In How Humans Learn, Joshua R. Eyler sets out to work through five ostensibly basic aspects of learning—curiosity, sociality, emotion, authenticity, and failure. If you are determined to read the book, I recommend heading straight for the end of each of the five main sections and taking a modified backward approach. Read the key takeaways on the last couple of pages, then flip back a little further to read the story of someone’s teaching, which is the best part of each section. If you like, you can flip back even further to previous portions of each section that focus on the implementation of research. You’ll find a mixed bag of some interesting thoughts about techniques and encouragements for good teaching.
I must confess here that my sequential reading of the book intentionally ended before the Emotion section (there are five main sections of which Emotion is the third). Fortunately, I had accessed the audiobook for free on Hoopla so I didn’t have an obligation to the CfT to complete a purchased book or even to write a review. However, once I mentioned my strong response, CfT co-directors Mark Hopwood and Emily Puckette encouraged me to write the review anyway.
The over-encompassing title of the book (How Humans Learn? In 300 pages?) foreshadows a central problem with its approach, and once I put my finger on the issue, my willingness to read further faltered. The trouble concerned the entire frame of the discourse. Eyler establishes early that he will take a “fundamental” approach, meaning that he will take the position that everyone learns the same way. Specifically, he argues from the standpoint of evolutionary psychology that as we are all humans, consideration of any group differences in how we learn is not a central issue, but rather something to add on after getting the essentials down.
On hearing this plan, my estimation of the book fell sharply. I will be honest and say that I’ve never thought much of evolutionary psychology since reading feminist critiques years ago. Just this last year, my misgivings were further confirmed when I discovered that the philosopher Subrena Smith had systematically proven that the field itself has no factual foundation. Very simply put, Smith argues that evolutionary psychology makes claims that specific behaviors are shaped by evolution, rather than by, say, culture or lifetime learning, but she concludes that there is no evidence to support these claims, and due to the constraints of historical inquiry, therenever can be. For me, Smith’s decisive work casts doubt on theories like Eyler’s.
The core problem with Eyler’s book, however, is not merely theoretical. It is pragmatic, and it is serious. His perspective leads him to envision the college classroom as an environment in which one can observe the innate basics of learning in action, perhaps noting some cultural influences as an afterthought. To me viewing the college classroom this way is like arguing that croissants are made with a lot of flour and a dab of butter. Contrary to Eyler’s take, most modern researchers and thinkers view the college classroom as primarily a complex cultural/historical product, developed within some cultures and more suited to those cultures than others. Solely focusing on presumed fundamentals and setting culture aside simply dooms the analysis of the classroom to oversimplification at best, and at worst, to essentialization of the dominant culture.
Despite what I considered to be the fatal flaw of universalism inherent in Eyler’s approach, I pressed on for a couple of chapters to see if the social science and the practical content managed to escape the gravity of his approach. The outline of the book takes each aspect in turn, first by laying out foundational research, then by offering the relevance of those studies to the classroom, and finally, by sharing stories of great teaching that reflect the research. I found that Eyler doesn’t satisfy with these efforts either. In the Curiosity chapter, for example, we have quite a slog of distantly relevant research to wade through, including inter-species comparisons of brain mass and neoteny, before we finally get to a discussion of a few studies that relate specifically to curiosity in undergraduates. If all this “basic” research were connected clearly and directly to the college classroom, it might be enlightening, but instead, most of it is used for blanket permission to make assumptions about the importance of curiosity to college learning. When we finally arrive at specific connections to the classroom, the “basics” don’t seem to support or enlighten the more specific findings. You first learn, for instance, that human offspring have longer periods of parenting compared to other mammals. But this idea and others are only used to support an across-the-board premise that students need curiosity to learn. I found no useful connections between the information about human evolution with the later revelation, for example, that professors who intimidate students inhibit their curiosity.
I can offer potential readers that the third piece of the book’s structure, the stories of teaching, are actually a success in their own right. Although many of the master teacher stories are presented with more hero worship than I think is healthy for instructors seeking to improve, they do relate thought-provoking and novel approaches to perennial problems.
