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. In 2017-18 we are piloting our new Language Lounge series focused around creative course design for graduate student instructors in the language, literature, and culture programs at Columbia. Like the Teachers’ Lounge series, Language Lounges are a series of informal discussions about how we apply our knowledge of second language acquisition to our instructional practice and share ideas with your peers teaching in other languages.


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Spring 2018

Teachers' Lounge

Emotions in the Classroom

Instructors and students carry into the classroom a range of emotions, moods, and attitudes that have direct and subtle impact on what students learn and who feels included. What strategies can we adopt to to ward off boredom and discomfort – and instead cultivate enthusiasm, pleasure, and even awe?  Join us to consider experiences from our own classrooms and explore models of motivation, belonging, and marginalization. 

Student Emotions in the Classroom
Wednesday, February 14, 12:00-1:15 pm in Butler Library Room 212 | Register
In this session, we will consider how the the emotions and motivations that students bring into the classroom directly impact their learning. We will discuss findings from research as well as what we’ve seen in our day-to-day experiences to arrive at ways to support students’ emotional development alongside their intellectual growth.

Instructor Self-care, Full Presence, and Pleasure
Wednesday, March 21, 12:00-1:15 pm in Butler Library Room 212 | Register
In this session, we turn to the emotional life of an instructor leading a class. What can we do to maximize our attention, derive satisfaction, and find pleasure in the act of teaching? We’ll look at several models and share insights among ourselves.

Teaching When Marginalized
Wednesday, April 18, 12:00-1:15 pm in Butler Library Room 212 | Register
In our final consideration of emotions in the classroom this semester, we’ll focus on situations when an instructor may feel marginalized in particular classroom settings. In what ways might we assess, acknowledge, and even leverage such feelings of marginalization?

Language Lounge

Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Language Classroom

We embrace the diverse identities our students bring to the classroom. How then do we work with our students, their genuine motivation to learn a new language, and their enthusiasm to dive into the cultural products enveloped in that language, when their identities are not represented in our textbooks and class materials? How do we help students navigate a new culture, prepare them for studying abroad, or even prepare them to represent their own identities, if and when the second language lacks the linguistic choices available to them in English.

Part I: Wednesday, February 28, 12-1:30pm in Butler Library Room 212 | Register

Part II: Wednesday, April 11, 12-1:30pm in Butler Library Room 212 | Register

CTL Facilitator

Mark Phillipson


Past Programs

Fall 2017 - Inclusive Grading

The theme for Fall 2017 Teachers’ Lounges was Inclusive Grading. All too often, grading is exhausting for instructors – and intimidating or ineffectual for learners. This semester our conversations explored 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.

Inclusive Grading: Leveraging Peer Assessment 
Wednesday, October 11, 12:00-1:15 pm in Butler Library Room 212
This session focused on peer editing and peer review activities as drivers of learning. After a meta-taste of peer assessment, during which participants reviewed and offered comments on each other’s written statements about the benefits of peer assessment, we shared thoughts and discussed research in this area. In particular, we considered the learning benefits of offering feedback to a peer as well as receiving feedback from a peer. We then turned to consideration of variables in the design of peer assessment activities. Slides: the session presentation slides include a list of pertinent resources. Handouts: Flavors of Peer Review, drawn from John C. Bean’s Engaging Ideas (2011), and Peer Assessment of Group Work, guidance from CTL’s Collaborative Learning workshop series.

Inclusive Grading: Drawing Students into Assessment 
Wednesday, November 8, 12:00-1:15 pm in Butler Library Room 212
In this session, we considered ways to actively involving students in the assessment of their own work, through tactics such as creative test design, open discussion of the criteria for participation and discussion, and the co-construction and co-application of rubrics or other grading criteria. Slides: the session presentation slides are rounded out with a list of pertinent resources, including AAC&U Value Rubrics. Handout: Building a Rubric, which adapts guidance from Stevens and Levi’s Introduction to Rubrics (2nd ed., 2013).

Inclusive Grading: Trusting Students to Assess Themselves
Wednesday, December 6, 12:00-1:15 pm in Butler Library Room 212
This session will rounded out our conversations for the semester with some thoughts about academic integrity and the advantages (and perils) of giving students control over assessing their own work in a class. After a consideration of the level of trust we have in students’ ability to accurately assess their own work, we considered the efficacy of honor codes (include Columbia College’s honor code), models for student self-grading (such as specification grading and exam self-grading), and the exhortations of educators who have gone gradeless. Slides: the session presentation slides include a list of pertinent resources.

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 http://www.reducingstereotypethreat.org. 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.


Any questions? Email ColumbiaCTL@columbia.edu.