Internal - Faculty & Staff

Teaching & Learning

The CFE provides a wide array of programs and services to support Simmons’s long-standing dedication to teaching. Our support of excellence in teaching includes pedagogy and learning science, course and instructional design, assessing student learning, teaching for inclusive excellence, online education, instructional design, and improving teaching with technology. We also support curriculum development and program-level assessment. CFE staff design programs and services to build a teaching community across disciplines, facilitate the sharing of ideas and resources, encourage collaboration, and provide a space for innovation and experimentation.

Key Professional Development Programs

Let’s Talk Teaching

Several times each semester, the CFE hosts dialogues for faculty and staff on a variety of topics related to teaching and learning. Typically led by a CFE staff member along with one or more faculty facilitators, each session includes a brief overview of research related to the topic, examples of application to practice, and a seminar-style roundtable discussion. Dialogues are held at varying times to accommodate different teaching schedules. When possible, these conversations happen on the ground with refreshments and the option to join remotely via Zoom as well. When not possible, we join together via Zoom. In both instances, we record the session for future viewing on faculty’s own time.

Virtual Sparkshops

Virtual Sparkshops are mini-workshops designed to spark exploration in using “third-party” tech tools to promote active learning and student engagement in the online environment. Each 30-minute session will consist of a 15-minute presentation and demo of one or two tech tools followed by an optional 15 minutes to either try out the tool, ask questions, and/or discuss with colleagues on how to incorporate the tool in your classes. You will walk away with concrete strategies and examples of how to implement these tech tools in your classes that are informed by the science of learning and best practices for effective online pedagogy.

STAR Scholars

The STAR Scholars program is a structured professional development program focused on improving equitable learning and student persistence through applying research and best teaching practices related to a specific topic. The STAR Scholars form a cohort of up to eight full-time faculty members with representatives from across the colleges; the Spring 2022 topic is “Assignment Reinvention Academy.” Together, the STAR Scholars will focus on exploring innovative, effective assignment design through scholarly and reflective discussion with colleagues, drawing on the literature, support from CFE staff, and the expertise of the group. STAR Scholars also serve as a resource for Simmons on the topic, including designing and delivering professional development programs for their peers. The program includes initial training on the topic, books, ongoing support, opportunities to publish, a stipend, and administrative and financial support for the spring workshops.

Learning Assistants Program

This program provides ongoing training for upper-level students who provide in-class peer tutoring and support in STEM classes. The Learning Assistant Pedagogy Seminar aims to support the development of the skills and knowledge LAs need to guide students towards genuine and active learning in their LA-supported courses. Topics covered included listening and questioning, the cognitive science of problem solving, learning to learn with retrieval practice and elaboration, and ways to motivate and support students. Offered in coordination with the Tutoring Center and Professor Michael Berger.

Keynote on Excellence in Teaching

The Center for Faculty Excellence brings in keynote speakers on excellence in teaching annually. Each keynote features a nationally-recognized expert who presents on topics related to innovative pedagogy, cutting-edge research, or best practices in college teaching and learning. The keynote presentation is often paired with other opportunities for the Simmons community to engage with the topic, such as an interactive workshop and/or book discussion.

Summer Teaching Institute

About the Institute

Each summer, the Center for Faculty Excellence partners with the Office for Postdoctoral Fellows at Harvard Medical School to host a four-day Summer Teaching Institute. Through this partnership, the Institute is open to both faculty from Simmons University as well as Postdoctoral Fellows from Harvard Medical School. The Institute is designed to equip new and aspiring faculty in any discipline to teach courses effectively at the post-secondary level. While the Institute is oriented toward those newer to teaching, all Simmons faculty are welcome to attend.

What You’ll Learn

Broadly, the Institute focuses on four themes: learning theory, teaching methodologies, course design, and application to practice. During the Institute, participants:

  • Read and discuss key ideas from learning theory and learning science
  • Experience and reflect on a variety of evidence-based teaching methodologies
  • Discuss the application of these theories and practices to the discipline
  • Engage in metacognition and reflective practice
  • Apply the backward course design model to lesson development
  • As a team, design and deliver a sample lesson in their discipline based on best practices

What to Expect

The Institute is carefully designed to model effective, evidence-based, engaging teaching practices that are applicable across disciplines. Participants can expect a hands-on, collaborative, and experiential learning environment that includes small and large group discussion, demonstrations of active learning techniques, project-based learning, interactive lecture, and reflection. Simmons faculty facilitators from a variety of disciplines will guide small group discussion and disciplinary breakout sessions throughout the Institute. On the last day of the Institute, participants in disciplinary groups will design and deliver a short lesson, incorporating best practices learned during the Institute. Participants will leave with a “teaching toolkit” binder full of practical ideas, teaching methods, insights, and research.

