Authentic Audiences for Student Learning

Meg MobleyAbout the author: Meg Mobley, Ph.D., is a Senior Instructor in Crop and Soil Science. She develops and teaches blended and Ecampus soil science courses from introductory to graduate level and is active in inclusive curriculum development and faculty instructional support. Her approach to teaching, mentoring, and collaborating is to start with curiosity and empathy and follow up with scientific questioning and observation and creative problem-solving.

As fall term approaches, I’m reflecting on conversations from the summer term Resilient Teaching FLC hosted by CTL and Academic Technologies, in which a small group of faculty studied and shared techniques for designing courses to be resilient to individual- or institution-level disruptions. Our conversations launched from Inara Scott’s piece on Resilient Teaching from a year ago, touched on numerous passages from Derek Bruff’s Intentional Technology, and surveyed formal and informal media and literature on topics related to resilience-guided instructional techniques and course design.

A topic that is holding my reflective attention this week is that of Authentic Audience. Providing an authentic audience (at its simplest, an audience besides the instructor or instructional team) can add a sense of purpose to an assignment, provide incentive for students to revise and produce a high-quality product, and can even be an opportunity for students to provide service to others via their course work. Below I describe some examples of how I and my co-instructors provide authentic audiences to our students, and one example from Bruff:

  1. Assign readings in Perusall and invite the author to join the conversation!

Last term, a colleague asked me to review an article they were writing, which happened to fit well with topics of a course I was actively teaching. So, with permission, I loaded that manuscript into Perusall, assigned students to read, comment, and discuss as usual, and also invited the author to join in the discussion to answer students’ questions and to see

Screenshot of Perusall author-student conversation

Screenshot of student-and-author conversation in Perusall

their feedback. My colleague loved the opportunity to get so many eyes looking at the manuscript and was pleased at the quality of the feedback. Students had the opportunity to get quick clarification directly from the author and knew that their feedback was going to be used in revisions of the manuscript.

  1. If a course has a final paper or presentation, consider one of the following:

Build in draft stages to the assignment and a round of peer review before the final product is due. Then consider steering the best final papers towards a course/department/disciplinary blog or publication, or the best presentations to a YouTube collection. The draft phase will improve the final product’s quality and provide a low stakes opportunity for students to receive feedback and improve before their work is summatively evaluated and posted more publicly. Both the peer review and the final public viewing are examples of authentic audiences. I have gone as far as the peer review draft and final presentation step in my courses and am now considering appropriate outlets for the public engagement step.

Organic Growers Club poster

Service-Learning Project Poster

Put on an end-of-term showcase! I teach a large course with a service-learning component. During the term, students work in groups on a community service-learning project, and then make a poster that documents the project and discusses how course concepts manifested in it. One of the last class sessions is a Service-Learning Symposium in which the students present their project posters and interact with the other project groups and an invited audience of faculty, students, community partners, deans, and others. It’s a fun day and validating for students, instructors, and admins alike to see the community engagement and the disciplinary learning come together!

  1. Bruff’s Chapter 7 Authentic Audiences describes a course exchange in which students in one course produced documentaries and those in another course critiqued them, all via a shared blog. It strikes me that such a cross course collaboration would provide a) a refreshing changeup to routine for faculty and students alike, b) an authentic audience to motivate student learning and quality of product, and c) an opportunity for students to recognize the relevance of their topic and its connection to other topics and areas of study (which is often a learning outcome!).

How does providing an authentic audience improve resilience of teaching and learning? When conditions are stressful and time is short, it can be easy to do a minimal job of assignments that seem like busywork – a paper or presentation that no one besides the instructor will ever see, for example. Providing an authentic audience for the work is a way to bring purpose and incentive to the work of learning by engaging students in dialogue with peers or professionals and/or providing a tangible artifact of their learning and effort. Many of the ideas for engaging authentic audiences are amenable to online, asynchronous formats that can be incorporated into blended, remote, or online learning environments as needed.

If you are interested in learning more about creating flexible solutions to teaching challenges, applying blended learning techniques to integrate in-class and online learning activities, and developing strategies to build resilience in your teaching, I encourage you to check out the resources below and to apply by Sep. 20 for the Fall ’22 Resilient Teaching Faculty Learning Community!

