Getting Unstuck: Dealing with Bottlenecks and Threshold Concepts

Where do your students get stuck?

Every course has them: those places where students who’ve been cruising pretty comfortably through the material suddenly stop in their tracks. Maybe there’s a session you keep tweaking because, no matter what you do, students struggle at this one particular spot. Maybe there’s one assignment that students regularly bomb. Maybe there’s a certain kind of question you always get in response to the same concept. Or maybe there are certain topics and materials that students balk at not for cognitive reasons but because the work in front of them is so emotionally challenging or unsettling. Whatever it is, you’ve hit a learning bottleneck.

Sometimes those bottlenecks happen because you’re dealing with a threshold concept in your discipline: an idea or skill that’s central to how your area of study works, without which one cannot progress in the field. These thresholds often require a qualitative shift in thinking, so students will struggle with them. The even tougher thing about threshold concepts—and, in fact, many bottlenecks—is that you, as an expert, often don’t even realize how tricky these concepts are, because you mastered them so long ago. They’ve become second nature to you, and you may have trouble remembering what a novice needs in order to learn.

Luckily, you’re not the first teacher to ever hit these trouble spots. There are things you can do to get past them. First of all, if you’d like some help figuring out where your students are getting stuck, feel free to reach out to us; we’d be happy to visit your class and have a completely confidential conversation with your students through our Mid-Semester Group Feedback (MSGF) sessions. (Click here for more information on MSGF.) To get ideas on how to push through these bottlenecks and how to help students grasp threshold concepts, check out our Bottlenecks & Thresholds page on the Teaching Commons. And, as always, if there’s anything we can do to help, we’ll be glad to do it. Just reach out to us at cndls@georgetown.edu!

Introducing the 2017-18 Doyle Fellows

In its eighth year, the Doyle Faculty Fellowship Program is pleased to welcome another strong cohort of faculty fellows. The group of 16 faculty kicked off their fellowship experience at CNDLS’ Teaching, Learning & Innovation Summer Institute in May 2017, with dinner, discussion, and delving into their respective Doyle projects.

Faculty apply for the fellowship with a course in mind that they hope to design or redesign with the goal of enhancing or incorporating themes of difference and diversity. They then spend the year in conversation with colleagues across disciplines to tackle questions of pedagogy and practice. Each year, a unique blend of faculty come together, with courses ranging from first-year seminars in the School of Foreign Service to intensive languages in the College to science courses from the School of Nursing and Health Studies. Over the years, the Doyle Program has worked with 110 faculty fellows redesigning 138 courses with a total student enrollment of over 3,200.

This year, the cohort includes 16 faculty from 14 different departments across campus, from Philosophy and English to Mathematics & Statistics and Biology. After the cohort first met in May, they worked on their Doyle courses independently over the summer and met with the Doyle team for summer consultations. September marked the beginning of the cohort’s work together, where fellows dove into discussions about assigned readings and case studies from their fellow colleagues.

2017-18 FACULTY FELLOWS:

To learn more about the Doyle Program, visit our page on the CNDLS website.

Coffee and Conversation With Your Students: The Midnight Mug’s Office Hours Program

For many Georgetown students and faculty, coffee is not simply a want, but a necessity. Seeing an opportunity to capitalize on students’ affinity for caffeine and frequent library visits, the Midnight Mug, located on the second floor of Lauinger Library, developed a unique program for professors and teaching assistants (TAs) to hold office hours at their location. This program encourages students to attend office hours and gives them an opportunity to engage with faculty outside of—what some may perceive—the discomfort of a professor’s office.

The Midnight Mug’s Office Hours program provides participating professors, TAs—and students who meet with them—a $2.50 credit to apply to any purchase at the Midnight Mug—an ideal amount for a coffee, tea, speciality drink, or snack. With the purchase credit, the program hopes to incentivize students to meet with their professors and TAs outside of the classroom.

While faculty and students can always benefit from a drink or snack, hosting office hours in this student-forward space can positively impact faculty-student relationships. The “coffee house” setting that Midnight Mug offers creates a comfortable, approachable space that not only gives students the chance to meet with their professors, but also allows professors and TAs to connect with their students on a deeper level. This, in turn, may enrich the sense of community and fellowship among faculty and students.

