwhelming!

The majority of students enrolled in the [ . . .] labs are first-year students, and each semester I receive multiple emails about students who are struggling with illness and depression, and I am notified of students who have left the university. I know our students are struggling, and I want to help them. I want them to know that despite their limited interaction with me as the instructor that I care and want to help them succeed at UVA.

I need help in finding ways to help our students who are taking large-enrollment courses such as the General Chemistry lab. How do I reach out and show students I care? Is an email or a group announcement enough, or would that seem insincere? How can I train my TAs to be mindful and acknowledge these challenges with their students? What is a good balance between one-on-one support, which I cannot do with the number of students I serve, and not acknowledging events outside of the laboratory context, which is not what I want to do moving forward?

From Ira Bashkow, Associate Professor, Anthropology

I always at least mention such events in class, and because I teach Anthropology, there is often a way to tie them into course themes.

One of my Fall courses was “Anthropology of the Corporation” in which we discussed how organizations can (sometimes) change. After the Rolling Stone story, I posed an exam question in which one option (out of three students could choose among) was to write a letter to President Theresa Sullivan, responding to her invitation to community members to suggest ways to reduce the incidence of sexual violence at the University, applying insights from a particular reading and the course more generally. Several students wrote about this, and their responses taught me interesting things about how student life is organized, for example, that new students rarely have occasion to socialize in mixed gender groups apart from class or when in explicitly sexualized contexts like parties or “socials.” I was so impressed by the students’ thinking on this question that the following term, when I was serving on a University Working Group convened by President Sullivan to study strategies for sexual violence prevention, I got in touch with five of the students and invited them to dinner to discuss ideas for preventing sexual misconduct and gender and power-based violence on Grounds. That discussion produced some genuine insights that I wrote (with due thanks to the students!) into the Working Group’s final report.

In both of my Spring courses, my graduate teaching assistants (TAs) led discussions in section of reactions to the beating and arrest of Martese Johnson. This was at the TAs’ initiative, which I supported. In one of the courses, on “The Concept of Culture,” an upcoming assignment was to carefully observe and create a social interaction map of a space where interesting interactions take place, and I encouraged students from the class to choose to do their assignment about the space in front of the Trinity Irish Pub (or another similar establishment) where people were being carded while trying to gain entry. I was surprised that no student took this up. They might have learned something interesting! But possibly it felt like too much of a hot potato or too dangerous or embarrassing. Later, however, I did receive comments from students showing that they got the point that things they learned in the class are applicable to real-world problems that concern them. Just yesterday one student came to see me in office hours to tell me he was using ideas from the class to design a course of his own addressing (among other things) the difference between how white and minority students experience race and perceive discrimination. This student is African American, and he wants there to be more discussion of the way privilege is experienced by many white students as assured or secure, but by many minority students as provisional or fragile — a contrast that is highlighted by Martese Johnson’s violent arrest.

From Judith Reagan, Senior Associate Director, Teaching Resource Center and Associate Professor, Department of Drama

Classroom Consideration of Difficult Matters

This semester I taught Oral Interpretation. Each student had stated his/her learning goals prior to enrolling in the course. To a person they wanted to gain confidence and facility with public expression – to be able to express their ideas orally with clarity and conviction. An interesting feature of this semester’s class is that half of the 12 students are from other countries (Azerbaijan, China, Columbia, Ecuador, Ethiopia). Even the 6 Americans hailed from different areas, Northern Virginia to Long Island.

As we progressed through the semester they seemed to delight in the individual perspectives, experiences, and even accents each brought to the class community.

We use different texts for vocal practice at the start of every session. A faculty listserve had made me aware of “What We Need from UVA Faculty, an open letter (in the form of individual comments) from one class of UVA students in response to the attack on Martese Johnson on the UVA Corner.” I wondered what my students would make of this strongly worded document, and, a bigger question, how they had been processing the several traumatic events of the past year. Not certain how they would respond, I gave “What We Need from UVA Faculty” to my students and invited them to each choose two comments that resonated with them to read aloud as the vocal warm-up at our next class meeting. I told them that if they did not find any comments they were in accord with, they could write their own thoughts on the topic. We all noted that these MANY statements had been generated in just the last 10 minutes of one class – a clear indication of how urgent the need for discussion is, and how ready many students are to embark on it.

