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


Teaching after Charlottesville: Resources and a Workshop

As the school year begins, many of us—students, faculty, and staff—are still affected by and preoccupied with the events surrounding the white supremacist march in Charlottesville earlier this month. For faculty and staff, this means we need to be thinking about how to approach our students, and how to take on, in the spaces we share with students, the issues these events raise. Here at CNDLS we’re here to support you as you have these potentially challenging conversations. With that in mind, we’ve prepared some resources that we hope will help, including a workshop and an online collection of relevant teaching suggestions and materials:

On Thursday, August 31st, from 2:00-3:30 pm in the HFSC Herman Room, we’ll host a “Teaching in Difficult Times” workshop, designed for faculty looking for strategies and support in addressing difficult issues, such as the recent events in Charlottesville, with students and within the curricular content of courses. Find out more and register for the workshop here.

We’ve also compiled a webpage on Teaching After Charlottesville, full of teaching ideas, links to reading materials, and thoughts about how to make this difficult time powerfully and effectively educational for your students. Explore the list of resources here.

Please also feel free to reach out to us at if we can provide more help to you as an individual teacher or to your department or program. We hope that these resources will help you and your students begin the semester on a footing that can take us all forward.

Educating the Whole Person for Beginners: TLISI 2017

At Georgetown, one of our core values is teaching in the Jesuit tradition. At this year’s TLISI, we focused one of our plenary lunches on these values and hosted a panel discussion titled “Educating the Whole Person for Beginners” on Tuesday, May 23. The panelists discussed themes of well-being, mindfulness, and reflection in the classroom, with David Ebenbach moderating. He began this session by quoting educationalist Nel Noddings:

“We will not find the solution to problems of violence, alienation, ignorance, and unhappiness in increasing our security apparatus, imposing more tests, punishing schools for their failure to produce 100 percent proficiency, or demanding that teachers be knowledgeable in “the subjects they teach.” Instead, we must allow teachers and students to interact as whole persons, and we must develop policies that treat the school as a whole community. The future of both our children and our democracy depend on our moving in this direction.”

To watch the full video of this session, please click the above image (note: you must be logged in with your Georgetown NetID).

Taking the concept of the “whole person” as a starting point, panelists Sabrina Wesley-Nero (Education, Inquiry and Justice), Jason Tilan (Human Science), Christine Evans (Performing Arts), and Kathy Maguire-Zeiss (Neuroscience) highlighted programs and resources specific to whole-person learning available to faculty and staff at Georgetown. In particular, panelists discussed the Engelhard Project, which incorporates health and well-being issues into the classroom, as well as various other resources such as the Teaching Commons Pages.

Panelists discussed the importance of one key component of educating the whole person specifically—appealing to students’ experiences outside of the classroom. A simple way of actualizing this concept that was shared is to ask students to introduce themselves at the beginning of class without subscribing to traditional labels or goals—an exercise Evans (Performing Arts) uses in her class. She asks students to tell personal stories or experiences around prompts like “water,” for example, to help get students begin to build and define themselves from the bottom up. Later in the sessions, panelists shared their experiences as Engelhard Fellows in the Engelhard Project, and how Engelhard components helped to support whole person learning. 

The Engelhard Project’s Connection to Self Care
When discussing the Engelhard Project, many panelists noticed students in their Engelhard courses focusing on their own well-being just as much as their academic-based goals throughout the semester. Wesley-Nero (Education, Inquiry and Justice) saw an increase in students from her Engelhard course who visited her during office hours to share challenges and personal experiences. She was also surprised to read in post-course  student reflections that students had struggled with the well-being issue discussed in the course in their own personal lives. She found that her course served as a reminder to students to practice their own self-care by using the counseling support services on campus, eating healthier, or utilizing a campus resource that they might not have otherwise. Maguire-Zeiss (Neuroscience) was surprised by the lifestyle changes students reported throughout the year, as well as their plans to maintain these changes after the class concluded.

All panelists felt the Engelhard Project to be a tremendous help in brainstorming and implementing a course focused on teaching to the whole person. By connecting with health professionals and other speakers who come into classrooms and talk to students, the panelists felt like they were giving a gift of holistic teaching and learning to themselves as educators that they could then pass to their students. Being part of the Project helped them gain the confidence needed to jump into educating the whole-person.