History and Gratitude

The Institute began as a STEM Teaching Institute for Harvard Medical School’s Postdoctoral Fellows in 2015. In 2016 and 2017, the Institute was supported through a generous grant by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. This grant ensured the continuation and further development of the program and enabled the addition of a Navigating STEM career component and a year-long mentoring program. In 2018, the Institute was expanded and redesigned to prepare faculty to teach in all disciplines and to serve both Simmons faculty and Postdoctoral Fellows.

Thank you to Elizabeth Scott (Biology, Public Health), Judah Axe (Education, Behavior Analysis), and James Gould (HMS) for their leadership, their ongoing partnership with CFE on this project, and their ongoing dedication to the success of this Institute. Thank you as well to the many faculty and staff who have served on planning committees, served as table facilitators, presented techniques, served on a panel, provided administrative support, or played another role in the success of this initiative.

PLAN Course Design Institutes

CFE designs and facilitates multi-day Course Design Institutes (CDIs) for PLAN faculty new to the Boston, Leadership, and Learning Community courses. These CDIs are planned in coordination with PLAN leadership and course leads.

NEFDC Conference
  • Teaching conferences are an excellent opportunity for Simmons faculty to network, learn from, and engage with peers from other institutions and fields around best practices in teaching. Attendees gain practical, evidence-based ideas from across disciplines that they can then apply to their own teaching. CFE also offers this program to encourage engagement in the scholarship of teaching and learning and allow opportunities for Simmons faculty to present on their own innovative teaching.
  • CFE currently funds registration fees for faculty participation in the two annual regional conferences of the New England Faculty Development Conference (NEFDC). These one-day conferences are typically held in November and May/June, are convenient to the Boston area, and include a keynote, concurrent sessions, networking breakfast and lunch, and a poster session with a reception.
  • CFE emails a call for applications to all faculty in approximately September and February, and funds registration fees on a rolling basis as funds allow. This opportunity is open to any full-time faculty and any current part-time faculty who have taught at least four courses at Simmons. Please contact us with questions about this program.
Colleges of the Fenway Teaching & Learning Conference

CFE helps to plan the annual COF Teaching & Learning Conference, which provides a forum for faculty across the Colleges of the Fenway to come together to discuss issues of importance related to teaching and learning as well as to network, learn from, and engage with COF peers. Simmons faculty also have the opportunity to present on their own innovative teaching. Each conference explores a theme through workshops, teaching demos, roundtable discussions, eposters, and more. Past topics have included teaching in a racialized environment and exploring the impact of the shift to online teaching.

Designing & Teaching Online Courses for Adult Learners (CompleteDegree)

How do the needs of adult learners differ from those of our current Simmons students? How can we adapt our courses and teaching strategies to support adult learners? In this program, we will build a better understanding of the characteristics, strengths, and challenges of adult learners to inform how to design and teach online courses in the CompleteDegree@Simmons program. Through readings and scholarly discussions, we’ll look to the theory and research on adult learning to develop and share ideas for activities and assignments that play to the strengths of adult learners, including building connections to life experiences and engaging in active learning.

Customized Programs

The Center for Faculty Excellence creates a variety of customized professional development programs on a wide range of topics. Please contact us if you are interested in collaborating with us or in having us develop or offer a new program or workshop for your department, college, or for all Simmons faculty.

Individual Teaching Consultations

The CFE offers individual consultation services to all full-time and part-time faculty members on a wide range of topics related to teaching. Consultations are always initiated by the faculty member and are kept completely confidential.

During an individual consultation, the CFE staff member will seek to understand the faculty member’s goals, teaching context, and overall concerns or questions. During a consultation, the faculty member can “talk through” a tricky situation, brainstorm options, learn how other faculty members have responded to a similar situation, and/or review helpful scholarly literature on the topic. The CFE staff member may offer additional support through a confidential classroom observation, published resources, or a follow-up visit.