Raise your hand if you’d like to see more student participation during a class meeting. Now, what if that could give you a clear sense of what all of your students understand? Those of you with your hands still raised may benefit from live polling in your classes.
You may already be familiar with live polling tools and have used them in a class meeting, or have answered questions yourself in an online gathering. I’d like to learn about your experiences with polling tools and techniques or pique your interest and help you explore the available possibilities.
What are some of the reasons that you might consider using live polling tools?
To receive student answers to a variety of question modes and prompts (T/F, multiple choice, short answers).
To allow for anonymous participation
To quickly gauge the level of student understanding of a concept.
To capture student responses for credit and grading over time.
To create polls ahead of time and integrate them into class slide presentations or within Brightspace.
To create polls “on-the-fly” during class.
To share results of a poll with a group in real time.
Is there one tool that can do all of the above (and at no cost)? Probably not, and there is much to consider, like features, costs, compatibility, privacy, account or device requirements, and accessibility. Others have done the work to evaluate and create comparisons, so this is a small list of polling tools to begin some exploration.
Clicker Response System from TurningPoint, now Echo360
Evan Joslin, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, has this to share about her experience using polling with clickers in her classes:
“Clickers also require the students to stay engaged in the material. Students are graded for accuracy on clicker questions and this directly impacts their grade (5% overall). The clicker questions are placed throughout the entire class and encourage students to ask questions since although every student earns half credit for answering the question the only way to receive full credit is to answer it accurately.”
When you have questions about live polling, the related research, the tools and techniques, or the support for this, I would love to know and to explore them with you!
During my time as a grad student at Chapel Hill, I once found myself driving on 15-501 behind a rusty old Ford Pinto. I was mesmerized by that car, which scraped its dangling exhaust pipe behind it on the asphalt, spewing sparks and copious clouds of blue smoke as it chugged stalwartly along to its destination.
Teaching during Covid has sometimes felt like driving that Pinto.
How does one—how do we—move past that experience of jerry-rigging our classes, the dystopian dismay of teaching to silent black squares, the eyes-without-a-face weirdness of a room filled with masked students whose every fifth word is muffled? In this context, the invitation to read and discuss Kevin M. Gannon’s RadicalHope could not have been more fortuitous.
Philosopher Jonathan Lear’s definition of radical hope provides the foundation for Gannon’s call to arms: rather than focusing on predetermined metrics for success, hope “is directed toward a future good that transcends the current ability to understand what it is.” In Radical Hope, Gannon explores ways of converting radical hope into praxis: “Our most quotidian practices—even and especially in environments of adversity—are a constant assertion that through our work with and among students we are creating a better future . . . a pedagogical practice centered in radical hope is one that fosters openness and inclusivity, critical reflection, dialogue and conversation, and a commitment to making higher education accessible and meaningful for all of our students” (5).
Our discussion group, both faculty and staff, found Gannon to be strikingly in sync with the way we think already think about teaching and interacting with our students. For instance, in a past blog post on a CfT/OG panel discussion, CfT co-director Mark Hopwood wrote, “it became clear that taking a non-judgmental approach may be one of the most powerful things that faculty can do to improve communication with students.”
The non-judgmental approach does not mean the absence of accountability or standards: rather, it might mean, as our Radical Hope reading group discussed (alas, over Zoom), giving struggling students an on-ramp to re-engage by allowing them to help decide what concrete steps they will take. (Here, the distinction Gannon insists on between equity and equality is a relief: since all students do not need the same sort of help to succeed, it follows that you need not contact your entire class with “on-ramp” options). It might mean engaging students in discussion about what is or is not working with particular assignments and empowering them to help us figure out a (literal) course correction.
Offering a “tangible practice that consistently affirms hope over cynicism,” Gannon says that teaching with radical hope requires us, among many other things, to “treat our students as active agents in their learning, and respect and value them for the full and complicated humans that they are.” As Gannon emphasized in our follow-up Zoom conversation, Covid has only made the imperative to embrace radical hope over cynicism all the more urgent.