If you are interested in learning more about educating the whole person or the Engelhard Project, we invite you to visit the Engelhard website and contact us with questions.

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!

CNDLS Design Studio: New Processes for Online Course Development

Every summer, CNDLS works with faculty from across campus to design and develop online courses, in conjunction with the School of Continuing Studies (SCS). With many Georgetown undergraduates leaving the Hilltop after spring semester, these online courses are an alternative option to on-campus summer classes. This year, in partnership with SCS faculty, CNDLS designed and developed the highest-ever number of courses, with six new courses and nine repeats for a total of fifteen different classes available. Due to this record-setting number, the CNDLS team was challenged to come up with a new process for developing courses.

In the past, all of the faculty members who would be teaching a summer course would meet three times, followed by one-on-one meetings with members of the CNDLS Learning and Design (LD) team. While this approach was appropriate for a few online courses, it became harder to maintain at a high standard as more and more courses were added to the schedule. As a result, the LD team created a new process—the CNDLS Design Studio: Online Learning Series.

As courses are now taught using Canvas instead of Blackboard, the team decided to build their training using the new platform. Built as a Canvas course itself, the Design Studio is comprised of an orientation and three modules that cover design, development, and management of online courses. There are now six meetings throughout the year for the faculty to meet as a full cohort, including one after courses conclude that focuses on lessons learned. This has created a sense of community for the faculty participating, and provides an opportunity for peer-to-peer feedback.

This summer was the first implementation of the Design Studio and it received much praise. Faculty members appreciated being able to learn from one another; it sparked their creativity and helped create a learning community. The increase of full cohort meetings also created more organization, with course milestones planned for each meeting, and accountability, as faculty were presenting their ideas during the meetings to their peers. When asked for comments on the new way of developing courses, feedback included: “[t]hanks for this detailed and useful feedback. I really appreciate the attention to detail and substantive suggestions here” and “Thanks for all your help (and I copy the entire team to thank them as well!) Go, CNDLS!”

Having proved to be a very successful method, this new approach will help to shape training and course development for other classes as well. Currently, CNDLS is using the Design Studio to support main campus faculty with summer course design and development. With its success, the team is now looking at who else may benefit from participating in the studio in the future.  To learn more about the CNDLS Design Studio, please To learn more about other CNDLS developed online courses, visit our GeorgetownX page.

2017 Teaching, Learning and Innovation Summer Institute Recap

Each year, we here at CNDLS strive to put together a diverse, engaging conference called the Teaching, Learning and Innovation Summer Institute (TLISI) aimed at bringing our Georgetown community of faculty, staff and students together to learn and grow. Working under the theme of Complexity, Diversity and Change: Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century, TLISI 2017 was our largest yet. This year, TLISI had over 500 registrants for the four day institute, and offered more than 80 sessions, both in person and virtually!

This year’s programming centered around seven themes: Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning, Inclusive Pedagogies, Teaching in the Jesuit Tradition, Incorporating Difficult and Timely Topics, Technology Enhanced Learning, Innovative Teaching Practices, and Cross-Institutional and Cross-Departmental Collaborations. Many sessions touched on more than one topic area; from workshops to panels, keynote presentations to daily meditation, the sessions were varied by type and topic to offer something for everyone. In addition to a record number of faculty, we were thrilled to welcome many staff to this year’s institute as well, truly making TLISI a space for shared, integrative work in teaching and learning.

Along with all the general sessions, we also offered attendees the opportunity to participate in our  Productive Open Design Spaces (PODS) at TLISI. Tackling projects from creating a guide for faculty on best practices in academic integrity to building a 1-credit SFS writing studio course, PODS saw 10 groups come together over the course of the week to ideate, iterate, and design together.

Additionally, the incoming cohort of Doyle Fellows held their first meetings where they began conversations on how they might redesign a course to integrate more diversity and inclusion into their curricula.