Common consultation topics include:

  • Course design and alignment
  • Syllabus development and review
  • Classroom management concerns
  • Integrating technology into teaching
  • Flipped classroom design
  • Engaging students in large classes
  • Collaborative and project-based learning
  • Assessment and grading
  • Scholarship of teaching and classroom-based research
  • Assistance with peer and course evaluation

If you would like to schedule a teaching consultation or would just like to learn more, contact [email protected] to schedule an appointment.

Formative Classroom Observations and SGIDs

The CFE offers voluntary, confidential services to allow faculty to get rich, detailed, timely, honest feedback on their teaching. We offer two primary services that can be used independently or in conjunction with each other.

Classroom Observation by a CFE staff member is completely confidential and voluntary and designed to be a tool to help faculty improve their teaching. Before the observation, the CFE staff member will ask for information about your course, such as the syllabus, and whether you’d like feedback on any specific area of your teaching or lesson. In a follow-up meeting, the CFE observer will provide feedback, insights, ideas, and suggestions on your teaching.  While we typically follow our own processes for observation, we can also incorporate any instruments or processes used by your College or department, if you’d prefer.

Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID) is a professional development tool that often combines classroom observation with discussion-based student feedback. After a CFE staff member observes a portion of the class, the faculty member excuses themselves from the classroom. The CFE facilitator then invites students to discuss in small groups aspects of the course that enhance their learning experience, suggestions for strengthening the course, and what they, as students,  can do to enhance their own learning.  Feedback is compiled with emphasis on comments deemed most important collectively by the students.  The CFE staff member later discusses the compiled, anonymous student feedback privately with the faculty member. Participants often report that student feedback gathered through this process tends to be more accurate, detailed, and useful than data from end-of-semester form evaluations.

There are a number of benefits to participating in a CFE classroom observation or SGID including:

  • Improving a course while it is still in progress;
  • Demonstrating to students that you are invested in their learning;
  • Uncovering and addressing hidden problems in a course;
  • Receiving feedback on teaching through a “practice run” before a formal evaluation by a peer, chair, or dean;
  • Documenting dedication to improving teaching for possible inclusion in a tenure and promotion portfolio.

New faculty, faculty preparing for tenure review, faculty who wish to improve student teaching evaluations, and those who are considering a course redesign or trying a new teaching strategy may find these services particularly helpful.

Curriculum Development Support

The Center for Faculty Excellence offers customized services that support curriculum (program-level) design, facilitation, and assessment at multiple levels of the institution using evidence-based practices in curriculum development.

CFE can help faculty or administrators charged with curriculum development in many ways:

  • Helping you design an overall process and timeline, based on best practices, for creating a new program or revising an existing program
  • Provide guidance on forming and working with internal and external advisory committees or working groups
  • Assisting in the implementation of the design process, including designing and facilitating specialized meetings, workshops, or retreats for your department or committee
  • Designing and implementing a sustainable process for assessing student learning
  • Coaching you throughout the process

Topics for specialized meetings, workshops, or retreats could include:

  • Applying “backward design” to put learning first
  • Developing program learning outcomes
  • Curriculum mapping (creation and analysis)
  • Creating internal alignment across courses, including embedding “curricular threads” and creating cross-course scaffolding
  • Structuring multi-section courses for common learning goals and consistent quality
  • Incorporating high-impact practices
  • Designing individual courses within the program
  • Developing equitable, inclusive curricula (through both content and structures)
  • Designing a sustainable course-embedded assessment process
  • Using assessment data for ongoing curricular improvement
  • Integrating the review of assessment data into annual department processes

Each design process is unique and depends on the program’s specific needs and context. Most new programs involve support from multiple units at Simmons. During design processes, the faculty lead may also work closely with curriculum committees, Simmons Online (for online programs), the Provost’s office (including for accreditation), and other areas; CFE is one partner in this broader support team. If you are interested in CFE’s curriculum development support services, or you are interested in a stand-alone workshop on one of the topics listed above, please contact us for an initial consultation. Together, we can determine how CFE’s services can best support your particular situation.