Invited Speaker Program

Each year, the Teaching Consultants have an opportunity to invite a guest speaker to Brown. This annual professional development event is coordinated by graduate students in line with their interests. Sheridan Teaching Consultants also have the opportunity to participate in a master class with the invited guest.

Invited Speakers, 2011 – present


Dr. Rachel Niemer is the Founding Director of the Gameful Learning Lab in the Office of Academic Innovation at the University of Michigan. Prior to joining the AI team, Rachel served as the Assistant Director at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at U-M, where she specialized in health sciences educational development and instructional technology. Rachel has also taught pedagogy courses at the University of Rochester, where she was an Assistant Director of Learning Assistance Services. Previously Rachel was a chemistry instructor at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota and a postdoctoral scholar in pharmacology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Dr. Niemer's PhD is in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology.

"Going Gameful: Level Up Your Learners' Motivation"
We all want learners to be deeply engaged, to take risks and be resilient in the face of failure. To increase learner engagement we need to tap into their intrinsic motivation. Gameful pedagogy, and gameful course design in particular, is a framework for giving learners agency and supporting their intrinsic motivation inspired by game design principles.  This session will explore the philosophy behind gameful pedagogy, the principles, derived from that philosophy, which can guide your course designs, and the teaching practices that can further support the intrinsic motivation of your learners. Participants will reflect on the alignment between their own teaching philosophy and gameful learning and brainstorm ways they can give students choices in how to demonstrate their learning. Lunch will be served.

"Better Slide Design to Support Student Learning: Sheridan Invited Teaching Consultant Morning Workshop"
Although the “chalk talk” isn’t dead, PowerPoint, Keynote and Google Presentations are some of the most frequently used instructional technologies. Whenever deploying technology in the classroom, it’s important to consider the why and how of your implementation, but many of us aren’t familiar with the evidence-based practices for effective slide design. What information should go on slides and what should be left off? How many words is too many or two few? During this session we’ll discuss cognitive science and media studies findings that can guide our slide designs and lecture planning. Participants will have an opportunity to critique and improve example slides and explore templates that can facilitate effective slide design.


Derek Bruff, Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching and a senior lecturer in the Department of Mathematics

"See What I Mean: Visual Thinking Tools for Deep Learning"
Dr. Bruff held a master class for graduate students: Our brains are wired to rapidly make sense of and remember visual input. How might we tap into our students' ability to think visually when teaching? In this session, the group explored ways that visual thinking tools such as concept maps, coordinate axes, timelines, and sketchnotes can help students refine, share, and receive feedback on their understanding of relationships among ideas. These tools can thus help students build more robust mental models useful for solving problems, thinking critically, and learning deeply.

"More Than Just Shiny Objects: Using Technology to Support Student Learning"
Dr. Bruff held a presentation for all members of the Brown teaching community: An understanding of how learning works can help us make teaching choices that more effectively foster student learning. When new technologies enter the scene, however, it's not always clear how they fit into this process. Educational technology can facilitate new avenues for student learning, but if we're not careful to use that technology in ways consistent with principles of learning, the technology can become just a distracting shiny object. In this talk, the group explored a few of those principles of learning and how they can help us be more intentional and effective as we integrate technology in our teaching. This was a BYOD talk—bring your own device. Audience participation with mobile devices (phones, tablets, laptops) was encouraged.


Amy Vollmer, Professor and Chair of Microbiology at Swarthmore College and the President of the Waksman Foundation for Microbiology

“Teaching enjoyably: liberating yourself from unnecessary constraints”
Amy Cheng Vollmer has been teaching Biology in a small liberal arts college setting for 30 years. She shared three major pieces of advice applicable to all disciplines: put the focus on the audience, don't be a slave to the syllabus, and know that giving up control can be liberating and allow you to play to your strengths.


Daniel Barbezat, Professor of Economics at Amherst College & Executive Director of the Center for Contemplative Mind in the Society

"Contemplative Pedagogy & the Transformation of Education"
Prof. Barbezat delivered a lecture exploring how contemplative pedagogy can be a powerful way in which we can work together to reclaim the transformative nature of education. He described the ways in which first-person critical inquiry can cultivate better discernment and attention in students, provide the means for deepening their understanding of the material they are studying, and foster environments to inquire about and live meaningfully.


Steven Volk, Professor of History & Director of the Center for Teaching Innovation and Excellence, Oberlin College, and 2011 US Professor of the Year

“Building an Imagined Future: Teaching as Architecture”
Using architecture and construction as an extended metaphor for teaching, Prof. Volk probed the challenges of teaching, which is a creative and imaginative act rooted in the present but directed to the future. In his talk Prof. Volk suggested a few approaches that have proven to be highly productive in his own teaching; he engaged in a larger discussion on how to make the most of on-site learning.


José Feito, Professor of Psychology, Saint Mary’s College of California

“How Class Discussions Help Students Learn”
This workshop explored Prof. Feito’s insights from his ongoing research investigating the development of intellectual community and collaborative discourse within seminar classes. Potential conceptual models for understanding students’ cognitive and social work within classroom discussions were explored. These models were intended to offer new ways to parse the complex flurry of student discussion and arrive at a deeper understanding of the kinds of learning that we hope to facilitate through this type of pedagogy.