References and Links:

Bruff, Derek. Intentional tech: Principles to guide the use of educational technology in college teaching. West Virginia University Press, 2019.

Kahn, Cub. “Exploring Resilient Teaching”. OSU Center for Teaching and Learning Blog. Oregon State University. July 19, 2022.

Oregon State University Foundation. “Service Learning: Support Hands-On, Community-Based Experiences with SOIL!!!”. Beavs Give. 2022.

Pearson, Angelique. “Social Annotation as a Learning Tool”. Ecampus Course Development and Training Blog. Oregon State University. November 22, 2021.

Scott, Inara. “Increasing Resilience Through Modular Teaching”. OSU Center for Teaching and Learning Blog. Oregon State University. September 28, 2021.

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Call for Nominations: 2022-23 Blended Learning Faculty Fellow

LINC Building on OSU campusHigher ed is moving with increased vigor toward blended learning in the wake of the COVID-19 disruption. With this in mind, the Center for Teaching and Learning, Academic Technologies, Ecampus, and the Office of Academic Affairs are partnering in the second year of the Blended Learning Innovations in Pedagogy initiative to address demand for increased support of faculty development, to explore of alternative course modalities, and to apply inclusive evidence-based teaching practices. The initiative is designed to build faculty capacity for blended course design and delivery, to improve student engagement and learning, and to share lessons learned with the broader OSU community. In its first year, the program guided redesign of five large-enrollment courses.

CTL is accepting nominations and self-nominations for the 2022-23 Blended Learning Faculty Fellow. The Fellow will have opportunities to be involved in coordination, design, and facilitation of faculty development around blended learning. The Fellow will support CTL’s strategic goals of enhancing student success and developing a culture of teaching innovation at OSU. See the Call for Nominations.

Nominations will be accepted directly from interested candidates and will also be solicited from academic leadership (deans, directors, and department heads). Nominees must be OSU teaching faculty including non-tenure track, tenure-track, or tenured. The appointment will begin in October and will include three terms: Fall ‘22, Winter ‘23, and Spring ‘23. CTL will provide a $10,000 stipend.

Questions can be directed to Cub Kahn in the Center for Teaching and Learning.

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Enhance Your Teaching and Build Confidence

Looking for an enjoyable way to reinvigorate your on-campus teaching practice this autumn?

Join the Fall ’22 Resilient Teaching Faculty Learning Communities sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and Academic Technologies. A cohort of faculty from across OSU will explore solutions to teaching challenges, share strategies to build resilience in teaching, and learn ways to use ed tech tools to integrate in-class and out-of-class learning.

Learning community co-facilitator Weiwei Zhang notes, “What stood out to me in the past learning communities is seeing the confidence participants have gained through the weeks of conversations and collaborations with their peers.”

CTL is providing $1,500 in professional development funding to faculty who participate in the learning community. Participants will have the opportunity to address personal teaching challenges while supported by CTL, Academic Technologies, and their peers.

Interested? See the Call for Participation and apply by Sep. 20

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An Invitation to Class: Introducing the Syllabus Snapshot

Visual snapshot. Banner with “Thrival Guide” beneath which is cartoon of Dr. Gurung saying “ My goal is for you to do more than survive. This term , I want you to thrive. I am here to help.” Box says “Let’s Talk” with Office hours 2-3 PM MW and by appointment in LINC 466.” Left boxsays “Got Questions? Instagram @rargrurung and email” with a drawing of two talking heads. 3 blocks show a book (READ), a student taking notes (ATTEND CLASS), and Pencil on paper (Take Notes). Arrow leads to a pie chart with the heading How Does it All Add Up? And showing slices for Exam 1, Exam 2, Final Exam, Quizzes, ALA, Other, and Visionary Science Paper. Post-it notes say Don’t Forget, See Canvas for more, weekly to-dos (Pretest, Quiz, Applied Learning Activity-ALA). To Be A Study Champ Repeatedly test and Monitor your Knowledge” - Retrieval Practice and Plan and schedule well to spread out studying. Support & respect each other. Images for the preceding-clock, hands, etcImagine signing up to take a really exciting trip. It could be rooming the savannah of Africa, strolling the foothills of the Himalayas, or diving on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. You are anticipating all you will see and do, learn and discover. You arrive to start your journey and you are given a large tome packed with legalese, warnings, and rules, together with the itinerary and some description of what you will do. Worse, you are told to leave right after you get it, and return another day to really start.