And what’s more is that students who have had the opportunity to interact with their professors and TAs in a casual out-of-class setting may feel more comfortable inside the classroom, leading to richer classroom discussion.

All professors and TAs can sign-up by filling out this Google form. For any questions, please contact officehours@thecorp.org.

The Art (and Science) of Outstanding Mentorship in Higher Education

 

Mentorship is one of those “easier said than done” concepts; we know it is important to do, receive, and cultivate, but it is often difficult to know “getting it right”, or to make time for it at all! In an aptly titled keynote, Dr. Brad Johnson of the United States Naval Academy spoke at TLISI 2017 on the art of mentorship, urging attendees to focus less on the title of mentor and more on the actions that are the foundation of a mentoring relationship.

At last year’s TLISI, Brandon Busteed from Gallup delivered a keynote address on the well-being of students, noting the key findings that led to their flourishing and well-being after college. The largest impact was seen in students who strongly agreed they were “emotionally supported” during college—the odds of these students being engaged in their work and thriving in their overall well-being doubled. Busteed identified three specific measures that were factors in the emotional support:

  • At least one professor who made me excited about learning 
  • Professors cared about me as a person
  • A mentor who encouraged my goals and dreams

Note: for those curious, according to Gallup’s study, only 14% of all graduates experienced all three of these during college. Find the full Gallup-Purdue Index here.

It is no surprise that mentorship appears as one of these key contributors. Here at CNDLS, these important concepts of mentorship, student growth and development, and the connection between life and learning are part of our mission, as well as the mission of the larger landscape of postsecondary education. A college degree is more than information gained; it is personal development and growth with the ultimate aim of lifelong flourishing. And we know that successful mentor relationships can contribute to this.

In his keynote, Johnson shared many of the benefits of a mentoring relationship for both the mentee and the mentor. Mentees have been shown to do better academically, be more committed to their field of study, and are more confident productive. There is also an aspect of “social heredity” and “paying it forward”—that those mentored tend to mentor more themselves in the future. Johnson notes that there are both intrinsic and extrinsic research-supported benefits for mentors as well: from increased career satisfaction to accelerated research productivity, more publications and presentations, and a stronger network.

Despite all the benefits of mentor/mentee relationships, Johnson cautioned attendees against being too quick to “title” the relationship. A common question is “what role am I playing?” (e.g. advisor, role-model, mentor, research advisor, etc.)—and interestingly there is often a disconnect between students and faculty; faculty think they are mentoring a student, but the student does not see the relationship that way. Johnson advises us to step back and encourages us to think of the role of a mentor as “more of a quality of relationship than a distinct category.” It is not about the title but the quality of the interactions. His advice? Let your actions speak for themselves, and let the mentee name the relationship. What matters are the interactions that lead to benefits for both parties, not the mentor title.

Johnson also shared some mentoring best practices from his years of research; below are just a few recommendations:

  • Take time with mentees
  • Be accessible
  • Provide affirmation and encouragement
  • Incorporate explicit “teaching moments”
  • Help with “unwritten rules” in a culture
  • Challenge your mentees
  • Self-disclose (when appropriate, e.g. sharing a coping moment)
  • Allow mutuality and collegiality (over time)
  • Protect mentree when necessary
  • Narrate growth and development for mentee (help them see trajectory of growth)
  • Practice “humility”—don’t be “too perfect”

Addressing mentor myths head-on, Johnson was also sure to answer the common question “but do cross-race, cross-ethnicity, cross-gender, cross-sexual orientation relationships work?” with a research-supported “YES!” While these might be a bit slower to establish, the outcomes are identical, if not slightly better, in these cross-cultural mentoring relationships. The biggest advice Johnson provided was to practice cultural humility instead of presuming cultural competence to help create authentic relationships. Given the reality of demographics in higher education, these sort of cross-cultural mentoring relationships (across gender, ethnicity, etc.) need to take place in order to make opportunities in academia more accessible to all.

