CRLT Players

This year we are delighted to welcome the University of Michigan’s CRLT Players as our keynote presentation. Through theatrical performance as well as critical and imaginative dialogue the CRLT Players invite us to consider the necessity and the challenge of creating inclusive learning environments, as well as develop plans for moving toward better practices. Theatre is a powerful medium for making visible the complex and subtle interactions inside and outside the classroom that shape students’ academic experiences.

7into15 image for website

Putting familiar scenes and challenges on stage produces several effects that are harder to achieve in a simple workshop setting:

  • Theatre enables us to present multiple perspectives on complex issues. The inclusion of multiple perspectives allows us to honor diverse points of view and to consider the ways that these diverse viewpoints can collide and create tension.
  • By putting familiar dynamics onstage, we make visible behaviors and patterns of interaction (often those that contribute to a negative work or learning environment) that can otherwise be easy to overlook. Because theatre heightens and directs attention, audiences readily notice behaviors and interpersonal dynamics that they may not perceive in their own classroom or departmental settings.
  • The use of theatre allows audiences to engage emotionally with a situation while maintaining a critical perspective. Audience members can respond to the “case studies” represented by actors without feeling themselves directly implicated in the sometimes sensitive topics the sketches explore.

For the Innovations in Pedagogy Summit, the CRLT Players will perform “7 into 15,” a high-energy, interactive performance that addresses a range of topics. Consisting of short plays presented in rapid succession, this provocative and often humorous performance format uses a variety of innovative staging techniques to place the challenges of university teaching and learning center stage.

Controversial Topics and Difficult Dialogues


Effectively Engaging Students in Critical Conversations in the Classroom

A workshop with Libby Roderick, Director, Difficult Dialogues Initiative, University of Alaska, Anchorage

Session 1: Wednesday, February 14, 12:30-2pm, Rouss Robertson Hall 256
Session 2: Thursday, February 15, 11:30am-1pm, McLeod Hall 5060

Register here for one of these sessions.


Colleges and universities strive to be civil venues for learning and the robust exchange of ideas on controversial issues. However, while many classrooms increasingly suffer from the combative attitudes, racial and gender tensions, and intellectual dogmatism that characterize discourse in 21st century America, numerous faculty report a tendency to avoid controversial topics or to be unsure how to proceed when charged topics surface because they lack the skills and strategies to ensure productive discussions.

In this interactive workshop, participants will learn a wide range of strategies to effectively engage students on controversial topics in the classroom, strategies that have successfully been applied to such issues as gun control, climate change, race relations, sexual harassment/assault, gay marriage, immigration policy, and more. Specifically, participants will 1) explore and practice strategies for effectively introducing controversial topics into the classroom; 2) become aware of  the broader context of the national Difficult Dialogues initiative, 3) briefly examine the rights and responsibilities of academic freedom, and 4) discuss how to effectively respond to unexpected controversy and/or disruptive students in the classroom. The workshop is based upon Start Talking: A Handbook for Engaging Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education, a field manual for educators who wish to strengthen their teaching and engage students more effectively in conversations about the most important issues of our time.  Participants will receive a complementary hard copy of the book.

Libby Roderick is Director of the Difficult Dialogues Initiative and Associate Director of the Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence at the University of Alaska, Anchorage (UAA) and Vice Chair of the Difficult Dialogues National Resource Center. She conducts faculty workshops across the U.S. and in South Africa on difficult dialogues, indigenous ways of teaching and learning, and creating collegial departments in academe. She is the editor of Alaska Native Cultures and Issues; Associate Editor of Start Talking:  A Handbook of Engaging Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education;  co-author of Stop Talking:  Indigenous Ways of Teaching and Learning and Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education, and editor of Toxic Friday:  Resources for Addressing Faculty Bullying in Higher Education. A Yale University summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Libby is also an internationally recognized, award-winning singer/songwriter and recording artist.

Cosponsored by the Center for Teaching Excellence, the McIntire School of Commerce, the School of Nursing, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the Office of the Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity

5th Annual Innovations in Pedagogy Summit

Date: Wednesday May 3, 2017
Location: Newcomb Hall

For additional workshop details, please click here.