Many college classes are like that. Not only is “syllabus day” still a thing (faculty hand out a syllabus and dismiss class), but syllabi are bloated stacks of paper written in uninspiring prose, looking like every other similarly named document, and listing the same boilerplate language. Not all of this is required, nor does it have to be the only way you get the information across. Try a syllabus snapshot.

Syllabi as we know them have stayed about the same for decades. Rising to prominence after World War I, the name itself arising from a fifteenth century mistranslation of fourteenth century writing (Germano & Nicholls, 2020). Regardless of its origins, the syllabus at most universities look similar to each other and to syllabi in general. A large part of this is because universities, mostly via faculty senates, mandate that every course has a syllabus. Furthermore, each syllabus is required to have a set of information ranging from the obvious (course name, number of credits) to the more specific (student misconduct policies, statement on resources for students with disabilities). Some universities require mental health statements such as Oregon State University’s “Reach Out Statement”.

There is a lot to love about consistency. Many people frequent Starbucks or In-N-Out Burger because each franchise is designed to be familiar and deliver the same experience. Similarly, students can take solace in knowing their syllabi contain all the key information they need to successfully navigate the course. A syllabus serves as a contract, as a permanent record, as a communication device, and as a learning tool/cognitive map (Richmond et al., 2022). We also know that there are some key ways a syllabus should be written.  A sizable body of research suggests faculty should write student-centered, warm syllabi (for a guide). But a multipage syllabus, especially in the hands of first year students, may be asking them to go from 0 to 60 too quickly. A syllabus snapshot may help.

A Syllabus Snapshot is a one-page document that provides the main elements of the course in an easy to digest way.  Students want to get a sense of who the instructor is and what is required of them in the course. How many assignments and exams are there? Are there suggested ways to study for the course?  How do they get in touch with the instructor in case they need help? Their first exposure to the course need not have all the gory details of each assignment right then. It they can get a good feel for the course, they may be more ready to read the regular or normal syllabi and take in all the details.

Because there is still a full syllabus satisfying all university minimum requirements, a Syllabus Snapshot provides the faculty member with a way to truly try something different and pick and choose the best information that they think will be a good first introduction to the student. The snapshot can be an abbreviated version of the normal syllabus cutting parts of the complete document, or it can be formatted and created completely differently.

A year ago, in the midst of the pandemic, I created my first syllabus snapshot. It used clipart, portions of my syllabus (e.g., a table of assessments, points, and the Student Learning Outcomes they satisfied). It also had some language to welcome students, offer my help, and provide some key ways to study, complete with a checklist of what would be due every week.  This year, I took it up a few notches. A student artist ( on Instagram) created a highly visual, hand drawn version, of my first Syllabus Snapshot using Clip Studio Paint. [For an easy template to create your own snapshot see this Course Launcher by Mary Johannessen-Schmidt of Oakton College]I created alternate text for visually impaired students, and will make both versions available on the first day of class. Students will also have the full syllabus available on CANVAS.

The Syllabus Snapshot has the promise to give students an easy welcome to the class and may make them more likely to read more of the full syllabus. Many of the key components of the class are introduced in the snapshot, providing a pathway to the full syllabus for more details. Do snapshots make a difference? Time and ongoing research will have the answers. For now, the anecdotal evidence from over 350 students who saw Version 1.0 last fall is encouraging.

Our classes can be exciting trips. Let’s do what we can to build enthusiasm, interest, and buy-in for the course on Day One.  A syllabus snapshot may be part of the way to do it.


Germano, W., & Nicholls, K. (2020).  Syllabus: The remarkable, unremarkable document that changes everything. Princeton University Press.

Richmond, A. S., Boysen, G. A., & Gurung, R. A. R. (2022). An evidence-based guide to college and university teaching: Model teaching competencies, 2e. Routledge.

About the author: Regan A. R. Gurung, Ph.D. is Associate Vice Provost and Executive Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Oregon State University and Professor of Psychological Science. 

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Impact the future of online education with OSU Ecampus Research Fellows program

Each year, the Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit funds projects, up to $25,000 each, to support the research, development and scholarship efforts of faculty and/or departments in the area of online education through the OSU Ecampus Research Fellows program.