From February 28th to March 3rd, Sewanee hosted a series of speakers and events to educate the campus community around period poverty and menstrual equity in the U.S., and globally. Over the course of the week, speakers from as far away as Delhi, India and São Paulo, Brazil (via Zoom) joined U.S. based scholars, entrepreneurs, and Sewanee student activists to call attention to challenges around access, equity and sustainable period product design. In my class, The Politics of Poverty and Inequality, we hosted Joanne Goldblum, CEO of the Alliance for Period Supplies, and the National Diaper Bank. Ms. Goldblum discussed her life’s work addressing how the lack of basic needs such as diapers and menstrual hygiene products, impedes the ability of women and girls to attend school regularly, and maintain regular employment. In her work with members of Congress, Ms. Goldblum gave accounts of how misguided stereotypes about low income Americans, and tropes around deservingness affect the policy process and especially funding for critical programs that reduce hardship on children and families. Students learned about internship opportunities with advocacy organizations focused on meeting basic needs, and other ways to contribute to policy solutions.
Ever had a conversation with a colleague in another department about some shared area of interest that led you to think, ‘We should be teaching this together!’ If so, welcome to the birthplace of most Humanities courses!
The Humanities Program has been around now for the better part of three decades, but I suspect that many faculty, especially those who have arrived in recent years, are only dimly aware of its existence and how it works. If you fall into the ‘dimly aware’ camp, I hope this post serves as a useful introduction to the program. But more than that, I hope it encourages some of you to consider teaching in Humanities.
To give you some idea of the content of the program, here are some of the courses taught within Humanities over the past few years:
HUMN 204 Experience, Expression, and Exchange: Utopias and Dystopias
This course explores how utopian, dystopian, and post-apocalyptic discourse imaginatively engages – and has engaged – cultural and historical challenges. Using approaches related to history, philosophy, literature, political theory, and the visual arts – especially film – this class seeks to ground utopian and dystopian speculation in the historical and cultural circumstances engendering it. Possible texts include works by Rousseau, More, Plato, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Marx, Leibniz, Voltaire, Huxley, Orwell, Zamyatin, McCarthy, Burgess, Atwood, Ishiguro, Lovecraft, Fritz Lang, and Ridley Scott.
HUMN 205 Reading the Labyrinth
The labyrinth is both a built environment and a conceptual space. Class lectures and assignments will interrogate the labyrinth as a pervasive structure and narrative device from antiquity to the present through its various manifestations and representations. Adopting a global perspective, this interdisciplinary class will address the labyrinth in different cultures through literature, architecture, the visual arts, film and contemporary media. A main thread for the course will be the work of Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, and the connections it proposes between the labyrinth and multiple philosophical and artistic traditions.
HUMN 214 Experience, Expression, and Exchange: Histories of Science, Vision, and Art: 1500-Present
This course focuses on the histories of relations between visual art and contemporary scientific method(s). It looks at why and how major socio-economic, cultural, and political changes associated with the history of “the West” (c. 1500 to the present), involved a preoccupation with vision and its effects. The course hones in on artists and “scientific observers”, many of whom were directly involved in colonial and commercial projects. Topics of focus include: the uses of instruments (such as the microscope) for mediating sight and producing new knowledge about nature: the ordering, politics, and display of visual objects in collections, and more.
HUMN 225 The Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prize is widely considered the most highly reputable award in the fields of literature, medicine, physics, chemistry, peace, and economics. This course considers the history of the awards, the Nobel Foundation, and the selection process. Primary emphasis centers on particular awards and the impact they have had in their fields and in the world. Topics vary from offering to offering.