The University of Virginia’s 5th Annual Innovations in Pedagogy Summit brings together faculty, staff, and students from across UVa and the Commonwealth to engage in conversation about excellence in teaching and learning. We welcome you to explore what is possible and see how colleagues across the University and beyond are innovating their classrooms. The day’s conversations will enlighten, inspire, and assist you regardless of your status, rank, or discipline. In both plenary and breakout sessions, instructors from across Grounds and from other Virginia universities will be sharing their insights on engaging students in the classroom. A number of these will involve collaborative presentations among faculty, graduate student, undergraduate students, and/or staff.

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

Teacher as Coach: Strategies for Deep Learning Outside the Classroom

Date: 2:00-4:30PM, Thursday, March 23, 2017
Location: McKim Hall (School of Medicine) Room 1023

For additional workshop details and to register, please click here.

Susan RobisonDescription:

How do you structure out-of-class learning opportunities for your students when you advise and mentor them or direct their research? This practical, interactive workshop based on coaching skills drawn from executive, personal, and academic coaching will introduce skills that provide such a structure and produce the kind of deep learning our students long for. Skills covered will be setting an agenda, assessing student motivation, designing a learning plan, preventing obstacles, and planning accountability.


After attending in the session, participants will be able to:

  • listen deeply to students’ agenda for learning
  • assess student motivation for learning
  • design a learning program that matches interventions to the student’s stage of change
  • apply strategies drawn from research on goal-setting, brain pacing, work-rest rhythms, multi-tasking, accountability, and preventing obstacles to help students set realistic learning goals
  • implement accountability practices for students to pace their learning and use campus resources such as faculty, peers, and writing centers to help them achieve results.

Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a psychologist, author, and faculty development consultant. Susan’s Professor Destressor workshops and coaching help faculty improve their time and stress management, leadership, work-life balance, productivity and communication skills. Her book, The Peak Performing Professor: A Practical Guide to Productivity and Happiness, has been selected for faculty book clubs all over North America. In addition to authoring The Peak Performing Professor: A Practical Guide to Productivity and Happiness, published by Jossey-Bass in October, 2013, Susan is also the author of two leadership books (Discovering Our Gifts and Sharing Our Gifts), and a co-author with Barbara Walvoord et al. of a faculty development book, Thinking and Writing in College. She is a frequent workshop presenter at higher education conferences and colleges and universities including several visits to UVa. Her workshops have been described as “mind blowing,” “transformational,” and “life-changing.” A former academic department chair and professor of psychology at Notre Dame of Maryland University, Susan has provided leadership consultation work with non-profits and maintained a clinical practice at the Center for Extraordinary Marriages where she is co-director with her husband of over 40 years. Her awards include an early career NSF award and several business awards including the 2004 Mandy Goetze award from the Executive Women’s Network for service and leadership to business women in the Baltimore area and, in 2008, one of the Top 100 Minority Business Entrepreneurs in the Maryland, DC, and Virginia areas.


Providing Effective Feedback and Grading Student Work

Date: Friday March 17, 2017
Location: Monroe Hall 134

For additional workshop details, please click here.


As instructors, we know students are able to learn and develop more effectively if they receive frequent and focused feedback; we also know that evaluating their learning is a necessary part of teaching. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to turn the unavoidable and often time-consuming tasks of feedback and grading into a beneficial learning experience, both for you and your students. You’ll come away from the workshop with concrete ideas for making feedback and grading, in all types of learning environments, both efficient and valuable.


This workshop will be held in Monroe 134 on Friday March 17  from 2-3:30PM 




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

4th Annual Innovation in Pedagogy Summit

Date: Wednesday May 4, 2016
Location:400 Emmet St South

For additional workshop details, please click here.


The University of Virginia’s Annual Innovation in Pedagogy Summit brings together faculty, staff, and students from across UVA and the Commonwealth to engage in conversations about teaching and learning in higher education. The Summit is designed to enlighten and inspire instructors from all disciplines about innovative approaches to engage students and foster learning.