This program aims to:

  • Fund research that is actionable and impacts student online learning
  • Provide resources and support for research leading to external grant applications
  • Promote effective assessment of online learning
  • Encourage the development of a robust research pipeline on online teaching and learning at Oregon State

Fellows program applications are due Nov. 1 each year. If you are interested in submitting an application, reach out to Naomi Aguiar, the OSU Ecampus Assistant Director of Research. Research Unit staff are available to help you design a quality research project and maximize your potential for funding.

Many Oregon State colleagues have had transformative experiences in this program. Read about two Fellows studies highlighting the ways in which these projects have advanced research in online/hybrid education.

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Respite, Renewal, and Looking Ahead!

On behalf of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), thank you for your passion and commitment to excellent teaching. During the 2021-2022 academic year, many obstacles arose, yet, you went above and beyond to continue serving the needs of our students. We hope you are able to find respite and renewal this summer and look forward to seeing you again in the fall. We are excited to continue providing you quality programs and offerings! Here are just a few to get excited about!

Moving forward, New2OSU and Tuesday Teaching Talks will be known as QT@OSU and Quality Teaching (QT) Talks. These programs are open to anyone interested in teaching and will fully align to the newly adopted Quality Teaching (QT) Framework!

Coming next fall, is a revision of Teaching Triads. Mutual Mentors not only emphasizes mentoring skills but focuses on conducting classroom observations. This program supports the revisions of the OSU Faculty Handbook.

To further support the newly adopted QT Framework, Student Learning Experience (SLE), and revised OSU Faculty Handbook is a Portfolio Website. The website emphasizes the use of these tools to organize and communicate a holistic and reflective picture of one’s teaching, especially important during times of promotion and tenure.

Cannot wait till fall to fine tune your pedagogical skills? Explore our self-guided Canvas based courses on Assessment and Instructional Methods.

Have you been thinking about how to apply the benefits of formative and evaluative peer observation to elevate the quality of your teaching and promote student success in time for next year? Visit our Peer Observation (PO) website. Adopt or adapt our evidence-informed PO guides and templates to support a productive peer observation of teaching process.

Do you want to know how you can implement small interventions within a class session to capture the attention of students and engage them in learning? Join us for Sparkshops to spark your teaching and the learning of your students.

Interested in blended, flipped, or hybrid teaching and learning? See CTL’s Blended Learning resources and look for forthcoming opportunities to join a faculty learning community in the fall.

Want to connect your college CTL’s pedagogical resources and Academic Technologies expertise in college-specific ways? Explore the CTL Fellows Program blog and reach out to the CTL Fellows Program Coordinator to learn more.


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Congratulations, Class of 2022!

OSU Memorial UnionThe Center for Teaching and Learning congratulates the 7,318 graduates in the Oregon State University Class of 2022, and expresses deep appreciation to faculty, GTAs, learning assistants, advisors and all student support services for your dedication and tireless work to skillfully teach, nurture, mentor and guide OSU students!

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Last Chance for Summer Faculty Development Opportunities

Bumblebee and Rhododendron BlossomWith finals underway and graduation only days away, summer is upon us! CTL is offering two great new professional development opportunities that you can still add to your summer plans:

No Strings Attached Book Club – Interested in the science of memory, alternative approaches to grading, or techniques to energize the college classroom? Get a free book of your choice about teaching and learning, then read and engage in rich conversations. Sign up by June 14.

Resilient Teaching Faculty Learning Communities – Want to be part of a small cohort exploring flexible solutions for teaching challenges, learning ways to integrate in-class and out-of-class learning, and discussing strategies to build resilience in teaching? Submit an expression of interest by June 15.

Both these opportunities will introduce you to new colleagues across disciplines, and will only take a small amount of your time. We also hope they will re-energize the joy you get from teaching and learning.

Have a great summer!

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An Update on the Blended Learning Innovations in Pedagogy Initiative

logo of a brain that looks digitized

Blended Learning Innovation in Pedagogy

In late January, a Request for Proposals went out to all instructional faculty to join the Blended Learning Innovations in Pedagogy (BLIP) Initiative. After reading through many strong proposals, we (Center for Teaching & Learning and Academic Technologies) selected five brave faculty, teaching high enrollment courses, to conduct a complete course redesign. This redesign was focused on integrating technology in meaningful ways to improve student success, with an emphasis on inclusive practices. 