Adding to my uncertainty about how my Oral Interp students would react to the very direct, passionate statements, at the opening of the next class we had two unexpected visitors – two high school students who, I think, had been accepted to UVA and were spending some time on Grounds sitting in on classes as a way of helping to decide whether to enroll. Both young men were African American. They needed no context for that opening exercise – they were fully aware of the incident. My students all read at least two statements from the compilation – one added song lyrics that underscored the tone and feel of the thoughts. Each read in a robust, confident manner. All of us – myself, my students and our visitors – were deeply engaged in listening to and absorbing the thoughts expressed by peers in another class. Rising to the demands of this text was a clear indication that the Oral Interp students are indeed reaching their goals – speaking with clarity and conviction on things that matter.

Sexual violence prevention and survivor support resources

Compiled by Itiya Aneece, PhD student in Environmental Sciences and Tomorrow’s Professor Today Alumna

Resources at UVA

UVA Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): individual and group counseling, consultation to students, faculty, staff, and parents, and outreach and prevention

The Women’s Center: Counseling; legal clinic; education on body image/ eating disorders, gender violence, social change, gender justice

Sexual Violence Education & Resources: Resources for help immediately after incident, resources for support, options and resources for reporting, university obligations (confidential vs. responsible employee); infographic.

One Less: Presentations by women on preventing sexual assault and supporting survivors

One in Four: Presentations by men on preventing sexual assault and supporting survivors

Not on our grounds:UVA initiative to end sexual violence

Green Dot: Bystander intervention training

Just Report it: Online confidential reporting of incidents of bias, hazing, or sexual or gender-based violence

Dean on Call: 24-hour crisis management assistance; students are welcome to call or visit ODOS to talk about concerns surrounding sexual violence, discuss options, get help reporting, and ask for consultations

A&S Association Deans: Manage academic concerns of individual students

Resources within the community

Community Resources: Crisis hotlines/ emergency services, victim/ witness programs, individual and group counseling, legal assistance, police departments, international issues, transportation services, self-defense courses, medical issues, educational programs, and more

National Campaigns

The Women’s Initiative: Counseling, support groups, workshops and social support, walk-in wellness clinic

Region Ten: Rehabilitation, education, support

***Readers may also be interested in my earlier posts Trauma and Learning and Sexual Victimization and Learning.

Itiya AneeceItiya Aneece is pursuing a PhD in Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. She has taught the Fundamentals of Ecology lab since the Fall of 2011, has recently completed the Tomorrow’s Professor Today program, and enjoys exploring new ways to encourage learning.

Sexual victimization and learning

By Itiya Aneece, PhD student in Environmental Sciences and Tomorrow’s Professor Today Alumna

Itiya AneeceThe Rolling Stone article-irrespective of the accuracy of the reported incident- has helped bring to light the prevalence of sexual crime across our grounds as well as other college campuses. What is the university’s role in preventing and addressing such trauma?

Students experiencing psychological distress are more likely to drop out of the university (Jordan et al. 2014). To increase student retention rates and provide equal access to education among all students, a university has an obligation to provide a psychologically and physically safe environment for learning (Jordan et al. 2014).

In their study including 750 women, Jordan et al. (2014) found that 41% of women enrolling into the University of Kentucky had been sexually victimized in their teens. An additional 24% and 20% experienced sexual crime in their first and second semesters respectively. Such sexual crimes can lead to feelings of shock, confusion, fear, agitation, depression, anxiety, guilt, shame, embarrassment, and low self-esteem (Jordan et al. 2014). They can result in several mental and physical health problems (Kaltman et al. 2005) including eating disorders, chronic pain, substance abuse, sleeping disturbance, social withdrawal, PTSD, and suicidality (Jordan et al. 2014).

What does this have to do with the university? Jordan et al. (2014) found that women who had experienced sexual victimization as teenagers matriculated with lower GPAs from high school and earned lower grades during their freshman year. Women who had been sexually assaulted during the first semester had lower GPA scores at the end of the semester as compared with women who had not been sexually assaulted. This decrease in grades may be because survivors of sexual victimization can have diminished abilities to concentrate, organize facts, and remember what they learned in class (Jordan et al. 2014). Dealing with depression and anxiety also takes up vast amounts of energy that would otherwise be available for studying or engaging with peers (Jordan et al. 2014).