And finally: mentorship models can differ! One of the most frequently cited obstacles to good mentoring (as voiced by the mentor) is time. This is true, and time is limited. So, Johnson suggest that we think carefully and strategically about the relationships we choose to invest in, and make sure you are invested. This can take many forms—it could be a traditional mentorship model, peer mentorship, or a multi-leveled group such as a research team with mentoring within each tier. There are many methods to explore, and it is worth considering: what would work best for you?

For more of his thoughts and research on this subject, we invite you to explore some of Johnson’s books:

If you missed the 2017 Teaching, Learning and Innovation Summer Institute (TLISI) or would like to revisit a TLISI topic, follow along with us as as we feature various sessions on the Prospect blog over the course of the 2017-18 academic year. We’ll be sharing posts on the following themes: Teaching in the Jesuit Tradition, Incorporating Difficult and Timely Topics, Innovative Teaching Practices, Technology Enhanced Learning, Evidence-based Teaching and Learning, Inclusive Pedagogies, and Cross-Institutional & Cross-Departmental Collaborations. Many of the sessions were recorded and are viewable on Digital Georgetown (accessible by anyone with a Georgetown NetID). You can also find a links to all of our recorded sessions on the TLISI Resources page. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on posts and more!

Teaching in Difficult Times Workshop

Wherever you locate yourself on the political spectrum, there’s no avoiding the fact that the current semester is beginning against a national backdrop of stress, conflict, and challenge. Our students are feeling these stresses, naturally, and so are we—both outside and inside the classroom.

With all this in mind, on Thursday, August 31, CNDLS hosted a “Teaching in Difficult Times” workshop open to faculty and staff. This was a version of a workshop we’ve run several times before, sometimes in the context of a provoking news event and sometimes not. This time we were particularly focused on the August white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the political and national response afterward, because we knew these things would be on the minds of many people in our community.

Indeed they were. Through the facilitation of CNDLS’ Michelle Ohnona and James Olsen, staff and faculty voiced many concerns, including those about students who might be pained and distracted by recent events, about the difficulties of navigating charged conversations in the classroom, and about the difficulties faculty face engaging students in difficult discussions at a time when universities are under public scrutiny. Attendees and CNDLS facilitators offered thoughts and strategies for how to address these concerns and create a learning environment where difficult discussions can be productive. Facilitators and participants discussed specific techniques for setting up and maintaining a classroom culture conducive to engaging in difficult discussions, as well as handling both planned conversations and unplanned conflict with attention to student and faculty well-being.

The times are difficult as we launch into a new semester. But CNDLS is committed to helping create and maintain a campus where all of our faculty and students can get the support they need for learning to happen even—or maybe especially—when the world around us is fraught. For resources, check out our resource page on teaching in the aftermath of Charlottesville, or our Teaching Commons pages on Inclusive Pedagogy and Difficult Discussions, or feel free to reach out to us directly. As distressing as the national situation may be, you’re not in it alone.

Reflection: Turning Information into Meaning

Is the semester already starting to feel like a blur?

Even early on, ideas and conversations accumulate quickly, and students (and faculty, too) may be doing all they can to keep up. Students may not be taking the time—they may not have the time—to integrate everything they’re learning or to connect it to other areas of academic engagement or their lives beyond the classroom.  

This is why you might want to consider building opportunities for reflection into the learning experience.

Reflection boils down to making space for students to process what they’re taking in and connect it to other things they’ve learned or experienced, and/or to future decisions they might make. The research shows that reflection helps students learn. More than that, though—it supports them as they turn information into knowledge, and knowledge into meaning.

These kinds of opportunities can come in lots of different shapes and sizes: during class time or as part of homework; via formal/graded assignments or quick, casual check-ins; aloud or on paper or in the student’s head; in small groups, individually, or as a whole class. You could ask students to pause at the end of a lecture or discussion to write down what they think the three main points of that section were, and these could be shared aloud in small groups or with the class as a whole and/or compared to your understanding of the main points. Students could write reflection papers tying together two different topics from the class, or tying a class topic to something they learned elsewhere. Students could be put in pairs to discuss possible pros and cons for a certain methodology you’re exploring. They could write down and submit anonymous thoughts about which of your teaching techniques and assignments are most helpful to them in their learning.