If you missed this year’s TLISI, or want to revisit a topic, we will be highlighting many sessions here on the Prospect blog over the course of this summer and academic year. The opening plenary, Georgetown University’s Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation: How Georgetown’s Past is Shaping its Future, was a dynamic discussion with Adam Rothman and Marcia Chatelain, both Professors in Georgetown’s History department and members of the Working Group. Dr. Brad Johnson joined us Wednesday for his keynote,“The Art (and Science) of Outstanding Mentorship in Higher Education” where he shared his research on developing high-impact mentoring relationships in higher education. We are pleased to partner with  Lauinger Library to offer the recorded videos of twelve sessions from throughout the week to members of the Georgetown Community through Digital Georgetown (please note: you must be signed in with your GUID). You can access the videos via the Resources page on the TLISI website.

If you haven’t already, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get updates through the rest of this summer and the academic year!

Looking Forward: A Community Site for GU Domains

This June, a group of CNDLS staff attended the Domains 2017 conference in Oklahoma City and presented their exciting vision for a Domains Community Site—a community space where users can create, collaborate and discover with each other in an online environment. The presenters, who included CNDLS’ Yianna Vovides, Yong Lee, and Marie Selvanadin in addition to Jim Groom and Tom Woodward, shared a 3-layer model to support engagement with Domains at the campus, programmatic, and individual levels.

Read the full blog post to learn more about the presentation and the new model, and visit the Georgetown Domains website to learn more about how you can create your own domain today.

Poll Everywhere: Mobile Polling in the Classroom

During the Fall 2016 semester, CNDLS conducted a pilot of Poll Everywhere, an online polling service that allows users to respond to polls using a computer or mobile device in or outside the the classroom.

Georgetown University instructors Diana Glick (Chemistry), Patrick Johnson (Physics), and Betsy Sigman (MSB) participated in the pilot.

The pilot faculty used Poll Everywhere in a variety of ways with students, including reviewing content using multiple choice questions, applying concepts to solve a problem, marking a location on an map, generating free responses using a word cloud, and as an icebreaker activity. All polling was conducted anonymously and not used for graded activities.


Glick found Poll Everywhere very useful to ask her general chemistry students about course material related to the previous class. “I would be able to start Friday’s lecture with, ‘What did you get out of Wednesday’s class?’”  She also encouraged her students to discuss questions for which there was not a clear consensus on the right answer. When she asked them to talk to each other about it, “the room would erupt in conversation.”

Johnson, who teaches “Principles of Physics,” presented his students with Poll Everywhere multiple choice questions nearly every class to expose his students to as much problem solving as possible during his physics lectures. He found the service to foster greater student engagement. “In a classroom where you just say a question, you wait for a response, you don’t really get a response for the most part. And when you do, it usually comes from the same people, and I want to know what everybody’s thinking. And so compared to just open-ended questions, [with] no way to answer anonymously, [Poll Everywhere] is a huge improvement.”

Sigman used Poll Everywhere for an icebreaker activity for her Developing/Managing Databases course. “There was a sort of wow factor when we did a question about ‘Where are you from?’ and the students were able to pull out their Poll Everywhere app and point to where they were from in the world.  We did have some students from abroad, and it was a lot of fun to see that happen on the screen in front.”

At the end of the Fall 2016 semester students were surveyed in all three classes with 164 students responding out of a total of 379 (43% response rate).  Students feedback was positive.

Findings from the survey included:

  • 76% of students agreed that “using Poll Everywhere provided me immediate feedback on my understanding of concepts.”
  • 69% of students agreed that “using Poll Everywhere caused me to pay attention in class.”
  • 77% of students indicated it was “very easy” to set up Poll Everywhere.
  • 92% of students would recommend their professor continue to use the service in class.
  • 84% would like to see Poll Everywhere used in their other classes.

What did students say they liked about Poll Everywhere? They noted ease of use, responsive service, and that it came at no cost (for pilot participants).

All three pilot faculty are continuing their use of Poll Everywhere in their courses the Spring 2017 semester. CNDLS is working with University Information Services to explore Poll Everywhere integration with Canvas and Blackboard learning management systems and support other faculty interested in bringing mobile polling to their classrooms.