Colleges and universities are not powerless and have options for action. They can incorporate trauma and mental health screenings upon entry, and offer trauma-focused interventions and treatment options (Kaltman 2005). They can educate students, faculty, and staff in responding to survivors. Listening to and believing survivors supports recovery from trauma whereas victim-blaming, taking control, and distracting can be detrimental to recovery and have long-term consequences (Ullman 1996). Although dealing with student disclosures of sexual assault and intimate partner violence is difficult (Branch et al. 2011), it is important that instructors educate themselves about how to respond when students confide in them. They may also consider strategies for trauma-sensitive teaching. In an earlier blog post, I have written on trauma and learning and suggested a few resources for instructors.

I am glad to see several initiatives that the University of Virginia has undertaken to help survivors in their recovery within the university community. It is time that we as teachers recognize the effects that traumatic events have on learning itself and make changes in the classroom to provide all students an equal opportunity to learn.

For excellent suggestions on how to support students in distressing times see Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPs) guide “How Faculty Can Help.


Branch, K. A., Hayes-Smith, R., & Richards, T. N. 2011. Professors’ experiences with student disclosures of sexual assault and intimate partner violence: How “helping” students can inform teaching practices. Feminist Criminology, 6(1), 54-75.

Gomez, J. 2013. Exploring the association between mindfulness, sustained attention, experiential avoidance, and posttraumatic stress symptom severity among females who have been sexually victimized. Open Access Dissertations. Paper 1054.

Jordan, C., Combs, J., and G. Smith. 2014. An exploration of sexual victimization and academic performance among college women. Trauma, Violence, and Abuse, 15 (3): 191-200.

Kaltman, S., Krupnick, J., Stockton, P., Hooper, L., and B. Green. 2005. Psychological impact of types of sexual trauma among college women. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 18 (5): 547-555.

Ullman, S. 1996. Social reactions, coping strategies, and self-blame attributions in adjustment to sexual assault. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 20: 505-526.

Itiya AneeceItiya Aneece is pursuing a PhD in Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. She has taught the Fundamentals of Ecology lab since the Fall of 2011, has recently completed the Tomorrow’s Professor Today program, and enjoys exploring new ways to encourage learning.

Redesigning the class to Increase Student Involvement

A book review by Itiya Aneece, PhD student in Environmental Sciences and Tomorrow’s Professor Today Alumna

Itiya Aneece

When is it time for a radical change? After various small improvements but the same comments of the course being too much work and not providing students with applicable skills, it was time to do something different. This semester, I flipped the classroom and redesigned assessments to address larger learning goals; students are now more engaged and produce higher quality work. This approach allows students to view and review material at a pace and location convenient for them, and allows teachers to use class time to provide personal instruction, facilitate student interaction with content, assess student learning, and garner participation from a larger majority of the class (Talley and Scherer 2013, Gullen and Zimmerman 2013, Sams and Bergmann 2013).

Along with flipping the classroom I am teaching in an active learning center next semester. This center facilitates group work because desks are arranged to facilitate group discussion, the professor is able to easily walk among and interact with students, and there are multiple screens and whiteboards/ chalkboards around the room. Several universities have active learning centers including the University of Minnesota (Regents of the University of Minnesota 2009, Regents of the University of Minnesota 2013), UC Berkeley (UC Regents 2009), Indiana University (Trustees of the Indiana University 2011), and University of Washington (University of Washington Libraries 2014). These spaces help students feel relaxed, promote deep learning, increase interactions with peers and instructors, and promote active student engagement and accountability in their own and their team’s learning (Regents of the University of Minnesota 2009, Trustees of Boston University 2014, Miglio et al. 2012). Due to a flexible and accommodating floor plan, the active learning classroom facilitates flexible teaching styles: collaborative, problem-based, and project-based learning (Miglio et al. 2012).

One other innovative teaching style that can be accommodated by active learning classrooms is inquiry-based learning, which allows students to have personal experiences with concepts and put learning into context for themselves and pre-existing knowledge, as well as encouraging active participation in their own learning (Edelson et al. 1999). This allows students to practice investigatory abilities (defining the question, investigating possibilities, and presenting results), along with understanding basic concepts (Edelson et al. 1999). Technology can assist inquiry-based learning by increasing interest and motivation, providing access to information, and providing the support needed for storing, analyzing, and presenting information (Edelson et al. 1999).

