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Teachers' Lounge

Teachers’ Lounges are series of informal discussions about teaching practices and the culture of learning at Columbia. Our conversations often introduce participants to related educational models, research, and theory, and invite dialogue about their pertinence to day to day teaching. 

Fall 2017

The theme for Fall 2017 Teachers’ Lounges is Inclusive Grading. All too often, grading is exhausting for instructors – and intimidating or ineffectual for learners. This semester our conversations will explore creative approaches to grading that lessen burdens on graders and increase student agency and morale. These Lounges fit broadly into the CTL’s focus this year on ways to inspire students to take more ownership over their own learning.

This year we ask that Teachers Lounge participants register, so that we make sure to have enough pizza on hand!

Inclusive Grading: Leveraging Peer Editing |  Register here
Wednesday, October 11, 12:00 – 1:15 pm, 212 Butler
This session will focus on defining, running, and assessing peer editing and grading activities.

Inclusive Grading: Involving Students in Rubrics | Register here
Wednesday, November 8, 12:00 – 1:15 pm, 212 Butler.
In this session, we will consider involving students in the co-construction and co-application of rubrics or other grading criteria.

Inclusive Grading: Negotiating the Terms of Assessment | Register here
Wednesday, December 6, 12:00 – 1:15 pm, 212 Butler.
This session will include consideration of student-teacher contracts, honor codes, and other agreements collectively defined with students.

Program Description

Spring 2017 - Conversations about Conversations

Continuing our exploration of inclusive teaching techniques and challenges, Spring 2017 Teachers Lounges considered approaches to class discussion that genuinely engage a diverse range of students. In what ways can class discussion move beyond a simple call-and-response pattern? When and how can an instructor let students take conversation into unpredictable directions? How do we manage offensive or divisive comments? This semester’s Lounges drew on the work of Stephen Brookfield, Donald Finkel, the University of Michigan’s Center for Research in Learning and Teaching, and the Ford Foundation Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education series.

February 15: 50 ways to hold discussion

In this session we may not have gotten through 50 techniques, but we did sample some (Minute Paper, Snowball, Catch the Mistake, Circular Responses, Chalk Talk, Discussion Reflection) from a kaleidoscope of tactics promoted by Stephen Brookfield and Stephen Preskill in Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for University Teachers. Our discussion also referred to research showcased in Jay Howard’s recent. Discussion in the College Classroom: Getting Your Students Engaged and Participating in Person and Online. Session handout: 50 ways to hold discussion

March 1: Beyond ground rules: Cultivating honesty and risk in class discussion

In this session we considered models for priming forthright conversation and licensing intellectual risk-taking during class discussions. What does educational literature suggest — and what do we see really working here at Columbia?  During our meeting we drew up a collective set of ground rules, thought about the virtues of discussing the purpose of discussion at the beginning of a class, considered Columbia’s recently adopted Affirmative Statement regarding freedom of expression, and looked at tactics for facilitating and reframing controversial conversation. Session handout: Facilitating and reframing controversial discussion

March 22: Making the best of difficult discussion

In this session we considered times from our own experiences when class conversation has turned painful or offensive, and looked at situations described by participants in the February, 2016 Inclusive Teaching Forum at Columbia University. Drawing on tactics for planning discussions on controversial topics published by the University of Michigan’s Center for Research in Learning and Teaching as well as the Ford Foundation Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education series, participants considered ways to manage difficulties described in these Columbia scenarios — and even leverage them for increased learning.

Fall 2016 - Engaging International Perspectives

In Fall 2016, Teachers’ Lounges considered Engaging International Perspectives in the Classroom from various perspectives. Participants considered opportunities and challenges presented by the increasing presence of international instructors, students, and curricula at Columbia and other global universities.  The CTL coordinated with faculty and campus organizations supporting international instructors and students, such as the American Language Program and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, on Teachers’ Lounge conversations about the way global perspectives are facilitating and shaping learning at Columbia. Topics and session materials are below.


  • Sept. 28: Perspectives of International Teaching Assistants at Columbia. A discussion of experiences, discoveries, and teaching strategies of international graduate students. What has been surprising about the habits and assumptions of Columbia undergraduates? And how can the insight of international instructors help develop critical perspectives on the American classroom? Alan Kennedy, International Teaching Fellow Coordinator in the American Language Program, joined us for this open conversation. Session slides, scenarios, intercultural pedagogy strategies.
  • Oct. 19: Bringing Students into International Spaces. This session discussed the extension of learning activities into “international spaces”. Erica Avrami, Assistant Professor of Historic Preservation in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, shared insight from bringing Columbia students to sites in Haiti, Uganda, and elsewhere; and Reyes Llopis-Garcia, Lecturer in the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures, discussed extending international language study into engagement in the ‘super-diverse’ environment of New York City. Our conversation was framed by consideration of what it means to ‘internationalize’ the learning experience. Related resource: Schoorman, D. (2000). What really do we mean by ‘internationalization?’Contemporary Education, 71(4), 5-11.
  • Oct. 26: Academic Ethics across Cultures. This session focused on academic ethics across cultures. Special guest Chia-Ying Sophia Pan, Director of Education, Outreach and International Student Support at the Office for Multicultural Affairs, discussed tactics for clarifying definitions of plagiarism, as well as ways of perceiving and responding to culturally-based confusion around process, values, and authority in the Columbia classroom. Session slides
  • Nov. 16: Perspectives of International Undergraduates at Columbia. In this final session, the Lounge will be visited by undergraduate students on the International Student Advisory Board (ISAB). They prepared a video ahead of time, and two ISAB members shared perspectives on being an international College or SEAS student at Columbia these days. Since this Lounge is our first meeting after the 2016 presidential election, we also checked in on that front and previewed upcoming conversations.
Spring 2016 - Observing Models of Pedagogy