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

What Faculty Want their Students To Know

How do we best support students in the aftermath of crises, especially when those crises happen within our community and center around race and gender? At the Innovation in Pedagogy Summit, May 6, 2015, UVA instructors discussed the wide range of ways in which they reached out to students this past academic year. Some of these faculty members have shared their stories in a previous blog.  This post offers a collection of messages that instructors wrote during the last five minutes of the Summit session in response to the perceived lack of support voiced in this open letter. The anonymous messages below are not meant to answer the wide range concerns voiced in the open letter. Instead, they offer a glimpse into the seriousness with which instructors take these concerns and show their heartfelt care for students. If you would like to add a message, please email us at

  • As a faculty member, I was deeply shaken by this past year’s events. This didn’t happen somewhere else, it happened here in our front yard. Part of my identity is as a member of the university’s community. I felt scared, shamed, powerless to change, uncertain of my role, unsure whether to bring it up. These are difficult topics—sex, race, politics, violence—and my main priority was to not offend anyone, yet I do think these conversation must be had. Every time I brought it up, I was so impressed with the insight, care, and concern of the students. It is these conversations that helped re-instill my pride in our institution and give me hope that together we can move forward and make changes that are needed at the institutional, community, state, national, and worldwide level. Together we can do great things!
  • You are not alone. We are also confused and lost and trying our best to deal internally while supporting you externally. Feel free to contact/connect with me. My door/email is always open.
  • Please know I deeply care about you (yes, every one of you) deeply and want to support you here in your academic journey. While we all come with different life experiences, it is only in recognizing our differences and sincerely listening to one another that true understanding can take place. May you be gentle with yourselves, with one another, and to your faculty. I welcome us continuing the conversation—please don’t assume I don’t care. I really do!
  • Please do not confuse my inability or hesitancy to talk about sensitive or difficulty topics with a lack of caring. I do care—very much. But I, like most of my engineering colleagues, have as little training as you do when it comes to talking about sexism, racism, suicide, or depression, etc. I also tend to find large-group settings, like our classroom, to be impersonal and overwhelming. But, since I do want you to know that I care, I promise to devote a few minutes of class time to acknowledgement when bad things happen and to reiterate my door, ears, and heart are open to you. Please come to talk to me.
  • I would like you to know that I care. I care very deeply. I care about you, your learning, your well-being. I teach because I love students. I love teaching. I love learning. Please let me know what I can do to communicate that I care.
  • The issues in society and at UVA are what I care deeply about. I think about them all the time because I am part of the same community as you are.
  • I wish students could be a fly on the wall during my conversations with my family to see my confusion, anger, fear, and uncertainty about how to help students.
  • I wish they knew that whenever I see someone struggling in the class, I am making every effort I can to help that person, even if I do not talk directly to them. For example, that instance—of seeing someone not doing well—usually leads to slight changes in my methodology and to an effort to make the class more accessible to everyone.
  • I want to know you as individuals, help you know that you belong here, and support you on your journey at UVA.
  • I wish that students knew that we as faculty/graduate TAs are struggling to process and to come to terms with the same issues that they are. Students often look to us to guide them or to affirm their perspectives. However, we also need time to grapple with these issues ourselves or risk taking a stance that alienates some students in our classroom. I think that sometimes students expect an immediate response from their teachers, or else they interpret a lack thereof as a lack of caring. I wish they knew that we struggle with these issues in much the same way that we do, and do not ourselves always feel in a position to offer the guidance and affirmation they crave.
  • I am deeply sorry that I, as one of your instructors, failed to acknowledge the events of the past year that have caused you emotional pain, anger, and sorrow. I too am affected by these events, and as your instructor I struggle with how to broach this topic with you. How do I start the conversation in my course? How will you react? How will I react? How do I show you that I care about you as a person? I pledge to you, as my student, that I will find ways to acknowledge distressing events in the future.
  • We have the same feeling as you. We love you and want you to be safe and to flourish. There are deeply seated wrongs in the culture that will take longer than my life to correct. [We need] your help if we are to have progress.
  • We do care. Feel free to reach out. We may not have all the answers, but we are willing and eager to explore and learn with you.
  • Many faculty do care and are open to helping in a variety of ways.
  • Know that I spent four days this year at green dot training learning how to help create a culture shift @ UVA


Trauma and Learning

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

Itiya Aneece

Why do we as teachers need to care about our students’ emotional and mental health in the classroom? Trauma negatively impacts learning, and if we want to create learning spaces that allow all students equal access to education, we need to consider ways to support students that experience emotional difficulties. More equal-opportunity learning environments can be created by establishing a safe learning space, collaborating with agencies that provide psychological care at the institution, promoting self-care and the professional development of the teacher, and having policies in place to support learning for survivors of trauma (Kerka 2002).