The possibilities are close to endless—and they include possibilities for faculty too. You might find it useful, for example, to stop and think about what connections you’re hoping to draw between the ideas you’re presenting, or about how well the students seem to be handling the material, or any of a number of other things.

Find more ideas on our Teaching Commons’ new Reflection in the Classroom page. And feel free to reach out to us here at CNDLS with any questions, or if there’s any other way we can help. In the meantime, we hope your semester is off to a good start and that you’ll find some time to reflect on how it’s all going!

The Teaching Commons is CNDLS’ online compilation of teaching ideas and resources, covering everything from how to start a semester on the right foot to how to end productively and everything in between—and it’s always growing. Here on our blog we’re highlighting some of what’s new and freshly relevant there.

Georgetown’s Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation: How Georgetown’s Past is Shaping its Future

As members of Georgetown’s Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, Adam Rothman (History) and Marcia Chatelain (History) are doing what few professors of history are able to do—study the history of their own institution as the focus of their research. The two sat down with Eddie Maloney, Executive Director of CNDLS, for the opening plenary of the 2017 Teaching, Learning and Innovation Summer Institute to discuss what they learned and discovered as part of the Working Group.

In the summer of 2015, President DeGioia asked Chatelain and Rothman to join fourteen other colleagues from the Georgetown community to first engage with and learn about the history of the institution’s ties with slavery, and then later to make recommendations to guide Georgetown in its ongoing work. Chatelain talked about how this approach—first learning themselves, as few in the group are scholars on slavery, and then allowing what they learned to guide them in making recommendations to acknowledge and respond—set the tone for their work going forward. She spoke about the importance of understanding the context of slavery at Georgetown, how many higher education institutions, along with our nation, were built and maintained on the backs of slaves, and how crucial it is to acknowledge the contribution of so many, without whom Georgetown would not exist.

The core purpose of the Working Group is to teach the entire Georgetown University community about our history with the institution of slavery. While scholars and historians are not surprised by the Jesuits owning slaves, the average person is. Rothman discussed how the Working Group is helping to answer questions and meet people where they are surrounding this history.

The information wasn’t buried or hidden; much of it is housed within Georgetown itself. But Marcia challenged the audience, and our community as a whole, to remember that this is reality. It is both the history of a group of people—individuals and families—and the history of our institution, and it must be remembered. While this has not been the focus for many years, the current climate at Georgetown and in our country is allowing us to really explore and understand this legacy in ways that were not previously possible.

Because the Working Group is large and comprised of a diverse set of members from all around campus, it has been able to harness the ideas and methods of many different fields. This concept of many “points of access” is a principle that the Working Group members are trying to pass on to the community. Both panelists discussed how each of us needs to engage with this history, in whatever way we can to provide new and different ways of understanding; we need to be creative, bringing new and innovative methods to approaching the subject.

Chatelain and Rothman both gave examples of how widely varied groups and departments have begun this process, including Academic departments and faculty around campus: the Classics department translating original documents from archaic Latin to English; the McDonough School of Business using these documents to teach about ethics and reparations; Performing Arts using the material for plays and documentaries. As Rothman said, this history is too important to leave to just the historians or just the scholars. It is our history, and we have a responsibility to access it.

“We know a lot now, but not everything.” said Rothman, “We still have a lot to learn.” When discussing moving forward, they passionately agreed that more is yet to be done. The Working Group’s report should be the start of something ongoing, a way of thinking about and teaching this legacy that will continue and shape Georgetown’s future.

While funding is needed for things like new classes, digitizing the historical documents, perhaps creating a teaching fellowship devoted to the memorial, and a physical memorial, funding for these pieces is only one part of this work. What makes Georgetown unique, and a significant part of our identity, are the Jesuit values foundational to the institution. Engaging with the descendant families is part of Georgetown’s commitment to acknowledging our past, and Chatelain has found that one of the most important ways we can honor that commitment is by drawing on those Jesuit values when engaging in this work. We have to remember not to just act as an institution, like a bank or a corporation, approaching this with a set of rules and preconceived steps for attrition, but rather as people.