In the BLIP program, faculty worked, one module at a time, to outline their course outcomes, decide how the use of technology could improve the student experience, and then detail the ways in which this technology could be seamlessly integrated into a face-to-face course. These processes included creating new syllabi, reimagining Canvas shells, creating and/or adopting open educational resources, and balancing coursework and assessments. Now, nearing the end of Spring, we’re proud to update the OSU community on how these efforts are going. 

As a result of the BLIP Initiative, two courses have been reimagined as hybrid courses (defined as courses at Oregon State that blend regularly scheduled, face-to-face classroom meetings with significant online coursework and interaction that replace class meeting time). 

  • headshot of a woman wearing blue glasses and a blue shirt. Her hair is gray at the top and blending to purple at the bottom.Dr. Tracy Arras, Senior Instructor I in Civil and Construction Engineering, will be offering CCE 201 (GRAPHICS AND DESIGN) to about 120 students this fall in a hybrid format. By transitioning to a hybrid course, Dr. Arras hopes to give students the time and flexibility they need to master the learning materials before participating in team design projects in class. 
  • A headshot of a man with a blonde, close cut beard, and a white shirt.Dr. Michael Boonstra, Senior Instructor in Art & Art History, will be offering a hybrid ART 101 (Introduction to the Visual Arts) to up to 350 students (in a single section!) this fall. Dr. Boonstra’s goal is to make student assignments more experiential by taking advantage of the great public art collection on campus at OSU. Dr. Boonstra is looking forward to clear and straightforward online lectures to accompany students’ appreciation of art.

Other courses, through the BLIP Initiative, are receiving a complete and innovative overhaul – the result of faculty members’ willingness to engage with new pedagogical ideas.

    • Close shot of a woman standing in front of a tree. She has shoulder-length blonde hair and a teal button-down shirt.For example, Dr. Kim Halsey, Associate Professor in Microbiology, is tackling two major changes in MB 302 (General Microbiology, about 165 students enrolled each fall): (1) instruction in data analysis and interpretation and (2) students creating connections between microbiological concepts/vocabulary. Dr. Halsey is still deliberating over how to blend online and in-person learning for data analysis and interpretation, but has some great ideas about vocabulary. To overcome students’ common use of flashcards, which inherently creates static, abstract, and disconnected pieces of information, Dr. Halsey was  inspired by Michael Boonstra’s use of a “visual glossary” in his ART courses. Her plan for MB 302 is for students to use lecture information, the text, and other resources to define, illustrate, or diagram, and connect and explain relationships between the vocabulary and concepts in the course. She hopes this will help students build a deeper understanding of how the concepts intersect with their experiences and knowledge of the natural world, biology, or applied systems.
    • headshot of a man with gray hair, half-rimmed glasses, and a black shirt. He is smiling.Another example is Dr. Phil McFadden (Associate Professor in Biochemistry and Biophysics), who is innovating BB 450 (General Biochemistry, about 400 students enrolled each fall). Dr. McFadden sees the potential to maintain select teaching practices he implemented during the remote teaching of the COVID-19 era to increase accessibility, flexibility, and, ultimately, success of his students. By effectively aligning classroom lectures, online engagement, and online assessment, Dr. Fadden hopes to engage students more deeply and actively while getting the word out about the beauty and excitement of biochemistry.

headshot of a woman against a brick wall. She has long straight black hair and a a black shirt. She is smiling.Lastly, faculty involved in the BLIP Initiative report that the course redesign is both challenging and energizing. Dr. Rebecka Tumblin, Instructor in Physics, says this about her redesign of PH 211 (General Physics with Calculus, with three, 200-seat sections each fall):

“The course redesign has been a fun and exciting process and I have learned so much already! Currently, I am hyper focused on the accessibility of my course documents and canvas pages and the development of my online content. The biggest challenge I have faced so far has been smoothly integrating the online and face-to-face aspects of the course and making strong connections between the two. There is still much work to do but I feel confident that these changes will strengthen the course and allow a wider range of students to benefit from this blended curriculum.”