What’s important to understand about these examples is that all of them emerged from conversations and shared interests between faculty. Humanities courses are collaborative and interdisciplinary, with a typical class taught by three or four faculty from different disciplines. 200-level classes are generally organized around a particular topic or topics, and the topics covered are determined by participating faculty. What does it take to be a participating faculty member? Rounding up a sufficient number of faculty interested in and able to teach the course, discussing it with the director of the program (Derek Ettensohn), jumping through the usual hoops to get a new course on the books, and planning the course itself. In addition to the courses at the 200-level, Humanities offers a series of courses at the 100-level that form a chronological sequence, examining the ancient, medieval, early modern, and modern worlds, and the same holds true for these courses as for those at the 200-level: the focus of each course is determined by the faculty teaching it, though of course an interest in the relevant period is a prerequisite.
The structure of a Humanities course, including the format of class meetings, is also determined by participating faculty, but in my experience the meetings tend to be a mix of plenary sessions – attended by all faculty and students – and seminar meetings, in which each faculty member meets with their own section of students. Seminars are typically devoted to the discussion of texts (broadly construed so as to include films, works of art, music, etc.), while plenary sessions can take a number of forms – lectures, panel discussions (faculty or student), trips to the University Art Gallery, etc. – though their purpose is often to introduce texts and provide background or context for understanding them. Because this sort of collaborative teaching requires coordination between faculty members, it’s also common for a teaching team to have weekly meetings to discuss the readings and how best to approach them in class, to plan upcoming assignments, and to troubleshoot aspects of the course.
While the idea of additional meetings outside of class might initially sound burdensome, for me this has been one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching in Humanities. My experience of teaching in general is that, apart from class meetings, it’s often solitary: reading, prepping, and writing all require seclusion. And while I likely wouldn’t have been drawn to academia if I didn’t find these conditions congenial, the sense of common purpose and mutual support that can come from collaborative teaching is often energizing. From a pedagogical point of view, regular team meetings and plenary sessions, in which one has a chance to see other faculty at work with students, are an opportunity to discuss and observe different pedagogical methods, strategies, and tricks of the trade – different ways of approaching texts, of leading class discussions, or commenting on student work. I’ve heard colleagues describe the program as a laboratory for teaching, which gestures toward this sharing of pedagogies and the ways it can inspire new ideas for one’s own teaching.
You might think of teaching in a Humanities course as akin to a semester-long version of the CFT’s Celebration of Teaching, with the difference that you too are teaching in the course you’re observing. And this difference makes a difference. Because the teams are interdisciplinary, you will often find yourself teaching texts outside of your discipline. This can be a source of anxiety, but leaving your intellectual comfort zone can also have salutary effects on your teaching. Giving up the pretense of authority and expertise concerning all of the texts the course covers can make students more willing to venture their own ideas and hypotheses, and transforms the classroom into a more collaborative space in which both you and the students have a shared responsibility to make sense of the texts you’re grappling with. Modeling curiosity can be the goal, rather than performing expertise. And colleagues with the relevant expertise are generous in sharing tips for approaching particular texts and topics.
I could say more about the program, but in the interest of not taking up too much of your time with this post I’ll bring things to a close. I hope the foregoing gives you some idea of the appeal of Humanities and how it works, but if you have questions about the program that I haven’t answered here I, or any of the other faculty involved in the program, would be happy to try to answer them. I’ll end with some of the analogies that I cycle through in thinking about what I value about the program. It sometimes has the feel of a reading group with other interested faculty. It often strikes me as a remedial education, giving me time to read texts and think about topics that I should have read or thought about long ago. More recently I’ve valued the ways it functions as a semester long pedagogical workshop. And in the busier and more stressful times of the semester, it can function as a teaching support group, in which we commiserate over the frustrations and anxieties of teaching and brainstorm ways of addressing them. If any of this sounds appealing to you, then consider joining!
Andrew Moser, Department of Philosophy
(For more information about the Humanities program, contact program director Derek Ettensohn.)