Finally, Rothman left us with this important idea: “As much as we could use a built memorial to the history of slavery here on campus, we need living memorials more. We need active engagement every semester, every year, that refuses to allow us to forget this story again.” The Working Group and its report are only part of this process, and part of this community. The 272 slaves who were sold are part of Georgetown’s story and legacy, and their history is our history. As we go forward, we should all consider how we are individually and collectively engaging with and are part of this process as students, faculty, and staff at Georgetown.

If you missed the 2017 Teaching, Learning and Innovation Summer Institute (TLISI) or would like to revisit a TLISI topic, follow along with us as as we feature various sessions on the Prospect blog over the course of the 2017-18 academic year. We’ll be sharing posts on the following themes: Teaching in the Jesuit Tradition, Incorporating Difficult and Timely Topics, Innovative Teaching Practices, Technology Enhanced Learning, Evidence-based Teaching and Learning, Inclusive Pedagogies, and Cross-Institutional & Cross-Departmental Collaborations. Many of the sessions were recorded and are viewable on Digital Georgetown (accessible by anyone with a Georgetown NetID). You can also find a links to all of our recorded sessions on the TLISI Resources page. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on posts and more!

Helping Humanities Scholars Find Careers Beyond Academia

This summer, CNDLS was excited to partner with Connected Academics at TLISI 2017 to offer a session to graduate students in the humanities who might be interested in a career outside of academia. The session, “Connected Academics: Roundtable Discussion on Humanities Degrees and Employment Beyond Academia”, offered a variety of perspectives and narratives on what it means to have a career outside academia and how students can best communicate the skills from their graduate education to land these jobs. The roundtable included both faculty and staff at Georgetown, including Maggie Debelius (English; Director of Faculty Initiatives at CNDLS); Ricardo Ortiz (English); Beth Harlan (Associate Director of Career Education and Counseling); Nick Moschovakis (Communications Development); and Steve Olsen (Associate Director of Research and Manager of Digital Services at the Modern Language Association). This was the first time we have partnered with an organization to provide graduate-student centered programming at TLISI, and the result was a resounding success.

The beginning of the roundtable included introductions from each of the contributing participants who shared their journeys from PhD work to professional career and also offered advice to PhD candidates who might be considering jobs outside of academia. Opening the discussion, Debelius traced her career trajectory back to the beginning of her dissertation. Knowing that she could write a good dissertation about a Victorian novel, Debelius emphasized that what she had truly wanted to work on was how to teach a Victorian novel. Although this did not become a large piece of her dissertation, it did prompt her to think more broadly about what it would mean to grapple with these questions related (but tangential) to academia. Her interest in the narrative and power of doctoral students pursuing different career trajectories – such as teachers, editors, and archivists, to name only a few – developed into the book she co-authored with Susan Basalla titled, So What Are You Going to Do with That?: Finding Careers Outside Academia. The book uses stories of real doctoral students who have transitioned outside academia to underscore that although people might pursue academic interests in different ways, almost all still “live the life of the mind.”

Moschovakis’ comments emerged as a footnote to the narratives of doctoral students in Debelius’ book as he likewise considered how his career trajectory landed him in a truly non-academic job. After finishing his PhD in 1997, he taught for ten years at colleges and universities, with his first job being a tenure-track position at a small liberal arts college; however, he ultimately opted to leave because of its geographical isolation, instead taking a number of one-to-two year teaching positions. After meeting his partner and wanting a position that was more geographically stable, Moschovakis began his current job in communications development. He edits reports often written by PhDs that are intended for a broader audience and runs workshops for these doctoral students or PhD holders to develop these reports. Moschovakis emphasized that as someone deciding to leave academia, his ability to find a job with work he enjoyed came down to two components: having good connections and a PhD from a respectable institution.