In Spring 2016, Teachers’ Lounges were organized around Observing Models of Pedagogy. Participants observed footage of university educators who are noted lecturers and pedagogues, and then reflected on and critiqued their practices. We considered what can be gleaned from how these model instructors engage with a class, and how their particular pedagogical techniques do or do not map over to various disciplines. Watch the model instructors at work and access related materials:

Fall 2015 - Aspects of Inclusive Teaching

This semester Teachers’ Lounges were organized around discussions of identity, inclusion, and diversity in the classroom. We are discussing topics such as inclusive curricular design, stereotype threat, social environments in the classroom, disabilities and learning, and the interplay of various identities (race, gender, sexuality, nationality, class) with instruction in various subject area domains.

Instructors and Inclusivity
In the first Lounge of the semester, we thought about how instructors define inclusivity in the classroom, reveal or hide aspects of their own identity, and try to avoid playing favorites. Discussion touched on the Project Implicit website, the newly released study TAs Like Me: Racial Interactions between Teaching Assistants and Undergraduates, and ‘A Little More Every Day’: How You Can Eliminate Bias in Your Own Classroom, a recent advice piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Building Community in the Classroom
During this Lounge, we discussed approaches to building a sense among students of inclusivity, investment, and community in a class. Discussion referred to models promoted by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins in Understanding by Design and by Carol Dweck in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Loungers discussed specific tactics for drawing diverse students into full participation in class, noting complications and perils along the way.

Stereotype Threat
This Lounge considered stereotype threat and its effect on learning. After watching a video of Dr. Claude Steele discussing his research at Columbia University, we discussed visible and invisible identities, and how these identities are affected by threatening and reassuring contingencies in the classroom. Our talk drew on resources available at Slides accompanying this Lounge are available to Columbia affiliates here.

Documenting Inclusivity
The timing of this Lounge inspired us to tackle strategies for effectively documenting diversity and inclusivity on the academic job market. After sharing some inclusive teaching practices we’ve implemented in our own classes, we considered entry points for writing a diversity statement with our guest facilitator, Isabel Geathers, GSAS Assistant Dean for Academic Diversity. Slides that draw primarily from resources developed by Dean Geathers are available to Columbia affiliates here.

Inclusive Assessment
At a time of the year when many of us were thinking (too much!) about grading, our final Lounge of the semester considered ways to honor variation and difference in the grading process. Our discussion touched on values emerging from the application of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in higher education, as well as practical ways they can shape ways to assess our students’ learning. Slides from the session drawing from these UDL resources are available to Columbia affiliates here.

Spring 2015 - Unpacking Educational Buzzwords

In Spring 2015, Teachers’ Lounge discussions focused on unpacking educational buzzwords that find their way into conversations about instructional practices and statements of teaching philosophies. What do we really mean by them? How do they actually apply to specific disciplines? Our conversation moved between published theory and what we have actually observed in classrooms at Columbia and elsewhere.

Read descriptions of the Spring 2015 Teachers’ Lounge gatherings and access relevant resources:

Critical Thinking
A critical look at the term “critical thinking,” with discussion of how this skill is imparted in actual classes across disciplines. Our conversation drew on Stephen Brookfield’s 2012 monograph Teaching for Critical Thinking.

Inclusive Teaching
What do people mean by this term? In what ways do we see it being practiced in classrooms — and in what ways is it not? This discussion helped inform planning for a workshop track series on this topic in the Teaching Center. Our conversation touched on Claude Steele’s 2010 book Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do, as well as resources from the University of Michigan on inclusive teaching.

Teaching Personae
In what ways is teaching performative, and how is authority projected in the classroom — particularly by new teachers? A discussion of the way stereotypes, affect, and various signals of a teacher’s identity shape the learning environment. Some of the conversation drew on Parker Palmer’s 1998 book The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. This Lounge will inform a follow-up faculty panel on the topic in April.

Digital Natives
Do we believe in the notion of “Digital Natives”, and to what extent? Does a student population swaddled in broadband and smartphones learn differently? We will debate claims made by Marc Prensky and others, glance at more recent research on computers and cognition, and trade observations about how technology is affecting classroom interaction. Our conversation drew on Michelle Miller’s 2014 book Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology.

The last Teachers’ Lounge of the semester considered the utility of final exams, papers, and project. Why do we put students through these paces? Do they really measure what we mean to teach? Do they show us what students truly understand? Our conversation will draw on claims about ‘understanding’ that are made in Understanding by Design, by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe.


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