If you’d like to learn more about Poll Everywhere, visit the company’s website where you can sign up for a free educational count for up to 40 responders per poll. To schedule a consultation to discuss incorporating mobile polling in your classes, please contact CNDLS.


Georgetown Domains: Join a Community of Over 650 Active Users and Shape your Digital Identity

Do you want to create your own online space, but something is holding you back? Whatever the reason, we’re here to help. With Georgetown Domains, anyone in the Georgetown community can create their own custom subdomain.

GU Domains has over 650 active users, with 60% being students. The remaining users are faculty and staff that represent more than 50 different departments from all over campus. With more than 250 users joining in just the past six months, this community is growing and you can be a part of it, too. You’ll have access to tools to help you build your site—after that, the sky’s the limit! Read more about the current state of the Domains initiative and what other Georgetown users are creating with Georgetown Domains in this post by CNDLS Graduate Associate Sam Whalen.


Expanding the Integration of Inclusivity and Diversity, CNDLS Welcomes Senior Fellow Daviree Velazquez

We are pleased to introduce Daviree Velazquez, Director of A Different Dialogue and Assistant Director for Diversity Programs in Georgetown’s Center for Multicultural Equity and Access (CMEA). Velazquez recently joined CNDLS as a Senior Fellow supporting CNDLS’ work in the areas of implicit bias, dialogue facilitation, critical race, identity issues, and student development theory. She also supports CNDLS’ work in Inclusive Pedagogy. In the future, she will liaise with faculty involved with the Doyle Program, and help develop and integrate core values in the Master of Arts in Learning and Design. We are excited to welcome her to CNDLS, and sat down with her to discuss her new role.

Daviree, thank you for talking with me today. Our first question is: what’s your current role? Can you give us an overview of your work and responsibilities?

I have the honor of serving as the Director of A Different Dialogue and as the Assistant Director for Diversity Programs in the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access. My primary responsibilities include overseeing diversity and inclusion as it relates to the holistic student experience. As the Director for A Different Dialogue, I focus on building a bridge between content exploration and self exploration. I oversee the University’s intergroup dialogue program, which invites undergraduate students to engage across difference through dialogue skill development. As the Assistant Director for CMEA, I provide consultation and training regarding diversity, inclusion, cultural competency, and social justice. The consultation I provide is for faculty, staff, and students. Also, in this role, I oversee multiple programs and initiatives including The Black House, La Casa Latina, Young Leaders in Education about Diversity, LEAD, the Student of Color Alliance, and the Liberatory Spaces Program.

What work is CNDLS doing that you’re particularly excited about?

My fellowship title with CNDLS is the Critical Scholar Practitioner Fellow. It’s a unique position, because unlike other CNDLS fellows, I don’t approach this work from the classroom. My background is student affairs, but similar to faculty, my practice is informed by theory and research. CNDLS and the Division of Student Affairs are always seeking opportunities that allow faculty, staff and students to work more collaboratively, which is what makes this fellowship so unique. My fellowship is specifically about improving the practices around diversity and inclusion, both in CNDLS and on campus. That brings me to the Inclusive Pedagogy team, which is where most of my interactions happen within CNDLS. I have been able to witness the growth of Inclusive Pedagogy, and I can see where it is going to continue to develop, specifically with the Masters in Learning and Design. I’m excited about everything that goes on at CNDLS! To just be in a space where collaboration is normalized, and collegiality is a priority… that’s unique, and I very much appreciate it.

You touched on this a little bit already, but you’re in a unique position as a member of Georgetown’s staff. Could you talk a little bit about the research you do in your role?

My work has always been grounded in the student experience. I approach the work through a student leadership theoretical perspective. In my work, that looks a bit more like student activism and student advocacy. The first piece that I ever published was on creating multicultural initiatives, both inside and outside the classroom so that students can engage and build up their leadership capacity and efficacy in a diverse world. Recently, I’m writing on how to rebuild hope in the leadership process. There’s a level of inspiration, motivation, and mission commitment that is required for leadership. In a day and age where it seems like outcomes need to be immediate, how do you engage in these movements for the long run? Especially for undergraduate students; most of them are here four or five years, so how do you commit to a cause or a movement where you might not fully see the fruits of your labor? This is even true for for faculty and staff; they say it takes seven years for culture change to really take movement, so how to do you commit to improving the climate when you may not be there for the effect? The piece I am currently working on is really teaching leadership and critical hope.