Harlan built on Moschovakis’ discussion of connections as she encouraged students to utilize campus resources, suggesting in particular that students attend the Career Center’s workshops for PhD students on Alternative-Academic (alt-ac) jobs or others not specifically marked for PhDs on relevant topics. Outside of thinking about transferable skills at these workshops, she cited the simple act of gathering like-minded students in one room as having cognitive and affective benefits. As the conversation seemed to draw out what it meant simply to think about one’s experience as a PhD student, Harlan emphasized the importance of doctoral students consciously understanding their identity to shift from “I am a PhD” to “I am someone with a PhD,” or in Harlan’s words: “You have the thing. You are not the thing.”

In his discussion of the MLA’s NYC proseminar, Olsen touched on several pieces of advice that emerged from the program, but also resounded with the other roundtable participants’ commentary: contact alums from your own programs who have left academia, be open to the ways you can use your knowledge and experience, and, most importantly, try to think of yourself broadly as a humanist, not just within the confines of your very specific dissertation or research interests.

Finally, Ortiz encouraged further thought about how we might better shape graduate programs to fit the needs of students seeking careers outside of academia. He noted that as a component of Connected Academics, faculty at Georgetown are currently drafting a proposal for a Public Humanities PhD program to produce PhD students who were equipped with the skills to work outside of academia. He emphasized the importance of providing students with skills that could apply to a variety of careers and allowing their work to culminate in a research project rather than a dissertation. While this project could take the shape of a dissertation, it would also have more flexibility to adapt to the needs of particular students, such as when Debelius wanted to think about how to teach in a dissertation process that was more narrowly focused on the content of the novels being taught.

The questions that followed the roundtable elicited several pieces of advice universal to most students. The answers were produced collectively as the roundtable participants added to one another’s responses:

  • The person who wants to make a hire either has a challenge or problem they’re looking to solve; spinning your experience to show them how you can fit into this would be helpful. If you just apply to a job with a PhD and hope it will substitute for a lack of outside experience, it will be hard to tell this narrative. As such, even a little bit of experience plus a PhD can help you to demonstrate your fit for a position.
  • Informational interviews are a great way to connect with someone in a less formal, lower stakes way. They can help brand you and tell a narrative that’s authentic and relevant to the institution without the pressure of a formal interview. Additionally, using the informational interview to develop a professional relationship allows people to vouch on your behalf.
  • Within your ability, encourage your graduate program to think differently about how they want to admit doctoral students. This is the main way graduate students will get skills they need to transition outside the academy.
  • If you’re worried about trying to market and sell yourself to employers as an introvert – where this process might feel uncomfortable – think about it as an opportunity to brand yourself as a researcher. Consider networking as a way to research through people, learning about their positions and institutions. Know that it is fine to focus on quality over quantity, as it might be more comfortable for you to have one engaging twenty-minute conversation rather than four five-minute chats. At the same time, do not be afraid to talk to several people, as a connection might not emerge in your first attempt to network.

Following the roundtable, Connected Academics hosted a Humanities Job Fair, which brought in employers from numerous sectors outside academia who had interest in hiring students with humanities experience. Students had the opportunity to network with employers including: ARCH, DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, Distinctive College Consulting, The FrameWorks Institute, Freedom Marketing, FRESHFARM’s FoodPrints, Georgetown University – Office of Advancement, Green Buzz Agency, The Peace Corps, Pedago, SPARK Business Academy, TitanHouse, and the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service. The diversity of companies that attended just emphasizes that there are roles out there for academics outside of academia. It was a pleasure to partner with Connected Academics at TLISI this summer, and we look forward to continuing to support graduate students in their journeys.


If you missed the 2017 Teaching, Learning and Innovation Summer Institute (TLISI) or would like to revisit a TLISI topic, follow along with us as as we feature various sessions on the Prospect blog over the course of the 2017-18 academic year. We’ll be sharing posts on the following themes: Teaching in the Jesuit Tradition, Incorporating Difficult and Timely Topics, Innovative Teaching Practices, Technology Enhanced Learning, Evidence-based Teaching and Learning, Inclusive Pedagogies, and Cross-Institutional & Cross-Departmental Collaborations. Many of the sessions were recorded and are viewable on Digital Georgetown (accessible by anyone with a Georgetown NetID). You can also find a links to all of our recorded sessions on the TLISI Resources page. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on posts and more!