For my part, as the leader of the BLIP Initiative, I have immensely enjoyed working with these faculty members for so many reasons. Firstly, this has been an incredible opportunity to build relationships with folks outside my own department or college. Second, curating resources for the faculty has been fun – almost like teaching a new course! Last, and the most important, I have simply been absolutely inspired by the energy and enthusiasm these faculty have for improving their teaching and their course delivery and also for their students and subject matter. 

Over the summer months, I will continue to work with faculty to refine their courses to be ready for Fall quarter. I’ll have the honor of attending their classes to see their work in action. I hope to interview both the faculty and students in each course to understand their perceptions of learning and engagement. Look for another update at the end of Fall term, if not sooner!

A huge thank you to the CTL, Office of Academic Affairs, Ecampus, and Academic Technologies for supporting myself and these five faculty members through the BLIP Initiative! 


Woman smiling cheerfully at the camera. She has short sassy hair, serotonin-shaped earrings, and a necklace that spells 'scientist'.Dr. Raechel Soicher, Instructor in the School of Psychological Science, is the faculty leader of the Blended Learning Innovation in Pedagogy program. She leans on her instructional design training and her expertise in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning to help the BLIP faculty members redesign their courses.

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Reflecting on the Resilient Teaching Symposium: Working with Faculty

About the author: Brenna Gomez, MFA, is the Director of Career Integration in the Career Development Center. She works with OSU faculty and other stakeholders on helping students connect the dots between the coursework they take at OSU and their future career goals. In her free time she writes fiction.

In April, the CTL held the Resilient Teaching Symposium. At the symposium, Dr. Inara Scott, Assistant Dean for Teaching and Learning Excellence in the College of Business, discussed the various types of burnout and how they impact us differently (ex: resting when what you actually need is connection will not make you feel better and vice versa). Dr. Scott discussed the concept of resiliency, and then the group was divided into breakout rooms to discuss specific strategies we use to keep ourselves resilient in the face of the ever-changing times we live in.

Many of the participants in my breakout room gravitated towards discussing resiliency at work. In terms of my own work practices, I occasionally teach technical writing in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film, but my primary role is running the Career Champions faculty professional development program. When I think of building resiliency at work, I think of running this program. Career Champions provides faculty and instructors with tangible ways to add career connection in the classroom, while also examining barriers to access for students of color, first-generation students, and low-income students. As facilitator of the program, I see myself as more of a “guide on the side than a sage on the stage.” Despite faculty not being my “students”, if I am their guide, I still need to be resilient so I can provide authentic facilitation, and I need to provide space for faculty to build resilience for themselves as they typically take this program while they are teaching their own courses.

One philosophy that helps keep me resilient is the idea that a few small changes make a big difference. If I’m improving a course while I’m teaching (rather than in the summer), making one-two manageable changes until I can come back to my curriculum, is still doing meaningful work and making improvements for my students. If I try to do everything all at once, I run the risk of burnout. With this philosophy in mind, every term I assess Career Champions and use faculty feedback to make changes. Several members of the fall 2021 cohort suggested a reduction in materials to keep the workshop manageable. The return to campus was difficult for many. We are still working and teaching through a pandemic. A reduction made sense to me—I just had to be sure to do it without negatively impacting my scaffolding. I cut several articles that were ultimately supplemental and added them to the “Additional Materials & Resources” module on Canvas.

Requiring only what was essential for faculty gives them the ability to engage with Career Champions deeply and not superficially, especially while they balance programming with their own course loads and departmental work. Since this is a studio site, faculty can return to materials long after the program has ended.

The resilient teaching symposium was a good reminder that we don’t need to do everything all at once. In order to avoid the different kinds of burnout that Dr. Inara Scott discussed, sometimes we need to move slowly and methodically. What one change can you make now that will improve your course? What can you consider over the summer or at a later date? Slow and steady wins the race and might just make you more resilient so you can maintain investment and engagement in the things important to you.

Interested in Career Champions? Find more information here. Applications for the fall 2022 cohort are due June 3rd. Apply here.

King, Alison. (1993). From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side. College Teaching, 44(1), 30-35.


Interested in resilient teaching? Apply to join a CTL Summer ’22 Resilient Teaching Faculty Learning Community by May 31.



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