The Sewanee voice studio and I were honored to welcome guest scholar and clinician Dr. Marquese Carter (they/them) for a lecture and vocal masterclass on February 9-10, 2022. Though their visit was originally planned as a Zoom residency, Dr. Carter made the trip in person from Murray State University, where they serve as an Assistant Professor of Music in voice and music history/literature. The Center for Teaching provided a generous mini-grant to cover Dr. Carter’s transportation costs to and from Murray, KY.
On Thursday, Dr. Carter gave an engaging and beautifully-researched lecture on the art songs of Florence Price (1887-1953), a pioneering Black American composer whose considerable musical accomplishments are now seeing considerable exposure and scholarship after decades of exclusion. Dr. Carter spoke to a gathering of students, faculty, and community members about Price’s relationships with prominent African-American thinkers and artists in the early twentieth century; her use of Afro-logical as well as Euro-logical aesthetics and techniques in her vocal compositions; the pedagogical benefits of assigning and programming her works; and the ethics of assigning her songs to singers who do not identify as Black. The presentation was informative and inspiring, and generated significant conversation in the studio about performing Price’s works in the future.
The next day, Dr. Carter worked with Sewanee singers Mickey James-Thrower, Alice Belshaw, and Nick Govindan in a masterclass devoted to vocal technique and interpretation. In addition to being an exacting scholar, Dr. Carter is also an excellent applied pedagogue (whom I first encountered in the 2019 NATS Intern program, a selective training program for early-career voice teachers). As part of their cohort, I admired Dr. Carter’s depth of knowledge and approachable delivery, and their work with our Sewanee vocalists did not disappoint. Dr. Carter–also a certified yoga instructor–incorporated movement, posture work, best practices in vocal technique, and acting into their clinic. It was instructional not only for the students, but also for us faculty looking on.
The singers, Erik, and I are grateful to the Center for Teaching, along with the Center for Southern Studies and the Music department, for its support of Dr. Carter’s enriching guest residency!
What can we do as faculty to help students navigate stress and mental health challenges? Earlier this semester, the CfT and the Order of the Gown co-sponsored a panel discussion in which students shared their experiences and offered some insights. Over the course of the conversation, a couple of key themes emerged:
Faculty can help by recognizing that students are human beings with lives outside the classroom, and by acknowledging that the same is true for professors too. Students on the panel spoke about how much they appreciated it when professors explicitly recognized that it is possible to get knocked off course by illness, mental health concerns, family emergencies, and other factors, and offered a reasonable degree of flexibility where necessary. (Different kinds of classes may require different kinds of attendance policy, but being able to take a set number of unexcused absences without penalty was mentioned as one example of a helpful measure that some professors adopt.) Students also talked about how much it meant to them to be reminded that their faculty were human beings too. Of course, all of us will have our own boundaries concerning what we’re prepared to share with our students, but in the right context, acknowledging our own vulnerabilities may be a powerful way of connecting with students and modeling resilience in the face of challenging circumstances.
Students often feel anxious or even ashamed about asking for help, and do not want to be seen as “making excuses”. In the conversation during the session, some faculty attendees shared their experiences of students simply “disappearing” from their classes: not showing up, not responding to email, etc. In response, one panelist admitted: “Last semester, I was probably one of those students.” One of the reasons she did not reply to her professor’s emails, she continued, was that she felt ashamed about having missed classes and assignments, and was worried that her professor thought that she simply did not care about the class. Other students agreed that these feelings of shame were a significant obstacle to reaching out for help when it was needed. In the subsequent discussion, it became clear that taking a non-judgmental approach may be one of the most powerful things that faculty can do to improve communication with students. Absences and missed assignments have consequences, of course, and it is part of the job of a professor to set clear expectations and help students to understand what they need to do in order to succeed in a class. However, avoiding a moralized approach to such issues—which is to say, making sure that students know that when they miss a class we do not jump immediately to the conclusion that they don’t care about us or our subject—may help encourage students to reach out for help when they need it.
(Note: Although there is a great deal that we can do as faculty to support students, it is also important for us not to go beyond the limits of our expertise in dealing with students experiencing mental health challenges. If you have a concern about a particular student, you can fill out a CARE team report here, or find out more about CAPS services here.)