Trauma disrupts normal activity of the physiological and neurophysiological system (Perry 2006). Because the brain and body respond to trauma as if the stressor is still actively present (Perry 2006, Australian Childhood Foundation 2010), such chronic stress can impair the brain’s ability to learn and store memory (Perry 2006). This hinders survivors’ ability to remember and process information (Australian Childhood Foundation 2010). In addition, because memory is affected by trauma, survivors may emotionally react in unanticipated ways without realizing that they are reacting to a trigger (Australian Childhood Foundation 2010). Childhood trauma can also lead to smaller and slower-acting bridge structures that connect the right and left hemisphere of the brain, hampering the ability of an individual to recognize and describe what they are feeling, and recognize feelings in others (Australian Childhood Foundation 2010). Furthermore, when trauma is experienced during childhood, changes in the brain can impact the individual even through adulthood, affecting the ability to correctly incorporate new information (Perry 2006).

Within the classroom, trauma may manifest itself through absences, avoidance, social isolation, dissociation, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty taking risks such as starting new tasks, responding to questions, or thinking about alternative views (Horsman 1997). Students experiencing high levels of stress and fear may be unable to access more “mature” problem-solving capabilities and to explore and learn (Perry 2006).

The first step in supporting students who experience the effects of trauma is to establish a safe learning environment. This means giving students control over their learning in a guided framework, and providing alternative ways to use their time (Horsman 1997). Safe environments provide a framework of predictability and consistency, and can be adapted to provide learners with control (Australian Childhood Foundation 2010). Giving student a sense of control will not only benefit traumatized learners. What is good for students struggling with stress is good for everyone, whether or not trauma is present (Horsman 1997). Creating environments that provide students with choices is good pedagogy and increases student motivation (Ambrose et. al. 2010, Nilson, 2010, Svinicki, 2004.)

For survivors, nurturing healthy, consistent relationships within safe learning environments can have a profound impact. By helping students be academically successful, we are not only helping them learn in our classes. We are also contributing in a small way to the survivor’s difficult work of re-writing the script that was established through the traumatic event (Australian Childhood Foundation 2010). Good pedagogy and a little bit of caring can positively influence a student’s wellbeing and learning, both inside and outside of the classroom.

You might also be interested in reading my blog post on sexual victimization and learning.


Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. John Wiley & Sons.

Australian Childhood Foundation (2010). Making SPACE for learning: Trauma informed practice in schools. Australian Childhood Foundation, Ringwood VIC.

Horsman, J. (1997). “But I’m not a therapist”: Furthering discussion about literacy work with survivors of trauma. Canadian Congress for Learning Opportunities for Women. Toronto, Ontario. 37p.

Kerka, S.( 2002). Trauma and adult learning. ERIC Digest. ED472601. 8p.

Nilson, L. B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors. John Wiley & Sons.

Perry, B. (2006). Fear and learning: Trauma-related factors in the adult education process. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, no. 110: 21-27.

Svinicki, M. D. (2004). Learning and motivation in the postsecondary classroom. Anker Publishing Company.

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.

Student-Faculty Collaboration in Teaching and Learning: A Design Thinking Workshop

Typically faculty teach to students. What happens if we approach the task differently, aiming to teach with students? What would it look like for students and faculty to co-design classes and curricula?

We will explore these questions through a design thinking activity from Stanford’s Students and faculty will be tasked with collaboratively envisioning the future of student-faculty relationships at UVA. Participants will pair up to interview each other, come to a point-of-view of how classroom experiences might look differently if co-created and then generate ideas for a collaborative approach to education. The workshop will culminate in the development of practical strategies for creating and sustaining student-faculty partnerships in teaching and learning.

This session is co-created and co-sponsored by Student Voice and the Teaching Resource Center

Date: Monday March 23, 2015
Location:Open Grounds

To register please email Stephanie Doktor at