Thus, there are several innovative techniques now being implemented to use technology in a way that will enhance student participation and promote significant learning. However, these techniques can only be successfully implemented in a supportive environment where teachers have encouragement, resources, and logistical support, and where students have a guided learning experience that motivates them, encourages participation, and provides them with the skills needed for this higher level of learning. This environment takes time and effort to develop but the benefits to student learning can be substantial.

Edelson, D., Gordin, D., and R. Pea. 1999. Addressing the challenges of inquiry-based learning through technology and curriculum design. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 8: (3/4): 391-450.

Gullen, K., and H. Zimmerman. 2013. Saving time with technology. Educational Leadership, 70 (6): 63-66.

Miglio, A., Farmer, B., Gaiser, G., Chan, K., Ray, M., McGrath, O., and T. Gotch. 2012. Room 127 Dwinelle Hall test kitchen: First year review. UC Berkeley Educational Technology Services.

Sams, A., and J. Bergmann. 2013. Flip your students’ learning. Educational Leadership, 70 (6): 16-20.

Talley, C.P. and S. Scherer. 2013. The enhanced flipped classroom: Increasing academic performance with student-recorded lectures and practice testing in a “flipped” STEM course. The Journal of Negro Education, 82 (3): 339-347.

Trustees of Boston University. 2014. Here & Now: Active learning classrooms break the mold. 90.9wbur Boston’s NPR news station. Accessed at <>.

Trustees of the Indiana University, The. 2011. Center for innovative teaching and learning, Active learning classrooms. Indiana University, Bloomington. Accessed at <>.

Regents of the University of Minnesota. 2009. Office of classroom management: Office of undergraduate education, Active learning classroom (ALC). University of Minnesota. Accessed at <>.

Regents of the University of Minnesota. 2013. Center for teaching and learning, Active learning classrooms. University of Minnesota. Accessed at <>.

UC Regents. 2009. Educational Teaching Services: Active learning classrooms. Accessed at <>.

University of Washington Libraries. 2014. University of Washington: Active learning classrooms (ALC). University Libraries. Accessed at <>.

Itiya Aneece is pursuing a PhD in Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. She has taught the Fundamentals of Ecology lab since the Fall of 2011, has recently completed the Tomorrow’s Professor Today program, and enjoys exploring new ways to encourage learning.


Incorporating technology into a pre-existing course design

A book review by Itiya Aneece, PhD student in Environmental Sciences and Tomorrow’s Professor Today Alumna

Itiya Aneece

Have you ever been stuck in a huge lecture hall and thought- this topic has so much potential and would be so interesting if only… ? Of course, technology is not the only answer to enhancing such a lecture; the speaker must be able and willing to engage the audience. However, given the ability and desire to do so, there are several tools he/she can use to transform such a static and anonymity-promoting space into one that encourages active participation.

Student Response Systems, aka Clickers, have been used in large lecture halls for years to enhance participation, assess student learning instantaneously, and encourage critical thinking. Simply incorporating these Clickers into the classroom is not going to enhance learning and there is much debate about the best way to encourage student use of the Clickers and assess the impacts of this technology. Successful implementation on this technology depends on various aspects of the students and the quality of the activities for which the Clickers are used (Trees and Jackson, 2007). However, Vaterlous et al. (2012) found an increase in student perception of confidence, attention, retention and learning. Students also perceived more effective learning when reviewing with clickers in addition to slides and verbal review than with slideshow presentation and verbal review alone; test scores reflected this increased effectiveness in learning.

Yet another example of student response systems is the classroom communication technology (CCT) that can be connected to graphing calculators in order to send and receive documents from students and to project student work for large-group discussions (Case and Pape 2013). Such technology has been shown to increase student engagement in their learning and be an effective way of pacing the class with regular assessments.

Both of these examples can be implemented easily into a classroom at low costs (especially if graphing calculators or phones are used as clickers). Bonnstetter and VanOverbeke (2011) list several other simple and cost-effective ways to incorporate technology and engage student in learning different types of skills (see table below).