Going Further: The Unexpected Joys for Educators and Students of Incorporating Jesuit Mission and Identity in an Interdisciplinary Classroom

As a Jesuit university, Georgetown’s “primary mission is the education and formation of our students for the sake of the kind of persons they become and their wide influence for good in society in lives, professions, and service (AJCU, The Jesuit, Catholic Mission of U.S. Jesuit Colleges and Universities, 2010, p. 3).” It strives to educate ‘the whole person’, not only teaching the Jesuit tradition to students but also how it applies to their lives and studies. These two themes formed the basis of the “Going Further: The Unexpected Joys for Educators and Students of Incorporating Jesuit Mission and Identity in an Interdisciplinary Classroom” session at TLISI.

In the Fall of 2016, Jamie Kralovec took this Jesuit mission and made it his own by developing and leading the course “Jesuit Values in Professional Practice”. Kralovec was inspired by his own experiences of Jesuit spirituality and education and wanted to design an interdisciplinary course that guided students to not only learn the history of the Jesuit tradition but also that promoted reflection: Why do they matter in a student’s Georgetown education and how can they put them into action in their lives? In fact, it was these questions that students discussed in their final presentation.

At CNDLS, we have resources available to faculty who are interested in incorporating reflection into their own classroom. Our Teaching Commons, an online repository of resources to help support faculty design and teach courses at Georgetown, includes a “Reflection in the Classroom” section, as well as an “Ignatian Pedagogy” page that details this specific pedagogical approach. We are always available to help– to schedule an in person consultation, email us today at cndls@georgetown.edu. To watch this full session online, please click here (note: you must be logged in with your GUID).

If you missed the 2017 Teaching, Learning and Innovation Summer Institute (TLISI) or would like to revisit a TLISI topic, follow along with us as as we feature various sessions on the Prospect blog over the course of the 2017-18 academic year. We’ll be sharing posts on the following themes: Teaching in the Jesuit Tradition, Incorporating Difficult and Timely Topics, Innovative Teaching Practices, Technology Enhanced Learning, Evidence-based Teaching and Learning, Inclusive Pedagogies, and Cross-Institutional & Cross-Departmental Collaborations. Many of the sessions were recorded and are viewable on Digital Georgetown (accessible by anyone with a Georgetown NetID). You can also find a links to all of our recorded sessions on the TLISI Resources page. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on posts and more!

Deja Vu All Over Again: Breaking the Ice on a New Semester

The cyclical nature of the academic experience can produce an odd sense of deja vu; you spend a whole semester building an engaged and productive classroom community, and then the course ends, which means that at the beginning of the next semester you have to start that process all over again with a new group. On the first day, when you walk into the classroom, you might well be thinking: Who are these people and what have they done with the students I’ve been teaching?

It’s a good question. (Well, the first part is.) Luckily, you don’t have to wait a whole semester to start answering it—you can jump in on the first day. More than just a pro forma meeting to hand out a syllabus and talk about enrollments and wait lists, the first day is an opportunity to get right into building the learning community you want to see. You can set tone and expectations, set the stage for the course’s intellectual enterprise, and even get students working on questions relevant to the course—but the first step is probably going to be finding out who’s in the room, and helping students discover who’s in the room, too.

This is where icebreakers come in: activities to help people get to know each other and to create a sense of comfort and familiarity. There are lots of possibilities, including everything from brief introductions and the sharing of basic information (e.g., name, year in school, reasons for taking the class) to more involved activities (e.g., Two Truths and a Lie, Uncle Fred’s Suitcase, The Reception Line). Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of these icebreakers; to find out more and to discover a trove of other ideas, check out our recently-expanded Teaching Commons page on Starting the Semester. You’ll also find tips and suggestions on how to get ready for the semester, how to make the most of the first day, and how to keep the momentum going through the early weeks.

As always, if we can be any help along the way, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at cndls@georgetown.edu.