At Georgetown, I’m working on creating more access points for faculty who have not had the opportunity to have diversity and inclusion as a part of their training. Another project I am in the early stages of is an identity seminar for faculty who might say, “Students are using all this kind of language around self identity, and I don’t understand any of it. This wasn’t a part of my education.” It will probably be a cohort of about 10-12 and we’ll do identity development work. I’ve also been working on building cultural competency models that can be implemented, whether at faculty orientation or new staff orientation. These models will explore culturally competent work in a Jesuit context. Lastly, some of my work that’s coming to an end now is the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation. As a group, we worked to learn, teach and preserve our history and identified ways to improve our future. All together, I believe my work will highlight the ways in which high impact activities, through a culturally competent lens, will improve the higher education experience for marginalized communities.

And finally, could you tell us a little about what you’re currently working on with CNDLS?

Right now, I’m working on a few sessions for this year’s Teaching, Learning and Innovation Summer Institute (TLISI). One session is a review of the last five years regarding student activism on campus. We will review everything from disability studies to undocumented students, the sexual assault task force, GU272 and our relationship with slavery. My hope is that this session will illuminate all the ways our students seek change at Georgetown. We will also explore what student activism looks like in a national context in higher education. This session also includes a panel of faculty who were recommended by students as being some of the faculty that they can go to, the ones who use their positionality in order to promote and support whatever change the students are working towards. These faculty members will discuss how they navigate some of the tensions or bureaucracy around getting involved. There are a lot of faculty and staff who want to do this work around diversity and inclusion, but they are fearful and the fear is valid. So how do you become creative or build your own support systems to help overcome barriers? How do you support people who are able to be on the front lines when you cannot be? The second session I am co-leading is on our professional identity and how it intersects with our social identity, specifically our privileged and dominant identities. We will explore the ways our identities inform our interactions with colleagues and the ways we teach/practice. It will be a quick, hands on workshop around exploring who we are, and how we may be perceived.

Implicit Bias: What’s in Your Classroom?

Psychological and sociological research have made it clear that everybody is prone to biases. What’s more, some of these biases we carry and deploy unreflectively, often unwittingly, or in other words implicitly. What this means for us is that all teachers carry unexamined, unintentional judgments and expectations with us into the classroom—a mental picture of what an “ideal student” or “ideal major” looks like, for example, or an assumption about what kind of participation or performance you’ll see from students of one background or another. These can be “positive” (expecting/seeing good things) or “negative” (expecting/seeing bad things); either way, this tendency makes us less likely to be accurate about our students, and can get particularly problematic when our biases concern dimensions along which some students are marginalized (e.g., race, gender, sexuality, disability status, nationality, class, etc.).

Again, these forces operate under the radar. So how can we push back against implicit bias that we don’t even mean to have, and that doesn’t reach the level of conscious awareness?

The first step, research argues, is to accept that we’re as prone to bias as anyone else; people who are convinced of their own objectivity tend to be more likely to act on biases in discriminatory ways. Beyond that, we benefit from anything that makes our thought processes less automatic and more deliberative. We can, for example, plan ahead how we’re going to handle situations (e.g., we can plan to keep track of how often we call on women vs. men, in order to try to keep that even). Getting to know our students as individuals helps, too, for obvious reasons—we’re less likely to see them primarily as members of categories when we know them well. Numerous studies also discuss employing narrative or moral imagination to help us transcend our immediate perspective and imagine the perspective of others. And then there’s this: according to the literature, well-rested people tend to be less prone to expressing bias, so that’s yet another reason to get a good night’s sleep.

This is a big subject, of course, and there’s a lot more to say than we can cover here, so please reach out to us here at CNDLS if you’d like to have a deeper conversation or brainstorm strategies, or check out some of the other Inclusive Pedagogy work we’re doing. We’re here to help!