This blog post covers, in a mosaic fashion, some curated Library and Information Technology resources. You will find some creative resources for your next PowerPoint presentation, the launching of a new task force on Open Education Resources (OER) at Sewanee, CloudSource Open Access, upcoming user-information research on video streaming in partnership with ITHKA S+R, and finally a look into one of the latest trial databases from Bloomberg. Please, take a look at these featured projects and resources and let us know if you have any additional questions. We would be very happy to follow up with you. Many thanks to our contributors for putting together a sampling platter of newsworthy resources for our teaching faculty, students, and staff.
1. Slides Carnival and Free Stock Photos by Linnea Minich, Information Literacy Librarian
SlidesCarnival provides simple but well-designed templates for PowerPoint and Google Slides. I discovered this site at a library conference, after wondering how everyone had made such great slides. The templates on SlidesCarnival are free and easy to edit. The wide range of templates is searchable by theme, style, and even color. It’s easy to find a template you want, download it, and edit it, duplicating slides, taking slides out, and even changing the images and graphics (each slide deck handily provides icons at the end that can be copied and pasted onto the slides). Endearingly, each template is also named after a character from Shakespeare. Here are two of my favorites, Puck and Volumnia:
Once you’ve found the perfect slides for your class or presentation, you’ll also want images to go in them. Two of my favorite sites for free stock photos are Pexels and Unsplash. Both of these sites are easy to search and provide a wide range of interesting photos that are free to use as long as you credit the creators in your slides. I often use these images to visually reinforce abstract ideas (I use a lot of road images when talking about the research process, for example). If you’re looking for something a little less “stock,” you could also check out the free images available at Wikimedia Commons, the sources of the images on Wikipedia pages.
2. Open Education Resources: Exploring Affordable Course Materials at Sewanee by Pat Dover, Electronic Resources Librarian
Higher education is expensive. Faculty have little influence over tuition and fees, but one cost one can control is the textbooks and other course materials one adopts for their courses. Open Educational Resources (OER) are textbooks and other course materials that are freely licensed and available without cost or access barriers. Using these resources in place of expensive commercially-available textbooks and/or courseware makes courses more affordable, and can have pronounced benefits for at-risk and historically underserved groups of students.
There are other benefits of OER besides making courses more affordable for students. Because of the open licensing of OER, you have the ability to add, remove, and modify content to fit your specific course and teaching style, rather than having an expensive textbook dictate topics and order. OER can be saved and shared so that they never go out of print, revised so that nothing goes out of date, translated into any language, adapted for any level or particular interest, made accessible, and converted to work with any technology. In addition, OER can be accessed immediately, retained indefinitely, and returned to again and again. You can find out more about OER on the library’s website at https://library.sewanee.edu/OER/Home
In an effort to increase awareness of and promote the use of OER at Sewanee, the Library has assembled a task force of representative faculty and staff across the university to plan and execute workshops and other opportunities for faculty to learn more about OER and to work towards implementing them in their courses. There is also student representation to introduce the existence of OER to our student population. The members of the task force as it has been initially formed are: Pat Dover, Electronic Resources Librarian (Task force Chair); Lisa Stephenson, Vice Provost for Student Success; Emily Puckette, Professor of Mathematics and co-chair of the Center for Teaching; Evan Joslin, Assistant Professor of Chemistry; Romulus D. Stefanut, Assistant Professor and Director of the School of Theology Library, Betsy Sandlin, Professor of Spanish and Associate Dean for Inclusion and Faculty Development; Adam Hawkins, Instructional Designer and Technologist; Courtnay Zeitler, Information Literacy Librarian; and Alexis McNight, President of the Order of the Gown.
Although the task force will determine its own goals and course of action, some possible outcomes include holding workshops for faculty to learn more about and/or share information about Open Educational Resources and how they can use these resources for their courses; awarding financial stipends at graduated levels to faculty members who investigate, review, and implement OER; and to generally promote awareness and interest in OER among both faculty and students. Stay tuned for more communications regarding OER opportunities stemming from the task force’s efforts!