Skill Technology Activity Resources
Recall PowerPoint Games California State University Northridge
Collaboration Social networking sites Group projects Ning Mode Media, Delicious
Comprehension Blogs, tweets, mind mapping tools Discussion and peer-teaching Cmap, Freemind
Application Interactive applets Simulations National Library of Virtual Manipulatives
Analysis Venn Diagram software Comparing and contrasting Gliffy
Evaluation Blogs or Webquests Quality assessment Edublogs, Information Today
Creativity Project creation software Making videos, photo collages, or presentation Videospin, Picasa, Prezi



Bonnstetter, R. and D. VanOverbeke. 2011. Turn up the H.E.A.T.: Give your students the HOTS they need. In M. Koehler & P. Mishra (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2011: 3143-3148. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Case, E. and S.J. Pape. 2013. Struggles and successes implementing classroom communication technology in a college pre-calculus course. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 32 (1): 5-24.

Trees, A.R., and M.H. Jackson. 2007. The learning environment in clicker classrooms: student processes of learning and involvement in large university-level courses using student response systems. Learning, Media and Technology. 32 (1): 21-40.

Vaterlaus, J.M., Beckert, T.E., Fauth, E.B., and B. Teemant. 2012. An examination of the influence of Clicker technology on college student involvement and recall. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 24(3): 293-300.

Itiya Aneece is pursuing a PhD in Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. She has taught the Fundamentals of Ecology lab since the Fall of 2011, has recently completed the Tomorrow’s Professor Today program, and enjoys exploring new ways to encourage learning.



Choosing Technology that Supports Learning and Encourages Student Involvement

A book review by Itiya Aneece, PhD student in Environmental Sciences and Tomorrow’s Professor Today Alumna

Itiya Aneece

Technology can be an asset to learning and increasing student involvement by increasing access to material (Khalil 2013) in flexible ways (Park 2011) and allowing students and teachers to express individuality and challenge themselves (Landis 2010, Deaton and Singleton 2004). Despite these potential benefits of technology, many teachers (and learners) resist its introduction. One key to overcoming this resistance is acknowledging it as a legitimate response. The haphazard incorporation of technology will not benefit learning; it must be deliberately incorporated in ways that support learning goals; this takes time, effort, resources, encouragement from faculty, administration, and students, and evolving modes of support (Landis 2010, Park 2011, Anderson and Wood 2009, Deaton and Singleton 2004).

To choose the appropriate use of technology to accomplish specific learning goals, it is useful to categorize technology into the types of learning it can facilitate. Park (2011) describes four categories of mobile-device facilitated learning as a function of transactional distance and learner independence. Transactional distance is a function of the degree of pre-determined structure of an activity, the level of interaction between the teacher and the learner, and the level of interaction between the student and his/ her peers (Park 2011). An activity that has a lot of structure (i.e. recorded lecture as opposed to an online discussion) and low levels of interaction with the teacher and peers would have high transactional distance so that there is a large cognitive distance between the teacher and the learner.

Park’s (2011) four categories are high transactional distance socialized learning (HS), high transactional distance individualized learning (HI), low transactional distance socialized learning (LS), and low transactional distance individualized learning (LI). Each addresses a different set of learning goals: HS helps students develop collaboration and socialization skills; HI helps gain knowledge from the teacher in a structured way; LS encourages interaction with the teacher and with peers; and LI helps a teacher provide guided individualized learning. Hence, the learning goals of a particular activity determine the type and level of technology used.

Even when introducing an appropriate form of technology, teachers must be prepared to adapt new teaching styles and students must be prepared to adapt new ways of learning (Deaton and Singleton 2004). With clear definition of student roles and availability of resources, technology can be incorporated into learning that increases student involvement in an individualized and effective manner (Deaton and Singleton 2004).

Anderson, A. and E. Wood. 2009. Implementing technology in the classroom: Assessing teachers’ needs through the use of a just-in-time support system. In I. Gibson et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education International Conference 2009: 3369-3372. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Deaton, B. and E. Singleton. 2004. Faculty involvement in internet based learning: Why would they ever do that?. In J. Nall & R. Robson (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2004: pp. 566-571. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Khalil, S.M. 2013. From resistance to acceptance and use of technology in academia. Open Praxis. 5 (2): 151-163.

Landis, M. 2010. Constructive technology. In D. Gibson & B. Dodge (Eds.). Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2010: 2280-2287. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Park, Y. 2011. A pedagogical framework for mobile learning: categorizing educational applications of mobile technologies into four types. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. 12.2: 78-102.

Itiya Aneece is pursuing a PhD in Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. She has taught the Fundamentals of Ecology lab since the Fall of 2011, has recently completed the Tomorrow’s Professor Today program, and enjoys exploring new ways to encourage learning.