3. CloudSource OA by by Pat Dover, Electronic Resources Librarian
CloudSource OA is a searching platform that covers 40 million Open Access items, including articles from more than 13,000 journals, ebooks, and etextbooks. The journals are among the top in the field—peer-reviewed, quality publications that were often very expensive to access before they were converted to an Open Access model. Content from predatory journals, blogs and other non-vetted sources are excluded. Filters are provided for search results that allow for selection by many different criteria, including Open Educational Resources.
What is an Open Access publication?
An Open Access publication is a scholarly journal article, eBook, eTextbook or Open Education Resource that is published through a funding model providing free full text access.
What type of content will I find in the CloudSource OA database?
You will find high quality, peer-reviewed, academic publications covering a broad range of subject areas such as Health Sciences, Environment, Computer Science, Business and many more.
How is CloudSource OA different from TigerSearch?
TigerSearch covers all of our purchased and subscribed content, with some open-access publications added. CloudSource has many more open-access items. Also there is no login required for CloudSource because everything in it is freely available.
How is CloudSource OA different from Google or Google Scholar?
CloudSource finds only high-quality peer-reviewed academic publications, without all of the extraneous results that you get with a Google Search. CloudSource offers easy-to-use filters to help you refine your search results and narrow in on the type of material you are looking for.
4. ITHAKA Streaming Video Project by Penny Cowan, Director of Collections Management
To meet the growing demand for streaming media in education and research, librarians at the Jessie Ball duPont Library are partnering with Ithaka S+R, a non-profit research and consulting group, to explore cross-institutional evidence about streaming media licensing terms, learn about faculty members’ perspectives, and collaboratively develop negotiating and collection strategies.
Penny Cowan, Director of Collections Management and Patricia Dover, Electronic Resources Librarian will be conducting interviews with selected faculty about streaming media. In parallel to this work, Ithaka
S+R will conduct a US-wide survey and a series of targeted follow-up interviews with collections leaders, to evaluate the competitive landscape of streaming media licensing more broadly.
As Danielle Cooper, Manager of Collaborations and Research at Ithaka S+R, asserts: “In order to more fully realize streaming media’s academic potential, it is essential for libraries to come together, assess the broader streaming landscape, and create new strategies for licensing and managing streaming use. This intervention will be most effective if libraries can connect on this issue across institutional silos.” Members of the research cohort, in addition to Sewanee, include Georgetown University and Johns Hopkins University, among others.
By participating in this research project, duPont Library will gain valuable insight into how the University community uses streaming media in research and teaching. Faculty have long used both documentaries and feature films in the classroom. The move to distance learning brought about by the pandemic only increased the demand for streaming media to support the University’s curriculum and research enterprise. In support of Sewanee’s courses, duPont’s Collections Management team offers timely services that enable streaming of the Libraries’ media resources for pedagogical purposes. Faculty members can learn more about how to add streaming content to their Brightspace course portals, including relevant copyright guidelines, by visiting the library’s web page at: https://library.sewanee.edu/services_for_faculty.
5. Bloomsbury, Religion in North America Databaseby Romulus D. Stefanut, (Assistant Professor in the SoT and Director of the SoT Library
You may know that our Library has almost 400 curated and research friendly databases, covering all majors, minors, both undergraduate and graduate studies, including interdisciplinary subjects. What you may not know is that the library pays to access these databases. Being a sustainable budget administrator, as we all aspire to be, we need to evaluate the usage of our resources on a yearly bases. Thus, some databases justify their existence on our library portal due to high usage in a “survival of the fittest” contest, whereas others go extinct. When new library databases are requested by our faculty, a 30 (thirty) days trial period is usually granted to assess their usage and utility. The Bloomsbury Religion in North America would be a good example to look at.
Covering North America’s diverse religious traditions from indigenous religions to NRM (New Religious Movements), this resource provides reliable and peer-reviewed information for students and instructors of religious studies, anthropology of religion, sociology of religion, and history. Peer-reviewed articles are organized around key themes. For instance, “The Basics” section covers broad global introductions to religious traditions. The “Religious Traditions” section and the “Themes in Religion” sections give more of an in-depth approach to the North American context and combine overview articles, main articles, case studies, and “hot” topics as well as eBook content. Please, check this database out to see if you and your students might benefit from using it. You can access the database though our Library databases portal under Research Tools / Find Databases. Thank you for checking it out.
The ACS Teaching and Learning Workshop in June 2021 came right in time: I was a new instructor at Sewanee, just ten weeks into my brand-new position, and Covid hit as well as the swift pivot to teaching online and hybrid modalities. Having the opportunity to meet other educators outside of Sewanee, in their varying degrees of experience, wisdom and philosophies, was a gift on both personal and professional levels, especially as I had never taught a “normal” college class. While I missed the face-to-face interaction, what stood out to me most clearly was our resilience as educators: yes, we had all been through a difficult time with our students but college during Covid had revealed the best of who we could be in the classroom. And in our small groups during the workshop, we shared those stories and skills through presentation and critique. Providing and receiving feedback from my ACS peers about specific lesson plans and pedagogical approaches was an invaluable experience, especially during an uncertain time for educators. I urge any member of our faculty to apply: you will make connections and gain inspiration that will, ultimately, translate into better teaching in the future.
Courtnay Zeitler, Information Literacy Librarian, Du Pont Library
Hello! We are Winnie Litchfield and Camille Seldin—both senior members of the Order of the Gown and English majors. Later this month, the Order of the Gown will host a panel in conjunction with the Center for Teaching that will focus on mental health. The goal of this panel will be to open up a conversation with faculty about mental health issues in the classroom. In this blog post, we hope to share some of our experiences as Sewanee students that will serve as a preview to this conversation. Our personal goal, through this blog post, is to introduce ways that mental health can be addressed on campus.
Like most students last year, I had reached an extreme low point in terms of my mental health. I had panic attacks that left me debilitated, making it difficult to go about my daily tasks. It got to the point where I would have one everyday and had to go on medication. While I was transitioning on the medication, I was not prepared for the side effects which made coursework much harder. One of the most known effects is that the medication often makes you feel worse before you feel better. It left my emotions in a state of very extreme highs and lows, one time occurring in a panic attack in DuPont Library. The attack led me to skip my class that afternoon, and I emailed my professor describing my situation.
The professor exemplified the proper way to approach conversations on mental health. They expressed empathy instead of pity and offered to talk without applying pressure. In terms of adjusting to my medication, they gave me the option to Zoom into class whenever I needed to and allowed flexible due dates. In the classroom my professor provided ways that would help ease my mental health, while also expressing genuine concern.
I would like to suggest how instructors can better approach potentially distressing content in the classroom. As Dr Puckette explained in her blog post earlier this semester, research suggests that “trigger warnings” may not always have the desired effect of helping to alleviate emotional distress, and may even increase anxiety in some cases. However, instructors can prepare students for these topics by building a scaffolding around them which allows students to respond analytically, rather than emotionally, to assigned content. This scaffolding might take the form of questions to think about while reading or a set of expected takeaways. This could also extend into guidelines for class discussions, where students are reminded to be conscious of how they discuss readings. For example, it can be incredibly alienating for a student struggling with depression to listen to classmates discuss a depressed character in a novel with little sensitivity or focus. Professors can alleviate this struggle by emphasizing the importance of delicacy and compassion in group discussion, while acting as a model of it themselves. Overall, the classroom should be a space in which students can be challenged. However this should result in personal growth, rather than mental distress.
Join us for a student panel on “Mental Health in the Classroom”, co-sponsored by the Order of the Gown and the CfT, from 12pm-1pm on Monday February 14th in the Center for Teaching.